It’s the moment that all deer hunters have spent many hours dreaming of. Harvesting a trophy buck sends a shiver down the spine of every serious hunter. It’s why we hunt, for the rush of the moment. Our heart beat quickens as a mature buck sporting some eye-widening head gear steps within range. The next few seconds will determine our place in hunting history. The fame, happiness, and camaraderie that go hand in hand with tagging such an elusive creature or another heart wrenching story of the one that slipped away? Do you have what it takes to keep cool and make an effective shot?
All deer hunters have been there, even attempting to harvest a doe can cause hunters to do things they wouldn’t generally do. Becoming temporarily paralyzed, not having enough strength to draw a bow, weak knees, and shaking like a dog shitting razor blades are the most common ailments. There is story after story of deer hunters losing their cool to something known as buck fever.
It can be compared to performance anxiety better known as stage fright. It is the fear of failure. The fear of what others will think if you don’t perform under pressure. Using some simple hunting tips and advice could make all the difference when the curtains rise. Some say hunting is luck. According to Seneca the Roman dramatist and philosopher, “luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.”
Preparing for a once in a life time opportunity can be the key to not eating another deer tag sandwich. There are some simple steps that could lead to meat in the freezer and a trophy buck on the wall.
Perfect Deer Hunting Practice
Vince Lombardi said, “practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.” A lot of deer hunters know that practicing many months before the start of the deer season is critical. But yet many of them don’t practice in a hunting type situation. Not unlike a warm weather football team will practice in cold conditions for an upcoming cold weather game, hunters should do the same. Football teams will use frozen footballs and pump noise through the stadium speakers to create a real game situation during practice. Persistently practicing in a mocked up hunting scenario will serve more effective when the time counts. Use a life like deer target, preferably one with antlers, and shoot at it from an elevated position like you would out of a deer stand.
Wear your full dress of hunting clothes from boots to mask as if you were going hunting. It’s amazing how different shooting a weapon is while wearing bulky hunting clothes, gloves, and a face mask. Also, try shooting in low light conditions and even in less than picture perfect weather. It’s rarely lit up like a ballpark in the woods, so practicing in low light conditions is extremely beneficial. Create some tough shots through small openings at different angles. Use your imagination to make your practice perfect and you’ll see excellent results.
Get in the Woods
Frequently being outdoors and around wildlife and game will help you to feel more comfortable. Put some time in a deer stand during the off season. Bring some lunch and a camera and get familiar with seeing deer and being around them. Hunting small game can also be helpful. Small game hunting is fun and can be a great way to hone your hunting skills.
Attitude is King
Hunters have to learn to control their attitudes and way of thinking. It has been recognized for centuries that we become what we think about. Hit the woods with a bad attitude and the anticipation of not seeing any deer and that is precisely what will happen. If you are lucky enough to see a shooter buck, your negative attitude will certainly not help you in making a successful kill. You have to destroy any negative thoughts or feelings as soon as they creep into your mind and replace them with positive thoughts.
No matter how many hours on stand you log not seeing a deer, or if you missed a good opportunity at a nice deer the day before, you still need a positive attitude. You should enjoy yourself and be grateful that you are given the opportunity to be in the woods with the possibility of harvesting a deer of a lifetime.
Visualize a Successful Hunt
The Bible says that where there is no vision the people will perish. Visualization is a method that many successful people use. Athletes will visualize triumph just before performing. They permit their minds to picture the outcome they want. A power lifter will visualize lifting a record weight before his attempt just as an Olympic runner will see themselves crossing the finish line in record time. You should visualize a buck walking into your shooting lane and you squeezing off a perfect shot. Picture yourself being calm, releasing a clean shot, and the deer going down. Visualize it, picture it, and think about it over and over again. This will be key when buck fever tries sneaking in and your subconscious mind takes control. Similar to a soldier that has been deployed on the front line, your training and skills will take over and carry you through to the results you have imagined.
Concentrate on the Shot
We all know how easily we can hit a target with some practice. With a bow or gun, most avid deer hunters are fairly good shots while practicing in good conditions at a stationary target. Then why have most of us made a bad shot at one time or another at a deer? You practice squeezing off shots and aiming at a small bullseye only to go hunting and put the sights somewhere on the deer’s body and slam the trigger like it’s going out of style. After a while you realize you aren’t even sure what happened. It was almost like somebody else made the shot for you. It’s another symptom of buck fever referred to as a lack of concentration and we are all guilty of it.
You have to fight through the anxiety and completely concentrate on the shot. Never aim at the whole deer but rather a small spot in the kill zone and concentrate on it. Say again in your mind squeeze the trigger, squeeze the trigger, squeeze the trigger. Hold your breath while repeating this and start applying pressure on the trigger. Continue to concentrate on the spot and squeeze until the weapon goes off. When your bow or gun does finally fire, it should surprise you. Write this step on a piece of masking tape and put it on your weapon as a reminder.
When buck fever starts to tiptoe in you have to remind yourself to stay focused. It’s like handing your keys to someone else before you begin to drink. In your right mind you know you shouldn’t drink and drive but once you’re a little tipsy you may not think right. Do things prior that are going to help you remember what to do, or what not to do when it counts. Make a bulleted list and stick it on your weapon so you’ll stay focused.
Practice perfectly, have a positive attitude, and visualize a successful deer hunt. Follow these deer hunting tips every time and buck fever won’t set in until after you’ve made a perfect shot. Then you can get excited and look at the camera like Stan Potts and say, “give me a second folks.”