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Pro Tips for a Better Self-Filmed Hunt

The camera will never lie. Unless you know how edit…then it will.
I have spent quite a bit of time in the woods, with my video camera. Sometimes, I was there just to capture footage of another person trying to tag a particular critter. Sometimes, I was the one on the lens working with a cameraman in order to deliver something people would like to see.

Recently, however, it has been a solo show. All I have is the camera, me and whatever else may be passing by. The end goal of recording whatever happens on video is identical, but the methods to get there are very different.

The majority of hunters don’t need a dedicated cameraman for most outings. While it is possible to work with a buddy, most hunters will not have a dedicated cameraman on all outings. For the most part, every hunter will be self-filming. If self-filming is new for you, take a second to appreciate the blessings of the heavens. You are doing it.

It’s now possible to capture your hunt via video thanks to modern technology. I’ve been around for just long enough to see what life was like before the invention of micro-sized cameras, and specialized tools for self-filming. This means that I know a few tricks and tips that may be of help to you. Here are seven pointers on how to record your deer hunt.

1. It’s Steady!

You will need some type of stabilization device, regardless of whether you are hunting from a blind, a treestand, or a tree-saddle. Camera arms are great for hunting from a treestand, but they can also serve double duty for hunting from the ground. You will need a tripod to use in a blind. You will need a tripod if you plan to use a small action camera such as a GoPro. We’ll be discussing those devices more when we talk about micro-cams later.

Whatever camera you use and whatever your hunting style, you need to have something that can hold the camera.

Camera arms are most popular, as most deer hunters will hunt from a treestand. It is generally believed that the heavier the arm, the more stable it will be. Stable footage is better. However, I don’t want to be carrying a bulky, heavy camera arm around. The DIY aluminum tubing model is my current choice. You should consider your hunting style when choosing the type of camera arm to use. If you don’t need to carry gear for long distances, a heavier arm may work. You should consider this if your hunter is mobile and covers a lot of ground.

Tripods are subject to the same considerations. Stability is better for heavier tripods. Tripods with a smaller footprint are more stable. I prefer a compact tripod that can fit in a small bag. Amazon offers a large selection and a great price range.
2. Pick a Camera

Canon XA10, my personal camera, is one I’ve had since the first release about 10 years back. It’s compact, lightweight, and packed with features. If I had to upgrade I’d choose the XA20, which has a 20-power optical Zoom versus the 10-power zoom. Can you get bigger cameras? Absolutely. In most cases, they aren’t necessary.

GoPros and other small action cams have revolutionized self-filming. A GoPro is light and portable. Two GoPro cameras can be used to capture lots of interesting and cool footage. One camera is mounted on your hat and the other over your shoulder. The only thing you will lose is the ability zoom in on an animal to capture that full-frame view. But for simply capturing your experience, GoPro-style cameras do a great job.

A further advantage of the GoPro is their ability to be mounted and stabilized using very light accessories. You can use the following accessories: Gorilla-pods with screws, hat clips and chest straps.

Many professional outlets use DSLR and mirrorless cameras for video work. These cameras use interchangeable lenses, which allow for a wide range of settings and adjustments. They can produce stunning images and give you total control over how your video looks. These are for professionals only.

3. Focus… and then Focus again

You can skip this section if your GoPro is being used. You’ll only have a limited control over the focal point with these cameras, which are 100 percent automaticfocus.

However, if you use a camera with manual focus (which you must if you want to produce high quality video), you need to pay attention to the focus. It’s easy to do and you don’t have to worry about it as much during the heat of action.

Let’s assume that you hunt from a fixed spot such as a treestand. Zoom in on where you think deer will be found. You can use a leaf or a tree to help you focus. Now, zoom in with the camera on that point. Set your focus. You can now focus by pulling back on the camera and enlarging the view. Everything in that direction will be in focus. It is easy to spot a deer when it approaches. Simply move the focus to where you want it, then hit record.

Use manual focus settings on your camera. I don’t know how many times I have missed great footage because my camera was on auto-focus. The shot was lost when the turkey or deer moved closer.

My best advice regarding manual focus is to practice it frequently and use it. It will become second nature to use the focus wheel and capture the shot. Use autofocus if your camera doesn’t have it. Be intentional about your settings. Ideal for field or food plot situations, as you will have very little background and no brush to compete against.

4. It’s time to move it

Camera management during hunting is one of the most difficult aspects. It’s possible to set your camera in one place, zoom out, and then call it good. You’ll probably hate that look the more you watch. When you can track an animal and fill the frame with footage, great video is possible. You have to do this when you’re close to a buck. Make sure you have your bow ready. Your feet need to be adjusted. Also, you need to position the camera and record footage. Do you find that sounds difficult? It is. However, practice and forethought are key to making it possible.

The key is to place your camera so that you can move it easily. Also, keep your eyes on the viewfinder. I shoot right-handed. That means that my bow will be in my left and my camera in my right. This means that the camera is set up on my right. The camera is mounted slightly higher than I am at my waist. Although this is personal preference, I like to see the camera slightly down. My XA10’s LCD screen can be flipped over and laid flat against my camera with the screen facing in. This makes it possible to view the screen from a distance without needing to lean over.

My camera arm is very smooth and I use it to control the camera instead of trying to use its head. It’s not hard to do, but it takes practice to get the feel and rhythm right.

6. All Things Recordable

Captain Obvious is straight up honest: You don’t always kill a big bucks when you hunt. You won’t be pleased if you expect your videos to include close encounters and shots of giant deer. Do you think that this means you can’t produce entertaining and interesting videos? You can’t. Be a storyteller. Tell the story of the hunt, even though you may only have a few doves. The entire hunt should be recorded. Record your walk to the stand. Note your preparation. Keep track of what you see. Talk to the camera, have fun with it. Hunting is what you do because it’s fun. You should show others what you like.

7. Be creative

When I first began to create video content, I didn’t know much about it. Watching the work of others taught me a lot. Their creativity, their focus and style are all inspiring.

It is not possible to get super video. It is important to keep it sharply focused. Your movements should be smooth and steady. You must also present the story in an original way. This can be as simple and straightforward as presenting the story from a different perspective or angle. Shoot high, or shoot low. You can’t go wrong if you look behind the tree. Or beside it. Learn how to do “rack focusing”, which involves putting something in the frontground first, then shifting focus to the background.

The best angles and lighting situations will produce the most compelling video. Like many things in video your eye will grow with practice. You don’t need complex or dynamic shots. Simple is great.