Friday, June 27, 2008

Tag Draws And The Quest For Info

It's that time of the year when us hunters lean forward in our chairs, scanning the computer screen like a hungry raptor for any word that tag draw results have been posted. Some folks check their credit card statements like crazed weasels, hoping to be the first on the block to know where they drew a hunt. Those without a computer stalk the postman knowing he can be the Rainmaker. The word "frenzy" comes to mind when describing this annual look into the crystal ball for the fall hunting seasons.

Along with hitting the tag jackpot comes the quest for info that follows. Many folks already know the area where they'll be hunting from years of scouting but there is also a group who bravely fling that dart into the map, wanting to experience a new challenge. Naturally these newbies are behind the learning curve so many jump on to the wild wild web to start their research. This is where it can get ugly some times. These poor pilgrims land in a forum after a Google search and ask that dreaded question. "Hey, I lucked out and drew an X tag. Can anyone help me out?"

The regulars of these forum just grimace knowing that another Norman New Guy to their community has popped in to exploit their honey holes. Some of them bite their tongue and hope no one spills the beans. Others try to be polite and offer up a tidbit or two of helpful info. Unfortunately there is also a backlash from a small minority who lash out at the rookie who dares to venture into their lair, hoping to score a fast and cheap leg up. They feel you must walk a gauntlet to be allowed access to this precious info.

Where's the line? We all know you're screwing the pooch if you post an exact location on the Internet. It was the same in the old days when a magazine writer did a piece on your favorite zone in say WY. Hundreds, if not thousands more, applied the next year. Do you take your request and info trading off line to email so the whole world doesn't see the best spots? Do you just give general info and point them in a direction without getting too specific or do we just ignore the request, hoping they will fade into black? What are the rules on info trading and who sets them? Who is the "Keymaster?"

In the olden days the veteran hunters just flat out didn't talk about "their" spots. Getting an invite to tag along to a golden X was like winning the lottery, it just didn't happen very often, if at all. Blood oaths to secrecy were taken before you hit the trail. If you killed the golden goose with your loose lips there would be retribution. I know some guys who would park on one county road only to be picked up by a friend and they would drive into the next county to keep people from finding their lucky duck hole. Poor wardens would go crazy trying to find these guys to check them only to find out they were 60 miles up river.

I try and point folks in a general direction. I don't think it helps anyone to just mark a map and tell them "Go here." Part of hunting to me is learning how to scout and the satisfaction of discovering new spots on our own. Then again I think it's rude to just brush off folks asking for help. These new folks may just end up being a good hunting buddy or they may know of a great fishing hole in an area your are curious about. Maybe vet them first to see what type of person they are. Quid Pro Quo I guess is how I tend to do the scouting info dance.

Then again, there are a few special spots I will never tell anyone about as they are hallowed ground to me. One is a marsh at Swan Lake NWR in north Missouri where I go to film and watch the squadrons of ducks, turkeys and huge deer that live there. One favorite ridge here in SoCal I just love being alone there. It's my quiet place to let my thoughts wonder among the high clouds

Where do you draw the line when it comes to someone asking for help in scouting? Are you helpful or do you hold those favorite spot cards close to the vest?


NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, lord, I've witnessed some of the forum freakouts that follow questions like this.

I'm much more the new guy (girl), so I'm not in much position to help anyone. And fortunately, the one time I posted a plea for help, it was generic enough that I actually got help. The question was how do you hunt the blinds of Delevan NWR, because they were open and I was used to pit blinds. I got some good tips.

As for helping others? I think it behooves us to help newbies stay in the sport by helping them be successful. But there's no harm in explaining secret-spot etiquette along the way.

Tom Sorenson said...

I think I'm sorta like you are - I will point people in general directions for some places, but others are off limits. I've never really had much of a problem sharing info, though, as I've never hunted real "trophy" units. People aren't too interested in finding out where I shot that forked horn! :)

However, there is one place that should be hallowed ground to me, but I end up telling people about anyways because it's very difficult to hunt, so I don't expect many people will hunt, anyways - but I wish everyone could see this place before they die - it's just that incredible. So, if you ever get the chance, come to Oregon - even if it is summertime and you come for a visit - head out to Imnaha and climb into the mountains and gaze at the deepest canyon in North America - Hell's Canyon. Unbelievable. Beauty like you'll never see again.