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"Buck Fever" Widespread During Deer Season

Monday 13 November 2017 at 9:55 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for November 9, 2017, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            Years ago, when I taught at Wharton County Junior College, I shared an office with another teacher, who was an avid deer hunter. The word “avid” is probably an understatement, “obsessed” might be more appropriate. When deer season arrived, he would get what he labeled “buck fever,” and felt called to the woods to hunt the antlered ones.

            Some of his students would offer to take him to their deer lease, hoping to “earn” an A by so doing. He would take them up on their offer, but, knowing him, I can assure you, he would not budge an inch when it came to grade enhancement.

            “Buck fever“ continues to be widespread in Texas, if what I see posted on Facebook is any indication, and what you see at the stores – camo outfits, deer feeders and stands, deer corn, ammo, etc. A 50-pound sack of deer corn will cost you from $5.49 per bag to $10 per sack (in Burnet). Some stores are selling readymade deer stands from $299.99 to $1,028.00 (the latter one must have indoor plumbing, lol). It seems the typical deer lease cost is $2,000, and some of the favorite deer lease places are Fredericksburg, Rockwood, and Colmesneil. I have no idea what the cost of ammo is.

            One of my Facebook friends is at his deer lease right now, somewhere in the Hill Country. He compared heading out to the lease to being as excited as a kid getting toys at Christmas. Another Facebook friend posted a picture of a roaring campfire, saying that even though the temperature was 85 degrees, it wasn’t deer hunting unless you had a log fire blazing away in the middle of the camp.

            I’m not sure why, but back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, in Dime Box, no one seemed to get “buck fever,” as I understand the meaning of the term; and there were few, if any, deer hunters. The woods in Lee County were teeming with squirrels and dove, and men like my father ardently hunted the smaller creatures. Dove season, for example, was a pretty big deal back then.

            Even though most folks had very little money after the Great Depression, I don’t think that was necessarily the main reason for this lack of “buck fever.” After all, it took a gun and lots of shells to kill squirrels and dove. No doubt, since there were no deer nearby, the cost of renting a lease in the hill country and the cost of transportation there were factors preventing buck fever. Especially when squirrels and dove were so plentiful at home. The lesson taught us by the Depression back then was to “either make do, or do without.” I lived by that code much of my life.

            Yes, “make do with hunting squirrels and dove,” and “do without the deer lease.” We are living in more affluent times today, so hunters have the option of spending more money on their favorite pastime.

            Love of hunting must be the call of the wild still living in the DNA of mankind today. The exhilaration of the hunt was seen in pre-Beowulf England, in Medieval England, Renaissance England, and in 17th and 18th Century America, -- and, before that, among early Native Americans.

            Daniel Boone stands out as one of the most famous American hunters, who, as a long hunter, would be gone from his home and family for months at a time. In later years, he would trek to Kentucky, where he would hunt deer, elk, and buffalo, -- especially deer, because dressed deer hides would bring a good price. Native Americans, like the Cherokees and the Shawnees also traveled to Kentucky (they didn’t live there), where they also hunted the same game.

            History records that Daniel Boone was certainly one of the top ten hunters in America. We often forget that men like Boone learned their hunting skills from the Indians, so also included as one of the top ten American hunters is Ishi, who was a member of the Yahi tribe of Native Americans. Hunting buffalo, bison, elk, black bears, antelope, and deer, -- with a bow and arrow, -- he was without a doubt the most famous Indian hunter.

            So maybe hunting is in our DNA. Hunting in the wild, that is.

            Strangely enough, I have a friend who lives in Cat Springs, and who suffers from the almost daily invasion of his garden by the local deer population. Without a doubt, he could sit on his back patio with a gun and kill all the deer he wanted. I guess that wouldn’t be very exciting, would it?


Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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