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.
I can remember the first hunt I brought my camera on. It was actually not my hunt at all. I was 18 years old and my buddy Jake invited me to accompany him on the first day of Michigan’s youth deer season. This was Jake’s last year to hunt the youth season and I was passed the legal age to hunt. Even though I wasn’t hunting, I was just happy to be in the woods and even happier to be in pursuit of whitetail deer with my long-time friend. And ever since I started my hunting and filming journey, I have always been more focused on capturing my experiences and memories that can only be made in the woods. There is a lot more to hunting than just the kill and bragging rights. Everything leading up to the moment of truth all the way to the end of the blood trail- these are the experiences worth documenting.
Jake and I sat at opposite ends of a giant hayfield on a frosty September morning. We were hunting an area deemed the “Coffin-Corner”, and this particular part of the woods had been laying many deer to rest- even several Pope and Young quality bucks. Fortunately, that morning God blessed us with the presence of six shooter bucks. Four of which I was able to get on film crossing the hayfield and working their way right towards Jake. To make a long story short, the “Coffin-Corner” didn’t fail us as it presented not one, not two but three opportunities at harvesting quality bucks. Let’s just say Jake learned the valuable lesson of checking to make sure his gun is sighted in before taking it to the field. To make things worse, I managed to document nearly everything that happened, and needless to say, Jake wanted to burn the DVD after watching it.
Despite our failures that morning, I managed to document an unforgettable morning of hunting. That particular hunt served as the catalyst for my passion for filming my own hunts. In my college English classes, I would write mainly about the outdoors or hunting whitetails. And I felt that most of my friends or colleagues couldn’t fully connect with me on why hunting is so involved in my life. The experiences are easy to talk about, but the feelings are difficult to explain. So instead of just trying to talk or write more about my experiences, I made the conscious decision to begin the journey of documenting my hunts on film. I knew it was going to be challenging and I was very much correct about the difficulties of filming. I understand the concept of seeing is believing, and I believe that providing a visual is a more effective way to communicate with others that don’t grasp the hunting lifestyle.
In addition to sharing my experiences, I find that filming my own hunts is an entirely different level of hunting altogether. Due to my competitive nature, I would say that this is the main reason why I carry a camera to the woods. Hunting has always challenged me and self-filming is most certainly pushed me to another level. I have a hard time with being content. I literally get antsy if I feel that I am not pushing myself. Documenting my hunts has not only challenged my hunting abilities, but it has brought me closer to the intricacies of the outdoors. Hunting is no longer just a walk to and from the tree stand with hopes of seeing an animal. Filming has pushed me to strive for success and to capture the details of the outdoors that I appreciate so much. If I am without a camera while hunting, I have a noticeable feeling of emptiness and complacency that I just don’t care for. Call me crazy but it’s the way I hunt and I love it.
Even with all of the challenges that come with filming my hunts- the end goal outweighs them all. I want people to see what the hunting heritage has to offer. People need to see the excitement and purpose of hunting. I hope to encourage others to try hunting or engage in conservation. If God blesses me with children, I hope to one day have documented experiences to show them and pass on the lifestyle that I love so much. Filming for TV, Youtube or whatever is great and all. But I find more value in preserving our heritage through the means of digital media so the generations to come have something tangible and authentic to refer to. If I am successful at documenting my hunts then maybe one day little Johnny will want to do the same for his children and our hunting traditions will continue to be passed on.
I was scrolling through my newsfeed and couldn’t help to notice that Huntervids had featured another video on their Facebook page. I earnestly clicked the link because I have yet to be disappointed with the exceptional stories posted by Huntervids. There are some great storytellers out there, and Sons of the Hunt’s documentary was no exception. I enjoy documentaries over “Big Buck Videos” because there is more involved than just the actual hunt itself. In my opinion, it’s much more meaningful and authentic. From start to finish I was engaged and their story was well told. I found myself quite moved by their experiences and I am sure that was their intention when they created the film. However, and maybe I am alone in thinking this, I found myself mulling over a number of thoughts regarding their process to produce this documentary. After finishing the film, I felt moved and inspired but I had to learn more about the three friends who told an amazing story of their 2014 deer season.
