Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Buck Fever

It was my first rabbit hunt. The farmers had positioned me at the end of the timber stand, located at the far edge of the field. They were walking through the woods in an effort to kick up some rabbits and send them my way. For what seemed like an hour, but was maybe five minutes, I waited with my shotgun at the ready. My attention was starting to drift when all of a sudden I caught sight of something bounding at me: a giant rabbit. I shouldered my shotgun and pulled the trigger. The blast roared from the barrel, sending the deadly pellets toward the bounding hare.

Or so I thought.

The cloud of dirt and the bunny hopping away told the tale. Yes, I had succumbed to "buck fever." Unable to contain my excitement at the opportunity to bring home some hearty hasenpfeffer (German rabbit stew), I fired too soon, not bothering to actually aim. The hole in the ground three feet in front of me indicated I barely brought the gun up, before jerking the trigger. The farmers had a hard time suppressing their smiles. They generously suggested I might stand a better chance at bagging some game if I actually waited until the critter was in my sights before firing.

Almost every hunter has succumbed to buck fever at one time or another. For some it happened on their first hunt; for others it was when their trophy casually strolled out in front of them. No matter when it happened, the symptoms are the same. There's a rush of adrenaline causing the limbs to twitch and the breathing to increase. This is accompanied by the inability to fire the gun accurately or the uncontrollable need to fire too soon, exhibiting, as it were, a complete lack of self-control.

You don't have to be a hunter to experience a lack of self-control though, do you? Most men have succumbed to a loss of restraint on some occasion. Many of us know what it's like to have one drink too many, speak too freely, drive too fast, eat too much, or even watch football too long, instead of listening to the wife. All of us have experienced the consequences of a lack of self-control, and they usually end up badly.

What we need to do is learn from our lapses of self-control, i.e. when preoccupation blinds us to the world around us. We need to know when and where we might get caught off-guard -- like when that rabbit comes bounding toward us out of nowhere. Once we recognize these situations occur at any time, we can remain alert and be men who think on our feet.

For example, take the football thing. When I am watching a football game and my wife enters the room in mid-sentence, experience has taught me it's prudent to give her my attention. Does it seem like the right thing to do? No. Do I really want to pull away from the third-down-and-inches play happening before me? Of course not.

But when I give her my attention, there's a payback for it. She says what she needs to. I show her she's valued. And we both remember that it's all about us.

So I would suggest we all practice self-control in what we do; we will be better men for it.

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