I walked gingerly down the two-track towards the old faithful “Wood Stand’ to sit a spot that was absolute money during the rut year after year. In the past, I have shot several bucks from this stand and the cool November morning beckoned me to the woods. I reached my perch, hoisted my bow up, knocked an arrow and waited for the heavenly anticipated sunrise. The sunlight hit the leaves of the cornstalks in the field I looked over. The woods started to brighten and I could see all the deer sign around me. I noticed a new scrape on the field line and a few freshened rubs were illuminated in the adjacent thicket. The shine of frost covered leaves forced me to squint, but I couldn’t help admiring the spectacle I was witnessing. I could see my breath and feel the thermals rising, but there wasn’t even a slight breeze that morning. No wind at all. You could hear a pin drop. It was turning out to be a morning to remember; a type of morning I like to call a “hunter’s morning”. I remember thinking to myself, “God…you’re really showing off.”
I soaked in the next few hours as this was my weekend cleansing ritual. Nine o’clock hit and I could hear the bells of the local church I attended. I was in my own pew this morning, but worshiping God and his creation through hunting. The bells echoed through the woods and a mystic feeling overcame me. I envisioned the moment of truth over and over as I do each hunt. At 9:15 I could hear corn stalks break in the middle of the field. Every snap of a stalk worsened the soreness in my throat and my heart began to race. “Here we go”, I said. The deer made his way right towards my stand and displayed its eight-point rack as it immerged out of the corn. The buck made a hard turn away from me with his nose to the ground as he searched for an entrance into the woodlot. I waited anxiously for him to pick a trail and inevitably close the distance for a shot opportunity. I vividly remember the buck turning hard and jumping a vine and as soon as he landed I made a loud bleat -“Mahh!” Nothing can compare to the feeling of watching an arrow fly true to its destination.
You should have been there. I wish you could have seen that hunt unfold. For this reason, I have obligated myself to carry a camera with intentions of capturing these precious moments on film. I can recollect that story pretty well, but if I could go back in time, I would have brought a camera with me. I have the proof of my hunt. The eight point rack sits on a shelf in my pole barn, but I wish I could relive that hunt in another way. Filming my own hunts helps me do that. Not only is it great to go back and rekindle the memories, but harvesting an animal on film all on your own is more than gratifying. Stories around the campfire are great, but having a story that can outlast your time here on earth is priceless.
With all of that said, I want to share a few tips with you that will help when filming your hunts. Successfully self-filming a deer hunt is much easier said than done. As hunters, we know the difficulties of harvesting a whitetail let alone throwing a camera in the mix. Which is why in this article I aim to provide a few ideas or thoughts that you should take into consideration when filming your next deer hunt.
Getting the Deer in Frame
Framing up the deer seems simple, however if you have ever been behind the lens, there are certain situations that have proven this task to be difficult. Especially if you are hunting in a thick bedding area in November where the entire woods is brown. Any seasoned deer hunter knows how easily deer can disappear out of sight or blend in perfectly with their surroundings. One minute that buck can be running right at you down the trail, and when you look down to find the buck in your viewfinder, he has disappeared like a ghost; and you begin to questio
n your sanity. I know the feeling. Keeping your eye on the deer is very important in this situation, but if we want to get him in frame, it will take even more concentration. The key is to try and pick the deer up when he is moving slow or completely stopped. When the deer are at a walking pace or not moving at all, look down in your viewfinder and find their antlers, tail or throat patch. If you are struggling to find the deer in your viewfinder, zoom out completely and concentrate on making actual visual contact with the deer. Once you pinpoint its location, pick out a plainly noticeable object that is near or within your line of sight. This may be a dark dangling branch or a moss covered stump. Register in your mind the location of the deer in relation to where the object is that you chose and start zooming in. Once you have the object in frame, you can move the camera to get the deer in frame based on its position near your chosen object. To simplify, find something near the deer that is easy to see in your viewfinder and zoom in on it to help you get the deer in frame. This tactic can be especially helpful when you are hunting in dense cover.
