Don't let all those photos on Instagram and Facebook spoil your outlook. Hunt for yourself and no one else
Ever seen a black-and-white photograph of a freakishly large buck, hanging from a rough-hewn meat pole? Maybe there was a hunter in a checked coat beside it, holding a rifle. Maybe he was even smiling.
Those photographs are from an era long past. Things happened slower back then, including the time it took to develop a picture. Photos might have inspired a little jealousy, but they were designed to preserve a moment and help remember it down the road. But in today's social media era, hunters can take and post photos for the whole world to see immediately, and video can be streamed live - during or within a few minutes of the kill.
You just can't stop binging on all that big-buck content.
What's the Harm?
Most folks are attached to their cell phones and social media accounts (myself included). We enjoy watching reactions to our posts roll in. This is especially true when posting about big deer. But what happens when we don't have one to post?
While buck scrolling through social media is an awesome way to keep tabs on the action unfolding across the country, it can kill your confidence and wear on your attitude, especially if you aren't seeing the same success. And antler jealously can easily set in if you're still empty-handed come mid-November.
It's been a few years since I shot a good buck with archery gear. And I'm not going to lie - I tend to experience a little antler jealousy when the action is slow. Is this normal? I think so. We've all felt it at some point. It can happen when scrolling through a social media page full of hero shots. But allowing those negative feelings to fester and continue isn't normal or healthy.
The TV Effect
Before digital media, television had a similar effect. It still does, but social feeds have a much larger impact. Endless photos of dead deer can make a hunter think he or she is doing it all wrong. And that just might not be true.
Giant bucks can be taken by anyone at any time. It's a safe bet that most of them are taken by hunters who are absent from the limelight. The consistency with which TV hosts tag giant whitetails is exceptional, however. In fact, it's downright impressive. But this isn't the norm for most people.
Still, we follow these celebrities and gobble up their content. It's good entertainment, but you can't lose motivation because you never see deer of that caliber. If big-buck scrolling discourages you from hunting - or it has you sleeping in on the last day of your rut-cation - reevaluate your motivations for enjoying the outdoors. Don't hunt for the wrong reasons. It's supposed to be fun, remember?
It might feel as though you're the only hunter who hasn't shot a good buck.
Your Local Network
During the rut, it can seem as if everyone around home is experiencing success all at once, too, and that everyone is posting about it. Everyone but you, that is. It might feel as though you're the only hunter who hasn't shot a good buck. That's certainly not the case. There are still hunters out there grinding away on weekends and holidays, just like you.
You might also be jealous of that local hunter who gets three weeks of vacation. Or the one with zero childcare responsibilities. Or the one who can be completely unplugged from his or her job after punching out.
I'm with you. I have children and limited hunting time. I have about five days of vacation to play with for hunting purposes. Because of that, I'm stuck scheduling just four or five three-day weekends for deer season. If your fall looks the same, be realistic. Understand that it won't always mean a buck in the truck. And that has to be OK, or you'll never see or enjoy hunting to its fullest.
Simply put, social media can skew perceptions. There are always some hunters who don't fill their tags, and that's part of it.
Finally, many hunters experience a big disconnect between perception and reality. Understanding the caliber of deer in your area is critical, especially when comparing them to the bucks you see on social media. A big-woods hunter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan shouldn't expect results like his buddies in Iowa or Illinois. A 115-inch deer might be in the top 20% of bucks in your area. It isn't feasible to compare your 4½-year-old, 120-inch Minnesota buck to a 3-year-old, 160-inch Kansas deer. That'll quickly discourage you.
Remember: It's all about understanding your situation and knowing what is realistic for you. Don't let social media ruin deer season. Hunt smart and hunt hard. And when the sun sets on closing day, if you've put your tag on something, be proud. Then, go tell social media all about it.
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