The rut is like the kid who drank a liter of Mountain Dew for the first time. Hearing a rustle in the leaves can be enough to get your heart pounding. Even two squirrels chasing each other around will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

Buck fever is often worse during the rut because bucks are expected to be anywhere at any time. Staying calm is hard, but practicing a few things may help you keep your cool in the moment. 

Tough Shot Angles

First, choose a few angles that could be a struggle for you. Straight down, weak-side shot from a saddle, frontal shots. If you are concerned about making an ethical shot with these tough angles, then get outside and practice them! You'll soon learn if they are something you can master effectively.

If you find some angles too tricky for your proficiency, I will encourage you not to take those shots. Often in a state of high emotion, you'll likely forget the shots you shouldn't be taking. Practicing odd angles may offer you a sporting chance to make that low-odds shot work! If you've been thinking about frontal shots, please check out this article, Frontal Shots On Whitetails, you may change your mind.

Risky Cover

Is there a brushy fence line or woods where you practice? If there is, take the opportunity to put your target behind some branches. Don't line that target up just right in an opening that you know you can hit. Randomly place the target, figure out how to get a range, and then work on finding an opening you can hit. 

You will boost your confidence with this kind of practice. But you'll also learn to trust your equipment and train your eyes to find openings to shoot through faster in an exciting moment.

Fast Action Shots

No matter how big he may be, I will not take running shots on a buck. But that doesn't mean that I won't draw my bow to be in the ready. Maybe you used a drag rope on the way to your stand, or a hot doe passed your set. A buck following in hot pursuit won't pause for long if he even stops at all. 

When you see a buck angling quickly towards your lane, draw your bow to be prepared and follow him along his path. Consciously settle your pin when he stops, or make a call to stop him. The biggest mistake when a buck stops is that your mind keeps your bow moving. Interrupt the shotgunner's way of thinking. Otherwise, you'll end up with an arrow in a shoulder blade.

Big Buck Mind Games

When we're talking about fast rut action, we can make many mistakes because of feeling the pressure of high stakes. It's like watching the World Series, the Super Bowl, or the Stanley Cup. You've watched those teams play flawlessly all season, only to watch them make simple mistakes because of nerves during those champion games. 

Practice your shots while running through scenarios in your mind of what you may encounter. Imagine a buck running full tilt after a doe is stopped by a bigger buck right at the base of your tree.

Think about watching the third buck in a parade cautiously following the rest. He looks up every so often to ensure his safety. Imagine when you might draw your bow in a way that won't spook him. Build these things into your practice to be a killer when the time is right.

Get Out of the Hamster Wheel

If you've failed the whitetail rut, or the rut has failed you, make a way to get out of the cycle. Most often, failure comes from the anxiety and anticipation this time of year brings. Find your way to keep your cool. Don't imagine wrapping your hands around his antlers in the moment of truth. Focus on making the best shot, calming your nerves, and the hardest; being patient for your chance. Most often, that comes from a soft reminder to get yourself together. Don't worry; there will be plenty of time to lose your mind after you watch that wobbly-legged buck topple over.


Author: Aaron Hepler, Team Afflictor