One Nation, Under God

The secret is already out

I recently read an article questioning the ethics of journalists who write about the wonders of Yellowstone National Park.

Fearing the park is being loved to death, the author wrote that stories extolling the wonders of Yellowstone might do more harm than good, implying that keeping secret the “Top ten day hikes in the Park,” or the “Most picturesque picnic areas,” could somehow ease crowding and maybe save the place.

I disagree. The secret is already out. Nobody stumbles upon Yellowstone and thinks to themselves: “What a quaint little place. We should keep this quiet.”

People want to share. Most people do anyway.

I have a friend, however, who has no interest in sharing. He keeps his favorite haunts to himself, never posting photos on social media of his exploits, rarely taking others along when he goes hunting or fishing, and never telling anyone where he went.

We were hunting together a few years ago on a piece of private property on which we had been granted exclusive rights. He shot a big mule deer buck there but has yet to post a picture or hang the horns on the wall.

He did let me take a photo after first making sure the background offered no clues to where we were.

Once, following a successful fishing trip to a prairie pothole, he “accidently” backed over a sign pointing the way at a fork in the road.

“That’s too bad.” He said glumly. “Now no one will know where to go.”

I’ve written a few stories about Yellowstone. I was even interviewed for a book about fly fishing in the park, and divulged my favorite fishing spot. I didn’t see how it could matter. No one, it seems, fishes there anymore.

My friend’s reticence, though, has begun to rub off on me. I turned down a couple of free-lance assignments a few years back after realizing the pittance I would be paid wasn’t worth what I would lose. The editor of Montana Outdoors had asked me to do a story on pond fishing in this part of the state, and another on good pheasant hunting spots for beginners.

He might as well have asked me to publish my social security number or the combination to my gun safe. It wasn’t going to happen.

Surely there are budding outdoor writers who wouldn’t hesitate to take those assignments. My bud, however, has long since withered, and I’d prefer to keep a few things to myself.

Parker Heinlein is at [email protected]


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