Internet Scouting – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

February 3, 2009 by  

It was early in the morning while we eyed our watches waiting for shooting time. Mallards were constantly buzzing our heads in their pursuit to land in our decoys. Finally, the little hand hit the 12 and the game was on. 15 minutes later, myself and my 2 close friends were picking up the decoys after a quick morning. On the way back to the hotel, we reveled in our surroundings as there was clouds of mallard piling into various sloughs and fields on both sides of the road. There was birds EVERYWHERE and we never saw another vehicle or heard another gunshot, and it had been this way all season. This was October in the year 1993 – boy has things changed.

It's almost this easy to find locations nowadays

It's almost this easy to find locations nowadays

Back in those days, there was only a handful of ways to get information on areas to hunt across the country. Television, newspapers, magazines, phone calls to refuges, and mouth-to-mouth was the majority of ways people accessed information. For most waterfowlers, it was hard to comprehend a world outside of their own honey holes. I mean, you knew that there was waterfowl opportunities elsewhere around the country, but most of the information was a teaser or an advertisement. “Use such and such guide service to experience the best and so on…” That was about it, unless you knew someone that had first hand knowledge of hunting the area.

Fast forward to today and everything has changed. Nowadays, if people want to try hunting a new area, state, or province…they either search google or come to the forum asking questions on where to go. And the information is available live 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. At times, I find myself in an odd situation when I look at what I created on the Internet. While the ability to learn and share information is priceless (and at times, addicting), at what point does it begin to backfire on you? When the area you held so close to your heart for being a quiet, relaxing place turns into a zoo; is it worth it?

Thus enters the never-ending debate over “Internet Scouting”. In the early days, when there was very little people online, you could openly discuss your favorite spots without much worry of them being revealed to the world. It was great, and in some ways it’s still great today, but the end result causes friction among everyone in the community. There are essentially 3 types of people coming into play when it comes to the reports. Those that ask/share information on hunting spots (communicators), those that lurk and soak in this information, and those members who hunt that area and reading the threads makes the hair stand on the backs of their necks (locals). Thus lies the never-ending debate. Let’s look at the 3 types closely. Keep in mind, I’m not criticizing anyone for doing anything…I’m merely opening up the topic with an open mind.

Communicators

Communicators are those that ask questions about areas, or those that openly share information about hunting in an area. The vast majority of the time, the communicator is trying to be helpful or trying to get help and it’s all perfectly acceptable. After all, it’s the Internet, and the world knows the power of the information it provides. Often these people are new to the Internet or to forums, and probably aren’t aware of the effects this has. After all, is it fair for people to attack them for merely asking a question or trying to be helpful? No. Honesty shouldn’t be criticized, and more often then not, the result is just that.

Lurkers

Lurkers are considered those that like to read and don’t post. What most people on the forums don’t realize is this is almost always the majority of visitors. And there isn’t anything wrong with that either. I’m always happy to share information with the waterfowl world, and is why I started websites like DuckHuntingChat.com. But it is the lurkers that tend to tip the scales on the issues, because these are often those that analyze and assess the posts/information at hand to their advantage. How many trips do you think are planned every day simply over reports posted on the Internet? I think the results would be staggering. And again, there isn’t anything wrong with that, that’s the reality of the Internet. It’s an end result. I’ve done it myself, so I would be a hypocrite if I were to blast someone for doing the same. While often reports are BS, if you can decipher through the junk, you’ll often find gold. And planning a trip from start to finish on your own can be very rewarding.

Locals

It's hard to beat good old fashioned windshield time

It's hard to beat good old fashioned windshield time

I consider the locals as anyone who has hunted an area for a long time. And I’m sure everyone reading this can relate to this situation. We all have our own honey holes or spots we like to call our own (even if we don’t own it). You found this place on your own, scouted it to death, communicated with landowners, etc. If you’re like me, you seek out places that are far off the beaten path, away from the crowds. I would rather hunt less birds in a quiet area then pursuit the motherload in an area loaded with hunters, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Now imagine if that spot off the beaten path, that you felt was completely hidden from the world, was posted as a hot spot on the Internet. This is a result of every report ever made. More often then not, someone knows about it and has been enjoying it for years alone. And when suddenly next season a dozen rigs are in the area, you can’t help but feel disappointed. We’ve all been there, I’ve had to move areas more often then I can count. But myself personally, I get over it because I like to scout anyways.

