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.