Sons of the Hunt was built on a strong friendship between three friends that had a common goal of piecing together their stories from the field. Mark Misura’s encounter and successful harvest of a well-known buck in his community sparked his interest in filming his own hunts. Driven by his passion for hunting and filming, Mark reached out to his good friends Mitchell Pope and Bryan Filarsky with the idea of documenting their deer hunting stories to inspire others. Both Mark and Mitchell have had great success in the woods and both show the same strong passion for deer hunting. Bryan, having a major in graphic design, is well versed in videography and photography. With this background, Bryan was able to successfully advise Mark and Mitchell on what cameras to use and how to use them to tell their story. With their skill sets combined, they made a great team and managed to produce a noteworthy story. It is amazing what can happen when talented people work together towards a common goal.
I was very impressed by the footage quality and what they used to film their hunts. Bryan made a bold recommendation for Mark and Mitchell is purchase DSLR cameras as opposed to a much more user-friendly HD camcorder. If you have never worked with a DSLR camera, very few are compatible with remotes or zoom controllers; making it difficult to focus or zoom in while self-filming. However, the quality of the picture is unmatched at a price-point compared to other camcorders, so the team decided to use DSLRs to self-film their hunts.
Mark’s Camera Equipment:
-Muddy Outdoor Camera Arm with silent strap
Mitchell’s Camera Equipment:
-Muddy Camera Arm with silent strap
Crazy right? At least I think so. I’m sure most of you reading have shot deer right? Cool. Well try shooting a rutted up whitetail buck AND capture your hunt on film with a DSLR that you can only focus or zoom by manually adjusting the lens. During the documentary, I noticed that they were using DSLRs and didn’t see any remotes or zoom controllers. If someone advised me to strictly use a DSLR to self-film my hunt I would be in serious doubt that I could be successful.
Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks that successfully self-filming with a DSLR is nearly impossible. Mitchell experienced some adversity of his own when an unnamed local hunter and videographer learned that he would be attempting to self-film with a DSLR. Mitchell told this unnamed person about their task and the unnamed person’s insight was, “You’ll never be able to do it”- ultimately deeming their mission unachievable. Needless to say, he was proven wrong when both Mitchell and Mark managed to harvest more than respectable whitetail bucks on film. There’s proof at the end of this article- just press play. I am a huge fan of the underdog in any story. Mostly because I have often been the underdog myself. Nothing is more gratifying than defying the negative words of the “nay-sayers”.
How they managed to capture these hunts on film is quite impressive, to say the least. Mark informed me that both he and Mitchell took the time to practice and fully understand how their cameras work. Prior to the start of the deer season, Mark and Mitchell practiced zooming and anticipating the distance of their desired target. I think this a great example of getting to know your camera. Mark and Mitchell saw the importance of this, and with the help and guidance from Bryan, they were able to become sufficient at anticipating the distance of an animal in shooting range. You will see in the documentary that their offseason dedication really paid off when the moment of truth arrived.
The guys at “Sons of the Hunt” took on the challenge of self-filming and overcame the many obstacles that come with it. This team is a perfect example of what three friends can do when they work together and feed off of each other’s strengths. Like many others, I truly enjoy reading, listening or watching the stories of other hunters. The storyline of their deer hunting season alone is something to appreciate. But as a fellow self-filmer, I really admire the work and talent behind a production such as “Ghost”. I hope you guys enjoyed reading about the Sons of the Hunt’s work and if you have any questions for these guys you can look them up on Facebook. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy this featured production just as much as I did.
