Archive for July 2012


Early archery deer seasons present hunters with weather conditions that challenge them when trying to find and stalk whitetails.  Placement planning of ground blinds and treestands requires some scouting at this time.  Conditions in heavy vegetation make a sneak and peak approach virtually impossible. 

The bulk of archery killed deer are taken early in the season.  Temperatures are higher and cover is still plentiful.  The archery season continues into the cold weather.  However, during that time the firearms hunters also take to the field.  Many bowhunters hunt both types of hunting seasons. 

Next to breeding, food, shelter, and water are the deer’s most important interests.  Since the early season hunter can leave out the rut in his scouting considerations, the most important factor remaining is water.  Deer consume between 1.5 and .5 quarts of water per day.  The figure varies due to the availability of succulent vegetation, humidity and temperature. 

In hot weather, deer stay close to a water source.  Later in the year, they can find water in the form of snow almost anywhere. 

Early season deer are easier to pattern.   What attracts them to a place will cause them to return if spooked by something.  Deer will feed late and come home early in the morning.  Keeping this in mind, also take notice of the wind. 

It is a common belief among bowhunters that a deer’s ability to smell is 100 times greater than a human.  A deer will pick up scent that a human cannot detect.  They are constantly monitoring the air for particles of scent. 

Established the deer’s routine, do your homework early and get a wall hanger early. 

Waiting for the rut is a gamble.  During the rut, deer move around.  Hunting big deer becomes a game of roulette.  One has to sit in one location and take a chance that a buck will walk past.  Bucks follow does and they can be scattered. 

Beginning early spend time scouting the activities of the deer. 

Look for broken spider webs that could show a deer passed that way on his journey to a bedding area. 

Place blinds in advantageous locations where you can move into and out of the area without disturbing the deer.  Never go in and out by the same trail on a given day.  Never move blinds unless forced to do so.


A systems approach to turkey hunting is simple but necessary.  It involves scouting, knowing the habits of fall birds, calling skill and shooting accuracy.  

Scouting involves such things as visually locating birds.  This can best be done by use of binoculars.  You can observe birds from a distance and yet not disturb their activities.  Sound is also important in scouting.  Listen for birds to vocalize.  This can be in response to a crow call or just listening for birds to gobble. 

Fall turkey hunters are best served if they talk with landowners, rural postal carriers, and others who are in the field with the birds all year.  They are a wealth of knowledge as to just where the birds are moving and at what times of the day they can be found. 

Locating a flock consists of finding scratching sign in the hardwoods.  The scratching tells the story of the direction the flock is traveling.  Droppings tell the story of just which sex birds are in the flock.  Hen droppings are like a popcorn kernel while the jakes leave a long J-shaped dropping. 

Feathers that are found also tell a story.  Breast feathers that are dark are from gobblers or jakes.  The feathers for a hen or jenny will be brown and buff in color.  The feathers are often found in dusting areas.  These are areas of very loose dirt where the birds take a dust bath to rid themselves of parasites. 

Around water one needs to look for tracks.  Gobbler tracks are much larger than those of the other birds.  In dry years birds will roost near the water, a good place to look for them. 

Another way to have birds where you want them is to create your own hunting area.  The hunter with a specific plot of land can plant food plots of red top millet, clover and wheat. Birds will stay in the area as long as there is food available.

Fall turkey hunting is for jakes and jennies’.  That is the birds usually taken in fall are the young of the year either male or female.  Young jakes are more vocal in the fall.  More jakes are taken in the fall than Jennies’.  The young of the year are still in family groups of hens and the pouts of the year. 

Hen turkeys will maintain contact with soft contact calls such as the soft yelp.  It is a call with emotion and is soothing to the young birds. 

Once a flock is located scatter them by running through them without a firearm.  Once they are scattered return to the place where you first contacted them and set up.  It is a matter of sitting and waiting for the birds to return.  One can also bust up a flock at night and then hunt them in the morning.  Young birds that have been isolated all night are anxious to get back to the flock at first light. 

