How to Capture Hunting Memories on Camera
October 07, 2018
Try these tips to capture great hunting memories on camera.
As if killing a big whitetail or longbeard isn’t hard enough, why not complicate matters and try to capture it on film? The answer is simple: Memories.
There is no better way to relive your favorite hunting moments than to have the footage — or as they said in the old days, tape — to watch at your leisure. It’s a great way to share your experience and prove the events took place as they did, so no one can question your story.
At least that’s why I got into it.
I was filming before it was cool, 17 years ago to be precise. To this day, I’ve mostly been the cameraman, but I’ve managed a couple kills with me behind the bow or gun. But even then I was doing it solo. (T.A. Harrison)
Filming a hunt by yourself takes commitment. You almost need to be a glutton for punishment because carrying all that gear around takes work. Get a good backpack that allows for a substantial load. But when it all comes together, the results are worth the effort. (Photo by T.A. Harrison)
Most hunts are easiest captured with a dedicated cameraman who has the right gear to produce clear, crisp footage. But the skill a good hunting cameraman must have is experience in the woods. An inexperienced producer will ruin a hunt before it even starts.The best cameramen are hunters first.
Probably the biggest hurdle to get over isn’t what you might think; sure it’s tough to hunt and kill mature animals. It’s tough to battle the elements, and succeed. But the toughest part of the game is finding a cameraman who is willing to stick by you, and remain capable to get the shot when the moment of truth presents itself.
Everybody wants to be filmed, but few hunters actually want to run the camera.
I wanted to run the camera, and I love it. It taught me the ins and outs of being a dependable cameraman, and I built a passion for creating art from behind the lens. And it made me a better hunter.
In recent years I’ve spent a great deal of time filming my hunts by myself. And I’ve had a lot of fun along the way.
If you’re lacking a cameraman and want to film your hunts, here are a few tips to getting it done successfully. Solo.
Tree Or Shooting House?
Successful filming begins with the right stand or shooting house. Of course, the perfect spot rarely exists — but by staying flexible and being creative you can make about anything work.
Consider which side you shoot from, right- or left-handed, and you’ll want the camera positioned on that side.If you’re in a treestand, you’ll obviously need some sort of camera arm that attaches to the tree. Rig it about chest high. I know that sounds tight but trust me, you’ll want it close and easily accessible.
Keeping your gear organized is absolutely critical to being successful. Have enough hooks to hang your pack, extra clothes, but a good camera arm and bow holder can mean the difference in success and failure. (Photo by T.A. Harrison)
The same is true in a shooting house. Keep the camera close, but mounted atop a tripod.
The goal is to anticipate where the movement will come from, and keep the camera positioned to capture the animal’s approach. All too often, deer and turkeys will seemingly appear from nowhere, and you’ll likely be out of position.
If the camera is already in position, that’s one less thing you have to maneuver into place. Pick treestands and arrange the interior of your shooting house to accommodate that. That’s the first step to successfully filming your own hunt.The key is to stay organized.
Get a quality camera arm. If you’re serious, be willing to spend the money — it’ll be worth every penny.
Here’s what I use: Fourth Arrow and a Muddy camera arms. And I have each topped with a Manfrotto fluid head.
For a tripod in a shooting house, here’s my choice. My camera of choice is a Canon XH30.
Any digital camera with capable zoom will work. Make sure your camera has a mic adapter for a wireless and a shotgun mic, plus having a LANC port for a remote will come in very handy.
Hunting from a shooting house is really the most ideal scenario. You are generally far enough away from where the deer will appear allowing the hunter to get away with a little movement. Set the camera on your strong side, and keep it at the ready. (Photo by T.A. Harrison)
But one of the most important pieces of equipment I’ve added to my arsenal is a Varizoom VZ-Stealth Zoom hand control. This thing allows camera operation at your fingertips without having to make obvious motions, which is critical especially if you get caught off guard. It runs via the LANC port.
I also like to take a GoPro or two for additional angles and perspectives.
I’ll be honest, I have a sizable investment in my camera gear, but I’ve operated on much less expensive equipment for a very long time — and it worked fine. It makes you appreciate quality when you can afford it.In other words, use what you can get ahold of. If you’re filming for personal documentation and entertainment, there’s no need for a multi-thousand-dollar investment. You can literally get into a quality camera, tripod and tree arm for $500-$600 easily.
Perhaps less if you get creative.
The goal of filming a hunt is to tell the story. As a video-viewing fanatic, I like to see the ride or walk in; I want to hear about why the hunter is hunting where he or she is; I want to experience the hunt start to finish.
There is a lot of fulfillment that is attained when you capture a hunt on film. Doing it by yourself is an accomplishment worth being proud of. Stay at it, there is a lot to learn but time in the woods running a camera will only teach you more about the sport. It’s a lot of fun. (Photo by T.A. Harrison)
That might mean a selfie stick of some sort.
Once in your stand or shooting house, start with an interview; explain your strategy, discuss the conditions and anticipations. As the hunt progresses, film encounters with any deer or other critters that show up. Share your thoughts mid-hunt and build the drama.
Do this even if you don’t kill. It’s good practice and can provide a running record of your trips afield once you do eventually connect on your target buck or turk. You’ll be glad you have it.
As your opportunity approaches, get the camera positioned in anticipation of the shot. If you can capture it all and still get an ethical shot off, that’s great. I’d suggest backing out on the zoom so the camera sees the animal entirely with room for it to move through the field of view while you prepare to pull the trigger.
Making a good shot is of the utmost importance, and again if you’re serious about filming, it’s better to let an animal walk if you can’t make the shot happen on film. That’ll be a game-time decision, but it’s worth considering.
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Once you’ve made your shot, zoom the camera all the way out and get your reaction on film — this is the best part in my mind. From that point, film the recovery, and then wrap it up with a final interview over your kill. Recount the experience start to finish, then edit as you see fit.
You really can’t have too much footage.
Lots of b-roll is important to add drama and effect to the hunt, but avoid staged scenes. There’s no way to pull them off without ruining the hunt. Film as much as you can, and build your story line from there.
This is when a GoPro comes in very handy.
Commit To It
In my mind it’s a sad deal when someone has committed to filming, either as the hunter or cameraman, and the hunter shoots an animal off film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s ultimately your decision. I’ve been faced with that situation and shot off camera, and I’ve regretted it.
If you’re going to commit, then commit to the filming game until your tags and hard drives are filled. Having hard evidence of those memories to be shared and bragged about is what makes filming so much fun.Especially if you can pull it off all by yourself.
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