Mastering The E-Hunt


Jeff Ell SmallDeer hunting and smartphones were made for each other like Brad and Angelina.

About seven years ago the old bachelor sport met the lithe piece of technology and they went on their first hunt together. It was love at first byte, and the two have have been inseparable ever since.

Their union has spawned a bazillion Bambi pictures that are posted on the internet for all to see. Images of dead does and bloody bucks shuttle through the heavens and land in outboxes, news feeds and status updates. It’s hard to remember a time when the two of them weren’t joined at the hip

Before the smart phone deer hunters were like the desert fathers or Zen masters. They sat silently perched in tree stands on high, or floated through the forest seeking their prey on padded feet. With unshaven faces hunters of old use to contemplate the mysteries of the universe while listening to the wind and envisioning antlers gliding through the brush.

At dark pre-phone hunters would find their way back to camp and tell their stories in the creamsicle colored light of the fire. Their words painted pictures of the days adventure on the walls of their buddies minds, while fiery embers flew into the heavens on a smoky column that rose into the milky sky.

Today the hunters face is often awash in the white light of his new lover.

We check in with work, jot off emails, and stalk people on Facebook. We shoot texts to other hunters to give them realtime updates about game movements and what we’re seeing or not seeing in the woods. On Sunday afternoons we check to see if our fantasy team is slaughtering the competition. When we take a deer, we’re taking selfies with our new trophy before the blood is dry on our hands.

I hope you noticed I said we.

I don’t have a smartphone yet, and still use the same model phone that Daniel Boone had after they put up the first tower west of the Cumberland Gap. One of my friends asked me recently if my phone had wooden keys? I said no it didn’t, but that Sarah still had to patch me through to Andy and Barney whenever I tried to ring them down at the sheriff’s office.

Safety is the first and most important reason I don’t hunt without a phone. When I think back to my early days of hunting in the western Adirondacks it reminds me of how I had to make sure I was always prepared for an injury or misread of my compass that could have left me stranded in the woods overnight, or until my wife decided that after a month she better ask the forrest ranger to go find out where I was.

Even on days when I hunt with my phone turned off, I have it in a Ziplock bag just to be safe. Seems downright foolish and inconsiderate to the ones who love us not to have a phone with us when we hunt alone.

A second reason I hunt with my phone is that it gives me another advantage over the deer. If I’m hunting near a friend we can silently communicate via text with one another about a buck that headed over the hill to us, or ask for help tracking a wounded animal.

Back in the day we would say things like “I’ll meet you at the truck after dark”. I still carry a piece of paper and pencil in my hunting pack; a throw back to a time when leaving a note where your hunting buddy would find it was the closest thing we had to a text.

I’m not sure there has been a technology since the invention of the rifled barrel that has impacted hunting more than cellular communication. It’s as if the once mysterious world of hunters and hunting has suddenly been uncloaked, and anyone and everyone can look through the port holes of our phones and see what used to be a very private affair.

The smart phone of course is not the only piece of technology that hunters have fallen in love with. High Definition cameras have made hunting video as common as dirt, and trail cams are like having a private detective snooping on your significant other. So even if you don’t like these kind of things you’d better get used to them because they’re here to stay.

In fact, if you want to be part of a local online community where you can post your pictures, upload your videos, and share your stories check out . Roanoke local and hunting enthusiast Jeff Phillips is mastermind behind this site and he has done a great job with it, so check it out. But not while your hunting.

Jeff Ell is pretty good at catching, killing, picking, and growing things to eat. He regularly finds bemusement in the outdoors and enjoys telling his stories to anyone who will listen. Jeff’s the author of Ruth Uncensored, blogs at and can be contacted via Facebook or smoke signal.