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How to Keep Your Honey Hole a Secret

Secrecy in Hunting

A long time ago I read a quote that always stuck with me:

Never make a liar out of a man by asking him where he hunts.  (author unknown)

Do you have a hunting honey hole? Hopefully you do, but if you flap your gums about it, I guarantee you’ll lose it.

For twenty-five years I hunted Utah from top to bottom. I started at the top, and now I hunt the bottom. Meanwhile I’ve lost some amazing areas. Some areas were affected by drought and poaching, but most were lost to kindness. How does this happen???

How we lose our honey holes

Humans–by nature–are kind and sharing creatures. When someone asks us where we hunt, we get excited and start spewing information beginning with, “Promise you won’t tell anyone…” Worse yet, we take a “trusted” friend or family member out to our secret area. In either case, that person inevitably extends the same privilege to someone else, and so on, and in a few short years your “secret” area is swarming with hunters and lost forever.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not advocating total selfishness here. As veteran hunters it’s our moral responsibility to help other hunters, especially youths and beginners. I take great pride in steering my fellow hunters towards success. But there’s no harm in keeping a little piece of the woods to yourself once in a while.

How to keep your honey hole a secret

A few years ago I missed a shot on a real monster-buck who was living a secret life on a steep mountainside in a nearby unit. When the season ended, dozens of family and friends asked me, a) how my hunt went, b) what I saw, and c) where I planned to hunt next season. My reply was: No, I didn’t see anything worth shooting, there’s no way I’m going back to that unit again, and no, I haven’t decided where to hunt next year.

I knew that the greatest threat to my future success at that buck wasn’t cougars, winter kill, or poachers. It was me and my big mouth! So I kept it shut.

What are best ways to keep your area a secret? Here are the three most effective strategies when dealing with prying questions:

  1. Lie:  I hate liars, honestly. But if you lie to me about your secret honey hole, believe me, I’ll understand. Tactless as it may be, people are going to ask you where you hunt. It’s sad, but sometimes lying is your only option. On the topic of lying, when you finally shoot a real trophy and enter it into the record books (Pope & Young or Boone & Crockett) they’re going to record what county you took the animal in. This is yet another area to consider changing the truth. But what if you’re just too honest to lie? The next best option is to be a politician, and deflect…
  2. Deflect:  If a friend asks me where I hunt, I’ll say Southern Utah (rather than the actual unit). If someone asks whether I saw anything decent, I’ll say No, not really. They might not realize that, to me, decent means 200+ inches. Now, if the questions just keep-a-coming, I’ll revert back to step 1. But what if lying AND deflection aren’t your thing? Consider being honest…at your own peril…
  3. Be Honest: By honest, I mean just say NO. “No, I won’t tell you where I hunt because it’s a secret and I’m keeping it all to myself.” Yeah, that’ll go over well with your best friend, or your mom. Honestly, honesty isn’t always the best solution. All kidding aside, a close friend shouldn’t be asking you where you hunt in the first place. Instead, they should understand why you’re keeping it a secret. If not, you might ask yourself whether you’d rather lose your honey hole, or lose your friend. Tough, I know, but just remember, you can always find more friends, but there’s only one honey hole!

Other Considerations

Before we wrap it up, there are two other ways you can still jeopardize your honey hole without saying a word:

  1. Photos/Video:  As photography, videography, and Facebook become more popular, it’s imperative that you leave recognizable landmarks out of your photos. One example is the Beaver Unit (in Utah) with it’s distinct mountain peaks. It looks awesome to have those peaks in the background of your trophy photo, but it’ll also give away your location. The best way to avoid background elements in your shot is to zoom in on your subject. By shooting tighter, you can greatly reduce the background size.
  2. GPS Metadata:  As an added feature, many cell phone cameras record your GPS location, and then attach it to the metadata of your image. TURN THIS FEATURE OFF! I stumbled upon this years ago while reading an online story from a local hunter. I was real curious about where the dude was finding such huge deer, so I clicked on a pic and brought it into my photo editing software which displays metadata information. Sure enough, the precise GPS location of his “secret honey hole” was pinpointed ONLINE for the world to see. Note: I believe honey holes are sacred, so I left his area alone. But what about thousands of other desperate hunters?

Conclusion

Here in the far-flung future, where an exponentially exploding population of all-consuming humans are decimating our finite and already-dwindling natural resources (aka game animals), secrecy in hunting can make all the difference between having grass-fed-organic, sacred venison on our tables, or resorting to caustic, mass-produced, over-priced store meat.

Sadly, when it comes to hunting we’re living in cutthroat times.  I don’t know about you, but that’s enough reason to keep my trap shut. It’s high time we hunters band together to save the endangered honey hole!

