By Alex Comstock
This season, my hunting buddy Tyler and I have committed to filming all of our hunts for a variety of reasons. I've quickly learned that there are many nuisances that come along hunting with a cameraman. There are major things you need to think of, and small not so obvious little things that might take a little while to perfect. Overall, it's a major difference for everything from planning to executing a hunt. Here's what I've found you need to take into account when filming a hunt, and being with a cameraman...
Planning/Organization: Before you even get to the field, there is a ton of work that goes into making sure all of your camera gear is organized, and you have a solid plan. If you are serious about filming, it is imperative to have a couple batteries and SD cards for a camera, that way when you've got one battery on the charger, you can have the extra one in the camera. I have two 32GB SD cards for my camera, so I don't have to worry about running out of storage before transferring the video files to my computer.
Keeping your gear organized is the next task. Nothing is more frustrating than forgetting something back at home. I have learned this very fast by forgetting the bracket that attaches the camera to the fluid head at home, and another time I left the camera on, so when I got up into the tree, I had a dead camera. These couple major mistakes have taught me an important lesson; keep everything organized and together. Because of those mistakes, I now keep all of my gear in a duffel bag (camera, accessories, batteries, etc.), and that bag comes with me on every hunt. When I get to my designated parking spot, I check the battery life on my camera, make sure I've got everything, and then head to the stand.
Picking a Good Tree: So let's take a quick step back for a second. When two people are sitting in a tree, with two stands, you need the right tree. It's not just you that you've got to worry about now, you've got to think of not only how will you get two stands into a tree, but how the cover is, where will you be hoping to shoot at, and how will the cameraman be able to film there? There are many more questions you have to ask yourself before hanging a stand.
What I like to look for is a tree where you can hang the camera stand off the right hand side of the shooting stand, with the platform at about the height of the shooters seat. This seems to offer up the best ability for the cameraman to film, and still being able to shoot effectively without them being in the way. Not all trees will allow you do to this though, and getting creative can be important. Whether that be hanging the camera stand on the backside of the tree, or what I've even done, is when there is a Y tree, to hang the camera stand on the other part of the Y tree, so the stands are practically facing each other.
Packing Everything To/Setting up at the Stand: This is where you have to come up with your own system, and figure out what works for you. If you're hunting out of a stand, there is a lot more to pack in. You'll have a camera, a camera arm, the tree base for the camera arm, maybe even a Go Pro and it all adds up. What I've found works for me, is for the cameraman to carry the camera since they will probably be filming some of the walk in, and then I clip the camera arm base, and camera arm to the outside of my pack. That way I still can carry my bow easily, and don't have to worry about how that stuff will fit in my pack.
Once arriving at the stand, it will take a bit longer to get setup, especially at first. I've found that you usually come up with a system and once you get good at it, you will get quicker and quicker every time. What works best for us is to have the cameraman climb up first. If that's Tyler, I will attach the camera to the tow rope while he is climbing up. He gets to the top, pulls up the camera, then sends down the rope. I'll then attach my bow, and climb up still with the tree base and camera arm attached to my pack. When I get up to the stand, Tyler will quickly get those attached to the tree, and put together while I'm pulling up my bow. Usually by the time my bow is up, and an arrow knocked, we are ready to go with the camera.
Camera Lanes: It is important to not only have shooting lanes like you normally do, but to have camera lanes as well. The camera stand is going to have a different view than the shooting stand, so just because you can see somewhere doesn't mean the cameraman can.
Movement/Scent: Two people equals double trouble. That's how I think of it when it comes to not getting busted. When there is two people up in a tree, you really have to be careful about your movement, because it's a lot easier for a deer to pick you off. The same goes with scent control. With twice as much human odor, it is critical to practice your scent control to a T and use the wind to your advantage.
Communication: Communication is maybe the most important aspect of hunting with a cameraman once setup in the tree. You and your cameraman need to be on the same page, and know how to effectively communicate with each other. Whether that be a tap on the leg when a deer approaches, or 1 tap equals a doe, and 2 taps equals a buck, having some type of regime will help aid in not getting busted by deer. You can't always turn to your cameraman and talk loud enough for them to hear you. The best communicating duos out there are ones who have been doing it for a long time, or people that know each other really well. You will learn each other's tendencies, and the more you hunt with a cameraman, the better you will communicate, and that will lead to higher film quality.
Clear Goals: I can't stress this enough. You need to have clearly set goals with what you want to accomplish with your film. Because it's only a matter of time before a big buck pops out somewhere you didn't expect, and in a matter of seconds you'll have to decide what's more important to you, shooting him when you've got a clear shot whether or not the camera is on him, or wait until the camera is on him. That's why you see it time and time again on TV shows, it will look like the buck is out in the open and he won't get shot. Well that's because the camera has a clear view of him, but the hunter doesn't. Then the buck will move, and the hunter will have a clear shot, but the camera can't get on him. You need to know what is more important to you before heading out. To get the kill, or get the kill on film perfectly. Don't try and make the decision in the heat of the moment.
Conclusion: Hunting with a cameraman brings forth a lot of challenges, but it can be very rewarding. Personally, I have enjoyed this season of filming so far. Every time you hop in a tree or blind, you have someone with you, and therefore, someone to have experiences with. Opposed to having a great encounter, and trying to explain to your friend what happened, they are right there with you, and you get to capture everything on film. Hunting with a cameraman isn't for everybody, but the experiences can be quite rewarding.
Do you hunt with a cameraman? Let us know, and let us know if you'd add anything to this!