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Woods, Waters and Wildlife

By John Jefferson

By John Jefferson
Outdoor writer and photographer

Buck Fever
Buck fever is an affliction that besets hunters when they encounter a buck that practically paralyzes all emotional control. Its symptoms are rapid heartbeat, trembling, shaking, and an inability to smoothly release the trigger – excitement on steroids. It could, perhaps, even lead to loss of bladder control. The result is often a missed target.
There may have been less this season than usual.
The main reason for that was that deer and turkey seasons got off to a slow start. Between a full moon that week, balmy weather, and herds of mosquitoes, the harvest was a little off. Deer just didn’t move on opening morning. We didn’t either. It was a shorts and t-shirts kind of day.
Few deer have been entered in the Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA). Of the photos that were posted, most came from east of I-35, and most were non-typical bucks. All were taken on low-fenced ranches. That will change, soon, especially when the rut in South Texas kicks in around mid-December. One buck that impressed me was shot by John Peterson in Polk County. Its 13 heavy points included double brow tines. It scored a Boone & Crockett gross 183-1/8 inches and netted 178-1/8.
Lone Star Outdoor News reported a unique buck taken by Steve Schiele in Somervell County. It had 22 points that were palmated. If you’re not familiar with that term, it means shaped like an open palm of the hand, sort of like a moose’s antlers. It happens to whitetails occasionally.
I doubt if either of those hunters had buck fever.
On a lease near Alice in South Texas, one year, a hunter named Ronnie may have caught a severe case of it. Early in the season, he saw a really nice buck about 200 yards down a sendero. He shot and missed. He talked about it all week, until he did it again the next week. And the one after that. He swore it was the biggest buck he had ever shot at. After the fourth miss at the same buck the following week, he swore some more. He said it appeared at the same place every morning, and at almost the exact same time. I suspected Ronnie either had buck fever, or hadn’t sighted in his rifle. I asked him, and he swore he had.
I took a friend out with me one afternoon and we sat in the brush near the place where the “Kevlar Buck” crossed. My friend, a very experienced hunter, spotted the buck 60 yards away, looking right at us. He got hyper-excited, frantically whispering, “JOHN, SHOOT! SHOOT!” That overwhelmed calm restraint. I knew better, but rapidly raised my Model 70 and aimed. As I did, the buck bolted. I shot behind him.
Deer are said to be unable to see slow movement. I knew that. I committed a freshman mistake. Had I moved slowly, this story might have ended differently.
But my missed shot only bolstered Ronnie’s claim that it was a phantom buck – one that was bullet-proof.