LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015
Story contributed by Dayne Shuda
The overcast sky covers any chance of getting moonlight to reflect on the situation. It’s 6:00 AM on Saturday morning and it’s my first whitetail bowhunt of the season. The first hunt of the year is always exciting; especially when you are “self-filming” the experience. There are a hundred thoughts racing through my mind. Do I have all of the equipment? Can I carefully pull the bow up the tree and get the arrow nocked without making any noise? I take a few breaths to regain my composure. This year, I am definately facing additional challenges while in the treestand.
The video camera does not want to stay attached to the tree arm. The screw on the arm seems too short and my cold hands can barely feel the small camera. Its 20 feet to the cold, hard ground below and my mind is filled with thoughts of dropping the camera and having it break into a million pieces. That’s how the first 20 minutes of my first attempt to “self-film” a whitetail bowhunt goes.
After some struggle I finally got everything setup for the first time.
That was an interesting first day in the woods. Looking back now, there are a handful of things I would change. But, ultimately, I left the woods that day excited about the opportunities self-filming offered. It’s indeed a new challenge to add to the mix of bowhunting big bucks in the woods of Wisconsin.
The thought of self-filming hunts really started to overtake my brain late this summer. I have been watching online hunting shows the last couple years and figured it was something I would enjoy. Bowhunt or Die is something I look forward to each Friday.
Thinking back on all the memories I have of hunting it dawned on me that while these memories are great they are not concrete. Filming my hunts would provide lifetime highlights and memory refreshers for me and maybe even my friends and family.
After deciding to take the plunge, it took me a few weeks to finally make the necessary purchases. There were quite a few considerations. After all, investing in camera equipment is not a small decision. Here is what I have learned thus far.
Most of the weeks leading up to the purchase of the camera equipment were spent figuring out what to actually get. I had no idea what kind of camera I needed to purchase or what accessories were necessary to make self-filming possible. Thankfully, Justin Zarr published a great article on the topic – Tips for Filming Your Hunting Adventures.
When it came to the decision about a video camera, though, I just couldn’t swing a couple thousand bucks. My total investment budget was in the high hundreds and I think what I ended up with is something that can work out well.
Here is all the equipment. In all it’s about a $750 investment.
This is the equipment I purchased:
• Canon Vixia HF M500
• Audio-Technica PRO24CM Microphone
• Adorama Canon Mini Advanced Accessory Shoe Adapter (for microphone)
• 32 GB SDHC Card
• HME Better Camera Holder
All together it’s about $750 including shipping and I got it all on Amazon. Unfortunately I didn’t get the microphone attachment shoe right away so that was still in shipment as of this past weekend.
Another note is that after some research I realized that the first camera on my initial buy list only had a battery that would last 20-30 minutes. This obviously would not work in the woods. Instead of getting that camera and a second battery I just got the camera that was up one notch. This camera included a battery that lasts about two hours when fully charged.
Now, I’ve only been out in the woods for one weekend with the camera. Please keep in mind that this article is just a recap of my experience. But, so far the camera is working great. It’s really easy to use. I’ve had to mess around with the settings a little to turn off the sound and figure out a few other details, but it’s been really easy going thus far. Overall, as long as I don’t drop anything out of the tree the equipment seems like it will last a long time and it’s great for a hunter looking to invest in something good, but not the best of the best.
There is definitely more time to invest in the hunting process. No longer can I just grab my bow and gear and head to the woods. Now, I’m thinking about filming different shots and considering what I should say before walking from the truck to the tree.
While the process will probably get better over time there is additional time required to get the gear setup in the tree. I made sure to leave about 20 minutes earlier to make sure I had time to get things situated in the tree and I’m glad I did because I needed it all to get the camera ready for the hunt.
Things I Forgot or Didn’t Realize
As I said, this is not a traditional “how-to” article. It’s just a recap of how my first experience with self-filming went. Naturally, there are some things I forgot or simply didn’t realize, such as…..
Test All Camera-Related Equipment
The biggest issues, while not immensely difficult, were equipment related. First, I couldn’t get the camera to stay screwed onto the tree arm. The screw just seemed too short. Remember, this is about an hour before first light and I’m 15 feet up in a tree. My hands are cold and I’m trying to get this camera attached. Finally I realized there were three rubber washers on the tree arm. After removing two of those the camera went on with ease. I sat down, took a few breaths and prepared myself for the hunt.
