The art of deer hunting is quite challenging in and of itself. Matching wits with an animal that has such an amazing set of innate defense mechanisms of smell, sight and hearing is exhilarating. Add the element of using a bow over a rifle or muzzleloader and the challenge increases even more. To make things even more complicated, how about having someone film you on your hunt? That’s where things get interesting.
The dynamic of the experience changes. Everything is multiplied by two – your scent, your movement and every sound you make. Each of these decreasing your chances of killing a deer. Things like walking to your stand. Climbing up a tree. Setting up a ground blind. All now have to make sense for not one, but two people.
So many deer hunters like you are taking up this challenge of filming your hunts. Adding some so called spice to the hunt. It’s amazing really to see the growth of this movement. Yes, I call it a movement because of the sheer number of everyday people who are taking action – with their own cameras. Enhancing their hunting experiences. Capturing and sharing their memories.
But if all this wasn’t enough to challenge the hunter, enter the DSLR. The digital single lens reflex camera. A piece of equipment that most folks use to take photographs. But for some, including myself, it’s the ultimate tool to capture High Definition video, documentary style.
It’s a game changer. But how you may ask? Well, besides taking high quality photographs, many DSLR’s have an HD video mode who’s quality rivals that of hollywood quality video equipment costing thousands of dollars more.
I shot Huntography using my Canon 7D DSLR camera. It was not easy. Not at all. But man, was it fun. And the quality of footage was in many instances, beyond amazing. There aren’t enough adjectives to properly cover how I feel about this piece of video equipment. But for all the positives, there are an equal amount of negatives.
There is No Auto Focus
The Canon 7D DSLR camera and many other HDSLR’s, do not have full auto focus while shooting in video mode – there are some exceptions however. What does this mean for the Huntographer? It means that if a nice buck catches you off guard and comes running in behind you, you’re going to have to scramble to get that buck in focus. One second he could be 30 yards out and then, in the blink of an eye, he could be right under your stand. You’re going to have to manually focus that whole sequence of movement. That is a skill that takes time to acquire and to be good at. You could get what’s called a follow focus and attach it to your camera but that adds another dimension to the mix – more weight and cost for your rig. I made one myself that worked great while I practiced at home. But when I was in the moment, filming in the woods, it didn’t feel right to me and actually made the shots more difficult. Hey, maybe it was because my DIY follow focus only cost me $5 to make
Then, a scenario
could will arise where you may need to zoom in more but the lens you have on the camera at that moment won’t cut it. So you have to quickly switch out the lens all while the deer are around you. Not easy at all. Believe me, I personally experienced it.
Yes, I said lenses. You will need more than one. And don’t bother buying a DSLR with a kit lens, they are not that good. If you’re going to buy a DSLR, buy the body only and use the difference towards an higher quality lens.
As I mentioned in the scenario above, you will need to have all of your possible focal ranges covered. This is something that a traditional video camera has over a DSLR, as far as simplicity and convenience are concerned. They typically have an optical zoom range up to 20x to adequately handle a vast array of distances. To put that into perspective, in a DSLR, that focal range could be about 26-520mm. To cover that vast range you’ll need multiple lenses. Not cheap and not easy to maneuver while sitting 25 feet up a tree.
You’re going to need an external mic. The built in audio lacks the quality needed for a good sounding production. The cost here is not too bad and well worth the investment.
Unlike most traditional video cameras who record onto inexpensive mini dv or via a built in solid state hard drive, DSLR’s use Compact flash cards and SDHC cards that don’t come cheap. Then you have to download all the footage each night to an external hard drive to make room for the next days footage. The large file sizes that HD video produce will quickly eat up your hard drive space. You’ll need multiple external hard drives to archive your precious hunting footage. Again, not cheap.
Sound like fun yet? Now that you have captured some great memories on camera, you’ll want to share that with family, friends or the world. This brings me back to the large file sizes that HD video from DSLR’s produce. It is almost impossible to edit the raw footage. You’ll need to compress it first. A long and tedious task. One that takes up even more hard drive space. Ouch!
After that’s done, you’ll need to edit. I’m a Mac. So I use Final Cut Pro Studio. iMovie will certainly work though. For you PC users, you’ll just have to google some editing software options to use
I’ll write a post about everything I learned from my first hand experience using a Canon 7D DSLR to film last years first season of Huntography soon. I hope that some of my learnings will help those of you who want to try filming with a DSLR. Until then, I’ll have to finish up the dvd.
I can’t wait for this years deer hunting season to arrive.
Ok, so who’s ready to become a Huntographer and go film their hunts with a DSLR?
P.S. – A DSLR camera is not necessary in order to be a Huntographer
Hi, I'm Rudy and I'm Filming America's Whitetail Deer and Elk Bow Hunters, One at a time. You could be in our next documentary hunting film. Email me to learn more.