Going back to the flock busted during the day usually takes about 5 minutes before they begin to regroup.  The first bird starts it out with a kee call.  Answer with a kee call.  The use of a hen call is necessary to attract the youngster.  For this use a 6 in 1 waterfowl call because of it=s high pitch.   Use a high pitched call then a cluck to attract the young birds. 

Never uses a gobble call when hunting on public land.  It is too dangerous as you do not have control of the other hunters on the land.  Gobbles should only be used on private land where you know who else is sharing the woods with you. 

Two other safety considerations in fall hunting is never chase a bird with a loaded gun and to be careful in carrying a bird.  You do not want to be mistaken for a live bird. 

Mature gobblers can be taken in the fall but the approach is slightly different.  Gobblers respond better to aggressive calling.  Begin with a cluck to establish contact.  Then use a soft purr as a feeding call and move leaves around to simulate feeding birds. 

Gobblers have a pecking order.  When they hear a gobble they will gobble back as a means of establishing dominance. 

Knowledge of the turkey vocalizations is vital to fall turkey hunting.  Many turkey hunters have a favorite diaphragm (mouth) call but also carry box and slate calls as well.  You can never have too many calls.  Some also carry a tube call or two.

Turkey hunting is great fun either spring or fall.  But, in the fall the hunter needs to be more pro-active in scattering and then calling the flock back together.  In the spring, it is a matter of finding a lovesick gobbler and getting him to come to you.  Fall turkey hunting is another opportunity to harvest a bird using your skills.


On the high end is the cost of bows for the more sophisticated competitive archer.

Buying an inexpensive bow may not be the best way of getting the most for one’s bowhunting dollar. 

Money on the initial purchase is often lost on the expense of getting it tuned and learning to shoot properly.  It may be set up properly.  If it is not, valuable practice time or even time in the field is the cost of gaining the proper set up. 

Those of us who were self-taught were at a disadvantage.  Today, by going to a professional archery shop can vastly accelerate the learning curve in both shooting and hunting skills. 

Professional sales personnel and instructors are students of archery.  They are skilled in the use of motivational tools to develop their skills through what is often years of hard work.  They are willing to help the novice avoid mistakes they themselves have experienced. 

Professional archers are more than just sales clerks who sell bows and arrows.  They are a source of information and support.  They have information on what tackle is new and the latest information on what is going on to preserve and protect our sport. 

The better pro shops have practice ranges right on the premises.  If they do not have a range of their own, they know where one can go to practice in the area.  Many shops will provide some instruction on a formal or informal basis for those customers using the range. 

It is important early to get good professional instruction.  It saves time correcting mistakes.  It may even prevent the bowhunter becoming disillusioned with the sport and giving up.  The pro wants his customers to learn to shoot well and be satisfied with their skills.  If the archer gives up, he will not be a repeat customer in the future.  Repeat business is vital to staying in business. 

A good pro is a problem solver.  He is skilled in recognizing the needs, desires, interests and any limitation of the customer.  He can help the customer learn to “know their bow.”

If you purchase a bow from an “out of the box” business, it still needs tuning.  It needs to be in tune to your specific needs.  Taking it to a pro for help with tuning is about the best way to make sure you get a reliable job done.  Expect to pay the pro for the service and his time.  He has bills to pay and a family to feed just like you.  If he does not charge, remember that he also has tackle that you can purchase and make sure you buy future tackle from him.  Buying from discount retailers has drawbacks.  In many an instance it is more expensive in the end. 

Pro shop people are informed on all sorts of new developments.  He has to be, it is his livelihood. 

Pro shops are the best place to get tackle repaired and primed for the hunting season.  They have the specialized tools and experience necessary for the tasks.  Beginning archers need help from someone in the know.  A well-meaning friend may or may not know what he is saying.  Even old timers need some help sometimes with things they think they know and maybe do not.


