It wasn't so long ago that the only way most hunters captured the image of a hunt was in his mind or on an old Polaroid instant camera. With digital cameras, more hunters began taking photographs, but today it seems that nearly everyone wants to video their hunts.
Videoing hunts has come a long way since the early 1990s when outdoor television, as we know it, really got its start. It was about that time that I began following Realtree's Bill Jordan and David Blanton around with a camera after joining their crew. Back then it took so much more to capture a hunt on video than it does today. I remember humping around big, heavy tripods and 40-pound Beta cameras with large videotapes to capture the action. Compared to that, what guys are carrying today weighs almost nothing, but still captures video with better quality. In addition to size, it took a lot of money and other equipment to put a show together. Besides cameras and tripods, you had to have two decks, video players, a couple of monitors, and more. All of the extra stuff would run you well into tens of thousands of dollars. Nothing was consumer friendly.
Fortunately, everything has changed. Today, the difference between professional-grade and consumer-grade equipment is extremely narrow. For what is really a minimal cost, the average hunter can produce professional-looking video. Even the typical iPhone is capable of capturing pictures and video of high enough resolution that could be used on TV. And when it comes to editing, with the inexpensive software available on a PC or Mac, even a kid or an old redneck like me can figure out how to edit videos and make them look pretty darn good.
The cool thing about capturing your hunts on video is that it is so easy. You can get a small camera that isn't burdensome to carry around and with image stabilization for a steadier picture. Because these cameras are so small, they are also easy to camouflage, so you shouldn't have to worry about blowing a hunt by being spotted by a deer or turkey.
When most of us go turkey hunting or duck hunting, we usually do it with a buddy, and one of you should always carry a camera. Film your buddy hunting and then switch after he fills his tag. Capturing footage is like capturing memories of your life. It gives you a complete playback of what you actually experienced in the woods and can keep doing that many years later, even after some of the details may have grown fuzzy in their recollection.
What's really cool is you also have footage to prove exactly what happened. Now when something crazy happens and your buddies don't believe you, you can bust out the footage and prove it. Of course, on the flip side, the only negative about videoing is you can't get away with some of those tall tales you used to tell.
Go on Facebook or YouTube and it seems like everybody wants to be on television. The beauty of filming your hunts with a good camera is that it could actually be used on a show. If you capture good footage and it has products used by a show's sponsors, producers will be more apt to use your hunt. It's something to think about if you were ever hoping to get a break in outdoor television.
There are a lot of cameras and dealers out there, so I won't get into too many specifics on brands, but with all of the innovations in camera technology today, getting a good camera is as easy as walking into a Best Buy and purchasing one of the many recognizable brands within your budget. One thing you want to do, however, is make sure the camera is HD. When the quality is compared to a regular camera...well, there is no comparison: HD is much better.
Another key item is to get a solid tripod, as nothing is worse than watching shaky footage. Anytime you're set up on the ground near a hunting partner, you want to have the camera set up and level so you can smoothly pan in and out and follow the action. If you're hunting from a treestand, tree arms can serve the same purpose as a tripod.
To add different angles and perspectives to the action, there are a lot of inexpensive cameras you can mount on your gun or your hat that provide a hunter's view of the action, too. These are great for cutaway shots and let viewers see exactly what the hunter is seeing. For these shots, check out the Action Cam and GoPro.
Once you're geared up, you're ready to go. Take time to practice filming things around your house, just like you would practice your bow. But remember, videoing hunts can be addictive. Once you start hunting with a camera, you'll never want to go out and hunt without one.