As I sat there 20 feet up in that oak tree, trying to figure out what happened, I heard something behind me coming down the same trail. I turned to catch a glimpse of a wide Kansas buck heading my way.
I couldn’t believe this was happening so soon after I had missed the other deer.
This time, I was even more determined to settle my pins and connect on this nice Kansas buck!
As I released the arrow, I watched intently as it found its mark and sent the buck bolting through the woods to certain death.
Finally, after two years of hunting in Kansas, I was able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. It was a very exciting moment for me, as I anxiously texted my hunting buddies… “Big Buck Down.”
What makes this hunt even more special is the fact that I got it all on video.
Videoing my hunts allow me the privilege to watch them anytime I want to.
The scenario above happened almost a year ago. I went back and watched it five minutes before I wrote this article.
When I’m having a bad season and not seeing very many deer, I can always go back and watch the moment I killed my first Kansas buck. It is a very rewarding experience.
With today’s technological advances, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to get started filming your own hunts. Keep reading for two things that you will need to get started…
Obviously, you cannot film hunts without a camera, but what camera do you choose? That’s a great question that gets asked often.
First, It is very important that you choose a camera that is “High Definition” and has good low-light capabilities. The high definition will help you have clearer footage and the low light capabilities will help you get a few extra minutes of film time in the morning and the evenings. After all, you never know when you’re going to see something so rare that you’ll wish you had footage of it later on.
It is also important that you get a camera that has an external mic jack. If you are self-filming, it is important for you to choose a camera that has a good auto focus setting.
We currently use a Sony Ax-53 ($800) and a Canon 6D Mark 2 ($1500.)
Secondary cameras are also a big help to capture extra footage, such as GoPro, Spypoint or Tacticam.
It wasn’t until a recent hunt that I realized how important stabilization was for a camera.
We were on a hunt and managed to forget the arm plate, so I had to free-hand film the hunt. A doe came into our location and circled around the tree and put me in an awkward position while filming.
When we watched the footage back on the TV, I was shocked at how shaky I was. This one experience made me even more of a believer in good camera arm.
It’s important to choose a camera arm that has some length to it. This will help when the deer puts you in an awkward position of filming across your body or around the back of your tree.
Fourth Arrow has some amazing camera arms that are affordable, ($100-$300) adjustable, and easy to use. Muddy also has some great camera arms that are reasonably priced ($100-$300) and easy to use.
Every camera you buy comes with a built-in microphone, and they work decent most of the time. However, they are just not as clear or as sensitive as they need to be when capturing the sounds of the woods.
There’s just something special about being able to hear the leaves crunching under the deer’s feet when you are watching your hunt on TV or on social media. You will hear a lot less of those types of natural sounds without an external microphone.
Another problem with not having an external microphone is when you put distance between the camera man and the hunter. An external microphone will give you a lot more range of distance than your standard camera mic.
It is true, most people will watch bad footage with good audio before they will watch good footage with bad audio. Rode Mics offer a variety of microphones for most cameras.
Trust me when I say, you will want to get an external microphone!
Yeah I know, I thought the same thing when I heard about “fluid heads.”
So, what is a fluid head?
It’s an attachment that fits onto your camera arm that works by hydraulic fluid. The hydraulic fluid head allows you to make smoother movements with your camera. This creates better, higher quality footage for your viewing.
Pro Am has some very good fluid heads at reasonable prices. ($100-$300)
A remote control for your camera is very important, especially if you are self-filming. It enables you to basically do everything with one hand so you can use your other hand to grab you bow or your gun.
Most cameras have remote controls that can be purchased for them. I prefer to use the remote controls that are wired and plug directly into the camera.
Camera remotes are made to attach to your camera arm handle and can be a lifesaver when a deer walks into range. They help you minimize movement while your target animal is close.
Second Thing You Need: PASSION
Passion is nothing more than a strong desire for something. And, if you are going to film your hunts, you are going to need a strong desire to do so.
I promise you there are going to be moments when you will wake up and you are already late to your stand and taking time to get camera gear to the tree will make you even later.
Then, there will be times when you will forget pieces of equipment and the thought will run across your mind, “I don’t know why I even mess with this junk. I’m not doing this anymore.”
