BUCK FEVER, THERE AIN’T NO CURE
By John Simeone
Civilization must have been created for the survival of idiots… normal, resourceful, intelligent people will find a way to adapt………….Flatdog
She wasn’t that hungry, but mother Simba had a job to do. Her inborn instinct told her it was time to train the cub, who, was now nearly as large as she. The hunt was on. The warthogs were close and the short ambush out of the long grass would require little effort even for the adolescent lion. She had seen mom do it many times, now it was her turn to bring home the bacon. Assuming the low and deadly hunting crouch of a stalking big cat, she could smell the aromatic pungent odor of the warthog, and to her it was ambrosia to the nostrils.
Of time and millennium the age old strife of hunter and pray was about to be unleashed with the coil spring irresistible charge and a massive bite of powerful jaws, tooth and claw. But then…there was a spontaneous quiver in the back legs of the lion. Perhaps over preparation, excitement, inexperience, anticipation, hunger, the thrill of the hunt, or the moment of truth. Truth was the quivering turned into down right shaking all over the body of the young lion, and instead of the expected blood curdling roar there emitted from this young princess of mayhem a loud meow, reminiscent more of a tabby cat than a lion. Of course the warthog found this to be the time to make it out of Dodge, and at that point even momma couldn’t catch him. This I witnessed on an old Wild Kingdom show filmed by Marlin Perkins.
Steven Kunst was 16, an Eagle Scout, with an artist talent for graphic art. So after his parents unceremoniously dropped him off for higher learning in the outdoor world. I put him to work, as he makes me look good in my outdoor articles adding that special flavor of pen and ink to the written word. It’s nice to be published when you’re still in High School too.
“You can use the Remington 1100, 12 gauge, Steve.” “But that’s your gun Uncle John, what are you going to use.” I’ll be using the Prairie Creek and the BKC turkey calls, you can back me up until he comes in close and then you shoot him in the head, and we will all be famous again.” “If we don’t get him, we will be famous anyway.” Steve can call as good as anyone but today was his first time to ever actually go hunting. May as well start with the hard stuff I suppose, try the Wild Turkey.
It was too early for breakfast you know, just a few drags off the water bottle to wet the mouth for the turkey calls. “He’s up there on that ridge, and he is the smartest turkey in the country.” “How’s that, Uncle John?” “Well I called him in and Kade Jones called him in, two years in a row, we both missed him. “You guys missed, how can that be?” “Well that would be a case of Buck Fever.” “What’s that?” “Shut up, and let’s go getem.”
Only a few minutes later in a perfect set up, we had three different gobblers coming in from three different directions. The young human was poised and ready under the tutelage of the Old Man. Of time and millennium the age old strife of hunter and pray was about to be unleashed. The gobbler came around the corner at 15 yards, in full strut with the beard dragging the ground. “Shoot him now, I whispered.” But then….there was a quiver in the back legs that shot an electrical charge through the young man. He kept squeezing the gun but it never touched off. He wanted too, but this strange mental, physical and spiritual disease had taken hold of his whole persona, sapping his strength of will, leaving him distraught and shaking in embarrassment. This was Buck Fever for which there ain’t no cure. Don’t worry son, there will be other turkeys, and there were.
It happens to all predators, man and beast. Some how, nature has instilled in all carnivores, this determination to continue pursuit even in the face of failure. This thrill of the hunt, many say is hard to explain. I think not, if your eyes are set forward as with the Eagle, the Lion, The Wolf and of course Humans, you are a hunter whether you like it or not. When you fail in the endeavor, Buck Fever takes over to remind you with the sting of embarrassment, that if you want to survive you better keep trying. Kinda reflects on a lot of things come to think of it.
This point can easily be made using a young California starlet, headed out to spend a little of her rich boyfriends money on a shopping spree. Of course she drops off a nice donation to PETA, on the way for a feel good note, and then assumes her hunting posture. This comes natural in the shopping malls and if the store has jacked up the prices from what she had anticipated she will go into that special shaking fury much like our she cat, in total frustration. Not to mention the fact she will continue this attitude for about the next three days, as well as spend all the money anyway, making everyone miserable around her, especially the boyfriend. Another case of Buck Fever, if you will, well you do the math.
The Flatdog and I have killed so many deer that we are haunted by the spirit of Bambi in our dreams. So when that happens in our sleep, usually brought on by a little over indulgence of backstrap at the dinner table, we shoot them too. Being coinsures of fine venison we are not too particular about trophies either. So with the freezer in mind, based on Uncle Ted’s philosophy of “You can’t grill it if you don’t kill it.” we departed for the Peason Ridge WMA around Christmas time. Most of the Willie off the Pickle Boat hunters are gone by then leaving us the whole place to ourselves.