Squirrel hunters prowling the woods of southern Illinois’ public land will find ample action.  There are, after all, some half million acres of public land in the southern nine counties of the state. 

The perception of over hunted public land leads hunters to ignore some areas.  Many hunters refuse to accept that there is good hunting on public land. 

Good squirrel habitat is all over these southern counties.  Much of squirrel territory is in the control of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Other lands belong to the U.S Forest Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  There are site-specific regulations and the hunter must check them before taking to the field. 

Copies of the regulations are available from the site superintendents at the areas involved or from the IDNR in Springfield.  The address of the latter is Office of Public Information, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702‑1271.  Just request a copy of the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations and any information on the specific area you wish to hunt. 

The following southern Illinois areas are open to squirrel hunting.  Sometimes the hunter is required to sign in on a clipboard and out as he leaves.  Hunters record the bag numbers as they leave and the information helps to study the squirrel numbers of the area.  The data supplements other studies to help the IDNR biologists maintain healthy populations in balance with the habitat. 

Because public lands are areas available to hunting, sometimes they can be crowded.  The wily hunter will use this hunter pressure to his advantage. 

It may be wise to find an area with squirrels and take a stand.  Then as hunters move through the area, the game is distracted.  As the squirrels move through the treetop canopy to evade hunters, they can move into the range of the stationary hunter.  Moving hunters also force squirrels into the thicker areas of land.  Smart hunters will start hunting there instead of sticking to well worn trails. 

An area with many trails into hunting areas is the ShawneeNational Forest.  The forest spreads over parts of Jackson, Union, Alexander, Johnson, Williamson, Massac, Pope, Hardin, Gallatin and Saline counties.  It is composed of acres of hardwoods, food plots, and brush spread over all the counties. 

Hardwood ridges provide good mast crops of oak and hickory nuts.  Squirrels migrate to such areas like metal to a magnet.  The obviously good squirrel hunting locations do have some pressure.  The secret is to check those areas that do not look good at first glance.  A wise hunter scouts through the poor prospects to the good areas beyond them. 

There are a number of hardwood ridges in Shawnee Forest accessible only by passing through heavy brush and briars.  The squirrels in these islands of hardwoods have not been disturbed.  They tend to multiply quite readily. 

There are maps of the Shawnee National Forest available.  It pays to use the map to find areas of ridges that are not readily accessible from roads and trials.  Mark the map and scout the area.  Look for cuttings and good mast crops.  Keep notes from year to year as to where the squirrels live.  Keep the maps, and they will save valuable hunting time next year. 

For further information about Shawnee National Forest, contact the U.S. Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest, Route 45 South, Harrisburg, IL62946.  They have information regarding camping, fishing and hunting opportunities. 

Further north, squirrel hunters can hunt in the southern portion of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion.  The woods are much the same as in the Shawnee and the squirrel hunting patterns are the same. 

Operated as a refuge for waterfowl, the refuge does have some site-specific regulations.  One of those is the requirement that anyone using the land for any purpose must pay a vehicle user fee.  Hunters check-in at the Visitor’s Center on Route 148 just south of Old Route 13 before going into the hunting area. 

The refuge itself is about 43,000 acres of land with 23,000 acres open to hunting.  Most of the hunting is for deer, turkey and waterfowl.  Some areas are open for any species open to hunting by state law. 

The areas that are open to general hunting have public hunting signs.  For more detailed information regarding squirrel hunting at the refuge contact:  Refuge Manager, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, 8588 Route 148, Marion, Illinois 62959. 

Regardless of where in southern Illinois someone wants to hunt, there is public land squirrel hunting available.  All one needs to do is find it.  A mentioned earlier, the IDNR lists public hunting areas in the Hunting Digest published each year.  It is available anywhere hunting licenses are sold. 

Once on the property, locate a promising location far from the roads and, if any, the crowd.  With a little advance work and some common sense, one can enjoy squirrel hunting on public land.