Very few accept the challenge of self-filming, and even fewer hunters become successful at it. It requires a unique mindset and approach to hunting. The process splits you right down the middle; focus on the hunt and give precedence to the camera. I enjoy the challenge and I really enjoy hearing from others about their experiences with self-filming. I managed to stumble across Greg Litzinger, a New Jersey native and die-hard solo-cam hunter, on Instagram and I started going through some of his photos. Greg goes by @bowhunting_fiend on Instagram and he has been filming his own hunts for five years now. His most recent harvest captured on film, which is featured in this article, really caught my eye and moved me to connect with him; and I am glad I did.
Greg not only managed to achieve the eminently coveted goal of killing an exceptional buck in frame, but he also did it on highly pressured public grounds. After watching the video, I wanted to know more about Greg’s self-filmed hunt and his background. I am so glad I had the chance to talk with Greg because I not only learned more about self-filming, but I also learned that you do not need a ton of money to get into this sport.
Before diving into the facts of the hunt, I asked Greg to describe the equipment he uses. His camera and hunting setup is listed below:
I have to give Greg some serious credit for his resourcefulness. When Greg first got into filming his own hunts he did not want to spend a lot of money. He bought a relatively inexpensive camera for $250, which the Canon Vixia HF 100 right now can be bought on Amazon for $79 used and $335 new, and he bought a used Lone Wolf Camera arm for $70. In total, he got his filming career started with under $350 of camera equipment.
Through the years, Greg made improvements to his setup after noticing some minor flaws in his equipment. He purchased square aluminum tubing to serve as an extension for his camera arm to optimize his reach; which only cost him $3 at Home Depot. In addition, Greg noticed that the head of the camera arm would often stick since it was not a fluid head. So he took the camera head apart, sanded the swivel sockets and coated them with grease and- Voila! DIY fluid head. With this simple modification, Greg turned his standard pan head into a self-made fluid head. I was amazed at Greg’s ingenuity. I now believe that many of the standard pan heads out on the market can be improved by simply using Greg’s clever tip.
If you are not familiar with the “run and gun” style of hunting it basically consists of throwing a stand on your back and moving in on deer aggressively. Greg is a very aggressive hunter and it has paid off for him- he has the footage to prove it. He is a student and follower of hunting
styles taught by guys like Dan Infalt, JohnEberhart and Greg Miller. Three out of the last four years Greg has been able to harvest impressive public land whitetail bucks. There is a lot of work that goes into hunting whitetails, but there’s more work that goes into a successful whitetail hunt on public land. Greg makes it look easy, but I can attest to the difficulties and frustrations of public land hunting.
The name of the game is, “Go where no one else wants to go”; and Greg is very proficient at this. For this hunt, Greg hiked for over an hour up to 1400 feet of elevation with all of his equipment into a buck bedding area. The previous spring he had found a few buck beds with several rubs in this area. It is not a popular tactic for hunters to move in aggressively on buck beds. But Greg gives credit to this tactic for his most recent successes in the deer woods. “I like hunting right on top of beds”, says Greg. “When you’re hunting public, you can’t wait for perfect.” Some might gawk at this high risk, high reward approach to hunting deer, but its effectiveness has been proven by many. Starting off Greg made a lot of mistakes and he admitted that he didn’t spend as much time on strategy as he should have. As time went on he got more methodical with his aggressive approach and it is now a tactic that he uses exclusively. Getting in close proximity to where a buck spends most of his time is very difficult to do let alone capturing the entire experience on film.
After filming for five years now, Greg voiced to me that filming is something he takes a lot of pride in. “If I don’t bring a camera with me I feel naked”, Greg admitted. It takes a strong commitment to bring a camera to the woods for each and every hunt. Not many people fully understand this until they actually try it themselves. Many people wonder why anyone would want to bring a camera to the woods. When I asked Greg this he responded, “I want to create a timeline for myself- I want to build my story so I can show people what I did.” I think there is a lot to be said about storytelling and creating memories. Filming your hunts is a lot more than a bow and camera. It’s about crafting YOUR story and inspiring people now and in the future. Greg’s passion really shined through when we talked about our purpose and I am really glad I can share this passion with someone else.
