It's a disease that every hunter knows the signs and symptoms of. Fortunately, it is not fatal. And thankfully, the symptoms do not last long.
While you are experiencing it, though, "buck fever" is something that's hard to control. It starts when a heavy antlered animal steps into view in clean shooting range.
Palms start to sweat. Your arms and hands shake. Breathing becomes heavy and labored. A pins-and-needles tingling feeling wells up in your head and neck. If you've really got a strong case of the fever, your whole body shakes. You seem unable to concentrate.
That's what heavy antlers and the fear of failure can do when a big buck steps into view. It's at once exhilarating and debilitating. You've put in many hours, days, weeks, maybe years to get into range of this creature. The chance is there. You're both excited and glad to have it, and also scared witless of doing something wrong in raising your gun or bow and making the shot.
I have made every kind of mistake possible when gripped by buck fever. I have simply watched huge bucks walk by and out of range into cover, seemingly paralyzed and unable to lift my bow or gun. I've dropped things like my binoculars and spooked them. But the most common mistake, one I've made several times, is to simply try to jerk the gun or bow up and shoot quickly, rather than move slowly and fluidly or wait until the animal's eyes are behind a tree.
Whatever mistake buck fever has made you make, it's a miserable feeling when you blow a shot at a trophy because you became mentally unhinged. To conquer and control buck fever the first step is to not try to hide from it. Instead, realize it could strike any time a big buck appears.
Prevention is actually the best cure. You need to will self-control over your mind and emotions. Using several specific strategies can help.
First off, don't look at the rack beyond simply deciding if it meets your minimum criteria. Instead, focus your thoughts on the steps you have to take to harvest the quarry — adjusting your body position, raising gun or bow, drawing back, calculating where and when to shoot, squeezing and following through with the arrow release or trigger pull.
Concentrate on your aiming point. The more you focus on all the practical, mundane steps you need to take in the next few seconds, the less likely you'll panic and blow your chance.
There will be plenty of time to act crazy and jump for joy and marvel over the animal's amazing headgear after the buck is on the ground.
Conquer your fever, will control over your emotions, and chances are that will be the happy outcome.