By: Jerald Kopp
It had happened so many times. I heard the shot and had a good feeling a buck was down. I stayed put for a while but finally exited my stand and made my way back to camp to see. When I arrived, the sight of the awesome buck on the ground was exceeded only by the two guys laying in the weeds flat on their sides. Clicking pictures and barking out orders, it was quite a scene. “Tilt his head to the right”, “Move your hand, you’re blocking his brow tines!” The proud hunter was elated but obviously getting tired.
Admittedly, deer photos are of much higher quality these days. Smartphones and tablets are armed with great cameras and there are many known tricks to getting quality grip and grin images; finding a quality background setting, using light to your advantage, and capturing them from eye level or below. Then of course there’s the age-old trick of holding it out in front as much as possible to magically grow the antlers. This one bothers some hunters though I don’t really see why.
I prescribe to these and other methods. In fact, I’m often one of those guys laying on the ground with iPhones in hand. Still, at times it seems something is amiss. Sometimes I’m taken back to simpler times when deer pictures didn’t have to be of hunting magazine quality. Sure, technology advances account for most of it, but I miss the pictures that were less scripted; more in-the-moment. There is no better example than the truck bed grip and grin.
While some hunters still take them, the popular pose has been seemingly lost in the shuffle. Full disclosure, I don’t prescribe to the method anymore either. It’s lost its popularity largely because, to many, it’s deemed inappropriate. Except for extreme examples, this is lost on me.
So, you've shot a nice buck. You want to preserve memories, and in your haste, you click off a couple of shots of the deer on the back of your truck or ATV. Here’s another scenario; you’ve got a buck on the ground and your buddy picks you up and you both hoist it into the bed. As you admire the antlers, your friend says, “get on up there, let’s get another shot”. And finally, if you’re like me, you sometimes hunt alone. In this case, sometimes the best option is a truck pose. These situations sound pretty harmless, right?
Not so fast my friend. In today’s hunting culture, this imagery is often taboo. As such, truck bed deer shots nearly always make the many lists of “no-no’s” when it comes to grip and grins and other pictures of downed deer. I think it’s sad. Others include don’t show too much blood, cut the tongue out first, get low to ground, silhouette the antlers, and for Pete’s sake, move that beer can!
Of Hunting Memories and Tradition
There are many aspects of the deer hunting tradition including deer camp, buck poles, firepits, and big buck contests. These are just a few of the great images that have been part of the niche for many decades.
I recently thumbed through some of my grandfather’s old hunting photos and realized that they still resonate with me today. What the old images lacked in quality, they compensated with character and authenticity. And most of them featured either a deer or deer with a hunter on the back of a pickup or (gasp) the hood of a car. Talk about nostalgia. Sure, there was a little blood and an occasional dangling tongue, but usually not too much. It was a common and convenient pose.
Somehow, I think that even had they known some of the tricks we use today, they still would have used the tailgate method. I guess there was just something good about standing up next to the head and antlers or jumping up there for a quick shot or two.
From where I sit, you can add the truck bed deer pose to the list of things that symbolize the deer hunting tradition.
Hunter and Country Singer, George Strait celebrating
the harvest with a cold beer
The Hunting PR Battle and Toleration
I get it. With hunting numbers down and an ever-present anti-hunting contingent, it’s always a great idea to put our best foot forward – but at what expense? At some point, there is a delicate balance between hunters being overtly politically correct and proudly celebrating their love of hunting. Shouldn’t adults be able to separate trivial from acute infractions?
Should a truck bed and a little blood be accepted as a tipping point?
Serious Deer Hunters
Maybe we’ve gotten too sensitive. Are we overvaluing perception? Perhaps only the extreme anti-hunters consider things such as tailgate deer poses as uber-offensive. I tend to think that most folks don’t think about it as much as many might think. After all, they’re already accustomed to seeing dead deer on highway shoulders and in ditches. And it’s often gruesome, complete with blood, guts, and bloating. Remember that the fanatical antis aren’t likely to be swayed anyway.
Maybe we’ve become too serious as a hunting community by putting perception ahead of tradition. Maybe we ought to reserve the term serious deer hunters for those that are intense about hunting preparation, conservation, and good old-fashioned camaraderie; not those caving to over-the-top hunting etiquette.
Meeting in the Middle
There is a middle ground here. Knowing what we know now and the hunting culture we live in, some compromises are in order regarding the images we portray through hunting.
Consider using some of the tricks we can employ today to capture the moment and appreciation for the animal.
· Get some shots in the habitat and terrain the deer was hunted. When you do, take some time to consider background and lighting.
· Clean the animal (blood around deer’s mouth, blood splatter at wound). Remove the deer’s tongue or tuck it back in its mouth.
· Take photos from a low angle
· Hold the antlers near the bases to avoid covering them.
· Leave space around the subjects and frame the hunter and their deer. You can always crop to your liking later.
Common well-executed ground pose
And if you want a truck bed pose, go for it! It’s your moment. Just consider taking a couple of steps toward making it the best it can be. Take a couple of minutes to clear the bed and bedrails of cans and debris. At least get part or all of them out of the frame. Also, you can execute some of the effective tactics used on the ground in the truck bed.
Your hunting photos have a digital footprint and will likely end up on social media and in family scrapbooks – just like the ones many of us have had the privilege of reminiscing over from time to time. Nevertheless, capturing the moment in the back of a truck doesn’t have to be viewed as lazy or slovenly. And just because you do so doesn’t mean you lack humility for the animal or event.
You don’t have to abandon the truck bed deer pose. If executed well, it can celebrate a special part of our hunting tradition and legacy – today. I’m considering reverting to it this coming season. After all, it’s getting harder and harder to get up off the ground.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.