I learned a lot from this interview with Greg. I came away inspired and stimulated with ideas for my next public land hunting adventures. I hope you enjoyed reading about Greg’s background and his most recent self-film success. If you want to find Greg follow him out on Instagram @bowhunting_fiend. And if you have any questions or feedback about the video or article use the comments section below. Thanks for reading and enjoy Greg Litzinger’s 2015 self-filming success!
Self-Filming a Hunt: There are several different types of hunters. The meat hunters, the management hunters, the “one and done” hunters, the die-hards and the leisurely hunters. In other words, hunting is comprised of many different levels, and not one level is better than the other. Hunting is what you make it out to be. Everyone has their own definition of challenges and passions within the realm of hunting. But one task really sticks out above the many challenges within hunting- and that’s self-filming a hunt.
Four years ago, shortly after harvesting my biggest buck to date, I made the decision to bring a camera with me every time I enter the woods. My goal: Harvest a respectable whitetail buck on film. What started my passion for filming was simply the idea of capturing my experiences and sharing it with others. I‘m not talking about being on TV or anything of that nature because hunting is very different than what is portrayed on television more or less. I wanted to show my friends and family what happens on a cool November morning during the rut. A few of my friends that don’t hunt have asked me, “Why do you choose to sit in a tree for hours and stare at nothing?” Part of me understands their thinking because they have a skewed perception and as everyone knows the whitetail waiting game can be pretty dull at times. However, with self-filming a hunt.. if my non-hunter friends could only experience the moment of truth just once I believe that almost every one of them would be hooked.
In order to spark a desire to experience the thrill of a hunt, there has to be a feeling of motivation. It takes a significant amount of effort to try something new on your own. So having a mentor, coach or idol is something we naturally want when learning something new. Typically, we find our way through life by observing and trialing. Dad showed you how to ride a bike or maybe he took you on bike rides because that’s what he loves to do. Then he bought a bike for you to try and learn to ride on your own. Once you learned how to ride your bike, you biked around the square mile five days a week. After out-growing your childhood bike you bought a competition speed bike and trained every day. You entered in competitions, excelled in the sport and eventually got invited to the Tour de France to represent the United States alongside Lance Armstrong. Where did you start? A simple act created inspiration that served as the catalyst for a deeply embedded passion.
Yes, that may be an exaggerated course of events, however, the point of my analogy is to demonstrate the effect of sharing our passions with others. Guiding and showing my self-filmed hunts to my family and close friends is small, but important part of my mission to inspire others to embrace hunting through self-filming a hunt.
If I am fortunate enough to be blessed with children one day I would want them to be exposed to the traditions and values of hunting. I would want them to see what it means to work hard and succeed at something at even the most basic level. It would be beneficial for them to see their Dad pursuing his passion, and maybe that will influence them to pursue passions of their own whatever they may be. Hunting has taught me quite a bit over the years and I know that by self-filming a hunt and sharing my experiences with others I can positive impact, at least, one person’s life.
So I accepted the challenge and simply my goal is to help or influence others with self-filming a hunt. I believe that there can be a lot of good drawn from self-filming a hunt and sharing my hunting experiences amongst ourselves as hunters. Everyone loves a good story. Everyone has a good story to tell. Whether you chose to tell yours that is up to you. There is nothing like capturing majestic whitetails on film in their element, and to be able to harvest one on film is a whole other level of an adrenaline rush that I have yet to experience. I have familiarized myself with the struggles of self-filming and the fact that it has challenged me as a hunter is what has kept me on the path of self-filming. If you have accepted the challenge of self-filming I would love to see your footage and hear your story. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can message me on Facebook. Stay tuned for more self-filming a hunt related articles and thanks for reading!