These little guys were a pain during the first self-filmed hunt.
The next morning saw another issue to content with. This time I was in a new tree and trying to screw in the tree attachment for the tree arm. The tree was harder than I thought and the attachment would not go in easy. It could have been an issue with the threading on the attachment, but after resting a few minutes it finally went on. The biggest fear I had during both of these situations was dropping my equipment. With cold hands it’s hard to hold onto a camera, a wing hunt and a small metal attachment bolt.
It took about 10 minutes to get this screw in the tree.
Looking back I would say I should have tested out this equipment before the first hunt. At minimum I should have probably conducted my firs hunt in the evening so it was light and not as cold.
Remembering that the First Move is to the Camera, Not the Bow
The first thing that’s strange is remembering to reach for the camera. For the last 15 years I’ve been reaching for the bow whenever there was a noise that sounded like a deer. Now, it’s about getting that camera ready for a shot first and then getting the bow in position. It’s not difficult, but it’s an extra step and I guess that’s all part of the extra challenge (and potential reward).
Film Every Little Detail Before, During and After
Going into this whole deal I knew I wanted to make videos that were more than just the shots on the deer during the moment of truth. Hunting is about so much more than the actual shot. I would say that 99% of hunting is about the other stuff that goes into the hunt and I find that interesting.
There were some things I didn’t realize I needed to film and my goal for the future is to take shots of things while on stand, while walking to the tree and at any time of preparation for the hunt. It’s interesting and it all makes for better video.
Tree Arm Geometry
What threw me off the first day were the weird angles that could occur with the tree arm. It’s hard to get that thing level on the tree and if it’s even slightly off you’ll get some interesting footage. I’m still not sure how to correct this issue. Trial and error I guess is on my list of things to do.
This is about as level as I could get the tree arm.
In Justin’s article he gave a great tip about putting the tree arm on the right side. For one of my setups I had to put the tree arm on the left side. I’ll have to deal with this all season.
As you can see, I had to crane my neck in order to see the screen.
Remember to zoom the camera back out before you turn it off. There were a few times I’d have the camera focused on some squirrels and would turn it off. Another animal would present itself and I would have to zoom the camera back out to find the critter.
There was a point where I was focusing through the trees out into a field. The camera was on auto-focus and it was focusing on the trees and not the field.
Hunting is More Than Just Seeing Deer
Unfortunately I didn’t see a single deer all weekend. I was a bit surprised. There had been plenty of daytime photos on the trail cam at both stand locations. The first day was pretty windy so it was less surprising that nothing showed up. However, the second morning was perfect. It was 30 degrees with no wind at all. The moon was about half full and on the downswing from the full moon. I guess it’s just one of those days when the deer forgot to read my script.
But hey, you know what? The experience was still great. There was still plenty to footage, including squirrels and the view from the tree. And, like I said earlier, hunting is much more than seeing deer. They’ll show up eventually.
Positive Realizations about Self-Filming
Coming out of my first weekend self-filming a deer hunt I’m really excited. This is a new challenge that should yield some great footage that will last forever. Memories can fade including the details about the hunt and I’m excited about having video of the hunts to relive whenever I want.
Self-filming is a new challenge. It’s not that I’m a great bowhunter that needed another challenge, but the addition of self-filming is something that will make the hunt even more rewarding. I’m all for putting in extra effort if it means feeling accomplished when a plan comes together.
New Excitement and Enjoyment
It was really fun to be in the woods and filming everything. It was exciting to hear a sound off in the distance and getting the camera ready for the action.
This is how I positioned everything in order to record myself talking about the hunt.
More (Good) Pressure to Perform
There is a strange feeling when you’re self-filming. You want to get something on camera for yourself. I found myself being more careful walking to the stand and getting prepared. I was focused on moving quietly in the stand when a noise was close. As a result, there is an added pressure to make something happen and I think that will be beneficial in the long run.
This is what my first experience “self-filming” was like. I had high hopes of getting lucky and filming a successful hunt the first time out, but the reality of hunting prevailed. There are lots of hours spent in the woods without seeing deer, but it all goes into the grind. It only takes one deer to walk by to change the fortunes of the entire season.
My next challenge will be editing the footage to create a video. I think that will be a completely different challenge, but one that will yield something great with practice.