A healthy dose of buck fever

Nov. 30, 2012 @ 05:11 PM

As deer hunting goes, it was one of those perfect mornings.  A cold and clear night sky had aided the formation of a hard glassy frost.  It was the kind that old timers would have referred to as a “Hoar Frost”.  Having arrived at my hunting blind a bit before daylight made the anticipation of the warming rays of the suns first light a rewarding thought.  In addition, it was one of those rare windless mornings; the kind that allows you to watch your excelled breath linger in the air like a miniature cloud. 

As an avid deer hunter and one who has seen their share of sunrises in the outdoors, I can vouch for the old saying that it is the coldest just before dawn.  By the time the suns frost melting rays was making the ground damp around my feet, I decided that a slow stealthy walk within the weed and brush field would warm up most of my bodies cold spots.  Four hundred yards later, I was standing on a high point that allowed me to overlook a large overgrown field.  Looking around the field’s edge near the woods line, my attention was drawn to a ten foot juniper type tree that was shacking with intermitting jolts.  I immediately recognized it as buck deer horning.  During the rut or mating period, buck deer usually have an overdose of hormones and the way this small tree was be whopped, I began counting antlers.  The problem was that I still couldn’t actually see the deer and there was no easy way to get to him without spooking the now trophy buck.

The only smart option was to wait and let the fever begin.  Watching the tree shake, I at least knew where the big boy was.  A few minutes later, the trees shaking stopped.  At the same time, I noticed that mine was picking up and it wasn’t from the cold.  Seconds became minutes as I anxiously scanned left to right during my short and fever inducing pacing.  Finally the wait was over as a small buck walked into view in my field path.  Satisfied that this was not the tree butting buck, yet a buck of opportunity, I took aim and leveled the scopes crosshairs on a vital spot.  At least I tried to level on a spot.  Suddenly the veteran hunter and firearm shooter was almost unable to hold the crosshairs on the deer, let alone a vital spot.  To my luck, the little buck had an overdose of hormones flowing through his veins that resulted in his walking directly towards me.  This would be my lucky break as the closer he got the better my aim as I was now well under a healthy dose of buck fever.

Hunters call it excitement, nerves, inexperience, scope off, bad ammo, borrowed gun, not a clear shot, to cold, out of breath and bad angle just to name a few.  While buck fever is a known condition that afflicts hunters year after year, what causes it and is there any cure continues to be the unanswered questions.  While the actual cause appears to have its roots in the natural biological makeup of the human body, there are things that a hunter can do to lessen the impact.

The grass root of hunting in primitive man was for survival.  This was a necessity of life from the beginning and is still a part of life in many locations and cultures throughout the world.  To aid man’s survival, nature gave him adrenalin.  Known as the “Fight or Flight” response, this powerful hormone is produced by the body in times of high stress situations and helps supply extra blood and oxygen to the muscles.  This gives the body that amazing ability to quickly respond in often amazing ways.  The problem in buck fever is that you have this sudden high stress situation that results from the deer showing up and a sudden explosion of adrenalin expecting the body to go into action.  However, the body is not going to take off running after the quarry.  Instead, the hunter is going to sit still and patient, making slow and calculated moves if any, for as long as it takes.  Often this controlled and stationary explosion works its way out in the form of Buck Fever.  With the recent growth of wild turkey hunting, the same condition can and does apply here.  As a result, it could be called Tom Fever.

Now that we know what is going on, what can be done about it?  According to northamericanwhitetail.com, making yourself comfortable is number one.  Besides the obvious of staying warm, and physically comfortable in the blind, make sure all your shooting angles are comfortable as well.  Getting comfortable about seeing a big buck before you go is an aid as well.  Watch big buck hunting videos so that your so called big buck looks more natural to you.  Practice your shooting often, especially if you’re using archery equipment.  The more often and comfortable you get in shooting your gun the easier it will be when the critical time comes.  Visualize what is going to happen before it happens.  Mentally run through all the possible scenarios of what might happen.  Picture where the deer might come from and the paths it might take.  It is important to stay in the present when hunting deer and turkey.  Be aware of what the animal is headed into and its possibilities.  Know your ranges and the abilities of your equipment.  Remove the need and causes of your noise and movements right from the start.  One of the hardest things a hunter can do is try to do a great job of videoing or picture taking at the same time they are trying to bag the animal.  Trying to do a good job of both is very difficult and usually results the failure of both.  Another thing about fighting nerves is to remember that it is ok to be nervous.  Like my brother Larry, a very avid deer hunter likes to say, “If you don’t get excited when deer hunting, you should be doing it”.  Learning to control and regulate your breathing at critical moments, like when aiming your weapon is very important.  Of course there is also another way to help avert buck fever as well.  Don’t let the sight of a big buck or long bearded turkey be that important to yea anyway.  Yeah Right! SNbS

    • Tony Robinson can be reached at decoydoc@charter.net