So will this ever end? No. It will probably get worse. Google has probably archived every spot in the nation at some point from a report posted online. If you want to dig deep enough, it could be there. So I think the community needs to find an ethical balance to it all, and here are my suggestions to help the situation.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask about an area in the forum.  While many won’t provide information on the forum, there are always those who are willing to lend a hand in the private messaging system of the site.  That’s really where you get your best information anyways.
  • Don’t flame someone!  A common response to a question or a report is to lash out at the person for posting the spot.  These would usually be the locals to that area, who didn’t like seeing their honey hole on the forum news.  The end result is senseless bickering with really no positive end result.  3 things happen as a result: The original person gets upset, the moderators have to babysit the thread, and the topic gets even more exposure because the bickering actually brings more attention to the thread itself  (highlighting the area).  So if you don’t like your spot being exposed, and don’t want to share information, the best thing you can do is ignore it.  The sooner it gets “buried” down the page, the less exposure it receives.
  • Don’t expect everything on the Internet to be free.  When I say this, I’m often referring to those who come to the site with no other intention but to scout for information.  If your first post here on the forum is a “got any hot tips on a hunting area” question, you’re not going to get much response.  But if you were an active participant on the forum and shared information, you’ll often be returned the favor.  So it’s good advice to hang around a bit and get your information instead of expecting information now.  I operate many large online forums and I can say this to be true everywhere, not just here.
  • Be Friendly!  As they say, it’s all about who you know, and there is a lot of people on the site here that know A LOT.  Take some time to be friendly and make friends on the site, it’s a very rewarding experience.  There are countless “blind dates” here that lead to long-standing hunting partners.  I should know, some of my closest hunting buddies I met online.
  • So in the end, I hope that people involved in these debates would take a step back and have an open mind on the situation.  I think if everyone understood where the other was coming from, these issues wouldn’t grow to be so intense on forum debates.

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    Comments

    10 Comments on "Internet Scouting – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly"

    1. James Peterson on Tue, 3rd Feb 2009 7:09 pm 

      Great post Chris.
      It is true that we are at a stage in the internets development where it has started to spread its wings into the hunting and fishing realm. We all just need to remember that new sportsmen are coming of age each year and with that comes the adjustments for those times just the same as our parents went through during our generation. New technology, whether it be better equipment or the use of the internet and GPS we all need to grow with the changes or be left behind.

    2. Dan Kelly on Wed, 4th Feb 2009 10:38 am 

      Great article Chris. The internet can be a great tool, but it can also be just as dangerous.

      Dan

    3. swamphunter07 on Wed, 4th Feb 2009 12:40 pm 

      I think some changes are are good but other technological advances are’nt so good. They ruin the sport of duck hunting like automatic duck and goose and even all game calls with those remotes they have to call in animals instead of using actual calls and learning how to make sertain sounds.

    4. Jeremiah on Sat, 14th Feb 2009 1:43 am 

      Chris,

      I have to say I think your logic is flawed.

      Having “locals” stick their head in the sand and ignoring when someone posts a good spot on the internet (for 6 billion people and counting to access) is not a good course of action. Those posts are archived by search engines and will never really be gone unless they are edited for content – then the newly edited content will be archived.

      It is clear that the problem is the person who posted the “honey hole” in the first place. This person likely posted the honey hole for one or more of a few reasons.

      1. Ignorance – the “communicator” does not understand the sheer scale of internet communication and how many people he was “friendly” to at that moment he pushed submit, and consequently how badly he just ruined the experience of those “locals” that put time and gas in scouting.

      2. The communicator is the type of person that he wants to be liked/accepted so much so that it overcomes what he knows to be wrong.

      I thought there would be more reasons but those two really cover just about everything. Either the person does not know the wrong he commits, or knows how it affects people and chooses to post anyway. “He either don’t know or he don’t care”.

      The way to combat the problem is that good old concept of education. Let the communicator know how posting a spot in clear text on a public forum is not good practice. Explain to them that they have no idea who they are typing to on the other end of the computer network, let alone who is “lurking” now or five years from now through the looking glass of a search engine. This can be done through a PM. However, the forum moderator should understand this too and be ready to assist in teaching the communicator and working a solution. That is the definition of moderator, after all. The moderator badge is not worn for free – at least one would hope…

      Being asked to refrain from posting honey holes in clear text does not mean a communicator should not be friendly – it just means he should not be hurtful. If the communicator is really such a helpful person, he should meet the other communicator (that requested the hotspots) in person and show them the places he wishes to share. That way, communicator 1 is helping communicator 2 only, and not assisting hundreds or thousands of lurkers.

      Another way to help is to use Private Messaging. Either through the site or exchange of personal email addresses. This way the “communicators” can remain friendly (true to themselves) without ruining the spot for “locals” because there are no “lurkers” when the message is private. Unless the second communicator is extremely blabby and immediately posts the spot on a public forum, Private Messaging would help the problem immensely.

      Jeremiah

    5. klyde31 on Wed, 18th Feb 2009 2:35 pm 

      Jeremiah, I think your logic is a little flawed as well. Since I didn’t notice any mention of this in your post, let me clarify first. If you are talking about privately owned land, then I can see where you’re coming from and agree with you. If you are talking about public hunting land, the I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t know about all states, but most states have a wildlife and parks department webpage nowadays that contains many helpful hunting tools. Downloadable maps, regulations, picture identifying books, GPS coordinates, bird reports, etc. I could go on and on. The point is, for public hunting at least, there is pretty much nothing you can say or tell someone asking that they can’t already find on the internet.

