Illinois Department of Natural Resources
May 2020
May 1, 2020

Hunting with Adrenaline

By Eric Bumgarner

If you hunt deer or turkey you understand the effects of adrenaline on the human body. As excitement builds in anticipation of pulling the trigger, your heart begins to race, and your breathing becomes heavy and erratic. Adrenaline takes over your body sometimes to the point of being unbearable and can continue after the shot making you weak in the knees. It is an experience you won’t forget anytime soon.

I was on patrol during gun deer season and observed a picked corn field with small patch of corn left standing. The familiar patch of blaze orange appeared in the middle of the standing corn. Stopping my vehicle 150 yards away next to some timber, I began to view the area with my binoculars. The hunter was sitting on a bucket facing south and seemed content with his hunt. As I was about to leave the area, I observed a doe and large buck running south 200 yards north of the hunter. The deer continued to run directly towards the hunter, and I realized that he had not seen them. As I watched this unfold, even I got excited and began to cheer for the hunter, “turn around, turn around!” At last, the hunter glanced over his shoulder, turned around and aimed. With the deer approximately 20 yards away and running, the hunter shot, pulled off a second shot and fired one final shot. Both deer ran right past the hunter within 10 yards. He feverishly tried to re-load as the deer continued running away. The doe disappeared over the ridge about 60 yards away as the hunter shouldered his shotgun to make a final attempt at the buck. It was then that I observed a moment in that hunter’s life he will never forget. That big buck got to the same ridge, stopped, turned sideways and looked back at the hunter. A shot rang out, and the buck was down. The hunter had been given a second chance, and he was successful. 

A male white-tail deer with large antlers stands in a grassy field with orange autumn leaves in the foreground.
Photo by Chris Young

As I continued to watch, the hunter approached his buck and stared in amazement. After staring at his deer for several minutes, he retrieved his vehicle and returned to his deer. As he stood admiring his deer, I approached the hunter who was still experiencing an adrenaline rush. We talked about his hunt and trophy buck as he relived the experience. I congratulated him but asked if there was anything he had forgotten. He began to think of all the things required. When I advised he had forgotten to properly affix the leg tag the hunter sat on the ground and said, “Sir, if you had asked me 15 minutes ago I couldn’t have told you what color the deer was.” He had hunted deer for 40 years, had never shot a buck and had not harvested a deer for the last five years. I advised the hunter to tag his trophy deer and then helped him load it in the truck. No citation was issued. 

With experience, you can somewhat control the effects of adrenaline, but it still gets the best of us sometimes.

As always, hunt safely! 

Retired Lieutenant Eric Bumgarner spent 24 years with the Illinois Conservation Police. Eric is an avid outdoorsman and has a passion for protecting the natural resources.