BUCK FEVER!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: October 30, 2023

You arrived at your favorite stand at sunrise. Just as you settle in, you see antlers. All the preparation, planning, practicing, and time spent has come to this moment. You raise your weapon and take aim. 

Buck Fever is not a disease that the deer gets, it’s not caused by a virus or germ. Buck Fever is when the hunter gets too excited and misses the shot. What’s worse is that the animal may get wounded or injured due to Fever affected poor shooting skills. 

Wildlife is too precious to waste. It is disrespectful and poor sportsmanship to not practice, prepare, and plan for a safe and ethical hunt. You need to overcome the fever. 

You have practiced for this moment a hundred times. The target you practiced on was made of paper and maybe was in the shape of a deer. You remembered to look for the perfect kill spot. Just behind the shoulder will do the trick. Now the deer moves, changes angles. Raises and drops its head. The antlers look massive. Just look at those antlers…

As you aim, you notice that the sight picture is shaking, moving, and changing. What the heck? Your heart rate is up, you are breathing faster, and the excitement is full throttle. Ok, take off the safety, and get ready…BANG! You took a shot, but did you hit the deer? 

So many things happen so fast, it’s hard to keep up. Your body reacts differently than you planned. You just got Buck Fever! You were not the first and you wouldn’t be the last, but the moment arose and you didn’t.

We have all known great skeet/trap shooters that never miss a clay target but never hit a real flushing rooster or upland bird. They simply get too excited. Big game hunters are even more prone to getting the Fever. 

What did the Fever make you do?

You lifted your head off the stock/off the release.

You focused on the Antlers.

You forgot to control your breathing.

You jerked the trigger.

You closed your eyes.

You misjudged the range.

You never sighted/ practiced your weapon accurately.

Great marksmen “Aim small, Miss small”. They also find that motionless space between breaths and heartbeats. You need to become the Terminator and become a shooting machine.

Focus will cure the Fever. It is ok to get excited, you just need a few moments of perfect control to overcome the excitement. Take slow, deep breaths, relax, aim at the perfect kill spot. To do this you need to practice it so many times that muscle memory and instinct take over. All you need to do is time the shot. A smooth squeeze will do. The weapon should surprise you when it fires. 

A range finder will help you find the right distance that you are comfortable with. Aiming needs to be more than a kill spot where the projectile enters the critter. Where will it come out? “AIM FOR THE EXIT!” Shoot when the critter stops and is broadside. You can make a grunt or chirp to stop the critter. Shoot between your breath and watch for the animal’s reaction to the shot. Mentors are also great coaches. 

Critters do not always react to the shot. They rarely just drop dead. Usually the bolt for cover. Mark where the critter was when you shot, and the last place you saw the critter run. This is where you will or will not find blood, hair, or evidence of your shot. 

Follow up every shot. If you do not see the results of your shot, go to where the critter was standing. Look for tracks, hair, and blood. The color of the hair will match where the shot hits. The color or frothiness of the blood will do the same. Look for a blood trail. Blood will not just be on the ground. Also look at rocks and bushes above the ground. This part of the hunt is also exciting and needs to be done slowly and with the help of your mentor. Mark each blood spot or sign with some orange flagging so you can see the trail. Track from the side of the trail so you don’t destroy the sign. Look ahead for a downed critter, then begin again. 

If you think Buck Fever is contagious when you shoot, wait until you finally spot the downed critter. This is also extremely exciting and rewarding. 

If you beat the Fever, you will reap the reward of your efforts. Now its time to get excited and do the happy dance!

Hunt hard, hunt harder!

Montana Grant

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