Two Ways to Deal with Buck Fever

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Two Ways to Deal with Buck Fever
by David Petzal

Drawing on my extensive medical background, I classify buck fever as a form of hysteria in which your cerebrum and cerebellum shut down simultaneously and you are left either paralyzed and unable to do anything except wet yourself (or worse) or do really odd things like cycling a whole magazine of ammo through the rifle without pulling the trigger.

We know that the sight of a big-game animal can have a profound physical effect on the body. Back in the 1990s, at a plantation loaded with really monstrous whitetails, scientists attached heart monitors to a number of deer hunters who then climbed into their trees stands to await one of these behemoths. When a Serious Deer did stroll by, heart rates went instantly from normal resting (about 72 beats per minute) to close to 200 per minute, which is a trip to the ER for many people.

The only way I know to deal with buck fever is to shoot in competition, which is shooting under pressure, which is what shooting at game is. It doesn’t matter what kind of competition, just as long as you expose yourself to being publicly humiliated if you screw up and rewarded if you don’t. A leisurely afternoon of shooting cans with your .22 will not do this.

Time and the Hunter


Once in a great while, hunters will complain about the HunterShooter format and its use of timers. Well, the novice shooters purchasing hunting licenses sometimes do when justifying their non-participation.

The complaint using goes along the lines about how hunting is not timed, there’s no timer in the woods, animals don’t carry clocks, and the like. Just as defensive shooters wrongly complaining about timed exercises, the point is that time can be a factor and can be a stressor. Learning how to perform under time pressure is a good way to learn how to handle this.

Broken down, buck fever is largely influenced by time pressure, either real or perceived. Knowing there is but one chance to do the correct thing and that it needs to get done before the animal is spooked or flees is a stressor pressed largely by time. If a hunter could somehow guarantee the animal wouldn’t move or leave and knew he was free to take as much time as desired, buck fever would be mostly eliminated.

Beyond buck fever, sometimes there is a time limit and it might be strongly enforced by your quarry.

Anyone foolish enough to suggest this hunter didn’t feel pressed for time?

A regular participant consistently producing good scores in HunterShooter events likely wouldn’t have had this problem. As in, not missing quickly with multiple shots in the first place.

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