Deer Hunting Tips: Overcome Buck Fever
Look it up in the Webster Dictionary and you will find nothing. Yet ask a group of hunters going on a big game hunt and everyone will know exactly what you are talking about.

It is the severe case of the jitters. It’s the adrenaline rush associated with the site of your target. It’s the nervous system on overdrive.

Crazy things such as the shakes, sweats, increased blood pressure and just plain poor shooting can occur when Buck Fever overtakes you.


Strange things have happened to people I know, such as practically forgetting the tree stand is 15 feet off the ground (thank god for safety straps), shouting “bang” instead of making the shot, or even the inability to raise the rifle.

Whitetail deer food plots top image

As a friend of mine put it:

"Over the past four archery seasons, I’ve blown three opportunities at really good whitetail trophy bucks.

The common thread between all three blown shots; I’ve shot over their back. The diagnosis was simple.

As I lowered my bow to set the pins on my target, I’ve touched the release as soon as I saw hair beyond my pins; therefore shooting high each time. On a range, I use a standard shooting approach of bringing my pin below my target and settling back in on the way back up.

Then, once settled, I slowly squeeze the release so I don’t know exactly when the release will send the arrow on its way. Obviously, the same repeated motion can be quickly forgotten when it counts the most. This, my friends, is the penalty for not controlling Buck Fever. “

Some people say it is the error of the inexperienced hunter.

I disagree.

Even the experienced hunter feels the adrenaline when a “trophy Whitetail” comes into view. The difference may be the ability to control the effects of the adrenaline. Some people even say the inexperienced hunter often doesn’t suffer from Buck Fever because they don’t over think the situation.

It can be the thinking that gets you into trouble. It is the anticipation of shooting the deer that makes you put pressure on yourself and makes you nervous. Plus the excitement of the prospect of having achieved what you spent all year preparing for. In other words, your mind gets the best of you.

Here are a few hunting tips to help you get control of Buck Fever before it gets control of you.

1. Perfect Practice:

One way to ensure proper repetition is to simply draw on, or put your sights on deer you are not going to shoot. This “practice” has done wonders for a colleague of mine. His hunting shot process is now becoming as natural and automatic as target shooting. This repeated motion has solidified how and when to draw and helped him avoid and control the panicky feeling that overcomes him when a trophy deer steps in his shooting lane.

Sure you may spook a few deer you’re not going to shoot anyway, but it’s better than rushing through a shot or spooking a deer you do plan on taking. Perfect practice will instill the ability to size up the deer and the situation.

2. Target Practice with a Twist:

I have heard some people suggest running around before you pick up your bow or gun for target practice. If you do this right, you will be out of breath, chest heaving and heart racing, much like the real thing. Learning to shoot when these circumstances occur can help you overcome the effects of Buck Fever when it counts.

3. Use Mental Imagery:

This works for any kind of athletic performance and there is no difference here. When you get up into your stand it is a good time to put your mind to work. There’s not much else to do up there anyway. A good technique is to identify any or all of the paths your trophy buck may use to come into your view. Picture the animal, feel the breeze and the cool air in your nostrils. The more realistic your visualization the more likely this technique will help you. Once you have the image, then picture yourself in great detail taking the shot, right down to the how the hair parts where you are shooting. If you can’t feel the excitement in your visualization, you may want to focus and make it as realistic as you can.

4. Control Your Thinking:

You get what you think about all day long. If you think you will miss, don’t take the shot…you will probably miss. Think about dropping it in a single shot, not losing it, injuring the game or other.

5. Control Your Breathing:

Deep breathing is a technique that most people find helpful to control Buck Fever. Taking a slow deep breath or breathing slowly through your nose are 2 ways to help you calm your nervous system and to slow your heart rate.

6. Forget The Antlers:

Once you have decided to take the shot. FORGET THE ANTLERS.

Focus on the Vitals.

Think vitals and only vitals.

Thinking about the exact hair you are aiming for over the vitals works for some people. Take your time. If it is not a safe shot, take a deep breath, there will be another chance.

As deer hunters, we employ a philosophy of repetition to ensure we can consistently put our arrows in the ten ring and pattern our guns to a point we know at one-hundred yards we’ll shoot an inch high. This acquired muscle memory and disciplined, routine shot process become automatic through hours of repetition.

The challenge however, is using the exact same shot process used at the range while out in the real situation when your trophy whitetail or mule deer shows up! Using the above techniques may help you overcome the adrenaline rush and allow your acquired muscle memory to do what you trained it to do.

Good luck and we shall see you soon for more deer hunting tips in future articles.

Dr. Judy McFarlen www.diydeerfoodplots.com/ Veterinarian, Alberta Rancher, and publisher of Deer Food Plots Made Easy, Dr. Judy McFarlen has helped a large number of novice and experienced deer food plotters establish and improve their whitetail deer food plots.

From deer food plot location strategies to seed selection, this text is a nuts and bolts kind of reading. It is guaranteed to make sense to even to the most inexperienced grower.