Practice like you hunt to cure buck fever
By Craig Lamb
The hunter spent countless afternoons during the off-season target shooting with his bow. By summer’s end, the arrows consistently hit the center ring of the bull’s-eye square target. He brimmed with confidence knowing success would come during the archery season ahead.
Fast-forward to the day forever etched in his mind. The biggest whitetail deer of the season so far was coming near the stand. He eyeballed the buck through the new rangefinder used for the very first time. For a split second, he fiddled with how to adjust the settings but got the deer ranged in. All was good.
The buck stopped broadside at just 30 yards away. The adrenaline rush kicked in. The hunter nervously raised the bow, hit full draw and watched the arrow fly right over the deer’s back. The buck took off as the crazed hunter stared at the arrow stuck in the nearby tree.
What could have possibly gone wrong? He missed a shot easily made during those backyard target sessions. That was part of the problem, but more on that to come.
Whether knowing or not at the time the hunter suffered a case of buck fever. It’s a common condition suffered by hunters at the most crucial moment. Lots of practice before the season begins helps, but there is much more to prepare for that crucial moment.
You read lots about buck fever because indeed it’s so common. But you also are trying to cure a malady that is completely driven by adrenaline. That’s not so easy to do.
“Every person is different and we all react to adrenaline and stress in different ways,” says Jake Miller, avid hunter and employee at TenPoint Crossbow Technologies.
Miller especially favors archery hunting. His insights on preparing for the season ahead can actually help prevent buck fever from happening. That, indeed, is a new take on an old problem.
Mentally, he believes, makes buck fever difficult to control because the mind is overcome with the moment.
“You have difficulty keeping track of the routine, basic actions required just to take the shot,” he explains.
How to overcome that mental hurdle is by practicing like you are going to hunt.
The hunter in the bad luck example spent hours target shooting. He hit the bull’s-eye on the square target until convinced his shots were dead on. They were, but not under conditions faced in the woods.
Miller uses square targets to sight in his crossbow and compound bow. He soon switches to 3D targets to simulate the real conditions faced in the woods. He doesn’t stop there, either.
He hangs a tree stand in his practice area. Doing so has several benefits. First, he gets familiar with gear by setting his stand. Any required maintenance needs are identified and repaired before the season begins.
“Practicing from the stand is more like the real hunt,” he adds. “Shooting from an elevated position, or from inside your ground blind, is ideal because you get used to the complete feel of the hunt.”
While on stand Miller goes through a mental check list that he’ll replicate with every shot. He’ll run the same list from late summer practice sessions through the conclusion of the season.
“Everything from making sure the safety is off on the crossbow, to correctly nocking the arrows and ranging the deer,” he adds. “If you must write down those exact steps, in the order you plan to take them, and study each before you get on the stand.”
To simulate every possible scenario, Miller will set 3D targets at different range distances. That’s nothing new but what he adds is shooting from different angles. From the ground, lying prone, standing up and even left-handed. He’s right handed.
“There are no surprises if you shoot from every angle you’ll encounter,” he says. “Should you need to shoot with the non-dominant hand you can recall how you did so from the practice time.”
Miller, a former collegiate track and field athlete, applies the same ideals from physical sports to his archery hunting.
“That adrenaline rush causes an increase in your heart rate,” he explains. “That in turn is what causes you to get jittery, nervous and make your mind race out of the moment.”
Miller runs about one-half mile before picking up the bow. Running works for him because that exercise is what it takes to increase his beats per minute above normal. Any other physical exercise such as a brisk walk works, too, depending on your stamina.
“What that does is get the heart rate up like when you are feeling the adrenaline rush from that buck coming into range,” he adds.
“Football players wear full gear and run plays at 100 percent strength during practice,” says Miller. “So why shouldn’t hunters do the same with their gear and being mentally prepared for the ultimate moment?”
The answer is why not. The result is about as close as you can get to experience buck fever before it hits during the season. Feel it first and take the necessary steps to recognize when buck fever is settling in.
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Original Source; Sportsmans Lifestyle.com