      Example: I say I shot a limit this weekend and someone says where at. Well, my profile says I live in town X and there are really only 3 public spots within 5 hours of town X. So, unless I mentioned an extended hunt trip, you can assume I didn’t go farther than 5 hours. I can look up on the wildlife and parks website that Public Land A is reporting 20,000 ducks with most people who are checked getting limits and most of the people checked were around Marshes A and B. Meanwhile Public Land B and Public Land C are both reporting around 500-1000 ducks each with an average of .9 birds per hunter taken the past weekend. There are also some maps to get to the marshes, parking areas, dikes, etc.

      Now, when asked by the other person where I shot my limit at, if I had said Marsh A on Public Land A, every “Local” on there would be chewing some Ace, even though they don’t own it. The second option would be I say nothing when asked and the person asking looks at where I am from and looks it up the websites and such. They find pretty much the exact same info.

      I am not advocating telling or asking of spots and whatnot. I am merely saying that there is no need to jump down someone’s throat and crucify them for merely saying what wildlife department websites already say. That is what I find ignorant. Maybe that is still helping out too much. I too agree that the fun is in the scouting. But “Locals” should just calm down a little and realize that the wildlife departments are doing more to give away “their” PUBLIC spots than anyone else.

    6. Darren (Yamaha783) on Fri, 20th Feb 2009 2:03 pm 

      ” there is pretty much nothing you can say or tell someone asking that they can’t already find on the internet.” I think this statement is at least a little off. There’s an awful lot you can find out on your own or by word of mouth that you could never find out on the internet sites for such public lands. Here in La there are so many intracacies to marshes with various feed conditions and bird numbers that you must seek it out on your own to find out. The websites don’t have the info and I know for sure the information you alluded to regarding harvest reports don’t exist in my state, again, Louisiana, where the birds are numerous but the number of hunters is crazy. In such a case, there are those that put in their homework before the season and there are those that want to rely on those others for inside info to make their next hunt.
      Here’s a good example that occurred this year: A local public marsh was surveyed before the season with very poor duck numbers, largely due to damaged ponds, lack of feed, etc. from storms. There was an area away from the marsh, yet part of this area that was holding 90%, yes 90% of all birds surveyed on the marsh. The wildlife agents were the only ones to know about it, aside from word of mouth by slip-up. I knew about the area because I had scouted it previously but 98% of those visiting the marsh knew nothing. Wouldn’t you know the game wardens were hunting this area hard each week and of course posting nor telling no one!
      In any case, there’s an awful lot to be kept secret that should never be posted for all to see, rather shared in confidence with friends. I usually help out those who ask in order to get them started but I do not divulge the secrets of my hidden away locations found while scouting in July dripping in sweat while Joe Internet Scouter was sipping a cocktail on his boat.

    7. Jason Breuwirth on Thu, 4th Jun 2009 9:35 pm 

      Great article! I thought it accurately covered all the dimensions of internet scouting.

      “Having “locals” stick their head in the sand and ignoring when someone posts a good spot on the internet (for 6 billion people and counting to access) is not a good course of action.”—Jeremiah

      I agree with what you said, especially in regards to the PM’s. The last thing anyone should do is get on a guy for posting a spot, and do it publicly. It only validates that the spot is indeed a honey hole and will only draw more attention to the thread.

      When it’s all said and done, Internet scouting is here to stay. If you don’t like it, be proactive and help educate people who aren’t aware of the social norms of message boards…i.e. that it frowned on to post specific locations.

    8. fuzznuts on Fri, 26th Jun 2009 9:58 am 

      Great Article. Well……..hunting has changed over the years. If you have a public honey hole, enjoy it while it lasts. Seems to me our battles shouldn’t be amongst ourselves, but rather to keep open what we have open. Man, be a great steward of the land. Appreciate each and evry landowner that gives you free access to hunt their land or to lease their land. Take someone hunting. Take your kid hunting.

    9. Peter Millin on Thu, 1st Oct 2009 12:38 pm 

      Great article and great discussion.

      Just wanted to add something that I haven’t read her yet.

      I am in my 50′s and I have three children. We moved around quiet a bit and never really stayed anywhere long enough to make friends (I hope those days are over)

      In any case. I am a first generation hunter, which means nobody in my family ever hunted. I really don’t know anybody close enough yet who could show me the ropes.

      Currently I find these forums to be the only source of info I have.
      I don’t expect for anybody to reveal their secrets and I can respect that, but general information is greatly appreciated.

      Keep up the good work.

    10. M.R. Ducks on Thu, 18th Nov 2010 2:21 pm 

      I am a local who tells the truth but lies about the location. This way I don’t have to deal with the rubber heads.

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