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.
Okay, I know many of you ask yourself, “how do I go about choosing the right taxidermist,” am I correct?
Of course, you could just speak into your phone an say, “taxidermist near me.”
But, that’s not going to tell you what you really need to know.
In this article, I’m going to explain what you should be looking for in a taxidermist that you will be contracting to mount your trophy of a lifetime.
Just like anything else, first impressions are everything. If something doesn’t sound, look or even feel right, always trust your gut.
Questions That Need Answers When Choosing a Taxidermist
The answers to the following questions do not necessarily determine whether a taxidermist is competent or incompetent. However, you might learn enough to know whether or not you feel comfortable enough to risk putting your trophy in that person’s hands.
Is The Taxidermist “Online?”
In this technology-dominated era, one question worth finding out is, does the taxidermist you are considering for your trophy have an internet presence?
These days, almost all legit companies have some sort of online footprint, whether it be a fancy website, or a social media business account. So, do your homework!
What Is Their Contact Information?
Does the taxidermist you are considering have a dedicated business landline? If the answer is no, this is not necessarily a deal breaker, but it could be a sign of cutting corners if it is their home phone or a mobile phone only.
Do they have a local area code for their business phone number? If not, it could mean that this person moves a lot, bouncing around and taking deposits and trophies with them and just never changing their contact information.
There are a lot of “here today, gone tomorrow” taxidermists out there. So, be careful!
What Type Of Payments Are Accepted?
A very important question to find out the answer to is, does this taxidermist accept only cash and/or ask for full payment upfront?
Now, you can always expect to pay a deposit before the work is started, but usually 50% is sufficient.
Demanding full payment up front and/or only accepting cash is a big red flag!
Being paid in full could give a taxidermist little incentive to complete your project in a timely manner, or in extreme cases, complete it at all!
Cash only transactions could mean they are hiding, or trying to hide, something from the IRS or the bank. There is no reason to not at least accept a personal check or even credit/debit cards.
If they are running from the IRS, they could easily disappear on you.
Also, make sure you sign a work order or contract with them on the work to be done. This agreement should explain in detail what is expected in the end-product, as well as the deposit paid and balance due. This will help to keep both you and the taxidermist on the same page regarding your requests and desires for your trophy mount.
What To Look For In Quality Taxidermy
Now that we have the business end of the matter out of the way, let’s discuss quality.
There are many levels of quality in taxidermy, just as there are in any other service industry such as home repairs, mechanics, restaurants, lawn care, etc.
Are you looking at getting your buddy that practices taxidermy on the side or as a hobby to mount your trophy whitetail? Or, are you looking a high-end professional job when it is all said and done?
Remember, this is something that you are going to display in your home or office that reminds you of a memory of a special moment in your past. You will be looking at this “piece of art” for the rest of your life. So, think it through.
There are taxidermists out there for everyone’s expectations as well as budgets. But, don’t have high expectations on a low-budget and do not settle for shoddy work when paying premium prices. It’s up to you to determine what you want, and what you are willing to pay for, in your taxidermy work.
Taxidermy Details (There’s More To It Than You Think!)
On to the work itself! Are you looking for standard, what we call “straight out of the box” taxidermy?
Or, are you wanting custom, all the bells and whistles taxidermy, that gives you and your guests the “WOW” factor when walking into the room to see it? Again, this is your decision to make, and it’s your money you are spending.
Some of you may be thinking, “what are the ‘bells and whistles’ in taxidermy? After all, a deer head is a deer head. A life-size bear is a life-size bear, right?”
All taxidermy work is not created equal! For instance, do you want your finished whitetail mount to have a solid jet black nose? Or, do you want to have the nose look realistic and show all the depth and colors that are really in a deer nose (believe it or not a whitetails nose is not solid black)?
Do you want the high-end glass eyes that look alive with white banding and veining detailed into them? Or, do you want generic, solid brown or black plastic eyes, just to fill the void in the mount?
What about your mountain lion or grizzly bear, even something smaller like a fox, bobcat or coyote? Do you want them to look realistic and alive, or look like a cartoon character having a bad day? Because, you can get either one.
These are all things you NEED to discuss beforehand with the taxidermist to make sure he/she can meet your expectations.
Don’t go by the ad they have in a magazine, on a billboard sign with trophies and ribbons in the back ground, or their website covered with competition pieces they have put hundreds of hours into to get those plaques and awards.
Go into the taxidermist’s showroom and view other clientele’s work that is waiting to be picked up. Go view someone else’s mount in their home that has been completed by the taxidermist in question.
You want to see what goes out of the shop on a day-to-day basis and make your decision based on those pieces, as opposed to the ones that were meticulously done with the intent of pleasing a judge at a convention and had professional photographers doing photo shoots for the website or ads.
I’m not saying that the competition pieces are a fluke, but it’s worth questioning whether a taxidermist produces, within reason, the same high quality, eye-pleasing work for everyday customers.
More To Consider
There are some more things to consider when choosing the taxidermist you would like to handle your work.
What Is Their Niche?
All taxidermist have their niche. They may not admit it, but they do.
So, just because taxidermist (A) does an awesome job on your trophy mule deer from your Wyoming hunt last fall, do not automatically assume he/she will do a high-quality job on that largemouth bass or giant catfish you just caught out of your private farm pond, or that beautiful pintail drake you harvested back in the winter on that frigid coastal morning you’ll never forget. You very well may need to get taxidermist (B) and maybe even taxidermist (C) involved to take care of these projects for you.
Also, you do not have to settle for the local guy if his work is not up to your standards. Trophies are shipped all around the world daily, so don’t think you are limited to a certain area.
When Your Trophy Is Not In Your Town
If you are planning an out of state or even out of the country hunt, and you are using a taxidermist in your hometown, check with them to see about expediting your skins, trophy antlers and/or horns back to you, or to the taxidermy shop, BEFORE you leave for the hunt. They should know all the ins and outs of taking care of these sort of things.
Likewise, if you are using a taxidermist local to where you will be hunting, inquire about the cost and process of getting your trophies back home before you leave them. Failing to find out the answer to this question could cost you big money, or even worse, the loss of your mounts.
Turnaround time to get your work back is another big issue for most hunters and taxidermists alike.
Always ask when you can expect to get your trophies back. Keep in mind it is an estimated time frame.
So many things can happen between drop-off and pick-up that are out of the control of both parties. For example, work load, illness, weather, family issues, can all affect turnaround time.
No one wants to hear excuses for why something doesn’t go as planned, but if your taxidermist gives you a completion time of six months, don’t call them at the four month mark asking, “Hey, just checking on the progress…” Give them the six months you agreed upon.
Likewise, if he/she gives you a one-year turnaround time frame (and you don’t have a problem with it), and a year goes by without an update, by all means give them a follow up call and they should be able to give you a much more accurate completion time at that point.
If the turnaround time is an issue for you and you would like to get it back sooner, most taxidermists offer a rush service, and for an extra fee will jump your project in front of others and give you a certain pick-up date for the extra charge.
At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to choose the right person for your taxidermy job. Just like the time and money you put into your hunting food plots, equipment, traveling, scouting and guide services, you should also expect to put that same effort into your search for the right taxidermist for the trophies you harvest and would like to mount. The animal deserves that from you.