Possibly, even worse than that, you will have a big buck bust you because you were reaching for the camera instead of your bow. It’s during these moments that it will take passion to help you keep going.
To successfully film your hunts, the second thing you need is to have passion in the following three areas…
Passion for hunting: Passion for hunting is probably the most obvious one. You have to love the hunt! Passion for hunting is what is going to keep you in the woods experiencing all of the things that are film-worthy. If the idea of being perched up twenty feet in a tree with a bow in your hand anticipating a big buck coming near gets you excited, then congratulations, you have a passion for the hunt!
Passion for telling the story: I had a man tell me once, “You tell stories really good.” That’s because I have a passion about telling stories. When I tell a story, I want people to feel what I was feeling, hear what I was hearing and see what I was seeing. Being able to take your camera and video everything that you are experiencing in the woods is being able to tell your story. It gives the viewer an opportunity to see what you saw, hear what you heard and feel what you felt. You will need a passion for that in order to overcome the difficulties that come along with filming.
Passion for new challenges: It is an understatement to say that filming your hunts is a challenge. It is actually beyond a challenge to be able to put it all together and film a successful hunt, but it sure is fun trying. One of the hard parts is learning all of the new things that make you better at filming your hunts. Anything from positioning your camera to learning how to edit your videos. Each one of these things can provide its own set of challenges, so you will need to be excited about learning new things. If you have a passion for new challenges then you are going to love filming your hunts.
There are so many more things that can be written on the subject of filming hunts.
The further you dive into the process more questions will come about camera equipment, editing, producing episodes for social media, etc. However, if there was one more piece of advice I could give you on this subject, it would be to remind you to have fun.
The camera is just a great way to share the memories of the love of the hunt, it is never meant to replace the love of the hunt. Sometimes the pressure of trying to get it all to work out on film can rob you of the fun of the sport of hunting.
Make up your mind before you begin the journey that you will always love the hunt more than you love the camera.
Whitetail hotspots… everybody seems to have them, yet many have a hard time understanding them. I know I’ve made my share of mistakes hunting the coveted areas of different properties over my many seasons of chasing deer.
For years, my dad, brother and I hunted a 30-acre property with three stands; and one “hot spot.” Most hunting weekends meant stiff competition for that magical stand – and if you happened to have the place to yourself, there was nothing to keep you out of it.
Years of seeing the best bucks from this stand ruled our brains. However, after a few seasons, the cold realization set in that our encounters with the best bucks occurred almost exclusively during the peak rut. Nothing real profound there.
The fact was, we hadn’t really taken many big mature bucks from the stand since the first three or four years. Only after the biggest buck ever taken from the place was shot from the other stand did the wheels start to turn.
The hunting gusto of my younger years represented a time when, less educated, I thought I was bullet-proof in the woods. I thought I had it all figured out. This was an era when I wanted to shoot the biggest buck without really having to work at it.
Sure, it took getting up early in the morning and braving the cold weather, but that was about it. I quickly learned that much of my whitetail hunting ways needed rethinking – or thinking at all. Further, I started to realize that whitetail hunting is much more of a chess match than a free-for-all.
No more scrambling for the “good stand,” regardless of hunting conditions. A hunt-smarter mantra overtook my hunt-often mindset.
Are You Getting A Deer Education or Just Educating Deer?
Perhaps the most essential shift in thinking was realizing that I was habitually educating way too many deer to my presence.
My aha moments finding rubs and trails were really nothing more than sloppy field trips. What was worse was my half hazard route selection when traversing to and from this honey-hole stand. The same could be said about the other properties we hunted.
Stand locations were based on the best buck sign and past experiences with little regard for prevailing winds and entry and exit routes. If I was sitting over a rub line – or for that matter a urine-soaked cotton ball, I was golden.
When the buck sightings didn’t materialize (or came to a halt), I assumed the deer had simply changed their patterns. And I continued to taint the woods like an open tank of gasoline.
Coming to My Senses
Like the deer I hunted, I started to exercise more caution and logic. The fact is that, though all deer have great senses, they continually get better with age – especially bucks.
I had heard these things from other hunters and read about them in magazines. In fact, my father had often preached these basic facts. However, with a few bucks under my belt, I had just chosen to ignore them.
After this reckoning, I finally made the decision to maximize my time in the woods.
