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Buck fever's tough, even for beginners

For the past few years, the grandsons have been part of the deer hunting party but have not been able to fully participate.

Trevor, who is now ten years old, carried a 20-gauge last year, but was only allowed to have a bullet at certain times. I am sure it gives a child the Barney Fife syndrome, but they learn to be cautious at all times. When our group goes hunting, safety is the most important thing. It would be a terrible thing to get shot, but it would be even worse to shoot someone. Young hunters need to learn from year one.

Zane, the younger grandson, is seven. At his age, there are severe restrictions on his hunting. He is a better shot than most adults, but there is a considerable difference between shooting a rifle from a bench at a target and pulling the trigger at a deer in the timber. There is the excitement and adrenaline rush that overtakes even the most experienced hunter. A young hunter must learn to experience the feeling, control it, and make the right choices in a matter of seconds. Zane hunted only with his Dad and was limited in any shots he could take.

Trevor was ready to hunt somewhat independently. He was always within arms reach of an adult, but was given the opportunity to make choices on which deer and when to shoot.

He and I were on stand together at the end of the hayfield while the rest of our party were walking through the timber in hopes of driving the deer toward us.

Three does broke from the timber about a hundred yards away. Trevor asked if he should shoot. I said, "As soon as they get close enough you feel comfortable you can make a clean kill, take one."

They ran toward us and stopped off to our left. One deer stood broadside, waiting to be taken home to the freezer. I neglected to mention, the temperature was near the single digits and the wind chill made it feel well below zero. While the deer stood looking at us, Trevor took the glove off his shooting hand. He then pulled back his hood so he could sight. By the time he was ready to shoot, the deer had lost interest in standing still.

We quietly talked about how the scene worked out and what could be done differently. I mentioned he made a good choice not shooting with sky behind the deer. He did not know what I meant. When a person is in a position the deer is up the hill from them, they can see the sky under or around the deer. If a person takes a shot in this position, a slug can pass through a deer and hit someone just over the hill. A miss can travel long distances with no telling where it might stop.

A few minutes later, I saw a nice buck coming down the hill toward us. The adults in our party only shoot does to thin the herd, but I feel if one of the kids has a chance at a buck, they should take it.

I told Trevor to get ready. He immediately shed his glove and pulled back his hood. An eight-point buck skidded to a halt about 30 feet from us. Trevor was ready and did not shoot. I waited and wanted to yell "shoot, shoot" but the deer was too close. It turned and ran away.

I asked what had happened and Trevor said he was making sure he could make a good clean shot and that it was safe. That was a good answer but I knew it was a case of buck fever. It happens to the most experienced hunters when presented with a great shot at a deer so close. A person freezes up and cannot take the shot.

Later in the day, Trevor did get his deer. It was good but I am sure he will have dreams of the time he did not pull the trigger on the buck. All of us hunters have that same dream. If a person has never had buck fever, they have not hunted enough.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.