Sometimes I wonder why I do it. Filming my hunting and fishing adventures is something I first became interested in seven years ago when I thought to bring my camera when invited to go goose hunting in Southeast Pennsylvania. I thought I was able to get good footage that day and it was at least enough to make my first YouTube video. Now looking back its incredible how much technology has advanced from the basic camcorder and editing program I had used. I try to do what I can with the equipment I have and could clearly make a better effort, however, I often have to balance this with the actual activity of hunting and the rest of real life. There are definitely those days when I’ve left the camera in the truck out of frustration and it is about every trip out that I forgot some type of accessory that could’ve helped me do a better job that day. I do it because I find another level of satisfaction in my time outdoors and am more involved in every moment and I think you will be too if you make the effort.
Outdoor videography is increasingly accessible to anyone willing to try, but the game has changed. I am blown away at the quality of content people are able to produce in their own home and it only continues to improve. There are a lot of options to consider when beginning to pursue outdoor filming. dSLR vs mirrorless vs camcorder? Which brand of action cam? vLOG style films or more cinematic? What editing software. The rabbit hole runs deep. Fortunately even cheap camcorders now allow you to film in 1080 but the low light capabilities when action is at its best often suffer. I am still running a cheaper camcorder after making a few attempts at filming with my dSLR. Those videos I did make with my dSLR look so much better, but I wasn’t carrying it as often due to weight and concerns about risk of damage. And that is the key. Whatever you decide to film with, if it is a Red Epic or an iPhone, has to be with you and running.
The gear that I’m carrying varies based on what I’m doing, but I will often try to have two cameras with me. Whitetail hunting typically means a camcorder (currently a Canon Vixia HF R500) and an action camera for a second view point. I got a GoPro5 for my birthday and have purchased the remo for it which is a very handy accessory. Prior to that I was using a Contour Roam2 and I will occasionally still use this. Accessories will include a shotgun mic and an accessory mount for that because my camcorder does not have an attached shoe mount. I also use a 4th arrow tree arm which I recently purchased and am a big fan of.  Be sure to bring plenty of batteries (especially in cold weather because it saps their strength) and pay for the larger SD cards to avoid swapping cards as much as possible. Below you can see a photo of the gear currently in my pack for self filming deer hunts. I do also have a Canon T5i that I’ve put up for sale. Its great for enthusiast photography but I think I can do better for outdoor videography. Running a dSLR is a 2 handed operation for zoom and focus as there are no LANC compatible cameras that I’ve found. It is especially frustrating as a left handed hunter as all cameras are set up in a right handed orientation. I am currently very interested in the Sony a6500 as it is remote compatible and is reported to have fantastic autofocus which is still the biggest drawback of most dSLRs and mirrorless cameras.
Once you decide what you want to film with you need to have it on and recording. There is so much more than filming the target as it approaches and attempting to get the shot. One of the biggest things we still try to work on is quality B roll footage. Telling a hunting story through film is truly an effort. Those times when you just want to sit around the fire after a hard day of hiking or a long day in the stand are some of the most important to capture. The effort you put into your hunt needs to show and that often means sorting through a lot of film when it comes time to edit. Be sure to save your video and back-up even when hunts aren’t successful. That is real. We all know no one comes home successful every trip into the woods.
Choosing an editing program is another decision. We are largely an apple home and I’m currently using Final Cut Pro after upgrading to a new MacBook. I really like it and find it very user friendly. There is some learning curve but I find I can put together films rather quickly. Another program to consider that I don’t have any personal experience is Adobe Premier CC. Where audio quality really becomes apparent is in the editing phase which is why items such as a shotgun mic are so important in the field. Quality audio can also be laid into your video to narrate certain segments of your film.
I love to watch others movies and the way that they can inspire me to chase a new species or take that trip to a new destination. The cinematic style really appeals to me and is newer to hunting but is finally crossing over from fishing and skiing (ie Warren Miller films) and other outdoor activities. However, they are clearly very time intensive and beyond my ability at this time. Each trip out I try to improve my photos and video or consider and capture something I haven’t before. Rather than just sitting there and daydreaming I’m thinking about a shot or making sure I get a pan here and a zoom shot there. Maybe putting my GoPro on my bow as I pull it up. A new way to tell the story and inspire others starts with small things. I look forward to making new content in the time I have and I hope I continue to be inspired by that of other outdoorsman as they take us with them into the outdoors.
-Jack Dillon