Vocalizations can play a factor in early season squirrel hunting.  The animals are difficult to spot in the treetop canopy.  Often they have to move in order for you to spot them.  They are suckers for vocalizations. 

A vocal squirrel is an aggravated one.  He sounds off and displays a flickering tail as a threat to potential enemies.  The noise and tail movement gives away his position.  Getting a squirrel to give away his position often requires a call. 

Calling squirrels is not designed to get the animal to come to the hunter.  Squirrel calling is designed to aggravate the animal and get him to expose his position.   Then it is your problem to get an angle for a shot.

Squirrels are notorious for moving around to the opposite side of a tree trunk or limb when avoiding a hunter.  They like to put something between themselves and perceived danger.  The only exception is when they are angry. 

There are two basic types of squirrel calls on the market.  Both work in their own way.  The most common one is the reed call with a small rubber bellows attached.  The bellows is struck against the body or some other solid object and a clucking kind of sound is made.  This imitates the sound of another squirrel trespassing on the territory of the resident quarry.  The resident then responds angered and gives away his position. 

Another call is the squirrel whistle which is designed to imitate the distress call of a young squirrel.  It is a small metal whistle that is placed on the lips and you suck air through it making a whistling sound.  Coupled with the rattling of branches or swatting of branches against the ground imitates the sound of a hawk catching a squirrel.  Together they provide the sound of a hawk striking and the squirrel crying out in fear. 

The exact routine is five whistles with the first whistle longer than the following four.  The first whistle is about three‑quarters of a second and the rest about one‑half of a second.  The bush or branch is struck against the ground during the first three whistles then continues with the last two whistles.  A green, leafy limb is best. 

The technique works best in the morning after the squirrels have fed and are dozing.  It also works on alarmed animals.  It makes them come out of their nests or dens.  The little rascals become very excited and run all around giving away their locations.  They seem to respond in anger and will bark away toward the location of the call. 

In full camo you can move around and get a good location for a shot.  It is best to move slowly when the squirrel is barking away.  He does not seem to fear hunters as his mind seems to be on locating the hawk that is attacking. 

Besides the heat of summer early season hunters must also consider the problem of insects.  There are a number of good insect repellents on the market.  Some are unscented and they are probably preferred.  But, squirrels are not repelled by scented varieties.  The only problem with the scented products is that mosquitoes seem to be attracted by them. 

There are also summer insect proof camo suits on the market which work well. 

Moderately priced they can be bought as whole suits or in parts as pants, headnet, jacket, and gloves.  For squirrel and turkey hunters they could be a good investment.  The suits are available from most sporting goods stores or by mail order from the well known outfitters like Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops. 

Summer squirrel hunting is a great way to get tuned up for fall hunting season.  It is fun and squirrels are great eating in a slow cooker.


This is not what I planned for today’s entry.  However, an article in the local newspaper caused me to re-think my plans.

The article was about a burglary ring in a town near here that was using Facebook to plan their jobs.

I guess things that I just take for granted do on occur to most people.  After all I spent 30 years interviewing criminals in the world’s largest court system.  In that time, I learned a lot about how criminals think and plan.  Facebook and other on-line forums have often proven to be great tools for burglars.  They use them to tell when someone is not home, when they have valuables in the home un-protected, etc.

Here are some tips that I use to protect my property from these dirt bags.

1.  I subscribe to a security system that monitors the house and grounds all year around.  I do not post a sign saying I have the system as that only alerts the criminals to look for the sensors and cameras.  I also have an internet system of video cameras and software that allows me to monitor the grounds and home for intruders or any potential damage from weather of fire.  I just pull up the site on the internet with my lap top while I am on the road.  I also use the new trail cams so that anyone on the property will be photographed and have to explain their presence later.

2.  When I am going to be away, all valuables including guns are stored off site with friends and relatives.  When I am home, my S&W .460 pistol is close at hand for protection.

3.  My neighbors on all sides have a copy of my itinerary when I am on the road.  They know when I leave for a trip and when I should be back.  They also know how to reach me in case of an emergency.