Camera Arm Position
To cover the basics, be sure to position the base of the camera on the side of your release aid so you can easily reach the camera arm while holding your bow. Lefties keep the camera arm on the left and righties keep it on the right. Camera position awareness is important, so when you get settled in you need to ensure your bow and camera arm are in close reach. You need to limit your movements while on stand and by keeping you camera and camera arm near your “reach” hand will help you accomplish this. This may seem rudimentary to some, however knowing your camera arm position is so important, and if it is not taken seriously, it can cost you shot opportunities. I can tell you from experience that there is much more concentration involved when self-filming. To prevent from having issues with your camera arm positioning I recommend practicing and becoming while acquainted with your camera set up. Just like a hockey player gets to explore the capabilities of his stick, you must acclimate yourself with your camera arm. Many camera arms are adjustable so the user can level the camera. Know what your camera arm can do and practice getting set up. Start your practice session from the very beginning of climbing your tree to the very end when you mount your camera. The more practice reps you get in before the season, the more efficient you are going to be getting setup and you will know your equipment well. Like I said, this may sound very simplistic but if you blunder while filming a monster buck you’ll be wishing you had given this bit of advice more acknowledgment.
Speaking of blunders, if you self-film enough you will eventually make mistakes. It is inevitable and the name of the game is to limit the frequency and severity of the errors. One of the most costly mistakes of self-filming is jamming yourself with the camera arm while attempting a shot at an animal. How does this happen? Often we are so focused on getting the deer on film and the process of executing a shot takes a back seat. So subconsciously we center the camera and camera arm between our body and the deer to more easily get the deer into frame. It is natural and sensible, however, this causes the camera arm to obstruct our ability to make a shot. Can you tell that I have had this happen to me before? The key to prevent yourself from jamming is to keep your camera one foot off your reach hand hip. I am left handed, so I will position my camera one foot off my left hip and I find it easier to reach if it is higher on my hip. This makes it easy for me to reach, and by maintaining the same distance from my hip on each hunt, I am fully aware of my camera’s position. Muscle memory will kick in if I have to make any sort of adjustment. In addition, this keeps the camera arm out of the shooting lane and preventing the bow from hitting the camera or camera arm. Once again, this is definitely something you will need to practice along with getting your camera arm setup. One cannot simply walk into the woods with a camera, camera arm and bow and expect to operate perfectly. When the moment of truth comes you need to be prepared. Repetition is going to create muscle memory, so when that buck does make an appearance, you are going to act fluently and proficiently.
When it comes to self-filming, one of the best tips that I can provide is to make sure you have some sort of wrist strap for your release. If you shoot a thumb release you need to invest in getting a wrist strap for it. This is so important simply because it allows you to adjust your camera during crucial times. Imagine being at full draw and you look down in your viewfinder to watch your target deer walk just out of frame. What do you do? I can tell you that many situations like this won’t allow you to let your bow down, adjust your camera and then draw back again. That is just too much movement and it takes up too much precious time during an event where seconds can decision an outcome. With a wrist strap you will be able to sustain your draw, reach down, adjust the camera to frame up the deer and execute a shot even under the copious amounts of stress that the harvest moment brings. Keep in mind less movement is more when it comes to deer hunting. The aforementioned method of adjusting your camera while at full draw beats the “re-draw” method 9.9 times out of 10. Lastly, have you ever had to make adjustments while at full draw? If you haven’t then I strongly suggest practicing and practicing a lot. Like I said before, get to know your gear and familiarize yourself with difficult, yet often much-needed maneuvers to help you get the deer in frame. If you haven’t noticed a theme here I’ll just tell you flat out- practice, practice, practice. Great athletes practice meticulously even the smaller components of their game to be successful. Why would practice to self-film a buck of a lifetime be treated any differently?
Bringing a camera to the woods is cumbersome and self-filming is a lot of hard work. It’s easy to say that lugging all the extra gear around is too much and not worth the effort. Many people decide not to self-film for that reason alone. But there is something very different about going down the road less traveled and reaching your destination. Keep some of these tips in mind while on your self-filming journey and expand on them. There is always something to learn and discover when you are challenging yourself.
I have been using the Vanguard PH-111V for the last two years and for the most part it has served me well. I want to start by saying that I am in no way affiliated with Vanguard and I am not getting paid for this review. This is simply my thoughts on what this fluid head has to offer to the outdoor videographer.
First and foremost, this fluid head’s price point is very reasonable compared to other fluid heads in the market. On Amazon, the PH-111V runs at only $70. The words “Cheap” and “fluid head” don’t belong in the same sentence. Honestly, this was the best I could find as far as quality and low pricing. So let’s dive into some of the specs, pros and cons of the PH-111V fluid head.
