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


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


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.