This affliction comes in many forms, and it even happens to hardened hunting veterans.
By Dale R. Larson
While preparing for a Colorado elk hunt, I was trying to establish a 50-yard pin. The sight pin bulb was covering my spot on the target, making it difficult to concentrate on it. I was high-tech back then, with a painted bulb on the end of the brass sight pin. The bulb end of my 20-yard pin had broken off, and I had become accustomed to using the broken pointed end. As I considered my options, it made sense to just change out the 50- and 20-yard pins. Now I could use the point of the broken pin and still see my spot on the target.
Later that fall, I was sitting in a treestand hunting an area called Big Rub Draw. This area contained the largest rubs that I had ever seen, mostly on hickory trees that were 12 to 16 inches in diameter. These trees were shredded past the cambium, clear into heartwood.
I had hunted this area for several years, figuring out what was going on. In prior seasons I hunted it during the rut and saw lots of bucks, but none were of the caliber I thought was making the rubs. My deduction, finally, was that these huge rubs were at a point of overlapping territories of at least two mature bucks. Further, my notes revealed that these rubs were being opened the third week of October, just at the start of the prerut.
Perched in the stand thinking how I’d finally outsmarted these bucks, I heard crunching leaves behind me. I turned my head to check out the noise and couldn’t believe my eyes. The buck coming down the draw was a bruiser. This buck had everything. Its rack was wide and extremely tall, and it had the body of a Hereford bull. It was going to pass my stand on the right side, making me stand up and turn around to make the shot.
I slowly made my move, retrieving my bow and getting ready. It was going to be a chip shot, less than 20 yards. No problem. When the buck offered me the textbook perfect broadside shot, I was ready and turned the arrow loose. The buck jumped straight up, took a couple of lunges and stopped. It was looking around trying to figure out what had made that terrible hissing sound over its back.
At first I didn’t know what had happened or how I could have missed. I was nocking another arrow when I saw the first arrow sticking in the ground. All this was happening at warp speed, and my heart was beating just as fast.
By now the buck was standing in front of my stand at just over 20 yards. I was telling myself to calm down, breathe and just put the pin on it and take the shot. I froze on a spot just behind the shoulder and turned loose the second arrow. This time its reaction was the same, except that it ran around the left side of my stand.
After the second miss, I was a wreck. Now I had to turn back around, nock another arrow and try to shoot behind the stand. All this time, the buck was trying to figure out what went sailing over it again.
I was talking to myself, attempting to recapture some semblance of sanity. This time it was still no more than 25 yards and quartering away. I knew my 20-yard pin was still the right one, so I commanded myself to take my time, breathe and hold on the spot. At the sound of the arrow, it bolted up the side hill, stopping at around 50 yards, taking one last look at the arrow-strewn ground before marching away.
I couldn’t believe it. I finally got an opportunity at the Big Rub Buck and missed three times. I was shot, to say the least, and I was shaking so bad I had to sit down or risk falling out of the tree. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. There was no way I should have missed any of those shots. After I calmed down enough to try to rationalize what had occurred, I started looking at my bow and the instant my gaze fell on my sight, I said, “You dumb ---!.”
I had been concentrating on my 20-yard shot so hard that all I was looking for was the familiar broken-bulb, pointed-end pin, which was still positioned for 50 yards from my elk hunt. You talk about feeling low! If I told the boys, I’d be eating crow. That old broken pin had been my 20-yard pin so long, it just came natural to use it. Every arrow I shot flew right over the buck’s back, just perfect for the 50-yard pin.
Buck Fever plagues every one of us at some time or another. If any bowhunter tells me that buck fever doesn’t bother him, then he doesn’t belong in the woods, because he is missing one heck of an adrenaline rush.
Later that fall, I got my redemption on the Big Rub Buck. It was a mainframe 8-pointer with P-2s more than 14 inches tall.
This article was published in the July 2005 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.