Buck Fever, it is bound to happen to you at some point in your hunting career. You can practice shooting all year long, have the finest archery equipment, and once you get a look at a deer and it’s time for the shot, you freeze. Your hands become sweaty, you start thinking of every possible thing that can go wrong with your equipment, and you feel like you have just seen a ghost. Your breathing gets so heavy, people would think you just ran a marathon, and you heart suddenly jumps from your chest and relocates in your eardrums. The universal name for this common occurrence is Buck Fever.
My Buck Fever Experience
While I was hunting in Texas I got the worst case of buck fever ever. I am pretty used to seeing deer. It doesn’t have to have horns to get me pumped and ready to go. But this time it was a whole different story. And of course, I missed a really really nice buck because of it.
A big bodied 9 point filed directly under my stand only 10 yards away. Buck fever set in fast and I couldn’t move. Little did I know that 7 more deer were in the field about 20 yards away waiting to come in. I didn’t see the 7 point or the 3 point until they were directly under my stand. The young 3 point glanced up and saw me quivering like a leaf, and spooked away knowing something wasn’t right. The 9 point knew something was wrong and started to make his way back into the woods.
I stood up, grabbed my bow, drew back, and keeping the pin on his vitals was impossible. I held as long as I could, and wanted to get a shot at him before he left. The pin lined up, I shot, and it was 8 inches too high. The sound of my bow scared him and he pounced over the fence knocking my arrow up into the air and straight into the dirt. I never saw those deer again.
What did I do wrong? After many hours of running the situation over and over in my head I knew;
- I got impatient
- I didn’t give myself time to settle down
- I rushed the shot
- I thought to much of the buck hanging on my wall. Instead I should have been focusing on my form, clean release, and follow through.
I could list a million more things I did wrong at that moment.
How to Avoid Getting Buck Fever
These are some ways to help you fight the shot of endorphins to your head that makes you crazy when its time to make the shot.
First you have to have confidence.
I know the first time I ever saw a deer that was within range from my stand, I was frozen. I was afraid if I moved that it would spook off. But now I know that slow subtle movement you can get away with. But you have to make your move at the right time. Always wait until until the deer puts it head down or faces completely away from you. Even if a deer is looking the other direction, you have to be careful. Deer can see sideways out of their eyes, so if it pops its head up and looks away from you don’t move until its head goes back down. Because your sure to be seen.
Another problem is if there is more than one deer in the area. Multiple deer mean more eyes and it is tougher to move. This can get really tricky. So don’t focus all of your attention on the deer you want to shoot, be aware of the deer around as well.
Go over the situation in your head before and during the hunt.
Think of big heavy huge racked deer walking under your stand and think about how cool and calm your going to be when it happens. Even though it may not seem like it would do much good, it does. It’s called exposure therapy. So imagine yourself making a smooth draw, placing your pin on the vitals, releasing, and following through. It will help you a lot. Plus it will give you something to do while waiting on a deer.
If buck fever does hit you, calm down.
Don’t think about how nice that deer will look on your wall. think about hunting him and reading his body language. Take time to get your breathing under control. In fact, close your eyes if you have to and say to yourself ” stay calm, stay calm” over and over until you calm down. Pulling a shot off is hard as heck to do when your trembling like a cold dog.
Buck fever is not actually curable. Buck fever is what gets us up in the morning to go hunting, and if hunting was easy there wouldn’t be any fun to it. I, for instance, have harvested many animals in his bowhunting career and he still gets pumped every time he does it. But if you can help keep it under control during the most critical moment, the shot, then your chances of harvest are increased that much more in your favor.
Is buck fever and target panic the same thing?
No, Target panic is when you have a hard time shooting at any target. Such as having shaky hands, a hard time moving your pin on the target, punching your release.
It’s mostly associated with a nervous shooter, a eager shooter, or someone that doesn’t have the right equipment.
Buck fever on the other hand, is when the sight of deer makes you nervous, it’s a shot of adrenaline to your brain which, well, makes you excited and you have symptoms like you’ve just seen a ghost.