By Nate Coughlin: M.C.T. Productions
In the past few years the idea of filming a successful hunt has spread like wildfire amongst all hunters in the country. Myself being one of those people that films their hunts, I can relate on why this idea has exploded. It is down right addicting. Once you accomplish the task of harvesting a deer on film, you will never want to go into the woods again without a camera in the stand beside you. That being said, I always make sure that I’m ready for the moment a big buck comes walking down the trail towards my tree. There are three main things that I do to prepare myself for each hunting season.
Keep That Camera in Your Hands
Imagine that you want to shoot a deer with a brand-new bow, but you wait until opening morning while a deer walks by to shoot it for the very first time. You wouldn’t do that, would you? Same goes for your camera. Don’t wait until opening morning of the season to finally try and figure out your settings on your camera. Whether it is adjusting the white balance, shooting in a certain picture profile or learning how to be proficient with the focus ring, don’t wait until the last minute. When your adrenaline is rushing as that deer walks in, you want it to be second nature to hit that record button, stay in focus and execute getting that perfect shot on camera.
Just because your main objective is to video or photograph a hunt, doesn’t mean you can’t take your camera game a step further. I try to take my camera with me every chance I get. Family gatherings, sporting events or just driving around looking for wildlife to capture. Every second that camera is in your hands is beneficial in one way or another. Taking photos and video regularly, keeps your eye sharp on what different angles to get and most importantly keeps running your camera second nature when it counts the most.
Practice Gear Organization and Setup in a Tree
Knowing how to run your camera is only half the battle. Another very difficult part of videoing hunts, in my opinion, is having all this extra gear and knowing how to organize it in your pack for easy access when setting up in your stand. Not only do you have to set up all your gear in the stand, but you have to do it quickly and quietly, so you don’t alarm any deer close by.
It all starts with being consistent in how you pack your gear and how you set it up. If you do it differently every hunt, then you aren’t going to get any better at it. A huge game changer that Fourth Arrow has made to make this process a lot easier is having multiple camera arm bases. With the very affordable price tag on extra bases, you need to have one in every stand. It takes the hassle of trying to be quiet with a ratchet strap out of the equation. It’s as easy as placing the Fourth Arrow Camera Arms shoulder into the base, make sure it is level, insert the arm, then install your camera and fluid head. Organizing those items in a way that you can get to the one you need, at the time you need it, will save you in setup time and limiting noise by not having to dig through your bag.
Once that part of my gear is setup, usually I would move to getting audio hooked up on my main camera. Following that, I put up the Outreach Arm from Fourth Arrow, with a go pro attached and lastly getting my DSLR out so that I can take pictures if the opportunity presents itself.
As you can see, there are a lot of steps in this portion of videoing your hunts. That being said, make sure to take the time to organize your gear and practice setting it all up in a tree stand.
Have a PLAN
You can’t control when or even if a deer will walk by your stand within shooting distance, but you always need to be prepared for it to happen at any second.
When I’m sitting in the stand, I’m constantly thinking in my head about the things that need to be done and in what order I’m going to do them before I let an arrow fly. Turn on POV camera, turn on main camera, turn on audio mics, grab my bow and get on the deer. Part of being ready for that very moment is to have all my camera settings exactly the way I want them so when a deer comes in all I have to do is turn it on and hit record. In the heat of the moment I don’t want to be thinking about anything else except keeping that deer in frame, in focus and then putting a good shot on the deer.
Another little thing I do while in the stand is imagine in my head that there is a deer coming at different locations around my stand and think out exactly what I’d do to get that deer in the frame as quickly as possible. Imagining it and being ready for different situations keeps your mind fresh and on point for anything to happen.
The last part of my PLAN is knowing what B roll shots I need to get to bring my story full circle. This doesn’t start when you get in the stand. This story could’ve started a couple years ago with a deer that you have history with, or it could be a story that is the length of the day the hunt was on. Different situations will have different stories, but the bottom line is to tell your story and always have the extra footage to show your story to the audience to make them feel like they experienced it with you.
In conclusion, always have your camera with you, practice every aspect of videoing your hunts with your gear and come up with a PLAN so that you can be prepared. If you aren’t prepared and don’t have a plan, plan to fail. I promise if you set yourself up for success, you will be glad you did when you see the end result. Good luck this season and most importantly have fun!