So you want to get some camera gear and start filming hunts? Going back about ten years ago, I also decided to pursue filming in the woods. I had an interest in videography before I decided to do this, so it was only a matter of time before I took a camera to the woods. To my surprise, I found that filming hunts can have a steep learning curve, and the only way to climb that learning curve was by experience. In this article, we will look at some tips and tactics of the trade to give you a beginners guide to self filming hunts.
I thought it would be best to start this article out by covering what is probably the most important consideration for most people, cost.
In terms of the amount you could spend on filming equipment for hunting, the sky is the limit. On the high end, you could spend 10,000 to 20,000 dollars on gear.
Now, I’m assuming the vast majority of people reading this article don’t have that many frogskins just laying around to blow on camera gear, don’t worry because there are cheaper alternatives, like bow hunting gear or gear for most hobbies and sports, it’s still not going to be cheap.
When it comes to technological equipment like video cameras, microphones, and the like, you get what you pay for, and going the most inexpensive route will likely deliver grainy, blurry, terrible video footage and audio.
From a fiscally conservative standpoint, for a decent hunting package with excellent quality audio, quality primary camera, maybe some GoPro type cameras for different angles, audio equipment, tree camera arms, and other assorted equipment and gear, and editing software, I would estimate the costs being anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 dollars for a complete package.
You can decide to go much cheaper and have only a $500 camera on a tree arm, your final product may not be the best, but you’re still filming at the end of the day.
Grunt, Snort-Wheeze, and Rattle this to your buddies!
We will have a separate article going over gear specifics, including a more in-depth look at cost ranges per type of equipment.
So you have a camera, the next step is to learn the ins and outs of the camera, how it functions, what every button does. Iris adjustments depending on the lighting, focus, formatting, audio adjustments, and other critical camera operations.
Go in your backyard and practice taking “B-roll” footage, zoom in on a crooked branch, a bee on a flower, and practice, practice, practice. This practice will pay off when it comes to capturing actual footage, as your familiarization will translate to great footage.
Crisp and sharp video footage is great and all, but audio is without a doubt the most important thing with video. How many times have you watched a video on youtube that had garbage audio? I can’t tell you how many times I have watched a video for about 30 seconds with really bad audio and simply stopped.
There are two major types of equipment you need for good audio, a shotgun microphone or something similar, and if you intend on talking further away from your camera, a wireless microphone and transmitter, with the clip mic attached to your shirt or jacket.
“Dead cats” or the furry things that go over the microphones are critical as well, we film outside, and these will cancel out wind to a great extrent, improving audio quality and the video overall.
Now, having a camera in your tree stand reduces your stealthy capabilities. When you start filming hunts it’s important to consider this extra movement, you will be swiveling the camera around to film approaching deer, or deer in close proximity to your location.
Setting up stands in trees with extra cover is a good thing to consider when filming, but its a bit of a double bladed sword so to speak. Extra cover while providing concealment can also block a cameras view of that trophy buck when the shot presents itself, what the hunter see’s and what the camera see’s are two different things.
This is less of a concern when it comes to ground blinds, both with seeing the deer, and when it comes to concealing movement.
Just like anything you are hunting, make sure your movements are slow and at opportune times, this is doubly important when filming as your are going to be making twice the movement.
Tree stand setups for filming is also a critical component to filming hunts. If you are solo-filming you can get away with a stand setup that has worked for you in the past for most situations, as the camera and arm are simply next to you.
For setups with a hunter and a cameraman, you need to find a tree that is suitable to having two hang-on trees stands or climbers. Typically the camera operator sits higher above the cameraman slightly and off at an angle from the hunter, with the base of the camera stand just above the head of the hunter, or just above the seat of the hunters stand.
This is all situational and depends on the area, trees available, and branch make up of a tree. In some cases using two separate trees in very close proximity to each other is the best option, but as mentioned earlier, what the hunter and camera man can see might be two different things, brush or a tree can obstruct a clear view of a deer for the camera, while the hunter has a clear shot, and there is no way to communicate this to the hunter while this is happening in most cases.
When hunting fields or open areas the two tree option is less of an issue, just remember if your trees are spread far apart a wireless microphone is crucial to pick up any dialogue being spoken by the hunter.
You will be very surprised how much footage it takes to get a 30 minute “episode”. Back when I had an active youtube channel dedicated to hunting and fishing this is something that became very obvious early on.
Film woodpeckers pecking a dead birch tree, film squirrels chasing each other, film the sunrise, film yourself cutting shooting lanes or planting food plots, film yourself walking to your standing and climbing up.
All these clips of footage add up to tell the broader story, and much of it you actually won’t use. For example, I filmed extensively every single time I hit the woods from the beginning of pre-rut to the late season in December before shooting a buck on film with a bow. I saved tons of footage throughout that time, does hanging around my stand, rattling in buck after buck, groups of turkeys walking through the woods, scenic shots, close-ups, you name it. After boiling it all down and editing the footage from that season including the buck harvest I had a 20 minute video, derived from hours of footage.
Have a plan for every outing you plan to film, do an introduction, film B-roll footage like walking to your stand, talk some more when you get there. Doing this on every hunt ensures that you get the footage needed when the day comes you actually film a harvest.
Doing this everytime makes it seem more genuine, and when you do it yourself you will begin to notice while watching professional hunting videos when they add in “fake” footage, or footage made after they actually shot the deer of moments that are supposed to be “before they shot the deer”.
My personal favorite to laugh at is the fake excitement and joy experienced of finding the trophy buck after they have already found it and decided to film it as if they haven’t. Heck, I have even watched professional hunting shows where they already had foot tracks leading up to the deer in the snow while filming the tracking, because they already found the deer. Don’t be like those guys, be genuine.
While its important to have some sort of script and guideline its also important to follow some of those script parts loosely. You want your videos to stand out, and not be a cookie cutter “run of the mill” video.
Film unique and raw footage and don’t delete it if it isn’t up to a “industry standard” so to speak, make it as real and genuine as possible, thats what people really want to see, not scripted fake scenes.
Starting out filming hunts can be daunting, and making quality footage is hard. Making incredible videos won’t happen overnight, it’s going to take time and effort to create quality videos. If you keep up and dedicate this time and effort towards it you will discover your own tricks and more importantly your unique filming style and editing that over time will help you stand out amongst the crowd.
Check out our entire Whitetail 101 Content Here.