Debunking the Myth of Buck Fever

By Harrison Hoegh

Many hunters who believe in buck fever are slowing their progress as hunters. I see a ton of articles and podcasts on how to fix buck fever. While I will admit that I have experienced a miss or two due to buck fever, I would say nine times out of ten my miss was due to a mistake I can use as a tool for learning. Here is how I would recommend getting over buck fever.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.

A greater fear of failure creates a greater sense of pressure. So don’t be so hard on yourself that you get overly anxious when a deer comes within range. Missing a buck is not the end of the world. If you can’t sleep at night, let it go, it won’t help. We all want to shoot big deer, but let’s not blow it out of proportion someday all of our trophies will probably be thrown out. The key is to enjoy hunting.

Don’t use buck fever as a cop out

It is easy for a hunter to remember how excited he was when the deer was within range and how everything went so fast and that all of a sudden the arrow was flying over the buck’s back, and to say, “oh I guess I struggle with buck fever.” Few hunters think back and say, “possibly I made a mistakes before the deer trotted in that caused me to be unprepared to take the shot.” In order to fully understand buck fever I think two things must be understood. Hunting deer is exciting and there are a lot of ways things can go wrong.

Focus on improvement

I think some hunters shoot their first deer or have a double lung shot and think that they have learned how to kill a deer. There are a lot of ways things can go wrong. I bet if you go back and consider the situations where you experienced “buck fever” you can come up with ten ways to improve that don’t involve calming yourself down. You have to learn the process of shooting a deer. You have to learn what you can get away with and what you can’t.  Was your tree stand facing the wrong direction? Was the wind not ideal? Was your bow not in your hand? Were you not paying attention and the deer excited you? Is your effective range not what you thought it was? More than likely the mistake you made is easier to fix than you think.

Gain experience

Now some of you are probably thinking, there is no way to prepare for every situation a deer could throw at you in a season. And that is true, but once you get into enough situations with deer you can be more prepared for the unexpected and you can adjust on the fly more effectively. If you watch a few hunting videos and you’ll see guys with fifty deer under their belts still missing deer, it’s not easy, and even they are still learning. Go hunt mule deer in Nebraska or antelope in Wyoming, you will gain experience drawing on an animal, and you’ll feel less pressure to succeed in whitetail hunting. Eventually you’ll have a moment when you find an issue in your approach you would have never realized through shooting at a target, so get out there and keep learning.

In conclusion, quit being so hard on yourself for missing, focus on the things you can control, and go enjoy hunting the great fall weather.


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