4.  While on Facebook or here on my blog, I do not mention my physical presence.  I never say where I am going, how long I will be gone, or when I will return.  I do not mention that I am in progress toward a certain destination.  Plenty of time for that after I return.  I also continue to add my blog entries as is my usual schedule.

5.  Finally, I sometimes hire (or beg) someone to “house sit” my place while I am gone.

I hope that maybe these ideas might help some of you to avoid the heartbreak of a burglary.  Just use common sense.

Posted 07/18/2012 by Donald Gasaway in Shooting


Obesity and lack of conditioning are the prime causes of deaths in hunting dogs.  Obese dogs have the same health risks as humans.  They can develop diabetes, heart disease and other ailments that lead to premature death. 

So how can you protect your favorite hunting companion in the field?  Dr. Jill Cline, Ph.D., Senior Scientists for Purina PetCare, has some ideas.  Purina PetCare’s scientists completed a 14-year study with Labrador retrievers.  They looked into the effect of feeding 25% less food than would typically be feed to such dogs.  They followed the dog’s progress from 8-weeks to natural death.

“What we found,” reports Cline, “is that dogs that were fed to be very lean lived approximately 15% longer than their litter mates.”  In the lab that translates to about three extra years. 

They also found that it delayed the onset of chronic disease.  “It delayed the onset of arthritis by three years,’ says Dr. Cline.  “It delayed heart problems and muscle problems by about two to 2.5 years.” 

“Generally, we found that by keeping dogs lean they lived longer and healthier lives,” concluded Cline.  “We saw a difference in the way they aged physically.”  They noticed the delay in the growth of gray hair.  The lean dogs did not turn gray until about 10 or 11 years of age.  Other dogs turned gray at eight years. 

Is your dog obese?  The best way to check is to look at his figure.  The ideal weight for a dog is when you can feel the ribs.  Viewed from the side, the belly tucks up.  Viewed from above, there is a noticeable waist in front of the hips. 

Dogs that are overweight and poorly conditioned could get in a life-threatening situation on a hot day.  Dogs in somewhat this body condition will have a longer career.  They not only live longer but their effective time in the field is greater. 

“Additionally, what you find in over fed dogs is not necessarily obese,” says Cline, “but, you will see retrievers in the field that are over weight and out of condition.”  It seems unusual for a dog food company to advise that you feed your dog less.  On the other hand, if you feed them three years longer, they are going to come out OK. 

Getting rover in condition takes a little time and effort.  If you set your mind to the need, you going to hunt that given dog in September for a half or whole day.  The Purina dog trainers, like Bob West, have found that it takes six to eight weeks to get a dog in shape for hunting season.  “If you begin with a couch potato, who is a little overweight, you can start with 10 to 15 minutes per day kind of exercise,” reports West, a veteran dog breeder.  He is describing walks on leads. 

West maintains that you need to do different kinds of work with your dog.  Repeated retrieves in water, playing with a Frisbee are good fun things.  Sporting dogs know to heel when wearing a collar.  During conditioning, with a harness, they can be allowed to pull a little.  As you walk, putting a little pressure on the dog uses a little more energy.  “It is the weight lifting part of training,” says West.  “It helps build the back, loin and rear end.” 

In conditioning, you have to work different muscles.  The muscles are either contracted or relaxed.  You cannot do any one exercise all the time.  West recommends working uphill or downhill as it takes a completely different set of muscles.  At the same time, you are also doing cardiovascular and you are not boring the dog. 

Cline agrees and maintains that it is important to keep the dog’s head in the game is a big part of conditioning. 

West gives the dogs what they can take.  Dogs are like people, some condition better, some enjoy conditioning, some work a little harder at getting in condition and they look forward to that kind of work.  You can tell when they lose interest. 

On a hot day, swimming work might be appropriate.  It does cool them, but he has taken dogs out of cool water and found they had a body temperature of 105 degrees.  It can fool you. 

