We’ve all been there, watching a nice buck, doe, gobbler, elk, or Muley come in and our heart feels like it’s going to spook the animal because it is pounding so loud. Appendages may start to shake uncontrollably. You may even find it difficult to draw your bow because your muscles have locked due to the epinephrine hormone that has been released in your body by the adrenal glands that are located on top of the kidneys. Epinephrine and Adrenaline is the same thing. The key is to be able to control this rush and focus on the job at hand. Yeah right… A lot easier said than done. The advice of don’t focus on the antlers, pick a small spot on the animal, look away for a brief moment, close your eyes to reset yourself, lower your draw weight so you can easily handle it when the situation is needed are all good bits of advice. I personally don’t think there is a cure all for controlling the epinephrine when it comes to crunch time other than experience. But even that is not a guarantee. I am sure several pro’s face the same issues. Every encounter is going to cause the adrenal glands to secrete different amounts of this potent hormone. Quick encounters may let your conscious take over relying on your experience to quickly close the deal. Watching a big bull elk makes its way through the timber for 30 minutes to find that mysterious cow that’s enticing him will cause an overflow of epinephrine giving you too much time to think about your next move.
So what can be done to help matters in this situation? The more practice shooting will definitely help, however putting your mental state of mind in that “fight or Flight” feeling is impossible. The more a person thinks about this mysterious process the more we as hunters may not want to be able to control the situation. I know everyone wants to be calm when that 200 inch whitetail shows up so we can make the perfect shot. This is the very reason why bowhunting is so intriguing because we can’t control our emotions, heart rate, lack of blood flow to our skin, shortness of breath, and of course the ever popular lockage of the muscles to prevent drawing our bows. Then there is the complete opposite, the overconfidence of imagining what the deer is going to look like above the fireplace, or how the steaks will taste, or which one of my buddies should I call first to start gloating over the animal that I am about to harvest.
I think if I ever lost that feeling of excitement, or the inability to control my patience I would wonder what I was doing in a treestand to begin with. This to me is what bowhunting is all about. For the past 30 years of hunting I have felt that rush of the adrenal glands pumping out epinephrine by the gallons from my first miss at a nice little 6 pointer when I was 12 to now when I see deer going about their business of wandering by my treestand. I hope Scientist come up with a cure for cancer, HIV, and other fatal disease, but leave Buck Fever alone. It needs no cure. My favorite outdoorsman, Fred Eichler says “when confronted with a harvest possibility tell yourself it’s not going to happen.” Using negative reinforcement to trick your mind into thinking you are going to control the situation instead of the situation controlling you is the method Fred had learned from another great hunter by the name of Chuck Adams.
Overall I think we all agree that getting a case of the “shakes” when the opportunity arises is one of the best feelings a bowhunter can have. Without it we should second guess our reasons to enjoy what God has created for us. After all that when God created Adam he put the Adrenal Glands there for this specific purpose. Without them we wouldn’t have any excuses for all of our misses.