Many hunters have aspirations of someday making it big by having their TV show, but most hunters who are filming their own hunts are just doing it for the fun of it. Filming yourself has advantages and disadvantages. I prefer the time alone in-stand to the issues associated with having a camera person along: there’s twice as much scent, twice as much movement, and twice as much work. I will gladly take the trade-off of not getting quite as much footage in exchange for hunting and filming alone.
There are a few things you need to know about cameras and accessories that will make your self-filming better. You will produce better video that you can be proud of if you know these few tips.
You can spend $500 to $5,000 on a camera depending on your budget. The cameras that run between $500 and $1,000 take remarkably good video. The Canon Vixia series are good examples. Some things to look for are a quality lens, low lux rating, and a large optical zoom.
The quality of the lens will significantly impact your final product. Lux rating is the amount of light gathering capability the camera has. A low lux rating will allow you to film a little longer during those all-important last few minutes of daylight. Don’t be fooled by a long digital zoom. You want a video camera for hunting that can reach out there and close in on an animal in the distance, but a digital zoom is interpolated and the loss of quality is significant. Go for the best optical zoom you can afford.
Most cameras under $1,000 will not offer a manual focus, although you can find some good used or reconditioned models with a manual focus. Autofocus is great until you have an animal behind some tree limbs and you can’t see it because the camera is focused on the branches and cannot be changed.
Today’s DSLR cameras offer excellent video capabilities. You can use the same lenses you use for photography, you can set it on manual focus, and you can add external microphones and they shoot excellent video. I shoot a lot of video with my Canon 60D and have been happy with the quality.
They have a couple drawbacks. First of all, unless you are willing to drop a sizable chunk of change on a low F-stop lens, you will have trouble in low light. You can easily invest a lot more in a DSLR than in a video camera, but with a DSLR, you have the added ability to take excellent still shots and you don’t have to carry a second hunting video camera.
Bow-mounted Rush Cam
Cameras that mount to your bow or gun have come a long ways in the last decade. Units like the Rush Cam offer HD video in a small package that you can mount to your bow. While most of these small point-of-view (POV) cameras in the past had wide-angle lenses, which make the target animal look a long way away, these two models video basically what you see.
The Rush Cam is easy to turn on and off, and takes surprisingly good video on Micro SD cards. It comes with quite a collection of mounting accessories and it’s an affordable option for a second camera.
GoPro and other POVs
GoPro have spawned a dozen imitations, some of which are just as good and some are not. Many GoPro-/POV-style cameras have limited use in the treestand because they have a wide-angle lens, the limitations of which are described above. However, if you are interested in a second view, such as putting a camera where the deer will be standing, many can be connected to remote controls that allow you to turn them on and off.
I recently used a GoPro on a bear hunt and used it behind the bear bait in hopes of getting some shots of bears close-up. It worked very well. I found the GoPro app for my iPhone to be fantastic and easy to use.
Camera arms and accessories
If you are hunting in a treestand, you need at bare minimum a camera arm to mount the device on. This allows you to position the camera and zoom in on the shot location. An arm also allows you to take nice, steady video without camera shake.
There are some low-end camera arms for under $100 that will do in a pinch, but they have jerky motions and make smooth pans difficult. I would suggest you spend about $300 on a Hawk Hunting Pro Camera Arm ($120) and a good fluid head ($180-$200). You will be glad you did and your investment will last longer than your hunting video camera.
Another good investment is the SolVid mount for your head. It allows you to video a spot and stalk hunt, or will keep your hands free while blood trailing or videotaping the things you do while hunting that give the feel for the entire hunt, not just the moment of truth.
These options should give you a good start in self-filming and you will be watching your hunts and reliving the excitement for years.
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.
Images courtesy Bernie Barringer