West recommends that you get use to their normal rest heart and respiratory rate.  He checks it for 15 seconds and then multiplies by four the minute rate.  It gives you what is normal for them.  Then you can exercise them.  Pay attention to when they begin to look like they are beginning to stress a little bit. 

The dog will give you signals when he is under stress.  You will begin to see a little less animation.  They get a little bit of an apprehensive look on their face.  “The glands right under their eyes begin to change,” says Dr. Cline.  “There are salivary glands up there.”  “You will see them kind of squinty and puffy eyed.” 

Another sign of stress according to West, is the dog beginning to sweat up.  Their gums begin to turn to a darker color.  The tongue will turn a little darker too.  “It is due to more blood flow coming to the surface.  The veins in the face will also start to pop out. 

West explains that moisture on the tongue tends to evaporate off cooling the tongue.  It cools that blood back down and it goes to the core and to the brain.  That is how the dog’s body tries to protect itself. 

West recommends carrying water with you in the conditioning and hunting situations.  He carries a little bicycle bottle and flushes out the mouth of that slimy stuff for more efficient cooling.  If you rest the dog and give them a shot of water every 15 to 20 minutes on hot days, they will be OK.  At the same time, he checks their eyes and face. 

“Dogs are such tremendous athletes,” says Cline, “that they can still work hard for their masters without any preconditioning.”  However, they will harm themselves in an effort to please their masters.  She points to the things that happen on those short weekend hunts or bursts of exercise as an example.  The dog will give you clues as to when he is over stressed. 

Hunters with lots of dogs can change them out frequently.  Most hunters do not have that option.  If you let a dog fatigue or overheat to the point where they are starting to fail or stagger then you have lost him for the rest of the day.  It might even mean a trip to the veterinarian to re-hydrate him.


Youngsters sit in blinds over looking prime habitat; they scan the skies in hopes of being the first to spot a prairie pintail. Members of a mentored group of young hunters, each youngster hunts with an adult and is the guest of the Youth Outdoor Education Foundation and landowner, Russell Smith, Jr.

Smith is the owner of Hickory Stick Farms. In addition to the hunt, all everyone attends a hunter safety and ethics refresher course, a seminar on how to clean the birds and a game dinner including the day’s harvest.  Other tasty delights, cooked in Dutch ovens, complete the meal.

In southern Illinois, there are a number of service groups.  They aid children in learning hunting and fishing skills and an appreciation of outdoor ethics. One of the more active ones is The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation.

With assistance from Carterville’s John A. Logan College, six people donate their time presenting programs involving hunting and fishing. About six years ago, the group got together to form a 501c3 corporation. Such a group is more commonly referred to as a tax-exempt charity.

Surviving on donations and donated work, they have established a group of volunteers that aid youth and senior citizens with the fall dove hunt on Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. There are no paid employees. In the spring, the volunteers also assist with the youth turkey hunt on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge located near the campus. Another project includes the Kids Free Fishing Days in June on Crab Orchard Lake.

They are also involved in the Kids Fishing Derby on Arrowhead Lake in Johnston City and coop events with other community organizations.

One special project each year is the youth dove hunt for selected youth from the two hunter safety classes that the group holds in February and August. Six students selected by drawing from each class, get to hunt under adult supervision on Russell Smith’s privately established dove field. In addition, several invited special needs children are included. Mr. Smith allows the youth to hunt his fields prior to anyone else hunting the property. The kids get first crack at the doves.

Every participant must be between 12 and 15 years of age, have completed a hunter safety course and is accompanied by an adult with a Firearms Owners Identification card. Only the youth hunt; the adults are there to supervise. Each hunter is assigned a blind drawn at random. Volunteers construct the blinds the day prior to the hunt.

Following a day in the fields, all participants are involved in the preparation of the birds for grilling. Additionally they get a quick course in outdoor cooking involving game and traditional foods.

