The last rays of sunlight were falling on the crops ahead of me and the chill of the evening was settling upon my back and down my neck. Waking me from my trance, in the corner of my eye I glimpsed the tell tale flash of white that signaled my brain into overdrive. The old wary doe quickly stepped out from the timber and took a B-line for the edge of the corn. Within seconds I got into position, drew back, stopped the doe in her tracks and released. Big doe down.
Perfect hunt, right? Wrong…I forgot to turn on the camera! And so it goes when you try to film your hunts. Chasing down mature whitetails with a bow is quite a challenge in itself, but throw a camera in the mix and you have a whole new ball game. But despite the inherent challenges, I’ve come to really enjoy this new aspect of the hunt and I can guarantee there will be a camera in my tree for many years to come. Last year was my first year filming my hunts and there were plenty of highs and lows. But coming into 2011, I’ve certainly learned a thing or two. So for those of you that are looking to try filming your hunts for the first time this year, here are a few simple lessons I learned in my “rookie season” with a camera.
1. Bring A Camera Man/Woman: Yes, you can self film hunts and I certainly did it many times this year. But having a camera man or woman will greatly improve your hunting experience and footage quality. It’s just too difficult to consistently capture all the shots you need to tell a complete story by yourself and still effectively hunt. As my first example showed, it’s easy to lose track of properly filming and hunting when you try to do it all yourself. That being said, if self filming is your only option, it can still be done!
2. Hang Your Camera Arm On Your Strong Side: This seems pretty simple, but for some reason I didn’t do it consistently until late in the season. If you’re self filming, make sure you hang your camera arm on your strong side. That way if you’re getting ready for a shot you can hold your bow in your left hand (in my case) and then manipulate the camera with your right hand until it’s time to clip on.
3. Get A Camera With Easy To Control Manual Focus: The biggest complaint I had with my camera this year was that it had a small manual focus knob, rather than the typical manual focus ring. It made easy adjustment of my focus nearly impossible during hunting situations. Manual focus is a key element to capturing high quality footage when hunting and moving forward I’ll be looking at this as a key factor in any camera purchase. I’d also recommend getting a zoom/focus controller for your camera arm or tripod. This allows you to control zoom and focus from a remote control on your camera arm.
4. Film Everything: If you’re trying to edit together short videos that showcase your hunt, you’ll find that it’s all the random clips that really bring your video to life. Getting a kill shot obviously is important, but the shot of the little red squirrel, beautiful sunset or rustling leaves is what will bring you back to that moment. And isn’t that why we watch hunting videos in the first place?
5. Arrive Early To Your Stand: I quickly learned that it takes a lot more time to get ready in your stand when camera gear enters the equation! This is especially true if you’re bringing a camera man along. I usually aimed to get into the tree 30-60 minutes earlier than usual, in order to comfortably get all of my camera gear set.
6. Prepare For The Rain: I did not have a good solution for filming in the rain this year and it hurt me when it came to getting good footage. I had a lot of good encounters on rainy days and unfortunately I did not capture much of it on film. I know some people use actual rain covers for their cameras or umbrellas to keep them dry. Whatever option you choose, make sure you have a good way to film in the rain and keep your camera dry. If you know anything about mature bucks, you know that they like to move on those nasty weather days. So make sure you have a viable way to capture those big bucks on film!
Now I know these aren’t revolutionary new tips for filming award winning footage, but hopefully a thing or two I learned in my first season with a camera can help you get started. That being said, I also know that many of you in the Wired To Hunt Nation do in fact have a lot of filming experience. So if you have any other good tips, please share them in the comments!