How to Self Film Your Deer Hunt

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Have You Ever Tried Doing This?

Mounting a POV-style camera, such as a GoPro, can be a great way to film hands-free or to get a neat second-angle shot. (Realtree photo)

These days, self-filming has become a popular thing. A lot of people are starting to film their own hunts. If you haven’t started yet, want to know the benefits of doing so, and need a little help heading in the right direction, you’ve come to the right place.

I self-film all of my hunts. Sure, it’s part of my job now as an outdoor communicator. But it’s also something I enjoy. And there are other hunt-related reasons why I do it as well.

This is a hunt that I self-filmed last season in South Dakota. It was a great hunt with old and new friends alike. There’s many reasons why we self-film, but in cases such as this, preserving the memory is right up there at the top.

Reasons to Self-Film

Self-filming is a great tool that you can put in your arsenal. There are several reasons why it’s beneficial. Each of which are reason enough of why so many hunters are relying on it nowadays.

First off, most hunters self-film because they enjoy looking back on past hunts. They take pride in showing off their adventures to family and friends. And most importantly, it’s another way to help preserve memories afield.

Secondly, it helps you identify your shot placement on a deer. All you need to do is rewind the footage to see where your arrow (or bullet) hit. It’s also good for marking the path of the deer and where you last saw it after the shot.

Have the Right Equipment

Like with all things hunting, it’s crucial to have the right gear. You can’t do the job right if you don’t have the correct tools to accomplish it. That’s also true for self-filming.

Some tools you must have to do it. Other tools make the job easier and/or increase the production level. We’ll break these categories down so you can determine the basics of what you need.

Self-Filming with POV Cameras

Must Have’s:

  • Camera (Camcorder, DSLR or POV-style camera)
  • Tree arm
  • Tree arm base
  • Tripod

Also Good to Have:

  • Lanc remote
  • Shotgun mic
  • Wireless mic
  • Extra camera battery
  • Camera light
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Etc.

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When it comes to choosing a camera, the right decision depends on your personal goals and needs. I choose to run a camcorder, DSLR and POV-style GoPro cameras. That said, you may only need one or two of these to accomplish what you’re trying to achieve. It all depends on what you have in mind.

When it comes to self-filming, the fact is you can go as basic (or get as invested) as you choose. But remember, you get what you pay for. The better equipment you buy, the better the end product will be.

Understanding Camera Basics

It’s very important to know how to operate the equipment you choose to take to the field with you. Just as you wouldn’t go afield without becoming familiar with your gun or bow, you shouldn’t go afield without understanding how to use your camera gear, either.

For starters, read the manual. Study online tutorials that show you how to operate that specific camera. Watch videos to learn basic camera skills. This is an important process. You can’t be effective at something you don’t understand. Do your homework.

Also go into the hunt with a shot list in mind. Make a list of things you want to film while on the hunt. Below is a basic list to get you started. You’ll want to expand on this list based on your specific goals and situation.

  • Interview before the hunt
  • Interview during the hunt
  • Interview after the hunt
  • Pan shots of the landscape
  • Shots of trees and foliage
  • Shots of animals
  • The kill shot
  • Shots of gear used
  • Cutaways (clipping release, drawing bow, etc.)
  • Additional B-roll (anything that illustrates what you say during interviews)
  • Etc.

The Setup Is Key

The setup is crucial for self-filming success. We can’t accomplish what we need to if we aren’t properly prepared.

I’m a right-handed shooter. So I set up the tree arm to where it rests just under my right armpit when sitting. This keeps the camera on my right side so that I can hold the bow with my left hand and operate the camera via the lanc remote with my right hand. Then, at the moment of truth, I can frame up the shot, take my hand off the camera, clip my release on the bowstring, draw and take the shot.

Framing Up the Shot

It’s important to capture what you want to on film. To do this, it’s important to make sure you know how to compose the (video) shot. Start by making sure the deer is in focus. You don’t want it to be blurry. When hunting in the open, I’ve found it to be much easier to self-film in auto mode. But when hunting in timber, you’ll have to run on manual, even though it’s difficult to do so and try to kill a deer simultaneously.

Also, remember the Rule of Thirds. Divide the viewfinder into three section horizontally. Always make sure the deer is located in one of the two outermost thirds. Frame the shot so the deer’s rump is near the edge of the frame and its head is pointing toward the two-thirds of the frame that is open.

Now See it All Come Together

A Self-Filmed Bowhunt

I love to bowhunt. It's in my blood. And I love to share my adventures with others. This was a successful hunt I had in South Dakota last season.

A Self-Filmed Handgun Hunt

Adam Millard, contributor and self-filming extraordinaire, is a die-hard deer hunter. And he has some serious experience in the solo filming department. Check out this past hunt where he self-filmed a doe kill with a handgun.

There is plenty more to learn about cinematography and effectively operating cameras. That said, this should get you started and on your way to self-filming success. Good luck in the field. And God bless.

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Editor's Note: This was originally published on October 9, 2017.

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