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Joined: 01/24/2010
Posts: 57
Buck fever remedies

Hi all.  I have an issue that I would like to get some help with.  I have a teenage son (18) that loves to hunt deer with the rifle.  He has hunted 6 years now, and has had many great shot opportunities.  He has shot 3-4 bucks in his short hunting career.  

This past season he had several great opportunities to shoot bucks at a fairly close range, but in all honestly he didn't even come close, typically shooting in the dirt well below their feet.  In talking to him about his shots, he swore his rifle was the problem, so I shot the rifle for him at a target and it was dead on.  After that I had him shoot it in a calm setting and he hit the target as well.

I have always heard of "buck fever" but don't think I have ever witnessed it.........until now.  I think he gets so excited at the shot opportunity, that he is just pointing and shooting and I am not sure he is even looking through the scope.  Have any of you guys ever ran across this?  If you have, are there any ideas as to what to do to correct it?  My biggest concern is NOT that he doesn't get the deer, but it really does become a safety issue.  I have always taught my sons good gun safety, and we all know that good gun safety requires a constant awareness.  If he is loosing his awareness during these times of excitement, I have concerns.

Any help out there?  The only thing I can think of is to try to stay away from stalking situations where the deer bolt from cover on short notice (causing a startled and quick reaction), and keep him in situations where we are spotting deer and waiting for the right shot from afar.

Thoughts? Confused

Critter's picture
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Location: Western Colorado
Joined: 03/26/2009
Posts: 4433
I usually only get buck fever

I usually only get buck fever after the shot when I have time to think about it. 

One thing that has helped a lot of hunters with it is to shoot a single shot rifle or only have one bullet in the rifle.  Then he has to think before he pulls the trigger.  Or have him count to three or five after the animal is in the scope to get him to settle down a little.  But the big problem is him.  He has to realize that he has a problem rushing his shots and until he knows that he needs to slow down a little nothing will really help. 

hunter25's picture
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Location: Colorado western slope
Joined: 11/13/2009
Posts: 3040
I had this problem myself

I had this problem myself some when I was younger. I don't think he is losing awareness and probably is sighted dead on the animal but under the excitement flinches down when he pulls the trigger.

Usually it would not be the quick decision shots that are a problem but the ones you have to wait and let the suspense build. The best thing is to learn to relax and get your breathing under control and think the shot through all the way. I bet he is just mashing the trigger really hard and even pushing his body into it thus the low shots. Focus on the sight picture and where you are going to hit and not the whole animal in general even though the sights are on him.

Grand Slam Challenge Winner!
Location: NE NV
Joined: 03/18/2010
Posts: 382
Control it instead of Cure it

That excitement he experiences is the reason many of us hunt in the first place, wheather we feel it before or after the shot.  Without learning to control the "fever" first I'd do anything possible to avoid shots from afar rather than look for them.  Distant shot require a steady hand and a wounded and lost animal could push him away from hunting - just exactly what your'e trying to avoid.

After I developed a strong case of target panic with archery equipment, I began to say a short mantra before each and every shot either while target shooting or hunting as recommended by a promanent archery coach & hunter at the time. My particular chant went "pick a spot, focus, easy grip, follow thru".  I also reduced the poundage of my bow for awhile.  I tried something similar with my daughter to help her control her anxieties when shooting her big game rifle.  She figured out her own and shot several bricks of .22's thru her rimfire rifle at everything from targets to life savers to ground squirrels, always saying her chant before the shot at first out loud & then to herself.  It worked for both of us.

I'm also wondering if he is flinching at the shot.  It's a pretty common form of target panic or "buck fever"  and isn't always because of fear of recoil.  Serious time with a .22 and repetative controled dry firing with his hunting rifle (obviously following all safety procedures) again using his own personal chant might be a good idea.  When shooting for practice, sometimes load the gun for him, occationally giving him an empty weapon.  You'll spot a flinch right away.

Good Luck!

Ca_Vermonster's picture
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Location: San Diego, CA
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The best advice I ever saw,

The best advice I ever saw, was made familiar in a line from "The Patriot" with mel Gibson.

His son kept reciting, when getting ready to shoot at the British soldiers, "Aim small, miss small.  Aim small, miss small".  I think that's dead on.

Have him try to focus on smaller and smaller pieces of the animal each time.  He may be looking for the whole deer, especially the rack, whenever he looks through the scope.

However, when he knows that it's a shooter, and he's decided to pull the trigger, have him look for the crease behind the shoulder, and focus only on that.

Next one, have him not only focus on that crease, but then pick out a small tuft of hair, or shadow, or something very small in that area.  If he focuses really hard on that area, he will be less likely to flinch out of the "kill zone".

If he does not focus, he'll spend too much time looking at the animal as a whole, and develop more buck fever.


Location: Colorado Springs
Joined: 02/23/2009
Posts: 188
Not sure if this would help

Not sure if this would help in this situation, but I always go out Coyote hunting in the off season.  When I started out in the military, all I had ever shot was shotgun so my M-16 skills, were, well, bad.  I always anticipated the shot and would jerk.  So, some of the guys in my unit helped me by taking me out to the range and loaded the weapon for me.  I never knew if they put a live round in the chamber or a dummy - so every time I pulled the trigger, my aim would be true.  When I started using larger rifles - .338, 7mm, 300 WM, I would practice the same excercise.  Since then, buck fever has never been a problem. 

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