So, how do you keep from compromising your best hunting setups during the season?
First, regardless of property size, prepare multiple setups for different wind directions. This will usually provide a good hunting alternative for a given day’s conditions. If possible, vow to never hunt a stand during marginal wind situations.
Next, consider ahead of time how you will enter and exit the stand. Hopefully, some stands are set up within a heavy travel corridor between food sources and/or bedding areas. However, with this positive placement comes a higher chance of disturbing the peace.
If your entry or exit will likely upset the area, be resolute about finding an alternative spot nearby. If not, hunt another area or make the dreaded, yet sometimes necessary decision to stay in.
Longer sessions in your blind or treestand can pay real dividends. It’s common knowledge that it’s a great strategy during the rut, as it increases your chances of catching a buck that is either cruising or on the heals of a hot doe.
The fact is, if you have the time, it’s a great practice from a pressure standpoint as well.
The best scent management doesn’t come from a bottle. If you have an all-day sit, you eliminate additional entry and exits to and from your stand. So, consider exercising addition by subtraction by settling in for longer hunts, hence applying less pressure to the areas around your most precious setups.
Few stands offer even near perfect advantage for the hunter. The save-a-stand-for-best-conditions approach works. Particularly if you are hunting an exceptionally old and impressive buck, use this philosophy and completely ignore your best setups until favorable dates.
There is only one first time to hunt a stand during the season. Saving it for a time when bucks are seeking does is great, but there are more things to mull over. When you do, you greatly improve your chances at even seeing your hit-list buck.
The dropping of the antlers may take place within 24 to 48 hours, but the entire shedding process may take as long as two to three weeks before the antlers actually fall off. Then, throughout the summer, new antlers will regenerate.
The shedding and regrowth of a deer’s antlers is an amazing process.
Read on and let’s take a deeper look into deer antlers, how they are used, and the shedding process in general…
What are those antlers used for anyway?
Male deer, or “bucks,” use their antlers as a weapon, whether to compete for a mate, or to defend themselves. They also use their antlers to display their physiological fitness and to show off their fertility and strength.
Bucks will violently clash their sets of antlers during the breeding season, or “the rut,” to display their strength and dominance. This can sometimes lead to broken antlers, bloody deer, and sometimes even death.
Because of the competitiveness that takes place during this time, bucks with the largest set of antlers (referred to as a “rack) often position themselves to be in the right place at the right time, as a female deer (doe) comes into estrous and becomes ready to be bred.
Increasing levels of testosterone, in addition to decreasing daylight hours, are among the major factors contributing to antler growth during the summer months.
Considered as the most extravagant display of a male deer’s sexual traits, these antlers grow much faster than any other bones among mammals.
A deer’s antlers grow from an attachment section on its skull known as a pedicle. Antler growth starts at the tip and initially forms as a cartilage, which is later replaced by a bone-like tissue that is similar to a honeycomb.
During the growth period, the pedicle is covered with a highly vascular skin, called “velvet,” that supplies nutrients and oxygen to the developing bones.
During summer, deer antlers grow rapidly within two to four months and – according to Peter Yang, PhD, associate professor of orthopedics at Stanford University School of Medicine, they can grow up to 2 cm per day. During this process, the antlers eventually mineralize and harden.
But then, once peak levels of testosterone are reached, a deceleration of the growth rate of a buck’s antlers occurs.
During this period of peaking testosterone, the veins and arteries surrounding the velvet cut blood flow and supply of nutrients to the antlers. Because of lack of blood and nutrients, the velvet that encases the antlers wastes away and falls off when the deer rub their antlers on trees. This is often referred to as the shedding of velvet.
Because of their rapid growth rate, antlers may be a disadvantage because there is an enormous need for good nutrition in order for a buck to regrow them every year. But, this can also signify a buck’s metabolic efficiency and superior food gathering capability.
So, now you know how they grow, but why do deer antlers eventually fall off?
WHY do deer shed their antlers?
So, we’ve explored how the antlers grow, but why do deer shed them later on?
In exactly the opposite way that bucks grow their antlers, the shedding of those same antlers among bucks is triggered by decreasing testosterone following the rut, as well as increasing minutes of daylight.
In the wild, injuries and nutrition also play a huge part in the antler shedding process. For example, a healthier buck loses its antlers at a much later period compared to a weaker deer.
