Editorial-Opinion July 2024

A little curiosity, with a dose of skepticism.

Daryl Kirby | June 30, 2024

A curious mind, sprinkled with a touch of skepticism, serves a person well. It’s how we sort fact from fallacy, and clarify the gray areas between.

Several years ago you might have seen an email or text of an aerial photo showing a gator swimming across the surface of Lake Allatoona with a grown deer in its jaws. The next email put the gator in Lanier. The next one Oconee.

Sportsmen seem to be particularly fond of sharing these types of sensational images. Another example that still makes the rounds more than 10 years after it was taken is a trail-camera image of a cougar dragging a dead buck past a feeder. I can’t tell you how many times GON’s been contacted about it—usually with a claim it was taken somewhere in Georgia. The photo actually belonged to Chet Markgraf, captured from a trail-camera at his Texas ranch. I talked to Chet back when this picture first started making the rounds. He said he never intended for his picture to hit the internet, much less with fake details.

“My son came home from college, and my wife showed him a printout of the picture, and he took it back to college and put it on the refrigerator,” Chet told GON. “His roommate came home, scanned it and sent it to one friend.”

From there, it spread like crazy, and somewhere along the line people began to add “details” about the picture—Macon County, Floyd County, etc. And it still makes the rounds today.

Remember the dramatic photos in 2012 of a big, mature buck in velvet taken down by coyotes? This was one of the most famous outdoor-related emails to go viral—and include wrong info. “Details” were added or changed, like where the photos were taken. As with the photo of the cougar dragging a deer, GON tracked down the hunter who got the coyote photos on his trail camera and spoke to him directly.

Leave it to a little backwoods magazine from Georgia to do some actual fact-checking.

The hunter’s name was Marlin Smith. The photos were taken on a 4,800-acre timber company hunting lease in southeast Oklahoma. They were not taken in a county in Georgia, as forwarded emails and texts claimed. The photos were, however, quite real, despite the claims of keyboard experts who said there was no way a mature buck could get taken down by coyotes.

The series of photos would have been dramatic if the coyotes had killed a fawn in front of the camera. But this was a buck, a very large buck. Twelve years ago, hunters were just coming to grips with the reality that coyotes kill lots of fawns—not just mice and rabbits, as they’d been told. And we were still told that coyotes didn’t fool with adult deer.

The pictures told a different story. However, even with photo evidence, there were skeptics, like these comments posted at GON’s forum (

• “Probably a penned up stud buck at a deer farm. Coyotes got in and he could not get out.”

• “I ain’t buying it, not enough pics for me to believe this buck stood there for two hours, and some pics are of different sizes… notice log larger at bottom of one pic? Hey I think I see BIG FOOT in there, too.”

The coyote attack on the buck was prolonged—hours and hours—and Marlin’s trail-camera got more than 200 photos. You can view the entire series of images at

I love a little skepticism, especially when it concerns something received in an email or on the internet, but in this case the skeptics were wrong. That’s when curiosity pairs well. We love getting to the bottom of a story. Facts are facts. We might not always like them, but there’s no gray area when something did, in fact, happen.

If you pay to attention to the news and politics right now, you’ve probably heard mention of a quote from George Orwell’s book “1984.”

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

Hearing that quote from “1984” is what led to these thoughts of skepticism and curiosity—and sorting out facts.

I pray the amount of bad information spread today doesn’t cloud the credibility of those dedicated to providing accurate information… facts.

The hard-working folks at a little backwoods magazine strive for it every day.

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