Buck Fever …as defined by the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, is the nervous excitement of an inexperienced hunter at the sight of game.

Although this is a decent enough definition, I would be willing to argue that buck fever applies to a lot more people than just inexperienced hunters. We have all experienced that moment in the woods when our buck appears and our nerves dissolve. Something about having the pinnacle of your hard work and anticipation show up in front of you as a shining ivory rack seems to drive the human body into a nervous meltdown. Dealing with this “target panic” is one of the greatest challenges that faces a hunter every fall. Just to get to this point, with a shooter buck or doe in front of you, you must have done close to everything right. But it is these crucial few seconds at the end of your journey that will decide the ending of your great hunting story. Over the years people have came up with an uncountable number of ways to deal with this challenge, and although there is no one right answer, it is important to find something that works for you and be prepared for the climax of your hunt.

When it comes to my strategy I primarily focus on controlling my breathing. When I first see a deer that could be a buck I immediately begin to take very slow deep breaths. I breathe in, completely filling my lungs, hold it and then slowly release all the air out. Doing this during the moments leading up to a shot seems to help control my heart beat and generally calms me down. As the deer approaches I focus on the vitals on the deer, and repeat in my head to “aim small, miss small”.

Now this works for me, but it is not for everyone. To gauge the masses for some different ideas, I posed the question of dealing with Buck Fever to the Deer & Deer Hunting online forums. Here is a sample of some other great ideas to help prepare you for dealing with Buck Fever the next time “The Big One” steps into your sights.

“Don’t over think! I always do that :/ Not so much with a gun but with my bow. Just take a deep breath and try to pretend like your taking practice in your back yard” – Demoderby4

“As the deer approaches, picture the deer naked (not naked naked, but where it’s vitals are).  Start focusing on the deer and where you are going to put your pin, or sights.  Whatever you do, don’t look at the antlers again.  I keep my mouth closed, and breathe out of my nose.  To help slow my heartbeat.  As less intake of air helps me focus more on my shot.  When that deer’s head is behind a tree, or when it looks the other direction that’s when you get ready for your shot, i.e. draw back, raise your gun whatever it may be.

The biggest thing for me, is to not focus on the antlers or how good it is going to taste with a side of mashed potatoes.  Rather focusing on the shot placement.  I actually try to pick out an exact hair where I want to hit.  Like others have said, aim small, miss small.  It works, just try to control your breathing, and that can be done by different methods, for me, it’s just breathing through my nose, and not looking at the antlers on it’s head.” – Gafrage

“Immediately after 1 look you know its a shooter and I mean immediately, don’t look again, make the decision on your first look then I pick out a tuft of hair on its vitals and focus on that, NOT THE ANTLERS.  Then when it gets close to my range or shooting lane I still focus on the tuft of hair, start to sing my favorite song in my head while breathing very slowly and finally before the release or trigger pull I breathe in deep and exhale soft and slow and finally at the very end of the exhale I let it fly.  It is important to do it at the very end of the exhale as this is when you will be the most steady and calm, according to Marine Snipers anyway.”

– dmiancfa

“Run around while shooting your bow at home. That way when you pick it up you are out of breath, and it kinda resumbles the real thing.” – Deercamp


To get involved in the Deer & Deer Hunting Forums visit this link.