A Virginia man was arrested and charged with illegally killing three deer last fall, including a renowned buck called “Hollywood.” For years the 29-point non-typical lived in and around Hollywood Cemetery in the city limits of Richmond, and was watched and enjoyed by many people. “The Hollywood Buck was well-known for its large and distinctive antlers, making it easily identifiable,” the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources said in a press release.

Last October in western New York, a man created a fake Facebook profile and posed as a female wildlife photographer. He contacted other outdoor camera buffs around Tonawanda Township to find out where the big bucks lived. Then, disguised as hikers, the man and an accomplice brazenly walked into urban areas closed to hunting. They killed one big buck and wounded another. Arresting officers said the poachers hid their compact bows in backpacks and arrows in walking sticks.

These are two of the more egregious wildlife crimes I heard about last season, both linked directly to social media.

The main reason people poach deer, especially big deer, is ego. No better example that the illegal killing of the Hollywood Buck in Virginia. One day last December, the suspect shared photos of himself with the giant on a local hunting Facebook page, claiming he harvested the deer with a muzzleloader in Prince Edward County, some 60 miles from the Richmond cemetery. Locals on Facebook, non-hunters and hunters alike, immediately recognized Hollywood and flooded law enforcement with calls and tips, leading to the investigation and subsequent arrest.

This sad case highlights the bad and the good of social media with regard to poaching. Did the instant gratification the guy got from posting with the giant on Facebook play a role in the crime? I have no doubt. But the good: Within minutes of seeing the post, dozens of well-minded people alerted authorities and sealed the egotistical poacher’s fate.

Poachers are Stupid

Had that Virginia outlaw never posted a picture of Hollywood he might have gotten away with it, at least for a while. In addition to having big mouths and big egos, poachers are not very smart.

I’m sure the New York scumbags who posed as photographers on Facebook and then masked as hikers thought they were quite clever, but they were actually quite ignorant. Local photographers and homeowners who enjoy watching wildlife know the land and the resident big deer well. Strangers posting for information on the whereabouts of big bucks undoubtedly raised red flags, not only with the public but with law enforcement officials that monitor all the social media platforms for potential crimes.

An officer who worked the New Work crime confirmed that social media impacts how poachers locate big deer today. Millions of good people, hunters and non-hunters alike, post a photo of a huge whitetail for friends to enjoy. Poachers lurking online figure out where the deer is and hatch their next nefarious plan.

Most troubling, the investigation of the New York crime uncovered a larger scheme, one that is likely occurring in all states. Reviewing the lead poacher’s social posts and text messages, wardens found evidence that the outlaws conspired with a large network of poachers to scour Facebook and Instagram hunting and photography pages, looking for big deer that are visible and easy to kill in parks and other areas where hunting is not permitted.

Final Word

My message to poachers. Get a life, go straight and stop stealing our deer. If your ego won’t let you do that, post at your own peril. You think you’re smart, but hundreds of right-minded people will see your bogus post and flood law enforcement with tips. You will get busted, and that’s one of the good things about social media.