Ask Petzal: The Worst Case of Buck Fever

Lion in crosshairs illustration
What’s the worst case of buck fever you’ve ever witnessed?Mark Matcho

David E. Petzal answers your questions about guns, shooting, hunting, and life. Got a question for our rifles editor? Send it to We cannot guarantee polite answers to all questions.

Q: What's the worst case of buck fever you've ever witnessed?Frank Harris, Concord, N.H.

A: In 1978, in Botswana, I watched over the shoulder of a hunter with something like 30 safaris behind him as he tried to aim at a lion 25 yards away. I've never seen anyone tremble so badly. I remember thinking that things were going to end badly, and they did. He fired in mid-convulsion and wounded the cat, which we then had to track down and kill.

Q: Nobody seems to under­stand my excitement at finally ordering a Randall Made custom knife. How do I explain it to them?Jon Serfas, St. Louis, Mo.

A: Tell them in short, simple sentences that Randalls are made entirely by hand, and that the demand for them is so great that the Randall shop has a 60-month backlog of orders. No two Randalls are precisely alike, and their value increases over the years. The Randall Bowie that I bought new in 1957 for $40 is now worth $2,400.

Q: What would Jack O'Connor or Elmer Keith or Warren Page have to say about AR-style rifles for hunting?Ralph Julian, Peru, N.Y.

A: O'Connor would detest them because he regarded rifles as an art form, and there's never been a good-looking AR. Keith would declare them useless because they could not be chambered for a .33-caliber cartridge containing 80 grains of powder. Page would be intrigued because he was a ­forward-​thinking person, but when he saw that they were not, on average, as accurate as bolt actions, he'd lose interest.

Q: How is it that the 6.5 Creedmoor is setting the world on fire when the .260 Rem. never really caught on? Are people just crazy?Peter Eagen, Huntsville, Ala.

A: I disagree about the .260 Remington. It's a solid, if unspectacular, success, and the wildcatters love it. But it's not as good as the Creedmoor, which is a work of genius, and has a sexier name to boot. And yes, people are crazy.

Q: I read about your three-shot, 200-yard, nickel-size group from kneeling. Was it luck?Scott Snyder, Billings, Mont.

A: It was luck. But it made an impression because I followed the Prime Directive of Shooting: If you do something spectacular, act as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened and you do this stuff every day.

Q: Was Annie Oakley ­really so great a shot? Were rifles and ammo that good back then?Cody Franklin, Centerfield, Ohio

A: She was the real deal. Most of her stunts were performed at very short range, but even so, Ms. Oakley was a "pheenom." And yes, some of the guns were that accurate.