So you thought you’d done a good job keeping your prime hunting spots top secret even from most of your closest buddies. Heck, season after season you’ve bagged a trophy so what’s there to worry about now? Except then on occasion, you see another truck parked around “your” area, then another and another. What’s going on? A random hunter invasion or something else?
Well if you took pictures near the kill site, texted or made a phone call. Oops, you’ve marked the location of your honey hole with metadata.
Metadata is information that includes GPS coordinates, information about communications you send and receive, the type of device used, email subject lines, search terms and the websites you visit. It exposes your reading and viewing habits. If you carry your cell phone to a gun range- Don’t worry about any of the firearm databases; you have just disclosed to anyone in the world who understands metadata that you are probably a gun owner. As a matter of fact, if someone cares to track you, metadata can construct a map of your daily movements.
Analyzing metadata requires specialized computer skills right?
Not really, all you need is a computer program with the right algorithms; Google has apps for that which are available for free. Digital pictures contain the GPS coordinates of where and when they were taken, so do text messages and emails. You won’t find GPS coordinates listed as such because they are contained in the code, so you need to run a program to sort them out. With this program you can check out all the vanity pictures posted online, sent by email or texted.
Very soon there will be a new easy to use deer scouting app advertised by some large hunting company that will search the trophy deer picture for its GPS coordinates. Someone somewhere is working on that app marketing right now. In the meantime with an understanding of metadata analyzing and the right Google app, anyone can find the GPS coordinates of a picture taken with smartphones and the new digital cameras including trail cameras.
Metadata is one of the reasons why charlie does not carry a smartphone hunting, and his camera is old with no GPS capabilities.
Ways to avoid having your hunting location metadata-ed
- Do not take a smartphone hunting
- Take your vanity pictures in locations where you do not care about disclosure
- Do not use your phone as a GPS rather use a GPS that broadcasts no identifying information
- Do not text or send emails from your hunting spots
Of course, the best-looking pictures are those taken in the field shortly after the game is killed.
How to “scrub” your photo for online use:
Open the photo in one program and open another new file, use a crop box tool to select the open photo displayed on your screen. Paste it into the other empty file then rename it and save. The only metadata it should have now is the file creation date, file type, and size.