Deer hunters need to avoid Facebook at all costs on opening weekends. I learned that this past weekend.
With the logarithmic increase in the number of smartphones and better cell coverage, most hunters can access their Facebook accounts even in the most remote corners of our great state—which is the reason Facebook has become the modern pickup truck tailgate.
Background for the uninitiated: Decades ago, when deer harvests were quite rare, it was standard practice for a successful hunter in small towns across America to sling their dead buck across the open tailgate of the truck, or perhaps even on the hood of the truck, and then drive back and forth through town proudly showing off his kill. The bigger the buck, the more trips they made through town.
There is no need for hunters to do that anymore. They have Facebook. It saves on gas, and if you have enough Facebook friends, it is much more efficient at showing off your hunting prowess. Post a really big buck and you get shared, perhaps on your way to Facebook virility.
For the unsuccessful hunter, sitting high in a deer stand on a beautiful fall afternoon, Facebook newsfeeds are nothing but an ego-buster. You have stared at woods devoid of deer for hours, yet scroll down your newsfeed to find friend after friend after friend showing off their success in the form of huge fallen bucks. It is downright disheartening. It is far, far worse than watching one buck-adorned pickup truck rolling through town.
As my partner Erik Almy said, "It's OK to post, but whatever you do, don't scroll."
Of course many think that is all Facebook is good for anyway—reading about the good fortune of others, only to create a false impression that your life sucks.
But, after my own abysmal failure, I was determined to "do the math" and see if I could figure out, based on my Facebook feed, if I really was as abnormal as I felt.
Here it is by the numbers: This past weekend was the opener of Tennessee's muzzleloader season, the first time a large number of hunters hit the woods and, in most cases, are allowed to take virtually any deer they see, buck or doe. According to records from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, hunters took 16,195 deer (9,552 bucks) Saturday and Sunday.
It is impossible to do exact estimates, but Daryl Ratajczak, the TWRA chief of wildlife, said, based on license sales, he thinks there were approximately 75,000 deer hunters in the woods.
That equals roughly a 22 percent overall success rate—about a 13 percent success rate on bucks, the pictures typically posted by all your Facebook friends.
So perhaps the numbers will assuage your Facebook-bruised ego. No matter what your newsfeed looks like, chances are that about 87 percent of your deer hunting friends are in the same buckless shape as you.
Finally, however, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I fired a shot with my iron-sighted cap-lock Hawken muzzleloader at a small deer, far away, Saturday evening. It was a very clean miss. Based upon my "dear" wife Barbara, who prefers I not shoot any deer (much less small ones), I have chosen to call it a "Freudian miss."
Hunt safely and remember that it's OK to post, but don't scroll.