InIllinois, all hunters born after Feb. 2, 1980 applying for a general hunting license must have proof of having completed a Hunter Safety Course recognized by the Department of Natural Resources. Each year The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation conducts two of these courses.

The course is a two-day affair where students learn hunting safety and outdoor ethics. The class is a hands-on activity. An adult who must participate in the learning program accompanies each child. A popular addition to the program is a chance to interact with some retriever dogs and their handlers.

Expenses for these programs come from private donations, raffles at a September National Hunting & Fishing Days Celebration, the Spring Fishing and Boating Show sponsored in conjunction with Williamson County Tourism Bureau, and corporate donations from private foundations, individuals and businesses. The organization has no administrative expenses as they maintain no office and have no paid employees. One hundred percent of money raised goes to the children’s activities.

Who are these special people and how can you help your child or one of your acquaintances? The six names are Greg Legan, Tim Gibson, Russell Smith, Virgil Lukens, Dwight Hoffard and Kathy Gibson. To contact the organization one can write to The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation,PO Box 571,Carterville, Illinois 62918. Dwight Hoffard is available during business hours at 618-925-2851.

CURE FOR BUCK FEVER   2 comments

A buck steps out of the brush and begins to browse.  The he presents a perfect broadside view.  The bowhunter draws and takes aim.  However, he cannot get his sight to come to rest on the kill area.  Finally, he shoots as the sight pin passes over the kill area.  The arrow misses and the deer vanishes into the woods.  That is buck fever. 

The symptoms of buck fever include the inability to bring the sight, (or sight picture for instinctive shooters) on target; snap shooting as the sight passes the target; and actually freezing on target. 

The cause this problem has been the subject of much discussion.  There seems to be several possibilities.  One is stress related.  Stress in archery comes from fear of failure.  It creates a mental problem of fearing to miss.  The archer questions his ability to make the shot perfectly. 

Another source of buck fever is shooting a bow that is too heavy for the physical ability of the archer. 

Buck fever has probably been around as long as have bows and arrows. 

For instance, Dr. Saxon Pope, the father of modern bowhunting wrote of it.  He recommended that the hunter release his arrow the second it the point touched the bow hand.  Later variations of this theme came about with the use of a mechanical draw check. 

The basis of buck fever is a loss of self-control on the part of the archer.  It is not as important to know how it happens as it is to learn how to overcome it.  In the words of Al Henderson, famous target archery coach, “An arrow shot can never return.  Shoot it right the first time.” 

Hendersonfeels one should concentrate on correct practice, not just practice for practice sake.  To him, “Correct practice should be a labor of love and a satisfaction when completed.” 

It is important that the archer not just practice for hours.  He should work on perfecting shooting form as well as accuracy. 

Beginning archers tend to work on a system of shooting that involves the act of drawing, anchoring, aiming and releasing the arrow.  That is as it should be.  The constant shooting becomes instinctive so that the thought process is automatic.  Nevertheless, if the archer needs to change that process, i.e. hold longer on the target before shooting, panic can develop. 

Body muscles that are conditioned to shoot in a certain manner come into conflict with the brain.  The body wins and the archer shoots at the wrong time. 

When archers begin to doubt themselves, they begin to fear missing.  Especially when that big buck appears. 

Fear not, there are cures for this problem if one is willing to recognize his problem and work on it.  The first thing one must do is to lighten up.  Do not be afraid to miss, the world will not end.  That seems obvious, but to some minds, it is a concept beyond comprehension. 

Buck fever does not come on suddenly.  It develops slowly over a long period.  It can take a long time to get over it.  Develop a plan to overcome it and stick with it until you are successful. 

Not being able to come to a full draw, shooting too soon, or not being able to release or not aim correctly are symptoms of the problem.  It is possible that the bow is too heavy for the hunter’s physical condition.  Two ways to overcome such a problem are to reduce the draw weight of the bow and to concentrate on form. 

Most people work with a clicker to insure a consistent draw aim to overcome the problem with the full draw.  The clicker is a device that tells the archer when he has come to full draw and can release the arrow. 