We were up our respective trees before daylight about 200 yards apart and enjoying the morning. Then that damn little Thompson 7X30 Waters went off and I knew there was work to be done. But as I looked to my right there was a nice fat nanny standing oblivious to me, or the shot that had been so close. I eased into a good shooting position and touched off a 150 grain Ballistic Silver Tip, from that really hot looking Savage 99, custom 308 everybody wants. Recovering from the slight recoil there she stood… nothing, about 40 yards or so. So much for the mighty Top Gun Challenge founder, so I shot again, and again. Still nothing! There she stood. Flatdog inquired, “What in the hell are you doing?” Reloading single shot from my shirt pocket I answered, “Quiet, I’m not finished yet!” So taking good aim I fired my last two shots. The doe never was alarmed and walked casually away, unscathed. Yes, I did in fact follow up the shot with one of my intense crime scene investigations, still nothing. So I walked down the creek in disgrace submitting myself to the evil criticisms of the Flatdog who was standing by a deer under his stand. “Nice doe, man.” “I’ll dress him you drag.” So I went to work.
“I must say you do a fine job field dressing a deer,” said the Flatdog, just as if it were your deer.” “Of course I don’t care whose deer it is, I always dress them.” “Good then, when you get through with your deer you can do mine on the other side of the tree. He set me up for a good one that time. At least I only missed 4 times instead of 5. Actually I scored a perfect shot with the first round, but the deer ran 150 yards and I didn’t see it take off. I had missed the 2nd deer, thankfully, 4 times. Buck Fever kept me out of trouble that time.
When buck fever takes over the body, it causes multiple physical reactions, dry mouth, irritability, nausea, chills, mental lapse and sometimes spontaneous evacuation. In the lions case, the excitement just caused the young lion to lose composer. In Steve’s case he was pulling the trigger with the wrong finger. With me I was bewildered why the deer just stood there and the frustration blew my mind.
This happened once before when I hit a buck 3 times with a 243 and he stood there as if untouched. Later I found a fourth, unfired cartridge on the ground that I did not shoot, I just levered the gun without firing. The buck then decided to fall over dead. Some people eject all the rounds and never pull the trigger. This happens in combat situations with soldiers and police as well, although they don’t call it Buck Fever. I’ll give it a real egg head term then, for all you egg heads that can’t say Buck Fever, how about Multiple Sequence Frustration Syndromes. However professor, the symptoms are akin to the reaction one observes from a quivering dog attempting to evacuate peach seeds.
Nobody ever wants to admit they get Buck Fever in a hunting situation. I’d like to say women get pretty silly and cute over Buck Fever, but the truth is everybody goes deer berserk every once in a while and you never know what will trigger the effects.
I love the guy that says, “I never get Buck Fever.” This is genuflecting at the alter, of the church of denial. But that’s what a fellow outdoor writer/author did, who made the trip north to hunt turkeys with me. His buck fever was different, embracing years of discipline and self denial. This man of the cloth seemed more interested in convincing me of the desperate condition of my immortal soul than shooting a gobbler. But I got three of them to answer my prayers, and the slate call. I didn’t know it but I called up a rather hungry coyote too, who decided to charge the turkey blind and take up a collection. “Shoot him,” I said. All I needed was a hydrophobic, ecclesiastic quoting, lay preacher, lying up in the hospital getting rabies shots and contemplating the apocalypse.
Then I got to witness buck fever at its finest, he missed that coyote while sitting in a lawn chair, point blank at about 10 yards, twice…amen.
You can get buck fever and never make a mistake, but it’s more fun if you do. Taking your game cleanly doesn’t release you from the grips of Buck Fever. When you get to the animal it may hit you out of nowhere. Watch the outdoor shows for some real Buck Fever entertainment. The very best in the hoopla department are Ted Nugent and Keith Warren, they both just get uncontrollably giddy when the score. I do too….Never did trust anyone that doesn’t get Buck Fever, but then I never met anyone that didn’t get it.
My good buddy Bobby Pruitt recently bagged the biggest buck of his life with a muzzle loader. As he walked to the downed trophy I observed, 15 minutes after the shot, he was visibly shaking uncontrollably from head to toe. He was just plain happy. So I inquired if he felt any regrets. He said “Of course not, why should I, can’t wait to do it again?” “Well I was just checking.” “You see this fellow from down south will be up here hunting with us from time to time, feels we should be humble and regretful when we kill a deer.” “According to his writings, I figure he bursts into tears when he shoots one.” “Yea, well everybody reacts differently to Buck Fever,” Bobby said sympathetically. “Come to think of it though, I don’t know if I want to be around when he does that,” said Bobby “Who is he anyway?” “Oh, that would be the other hunting outdoor writer, Gordon Hutchinson, ever hear of him?” “Nope, not really.”……Pass it on….