Cameras never lie. If you don’t know how to edit, the camera will not lie.
I have spent a lot of time out in the woods using a video camera. Sometimes I was there to record someone else filling a tag for a particular critter. Sometimes I was the one behind the lens and worked with the cameraman to produce something people would enjoy.
It’s been a solo performance lately. It’s just me, the camera, and whatever else happens. Although the ultimate goal is to capture whatever happens on video is the exact same, the methods of getting there are quite different.
Many hunters won’t have a dedicated photographer on most of their outings. You may be able to team up with a friend from time-to-time. The majority of hunters will self-film. If this is your first time self-filming, take a moment to thank the stars above. It’s a great job.
The technology and equipment available today make it possible to record your hunt on video. I have just enough experience to remember what it was like before micro-sized cameras and other self-filming tools. These are some of the tips and tricks I have learned that may help you. These seven tips and tricks will help you get started.
1. Steady does It
It doesn’t matter if you hunt from a treestand or a tree saddle; you need some kind of stabilization device if your goal is to video your hunt. Camera arms can be used in a treestand to do double duty and can also be used when hunting from the ground. A tripod is required for blinds. If you only plan to use an action camera of the palm-size variety, such as a GoPro, there are a number of other stabilizing devices. These micro-cams will be discussed more later.
No matter what type of camera you use, or how you hunt it, you will need something to hold the camera.
Camera arms are the most common setup. This is because most deer hunters hunt from a treestand. The general rule of thumb is that the more sturdy an arm, the better. Stable video is better. That being said, I am completely out of control with the weight and bulk of a heavy camera arm. I’m currently using an aluminum tubing DIY model. The type of hunting you do should determine the camera arm that you choose. A heavier arm might work if you don’t have to haul gear around for long distances. Consider this if you are a mobile hunter or someone who travels a lot.
The same principles apply to tripods. Stability is greater for tripods that are heavier. Stability is lower for tripods that are lighter. A tripod compact enough to be carried in a bag is what I prefer. Amazon has a wide selection of tripods and they come in a variety of prices.
2. Select a Camera
Canon XA10 is my personal camera that I have used since their inception about 10 years ago. It is small, lightweight, and features-rich. I would upgrade to the XA20 if I wanted to replace the 10-power optical zoom. Can you get bigger cameras? Absolutely. They are not required in most cases.
GoPros are small action cameras that can be used to record self-filmed footage. The GoPro is lightweight and easy to store anywhere. You can capture some amazing footage with a pair of GoPro cameras, one on your head and one on your hat. These cameras do not allow you to zoom in on animals and provide the full-frame view that is so appealing. But for simply capturing your experience, GoPro-style cameras do a great job.
The GoPro can also be mounted with light, lightweight accessories. There are many options for mounting the GoPro: hat clips, screws, chest straps, and even Gorilla-pods.
Professional outlets often use mirrorless or DSLR cameras to record their videos. These interchangeable lenses can create stunning images and allow you to control the look of your video. We’ll save those for the professionals.
Wondering how to record your deer hunt? Head on over to Find All Tech…
3. Focus… and again
This section can be skipped if you are using a GoPro. These cameras have 100 percent autofocus, so you will not be able to control the focal point.
If you have a manual focus camera, which is a great option if your goal is to create the best possible video, then you will need to pay close attention to the focus. This is one of the easiest methods to achieve it without worrying too much about the moment.
Assume you are hunting from a fixed location such as a treestand, or a ground position. Zoom in on the area where you expect to find deer. Pick a leaf, a branch, or anything that will not move. Set your focus with the camera zoomed in to that location. When you move back, you can focus on the spot. Everything from there towards you will now be in focus. It’s easy to see a deer approaching quickly when you do this. You can simply leave the focus where it is and press record.
Use the manual focus setting on your camera if it has one. I cannot even count the times that I missed amazing footage due to auto-focus. The shot was destroyed when the auto-focus system grabbed a branch or tree as the turkey or deer closed in on the turkey.
Manual focus is something I recommend highly. Practice it often and use it. It becomes second nature to turn the focus wheel and take the shot. Be careful with the settings of your autofocus camera. Because you have little background or brush to compete with, field and food plot situations are great.
4. Move it
Camera management is one of the most challenging aspects of filming hunts. You can zoom in on one area, then zoom out to get a wider view, and it will still look good. However, I bet that the more you record, the less you will like this look. You can make great video when you follow the animal, fill the frame and keep it in focus. How do you accomplish that when the buck you are trying to shoot is rapidly approaching? Get your bow ready. Adjust your feet. You will also need to adjust your feet so that the camera can be placed correctly and you can record some footage. Does that sound difficult? It can be. It is possible with practice and planning.
It is important to place the camera in a way that it can be moved easily, and to keep your eye on the viewfinder. I am a right-handed shooter. This means that I will hold my bow in my left hand, and the camera in mine right. This means that I place the camera on my right side. The camera should be mounted slightly higher than my waist. It’s a personal preference, but I prefer to look slightly lower at the camera. The LCD screen on my XA10 can be flipped up and placed flat against the camera, with the screen facing out. This allows me to see the screen clearly without leaning over.
The camera arm works very well and I prefer to use it to move the camera than to use the head. This is not a secret, you just need to practice it and you will develop your own rhythm.
6. Keep track of everything
Captain Obvious has a truth to tell: A big buck won’t be killed every hunt. You’ll be disappointed if your videos are filled with close encounters with large deer and kill shots. Is that to say you can’t make entertaining and interesting videos? No. Tell stories. Tell the story of your hunt even if you only see a few does. Keep track of the hunt. Take a recording of the entire hunt. Your preparation. Take pictures of the wildlife that you encounter. Talk to your camera and have some fun. Hunting is something you love, right? Show others what you love about hunting.
7. Be creative
When I started producing video content, I had no idea what video was. Learning from the work of others was how I learned. They have a style and a focus that inspires creativity.
Super video is not magic. Focus on the subject. Smooth and steady your movements. Be unique in your presentation of the story. It’s as easy as finding a new angle or perspective. Shoot high or shoot low. Move from behind the tree. Or beside it. You can work on effects such as “rack focusing”, where you begin with the foreground and shift to the background.
Unusual angles and lighting conditions will make for the best video. Your eye will improve with practice, just like many other things in video. Do not make the mistake of believing that complex shots are necessary. Simple shots can be amazing.