The pedicle, or mounting point, where these antlers are attached and grow from, is also the location where the antlers break off.
Just as rising testosterone levels triggered antler growth at the pedicle, a drop in testosterone levels will cause the pedicle to weaken and eventually, the antlers will fall off.
WHEN do deer shed their antlers?
The particular time a buck will discard its antlers may be largely determined by its individual shedding cycle. This is separate from other bucks’ antler cycles and is possibly centered on its birth date.
In Mississippi, a study conducted among individual penned bucks found that they shed their racks about the same week every year. Other research studies on captive deer discovered that bucks often shed both horns three days apart of each other.
Most bucks will retain their antlers through the winter and into the early Spring and then start shedding their racks anywhere between January and April. Some bucks may shed their antlers earlier or later depending on the maturity of the deer, its physical condition, and the habitat where they live.
Photoperiodism is the physiological response of different organisms to the length of night or day. This happens both in plants and animals. Among bucks, photoperiods occur alongside the testosterone to grow the antlers and define when they will fall off.
Testosterone levels increase during the development and the ensuing shedding of the antler velvet. As the seasons start to change, the biological reaction of antler shedding is activated.
Genes also help define early or late growth and shedding of antlers, mainly due to family history which may have an influence on the overall health of the deer.
In general, a deer will lose its antlers during the same time period each year, except for other factors such as health conditions or injuries.
Emotional factors can also play a part in the deer antler shedding process. Just like humans, deer experience social anxiety which may have a negative impact on their health condition and lead to earlier shedding.
Other factors such as weather, altitude, and food availability may also influence when antler shedding takes place.
Some scientists believe that the shedding process is necessary in order for bucks to replace broken or damaged antlers. If a deer has to live with a broken beam or cracked tines his entire life, he will not have the necessary tool to fight off rivals or have the stance to attract does. New racks can grow anywhere from ten to thirty inches bigger every year and this allows bucks to also keep up with their increasing girth and weight as they mature.
How long does it take a deer to shed its antlers?
The duration of the shedding process all depends on how fast a buck decreases its testosterone levels. In most cases, this may happen in less than two to three days.
Although the antlers may appear solidly fixed, they may start to loosen up rapidly as the mating season progresses and natural physiological cycles happen.
After a while, an abrupt jerking actions or a sudden scare from nearby predator can cause enough force to cause the antlers to fall off. The muscle is no longer tough enough to support the weight of the rack, and as a result, the antlers simply fall off.
As the connecting tissue withers and shrinks, the antlers become loose and fall off. In areas with an early mating season, testosterone levels of bucks will decrease earlier, causing some bucks to cast their antlers off at an earlier time than usual. A harsh winter with a tons of snow can also cause stressed deer to shed racks earlier.
Compared to younger bucks, many older bucks shed antlers earlier. After the mating season, the decreased levels of testosterone cause the formation of an abscission layer between the pedicles and antlers.
In general, bucks in peak physical condition will hang on to their racks much longer than weaker bucks. Their prime health allows them to have stronger tissue and maintain a better physical condition causing a higher than normal antler to head stability.
Late shedding may also be caused by several other factors. Changing deer populations in a specific location may play a large part in later shedding. Low population indicates antler shedding may not reach its peak until late March or April.
First year bucks that reach the right rearing weight during their first winter will experience the estrous cycle, the recurring biological changes that are produced by reproductive hormones. This will keep the testosterone level of a deer higher for a longer period of time, which may lengthen the amount of time a buck will keep its antlers.
Other Facts About Antler Shedding
Individual deer also have unique shedding patterns. It is also worth knowing that some equatorial deer never shed their antlers regardless of the condition.
In the past, people believed that deer look for a more secluded area to shed their antlers, away from does and rival bucks to avoid public display of their loss of virility.
But, researchers debunk that idea saying that bucks are probably oblivious of when and where they will lose their antlers, although some may follow a regular pattern depending on the conditions.
Some deer will drop both antlers, if undisturbed, almost on top of each other each year. However, some bucks will drop their racks anywhere from a hundred to four hundred yards apart from each other.
The process of deer antler growth as well as the shedding process is truly an amazing occurrence. So, next time you come across a deer antler in the woods, remember, it went through a lot just to be there!