By Christina VanGinkel
My youngest son, fourteen years old, and yet to participate in a hobby or activity that he has not been able to master, might have finally met his match. He has been an avid shooter of the bow and arrow for several years. He practices often and is quite a good shot. He is the type of person that if he is going to do something, he is going to do it well.
Filled with self-assurance of his shooting ability, and having harvested a deer already, albeit a small racked one, he had no lack of confidence that this year if he was able to lure in a large buck that had been seen around the area into his stand, that he would be able to get it.
What he did not count on, though he had been warned of this well-known factor by his father and several other seasoned hunters, was a small thing called buck fever. Buck fever occurs to the best of hunters, at the most inopportune times. It affects a hunter by taking their normal shooting stance and all of their practiced skills and putting them as far out of whack as anyone could imagine by adding a shaking tremor, sometimes so deep that their teeth rattle.
The story goes like this. My son put in hours of hard labor to build a food plot on our land earlier this past summer. He borrowed equipment to till the raw land, breaking through topsoil, picking rocks, until finally the piece of land was ready for planting. After planting it, we entered one of the most severe droughts our state has ever seen. So in order to protect all his labor, he had to haul water (it was too far for something as simple as a garden hose to reach) via a trailer on the back of his old four-wheeler to keep the precious seedlings growing, and by early fall, he ended up having a very respectable food plot. Still, the work was not done. Planted in the middle of a stand of hardwoods, he then had to keep the plot raked as the leaves fell off the trees, covering, and smothering, the still young plants.
Because of all his hard work, the food plot survived, and there was soon sign of deer coming to visit. Season opened, and he continued to see signs of deer and even saw several does. Then, he saw him, a very nice sized eight-point buck, obviously the same one that others had seen around the area. The same day, he actually saw another one, also an eight pointer, but with a much narrower rack and thinner tines. He never got a chance to pull back his bow though, as they stayed well out of reach on a ridge that runs towards the back of our property.
A couple of weeks into the bow season, our state held an early youth hunt, where hunters under a specific age could hunt with their guns they would normally use during the upcoming gun season in November, for one weekend. If they shot a buck, it would fill their gun tag, but it was a great opportunity for a youth to hunt the woods without the pressure of a typical full-blown gun season.
As fate would have it, the smaller of the two eight pointers came into range of my son with his gun on that weekend and he downed him with one shot. This bolstered his confidence that he would not get shaky and have buck fever if the big one were to come within range of him and his bow.
This past weekend, as afternoon wore on, my son found himself sitting in his bow stand when the buck he had worked all summer and fall to attract to his stand finally made his appearance. My son kept his cool and waited for the buck to come into range of his bow and to turn just so, giving him the best shot he could have hoped for. After this, it all gets a bit blurry, but when he came down out of his stand, he knew he had missed him. He knew he had not even come close. He recalls shaking tremendously. He now knows what his father and others had told him about the malady so many hunters refer to as Buck Fever. Now he knows what to expect though, and he thinks he can control the wild woe that has felled so many whitetail hunters. We will not know for sure though, until the next time that big one comes in.