Compact and lightweight 2-way fluid video pan head for smaller HD camcorders
Dual safety lock and DIN standard quick shoe (QS-36 included)
Handle with rubber grip can be installed from the front or back
Smooth pan and frontal tilt +60 ~ -90 degrees
Supports up to 4.4 pounds
Product weight: 14.1 ounces
Vertical tilt has a tendency to stick
Not recommended for larger sized cameras
After the initial stick is out of the way- tilt is smooth
Great for DSLR cameras when using a small to medium size lens
¼” and 3/8” fitting on the base of the head, so it is compatible with any tripod and slider
Weighs less than 1 lb.- very light weight
Overall, I purchased this fluid head for three main reasons: inexpensive price, smooth panning capabilities and its light weight. I strongly recommend this for any beginning fluid head user. So far I have been happy with its performance, and in my opinion, the quality matches its price point. Thanks for reading and before you go, check out my review video for the Vanguard PH-111V!
There is a lot of pressure that comes with being a cameraman. Not only do you have to focus on all the details of filming a hunt, but you also have to be a good hunting partner. It can be hard for some to stay as focused as the hunter even when you aren’t the one who is going to pull the trigger. With this in mind, I think it is important to talk about the intricacies of being a cameraman. After all, it is a challenge to film a hunt and doing it consistently adds to the difficulty. If you are going to step up to the role of being a cameraman you will need to adopt certain traits.
The Will to Hunt
A true cameraman’s will to hunt is the same as if he were the one doing the hunting. Regardless of how long the hunt takes or how difficult it becomes, a great cameraman maintains good spirits. It can be demanding to follow around your hunter sometimes seemingly aimlessly in the woods, especially when it starts to look like things aren’t going to go according to plan. The fact of the matter is that your hunter feeds off of your attitude and behaviors. The Law of Transference is very relevant when hunting and filming. If you are slow, slouchy and disengaged then you will transfer those behaviors to your hunter. You may get frustrated with each other or with the hunt more easily and nothing will get accomplished. Lastly, have the drive to always want to go hunting. If you don’t then you need to reevaluate why you want to film hunts. Overall, it’s very important to maintain a positive attitude and show your hunter that you going to work hard until the job is done.
The Eyes of a Hawk
Think of yourself as a co-pilot. After you check the audio and manual controls, you’re looking for the target to engage. Look where your hunter is not looking. Typically, the cameraman is positioned offset either to the left of the right facing nearly the complete opposite direction as the hunter. It is important to visually cover the hunter’s back so he can focus on what is in front of him. During times when the hunter is calling, you want to keep a sharp eye for incoming animals. If the hunter is trying to retrieve his bow from its resting place the cameraman must be the eyes even during that brief period of time. Things can change in less than a minute, so the cameraman’s visual assistance is of vital importance.
Cool as a Cucumber
Think of the moment of truth and about all of the emotions that are experienced during that short amount of time. The last thing a hunter needs is for his cameraman to hype up the situation even more than he needs it to be. Erik Barber from Midwest Whitetail, who films and produces the show, suggested that the cameraman should help slow things down for the hunter instead of chirping in his ear. So maybe instead of saying, “Wow look at that giant! What a beast! No pressure!” A good cameraman might help the hunter through his pre-shot routine, align his focus on the animal in a non-distracting way or help him calm his nerves in some way. Creating hype or letting emotions prior to shot get the best of you can cause problems. Save the excitement for after the shot and focus on what is right in front of you. Keep it straight business and do your job; including helping your hunter execute.
If you write it all down on paper, the list of tasks and roles that a cameraman has to fulfill is actual quite extensive. Even though they are behind the lens and they are often not recognized for their work the cameraman is the fulcrum of a successful filmed hunt. If you plan on being a producer or filming your buddies hunts, take the time to do a self-evaluation prior to hitting the woods with your camera in hand. If you don’t already possess these traits, then I suggest you adapt quickly if you want to be a great cameraman.