There are several kinds of clickers and one should check with his local archery pro shop for one that works best for him.  The most common type mounts on the riser of the bow and clicks when the arrow passes through it.  Another, for compound bows, mounts to the cable guard and clicks when the cables reach a certain point during the draw.

There is also one fitting on the bowstring and is released when the bow is at full draw. 

For the archer fighting panic, it is possible to use the clicker without actually aiming.  Once the coming to full draw problem is conquered, it is then be used while aiming. 

For the victim with a problem releasing after coming to full draw, there are releases.

Some releases allow one to aim but the actual release of the string is a surprise.  The release is not under the archer’s control.  Practice with such a release can aid the archer who has a tendency to freeze. 

For the person with a severe problem work that is more drastic may be the solution.  This amounts to a mind change.  One way recommended is to spend a few weeks just drawing a bow and aiming without releasing.  The next few weeks are spent shooting without a Sight or target spot.  The idea is to concentrate on the perfect release without caring if the arrow hits the bull’s eye.  Aiming alone removes the stress of perfect performance. 

At the end of the treatment, with the last few weeks, the archer combines the perfect release with the follow through and begins to shoot for accuracy.  If a problem surfaces, one can always go back to either the drawing or releasing practice for a session or two. 

To beat buck fever one needs to concentrate on being able to draw, aim, hold and release comfortably.  He needs to concentrate on form, not accuracy, for a while in order to overcome the problem.


Watching trick shooters like Patrick Flannigan blaze away at clay targets, cans, and vegetables one cannot help but be impressed at the speed of the modern day autoloader. 

There was once a time when trick shooters with a pump shotgun could actually out perform the autoloader.  Auto loaders have caught up and surpassed the pump gun.  The reliability of the autoloader is now so good that many shooters have moved to them. 

A number of competitive shooters have been using auto loaders.  Partly it is because of less recoil.  The main attraction is that some of them are more comfortable with the guns.  The less recoil is a lot of it.  You do get on the target faster because you do not have the recoil knocking you off the line of sight.  You get quicker second target acquisition. 

It does not knock you off the target as badly as you are with a pump or over and under shotgun.  In addition, if a person has an auto loader that he hunts with, he can just go and shoot sporting clays.  There is no need to have a special gun to shoot sporting clays. 

The original tenant of sporting clays has been to make it more of a hunting type of game.  You just take the gun that you go hunting with and practice.  It is perfect practice for hunting season because of the varied shots, varied distances and angles.  They even name the target stands for hunting situations. 

As the reliability of autoloaders is getting better and better, some will shoot a variety of shells from light target loads up to magnum loads.  That benefits the average shooter.  He can take the gun he uses for a bird hunt, or waterfowl hunt to shoot targets and really get to know the gun.  He shoots a lot better because of the practice. 

Some shooters will load the gun with different loads for the second shot.  For the most part good shooters just shoot the same load on everything.  Some people will change loads it in a station with a 35 or 40 yard crossing shot.  Most people will change their lead rather than change the load.  If it is a hard crossing shot situation they will just give it more lead.  It is a little hard for you mind to figure out the lead.  The better shooters are more consistent with the same load.  The subconscious takes over when the shooter sees a bird going across his line of vision.  The shooter will subconsciously know how much to lead it to break the target. 

Popular exhibition shooters now show the reliability of a gun.  Some will shoot two cases of shells getting the barrel so hot that they have to pour water down it to cool it down.  Despite the stress to the gun, it never malfunctions at all.  That is reliability.  Additionally, the guns they use inspire other shooters to want to shoot autoloaders. 

In terms of fit, there are a number of shotguns out there and a lot of them come with extra spacers and that sort of thing in the stock.  They allow shooters to change the spacers and get it a better fit.  The spacers change the height of the comb or the length of pull a little bit.  These factors are just a few of the enhancements of the autoloader that has led to its popularity with shotgun shooters.

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