Want to know how to film your hunts and actually make it look like you know what you’re doing?
Jackie Bushman got his own show and became famous in the hunting world for his ability to shoot stunningly intense and innately watchable footage of his hunts. And while achieving the same level of fame probably isn’t in the cards for most of us, modern technology has made it possible for you to create professional grade footage of your own hunts.
If you just want to capture the moment for yourself, you could consider just getting an mobile device mount for your bow and filming your next buck harvest on your iPhone.
However, if you want other people to be able to watch and enjoy your stuff – or if you are interested in sending your footage off to a hunting show for nationwide broadcast – you are going to need it to look and sound better than an amateurish cellphone recording.
To start learning how to film your hunts like a pro, follow the five steps that follow. Who knows, next time someone writes a piece like this, they could be referencing your name instead of Jackie Bushman’s!
View the slideshow for the five steps.
1. Choose the right camera and equipment
Half the battle in any type of photography is finding the right equipment, and this is especially true if you are filming video. While a world class photographer can probably still get world class photos out of an iPhone, not even the best video artists in the world can do much with the shaky quality and tinny sound of a cellphone recording. In other words, if you want the best hunting videos, you are going to have to invest in the best as well.
The first and most obvious investment is the camera itself. While many first-time hunting archivists figure that smaller cameras, like a GoPro, are better for capturing a hunt – since they’re easier to transport and can be mounted on a bow or a rifle – that isn’t actually the case.
Instead, you want a camera that is big enough to provide you with a sizable viewing screen. You need to be sure at all times that your camera is focusing on what you want it to be focusing on, and that means keeping an eye on the view screen. Bigger cameras are also easier to control with a camera arm, which is the other piece of equipment you will need (we will discuss this item more in the coming slides).
Which camera you choose is up to you. Many hunters like to buy from Campbell Outdoor, a company that specializes in designing cameras just for this very purpose. Other hunters function just fine with a Canon or Nikon. Just pick a camera that has a big and clear view screen and that can be mounted on a camera arm. Longer battery life is also a plus.
2. Prepare the filming site
When you go to set up your hunting spot, you trim sight lines so that you can have clear shots at any deer that wander past. If you a going to film your hunts, you are going to need to be more thorough about trimming both filming lines and shooting lines. For one thing, your camera will have a slightly different perspective on the action than you will. For another, the most exciting hunting footage shows a deer or other game on a slow and agonizing approach, unaware of what is about to take place. This tension is a huge part of what TV shows are looking for when they choose to put amateur submission videos on the air, and you need to have it in your video.
On a regular hunt, it might be fine if the deer wanders into view and then gets shot two seconds later. In a video, we want to see the prey for considerably longer before it falls. Otherwise, we don’t care much about the harvest. Trimming filming lines and just generally preparing your area for a good shot – while also keeping yourself covered and out of sight – is one of the biggest challenges of learning how to film your hunt, but will also result in the best videos.
3. Choose the proper camera setup
Once you have prepared the hunting site, get to work setting up your camera. Bring it into the field in a padded and secure backpack, and do your best to not drop it from a tree. The proper camera setup is performed using a camera arm, which can be mounted to the same tree you are using to support your stand and manipulated to get the optimal angle for video footage. Mounting arms are great because they can hold the camera steady when necessary (like when you are taking your shot at a deer), but can also be easily moved around by the hunter to track a deer’s movement through the woods.
Optimal camera setup positions will vary slightly depending on the hunter. You want to be able to comfortably aim and shoot your bow or rifle without the camera or the arm getting in the way. If you bump the camera arm, it will throw the angle out of whack and ruin your entire video. On the other hand, if the camera is obstructing your view or forcing you to alter your stance, then the only video footage you are going to get is of your bullet or arrow missing its mark and sending the deer bolting into the woods. The camera should be close enough that you can watch the video screen at all times, but leaving you enough room to take a comfortable shot.
4. Practice with the camera
If you are serious about filming your hunts, then you are probably confident enough in your skills as a hunter that aiming and shooting your weapon is more or less second nature. However, you still need to do some practice in the field before you actually start filming your hunts, and that practice should involve the camera and its arm.
Visualize a buck’s approach through the trees, actually plotting out a scenario in your mind for how a deer might wander past your tree stand. Then track that imaginary path using the camera, working to keep your imaginary deer in the shot at all times while also practicing a steady movement of the camera arm. To end your shot, have a target set up that you can shoot at. This way, you can practice switching from controlling the camera arm to aiming and shooting your weapon.
5. Capture the whole experience
The next step, of course, is to seal the deal. Use the camera in an actual hunting scenario and capture some killer footage of your next buck harvest. However, make sure that the harvest isn’t the only part of the hunt you are filming. The best hunting videos have a narrative. They introduce the hunter (you) and give viewers a chance to get to know you. They provide shots of the walk through the woods, the climbing of the treestand, and the waiting game. With all of these components in place, the arrival of the deer and the ultimate harvest feels like more of a payoff.