Since my first deer hunt with my father in the hills of southern Ohio some 28 years ago, my passion for chasing whitetails has grown every year. I can’t get enough! And I’ve chased these amazing creatures from the Midwest to the Edmonton Bow Zone and everywhere in between. It doesn’t seem to matter where I hang my stand, it’s always exciting to match wits with a cagey old buck and try to beat the master at his own game!
I’ve heard it said more than once that a mature whitetail buck is the most challenging big game animal in North America, and I agree. I’ve hunted other species that have been more physically demanding, but none of them came close to being a true “survival expert” like a whitetail buck that has lived through five or six hunting seasons. I’m out every chance I get, scouting, shed hunting or patterning that next big buck. And I always do my best to capture it on video!
I’ve been packing a camera with me on my hunts for close to 20 years, and filming my own hunts for the last 10. In that time I’ve taken some giant bucks on film and had the biggest buck I’ve ever seen slip right through my hands. It’s all right there on film. I guarantee you that at the moment of truth, when a monster buck is in close, when every move you make counts, when you get one opportunity to make a perfect shot before he knows you’re there, when you can do all this without melting down from buck fever and capture it all on video, by yourself, this is the ultimate challenge!
GEAR YOU NEED
It can be done, and my self-filming career has earned me a position working for one of the biggest names in the hunting industry! If you’re interested in trying to film your own hunts, the information in this article along with the years of practice and mistakes I’ve made should help you find the gear you need and give you some tips on capturing some great footage.
Many people don’t have the resources to hire a cameraman to follow them around during the season. Besides, it’s hard enough getting close to a big buck on your own, let alone doubling your noise, scent and movement by having two people in the tree. A camera arm is an essential tool for self-filming.
The Strong Arm from Lone Wolf is a great choice. It’s compact, lightweight and very quiet to set up and use. The 3rd Arm Elite, made by 3rd Arm, is also a great camera arm. It’s a little bigger, a little heavier, and it ratchets to the tree for a very solid and steady base for your camera, and this is vitally important for good footage! Both are great choices. You should also invest in a quality fluid head to mount to either arm — it’s a must! The Bogen 501 and 701 are great heads and fairly inexpensive.
If you want to self-film, it’s a must to have a camera with an LCD screen. It’s next to impossible to film your hunt if you have to try to look through a small viewfinder to follow the action. These days, there’s really no reason to be filming with anything other than an HD camera. You can buy a palm-sized HD camera for under $1,000 at the local electronics store. The difference in the footage from these mini HD cameras compared to a standard definition camera is like night and day.
GOOD AUDIO IS A MUST
If your budget allows, I recommend stepping up to a pro-consumer camera. It’ll cost you a few thousand dollars and has a lot of bells and whistles, but the biggest difference is the size of the lens. The larger the lens on your camera, the more light it will gather. Compared to smaller cameras, this model can buy you an extra 15 to 20 minutes of camera light which can be the difference in getting that big buck on film or not.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is how tough it is to get good sound. Most cameras just can’t pick up your voice when you’re in a tree stand whispering, unless you are very close to the microphone. Unless its dead quiet in the woods and the leaves are very dry, it’ll be tough to hear a deer approaching as well. Get a decent breeze blowing, and the wind noise your camera records will ruin good footage.
So, if you can afford it, it’s a good idea to invest in a shotgun microphone to pick up distant sounds and a wireless microphone for recording your voice. Make sure you use windsocks on both. No matter what you use to record your audio, buy a set of headphones to monitor what you are recording! What you hear and what the camera hears are almost always two different things. Headphones will save your audio!
Trust me when I say this — if you are going to attempt to film your own hunts, a varizoom remote is worth its weight in gold! This remote will allow you to operate all the major controls for your camera with just your thumb. You can start or stop recording, zoom in and out, and even focus your camera with just the push of a button. This one tool will help eliminate the majority of movement needed to run your camera! I wouldn’t want to attempt filming my own hunts without one.