This year I made the decision to make the drive out to Des Moines, Iowa to attend the Iowa Deer Classic knowing very well that Bill Winke and the Midwest Whitetail crew would be hanging out there. During my long drive, I played out some scenarios in my head of what a conversation might look like with one of Midwest Whitetail team members. My job as an outdoor writer is to try and break done the barriers between the professionals and the aspiring professionals. I wanted to uncover the background story of at least one of these guys and get the inside scoop of how they ended working for such a great company.
Upon arrival at the Iowa Deer Classic, I rushed in to get front row seating of Bill Winke’s seminar on patterning mature bucks. After the seminar, I was motivated to find Midwest Whitetail’s booth and simply strike up a conversation. It was a lot easier than I thought, especially after shaking hands with Erik Barber who is the Marketing Specialist and Producer at Midwest Whitetail. After a brief introduction and small talk around hunting and filming, Erik agreed to answer a few questions I had about his profession and his career.
I learned that Erik is originally from Colgate, Wisconsin and he graduated college from Carroll University. It was during Erik’s college career that he applied and got accepted to Midwest Whitetail’s internship program in 2013. Erik majored in journalism and admitted that he lacked a background in producing or filming. To me, this was a surprise. I can remember back when I was in college I would often visit the Midwest Whitetail site to browse the career opportunities. I often saw the internship position become available; however I balked many times and never submitted an application because my perception was that you had to have some sort of background in filming, editing and producing. It turns out that everyone except the main show producer, Greg Clements, does NOT have a degree or any prior schooling in videography. Moral of the story as Bill Winke would say- “Always Dream BIG!”
Erik’s time as an intern and producer really pushed his hunting and filming skill set to another level. Now as the Producer and Marketing Specialist of Midwest Whitetail, Erik manages all of the social media pages and also films, edits and produces for the Great Plains show. Having access to great resources such as Bill Winke, Aaron Warbritton and Greg Clements definitely helped him. But even if one had the greatest mentors in the game there is still a prodigious need for individual effort. Erik found himself learning “the ropes” through self-discovery and learning on his own. He credits a lot of what he has learned about filming hunts to simply being persistent, creative and having the desire to learn more. If you watch the show, Erik and his team are some of the industry’s best when it comes to hunting and filming whitetails. Hard work and having the desire to better yourself at what you do can really pay off. Moreover, Erik pitched the idea of ramping up social media marketing for the show and really leverage what various social media platforms have to offer. Needless to say, it was a great success. Midwest Whitetail doubled their “likes” on Facebook from 25,000 to 50,000 in just seven months. In result, the show’s website traffic has increased 15% from 2015 to 2016; which is a remarkable accomplishment for Erik and his team at Midwest Whitetail.
I asked Erik what advice he would be able to share with a beginner or even intermediate filmmaker who wants to get in the hunting industry, and the main takeaway was simply being persistent with your goals. “Put yourself out there”, Erik said. “Go out to tradeshows, meet the vendors and offer your services.” Bring some business cards and pound the tradeshows. You can’t hide behind the keyboard when it comes to making connections. You can build much better rapport when meeting people in person. Erik also advised building a portfolio for yourself to showcase your work. Even if it is just a couple of hunts, put something together and start displaying your work to others in the industry. In addition, even if a company or pro staff doesn’t need your services as an editor or producer, ask to get a little feedback on your portfolio. Constructive criticism from professionals or experts in the area of producing and editing will help you take your game to the next level.
I was so glad to talk with Erik about what he does and how he arrived at Midwest Whitetail. From my conversation with him, he’s a normal guy with a passion for hunting and filming just like you and me. With this realization, I would like to challenge you. If you are someone who wants to become a field producer or professional camera man in the hunting industry then put yourself out there. Start shaking hands and approaching the people involved in the industry and demonstrate that you are serious. Start diving into filming and editing on your own and start developing your skills now. You never know what could happen if you pass up opportunities. Swing for the fences and good things will happen.
Hey there! I have been brewing over some awesome video ideas for Fierce Outdoors and I am hoping to put some things together before the end of turkey season. Sneak peek: I will be done editing a turkey hunt from the archives and it will be posted next week. In addition, I will be making the trek to Nebraska in efforts of bagging a Merriam turkey or two. Lastly, I’ll end my turkey season here in Michigan and both of my turkeys hunts will be edited and posted as soon as possible. There is a lot in motion here at Fierce Outdoors and I want to give a big thank you for those who have subscribed to our newsletter. Enjoy this week’s blog-feeder!