How secretive should you be about the deer in your area?
So you just found a photo of a big buck on your trail camera. Your emotions are running wild. This is the biggest deer that's ever shown up on your camera. But hold on just a minute.
Should you be so eager to share the photo online or with everyone you know?
For today's #WhitetailWednesday, we're going to try to answer just that.
Technology is better than ever
Trail cameras are more useful tools than ever for hunters. It used to be harder to catch a big buck in a trail camera photo in the film days. You'd only have 24 shots to a roll and if you didn't pick the perfect camera location, your roll would be filled up with does or turkeys.
It was also harder to share your photos because you used to have a physical print. Times have changed.
These days I just slap a camera on a food plot with a 16-gig SD card in it and come back a month later to a photo of every deer that entered the field. As trail camera technology has gotten better, more and more mature bucks are being caught on camera. Many hunters make up a "hit list" of all the target bucks they'll be willing to shoot based off the photos they're getting.
The technology is also cheaper, meaning you can game plan to put a camera on every food plot, every trail to a bedding area and every staging area on your land. Hunters are able to nail down a buck's core area faster and easier than ever before.
With the advances in technology, it's easier than ever to share that monster buck photo. But many hunters are reluctant to do so while the animal is still alive.
When a buck isn't a secret
A worst-case scenario of a buck being a secret to no one is the Albia buck. In February 2002 North American whitetail magazine first published photos of the world-class non-typical. The buck had points and drop tines everywhere. And the magazine gave away the location as Albia, Iowa.
It was a nightmare scenario for every hunter in the town that was watching the buck. It's also why the Lovstuen family decided to put 15-year-old Tony Lovstuen in the blind first during Iowa's 2003 youth season. The teen shot the buck and rewrote Boone and Crockett's records with the 307-5/8-inch monster.
Prior to shooting the buck, Albia saw a ton of people arriving and trying to secure hunting rights to go after the monster. Many others, including the Lovstuens, were terrified the buck would get poached. The situation worked out, but it also would've been easy for things to go very wrong because let's face it, big bucks make people go crazy.
Simply put, the Albia buck is probably the best example of a worst-case scenario, and it raises a pretty solid argument for why you should keep the mature bucks on your camera a secret.
The case for sharing
Some reasons for being tight-lipped about what you've got on trail camera are pretty obvious. But, there's at least some argument you can make for keeping at least a small circle of people in the loop.
The main reason is just so you can keep an ear to the ground on what may happen to a particular buck in your area. For example, John Drinnon poached the 19-pointer above in Texas in 2016.
Drinnon claimed he shot the buck with a rifle on public land in Oklahoma. But, at least a few people knew about this deer's presence. And, it quickly came out someone had illegally shot the buck in Texas. Obviously the more people in the loop, the better odds you have of finding out if a deer was poached or shot by another hunter.
This isn't the first time this has happened either. A poacher might've gotten away with illegally killing one of the biggest deer ever in Kansas, had someone with trail camera photos of the animal not seen it at an outdoor show.
The same exact scenario also played out in Ohio with a 197-inch typical monster. The poacher was claiming the deer came from Kentucky. It was pure chance a conservation officer with photos of the deer was at the same show to realize the poacher's story was shady.
You may want to keep everything in your area a secret until hunting season arrives, but it was probably dumb luck the poacher in the last case didn't get away with it.
There have also been a number of big-buck stories where someone downs a monster. Then a week later, the neighbor shows up with 100 trail camera photos of the deer. The fact of the matter is, if you have photos of a big buck, it's likely a neighbor does, too. In that case, why are we so secretive? Why not share intel? Why are we so distrusting of our fellow hunters?
What the pros do.
I want to close this out by pointing out some hunters who aren't scared of posting any of their trail camera photos. I'm talking about most professional hunters with TV shows. These men and women have no qualms about posting up nighttime photos of a trophy-class animal to Instagram for all their followers to see.
I know those hunters have easy access to awesome private lands most of us will never hope to hunt. But, it certainly makes me wonder if I'm too paranoid, especially when it's hard to even post the small buck photos from my area.
Considering the fact the pros usually get an "after" photo with those bucks later in the season, and I'm usually looking for my hit list buck's sheds, it makes me wonder if those men and women are on to something.