Ask any deer hunter about buck fever and more often than not they’ll be able to quickly drum up the story of a time when shakes and convulsions dominated their body at the site of a buck. Buck fever is a state when your entire person (mind, body, spirit) is driven by pure adrenaline, mostly derived from a fear of failure that can instantly increase your heartrate from a resting rate of 72-75 beats per second to upwards of 200. From mentally going through your pre-shot routine to just looking away from the buck’s rack, there are several ways to battle buck fever, though the war will most likely rage on forever.
Avert Your Eyes
This might be the toughest of our prescriptions, but it is one of the most helpful. Perhaps it’s a buck you’ve seen during summer scouting ventures or trail camera photos and knew he’d be in the area. Or better yet, it’s a tall-tined super chief you never knew graced the Earth and the element of surprise alone is almost too much to handle. Obviously you don’t want to turn your head or make any other unnecessary movements. But sometimes just looking at the buck’s feet rather than focusing solely on his rack can help remove some of the pressure.
It’s easy to say visualize; practice these scenarios pertaining to buck fever in the yard. However, it’s virtually impossible to put yourself in that situation. The nerves struck by a real shooter buck are too far down for a target to reach. As mentioned, experiencing real situations even multiple times per year is not necessarily the anecdote that will cure you of buck fever. When you’re emotions are overcome by adrenaline, it’s best to let your training take over.
Rely On Your Pre-shot Routine
By this we mean begin going through the steps you’ve practiced over and over again leading up to the season and with luck, to this very moment. Gently and quietly retrieve your bow from the hanger, make sure your arrow is secure in its rest, check the sight, hook up the release and wait for the opportunity to draw. Go ahead and pick a spot or two that you know will provide enough cover to draw. Focus on these things, not the possible outcome. Edge the notions of success or failure out of your mind and just let things unfold naturally.
No kidding, right? Seems pretty obvious. We’re not saying that you should be able to run a marathon or bench press 300 pounds. While these things are great and all, we speak of physical conditioning in simpler terms. Be sure to get plenty of rest the night before the hunt. We all tend to partake in extracurricular activities in deer camp that we may not otherwise do, but that’s understandable - so many things about deer hunting call for celebration. But limit yourself, if you can. Eat a good breakfast before going out. This is important if it’s really cold. Food in your stomach will help you sit still longer without shivering and all your mental focus will be where it should be when the moment of truth arrives, rather than back at camp in the pantry, which is also where you could be physically if you’re starving.
Buck fever is one of the many challenges we face as hunters and for most of us, it’s unavoidable. Sometimes even the sight of a small buck or knowing you’re about to draw on a doe is just enough to overtake your body with the fever. As deer season slowly begins to draw the curtain around the country, we wish you the best of luck. Don’t forget to send us some of your success photos and stories for us to share with others!