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.


2 responses to “CURE FOR BUCK FEVER

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  1. A guy in our hunt club named Rob was nicknamed “Missy Shakes” because he had trouble hitting deer with a rifle. In one instance, he missed four deer in a field after unloading his entire rifle at the deer. He didn’t take kindly to the nickname and quit our club. In my opinion, buck fever can only be overcome with practice. If you can’t take a ribbing from guys in your club after missing, then you are probably in the wrong sport!!!!

    Cub Creek Hunt Club
    • Great story. Thanks for sharing it with us. You are probably correct. That guy may be in the wrong sport if he is not willing to work at getting over it. Had a similar experience watching a guy in California on a Blacktail hunt. His companion actually forced the rifle down onto a rock for a rest before the guy could hold it still. It took the efforts of both of them to shoot a buck.

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