2015 Winter Bow Hunt 3 of 3

Winter Bow Hunt Photos Part 3

In some high places you can see the city. On this day it was freezing and cloudy, but in the city it was warm and sunny.
In some high places you can see the city. On this day it was freezing and cloudy, but in the city it was warm and sunny.
Morning hunt up high. Halfway through the November most of the snow melted, then blew back in the following week.
Morning hunt up high. Halfway through the November most of the snow melted, then blew back in the following week.
On my way back to camp one night I found these fresh cougar tracks in my entrance boot tracks. Kinda spooky.
On my way back to camp one night I found these fresh cougar tracks in my entrance boot tracks. Kinda spooky.
Another cold day scanning for deer.
Another cold day scanning for deer.
I finally spotted this big stud-buck 1000 feet above me. By the time I got close, it had crossed the summit and left. This is the hardest hunt I've ever had!
I finally spotted this big stud-buck 1000 feet above me. By the time I got close, it had crossed the summit and left. This is the hardest hunt I’ve ever had!
November 30, last day of the season. Another sad photo of my hunt coming to an end. Better to eat an unused tag than kill a small buck. Already looking forward to next year!
November 30, last day of the season. Another sad photo of my hunt coming to an end. Better to eat an unused tag than kill a small buck. Already looking forward to next year!

 

Winter Bow Hunt Photos Part 2

Winter Bow Hunt Photos Part 1

2015 Winter Bow Hunt 2 of 3

Winter Bow Hunt Photos Part 2

The Utah extended hunt is by far the most difficult venture of the year. The daily views, however, can be spectacular, here alone in the quiet hills.
The Utah extended hunt is by far the most difficult venture of the year. The daily views, however, can be spectacular, here alone in the quiet hills.
This is a typical view from the office.
This a typical view from the office.
Snow and lichen juxtaposition.
Snow and lichen juxtaposition.
In the snow, winter camo is a must, but it needs not be camo at all. I wear an inverted aviator's hat, inside-out camo shirt, and Dockers. When it's really cold I tie some long underwear around my neck.
In the snow, winter camo is a must, but it needs not be camo at all. I wear an inverted aviator’s hat, inside-out camo shirt, and Dockers. When it’s really cold I tie some long underwear around my neck.
Video still from a herd of more than 100 elk. Nice to see some animals finally, but really just looking for deer.
Video still from a herd of more than 100 elk. Nice to see some animals finally, but really just looking for deer.

 

Winter Bow Hunt Photos Part 3

2015 Winter Bow Hunt 1 of 3

Winter Bow Hunt Photos Part 1

The following photos are from my Utah extended archery hunt in October and November. The hunt ended on November 30 and I did not shoot a deer.

As a trophy hunter, I was holding out for real record-class buck. Also, my wife already shot a huge bull elk, so meat wasn’t a big factor, but rather I was looking for a challenge. All told, I could have shot close to 30 bucks, the most buck encounters I’ve ever had. Of those bucks, half were young two- and three-point bucks, and the rest were either too small or too smart! It was a challenge indeed!

Saddest day of the year: watching the general hunt come to a deerless end.
Saddest day of the year: watching the general hunt come to a deerless end.
I spent some time in October exploring the steep local mountains. Extreme terrain, very few bucks.
I spent some time in October exploring the steep local mountains. Extreme terrain, very few bucks.
Spent some time scouting new locations on a mountain bike. Note: Going uphill, bikes aren't much easier than walking, but saves tons of time going downhill.
Spent some time scouting new locations on a mountain bike. Note: Going uphill, bikes aren’t much easier than walking, but saves tons of time going downhill.
In early December I entered the freezing mountains, spending many days alone between 7500 - 9000 feet.
In early December I entered the freezing mountains, spending many days alone between 7500 – 9000 feet.
Another freezing day at 8500 feet.
Another freezing day at 8500 feet.

 

Winter Bow Hunt Photos Part 2

Backyard Buck

Backyard Buck

Last night, just before dark, I got a visit from my favorite backyard mule deer buck. If you don’t remember him from last year, his name is Henry the Bigger than Average Two-point, and he ate most of our ripe tomatoes.

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Last year he should have been a three-point, but remained a two-point with tall antlers.

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This year he was supposed to be a small four-point, but instead he’s a two-by-three. That’s poor genetics for you, but he’s still a beautiful little buck.

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Henry has a tall rack with good mass and multiple little kicker points around his eyeguards. Definitely good potential if he ever sprouts a normal rack.

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Last year it was easy to get close to Henry, but now he’s getting a lot more cautious, like all big bucks. I learn a lot from observing my backyard deer.

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Goodbye Henry!

2014 Hunt Photos: 3 of 3

2014 Hunt Photos: 3 of 3

Here are some photos from my third bowhunt of 2014:

My hunt area, mid-September, watching fall roll in.
My hunt area, mid-September, watching fall roll in.
Wild currant berries grow everywhere in this unit. If the fruit wasn't so hairy I would eat some.
Wild currant berries grow everywhere in this unit. If the fruit wasn’t so hairy I would eat some.
September 10, 2014, 7:17 a.m.
September 10, 2014, 7:17 a.m.
Above 10,000 and almost straight down. This is some of the steepest country I've hunted.
Above 10,000 and almost straight down. This is some of the steepest country I’ve hunted.
Looks like a cougar got to this deer before I could.
Looks like a cougar got to this deer before I could.
The scattered buck skeleton I found was picked clean by predators. The antlers measured 26+".
The scattered buck skeleton I found was picked clean by predators. The antlers measured 26+”.
More high country.
More high country.
 I could have shot a small buck every single day, but I'm holding out for a big one that's lived past his prime. My lonely bow got no action on this hunt, just lots of scratches.
I could have shot a small buck every single day, but I’m holding out for a big one that’s lived past his prime. My lonely bow got no action on this hunt, just lots of scratches.
Lichen on the rocks. Might as well enjoy the small stuff.
Lichen on the rocks. Might as well enjoy the small stuff.
Parting shot: I was walking through a meadow at dark without my flashlight when I noticed a dark form in front of me. Suddenly half split off and ran down the mountain. Stupefied, I dug out my flashlight and found 1 of 2 porcupines nervously turned away from me and showing me its bristly backside. Neat little animals!
Parting shot: I was walking through a meadow at dark without my flashlight when I noticed a dark form in front of me. Suddenly half split off and ran down the mountain. Stupefied, I dug out my flashlight and found 1 of 2 porcupines nervously turned away from me and showing me its bristly backside. Neat little animals!

 

2014 Hunt Photos:  1 of 3

2014 Hunt Photos:  2 of 3

2014 Hunt Photos: 2 of 3

2014 Hunt Photos: 2 of 3

When you can’t shoot a buck, you can still shoot photos! Here are some photos from my second bowhunt of 2014:

September 04, 2014, 6:15 a.m.
September 04, 2014, 6:15 a.m.
My main watering spring...ahhhh...fresh mountain water with no man-made toxins.
My main watering spring…ahhhh…fresh mountain water with no man-made toxins.
Moon, conifers, and fall oak-brush.
Moon, conifers, and fall oak-brush.
Moss on the rocks. I love the texture.
Moss on the rocks. I love the texture.
Old-life; new-life.
Old-life; new-life.
Diverse habitat in my hunt area.
Diverse habitat in my hunt area.
3.5" buck track. This is the biggest track I found this year...but where's the deer?
3.5″ buck track. This is the biggest track I found this year…but where’s the deer?
I watched fall colors appear this week.
I watched fall colors appear this week.

 

2014 Hunt Photos: 3 of 3

2014 Hunt Photos: 1 of 3

2014 Bowhunt Part 1 of 3

2014 Bowhunt Part 1 of 3

On Friday I got back from my first four-day bowhunt in Southern Utah. I hiked in Monday morning and began hunting that evening through Thursday. Since the area is still new to me, I considered this to be a scouting mission for the last two weeks of the season. So far, here are the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. There are about 10 bucks living in the immediate area by camp. All but two are smaller, 2, 3, and 4 points–not mature bucks. The other two, which I did NOT get good visuals on, are average-sized, mature four-points in the 160-inch class range. As far as I’m concerned, these are “settlement bucks,” or bucks I will only shoot if I cannot find any bigger before the season ends.
  2. The surrounding area, which extend for miles in all directions, contains only sparse amounts of deer, mostly does. I also couldn’t find any heavy deer traffic areas, and only a few random large-buck tracks.
  3. All bucks are still in velvet and the younger bucks still have their summer red-coats. The older bucks are beginning to grow out their gray winter coats. Because the bucks are still in velvet, they are living mostly in and around open feeding areas.
  4. Undisturbed, the bucks tend to bed down around 9:30 a.m. On cooler days, they begin feeding early, around 4:30 p.m.
  5. Deer are concentrated and feeding only the East and Southeast facing slopes.
  6. Scent control is impossible. Although I try to diminish my human scent with scent-eliminating laundry and body soap, by the second day of hunting the deer can smell me immediately and bust out of the area. At the same time, I had 5 does and fawns bed down within 10 yards of me on the fourth day when the wind was in my favor.

That’s all I have right now. I’ll be hunting most of next week so stay tuned for Bowhunt Part 2.

2014 Hunt Photos: 1 of 3

2014 Hunt Photos: 1 of 3

Here are some photos from my first bowhunt of 2014:

Here’s why deer in my area aren’t centered around water. Many rocks have pits that collect rain water.
Here’s why deer in my area aren’t centered around water. Many rocks have pits that collect rain water.
I found this broken arrowhead near camp.
I found this broken arrowhead near camp.
A small stream running through an open meadow.
A small stream running through an open meadow.
Water springing out of the rocks.
Water springing out of the rocks.
One of three horned toads I ran into. They are very unafraid of people and gentle to handle. Probably good eating in a pinch...
One of three horned toads I ran into. They are very unafraid of people and gentle to handle. Probably good eating in a pinch…
Inside my tent, and a boring photo from a camera test.
Inside my tent, and a boring photo from a camera test.
Elderberries grow in great abundance in my area. I eat hundreds a day to stay hydrated. Also a good source of fiber.
Elderberries grow in great abundance in my area. I eat hundreds a day to stay hydrated. Also a good source of fiber.
When I came home this buck was wandering through my yard. Notice the archery target behind its head!
When I came home this buck was wandering through my yard. Notice the archery target behind its head!

 

FYI:  All of my field photos are taken with a Canon Powershot G-Series camera which shoots the pro-quality style images required for magazine publication.

Click here for 2014 Hunt Photos Part 2