How to self film your hunts. Which deer hunting camera?

How do I go about filming my hunts

This is one of the most common questions I get via my deer hunting YouTube channel. So how do I self film my hunts? I am still looking for a perfect setup and trying new techniques, but I have a couple of simple tips I would like to share.

Firstly I would like to say I am not an expert. Couple of years ago I saw a couple of videos on YouTube and thought I could try to film my hunts too. I first tried a small Nikon point and shoot camera to document my hunts that also had video option. These were quite poor quality videos and the camera had only x4 zoom, but I thought it was quite cool and it got me started. I then upgraded to a decent Canon camcorder that I had been using since last month when it eventually stopped working… 🙁 I have no formal videography education, I never tried serious photography, but I wanted to capture these special deer stalking moments for myself as a variant of a diary, but then also started sharing them on YouTube and people seem to enjoy them. I enjoy filming and many people got in touch via YouTube which is great.

Before I start with my filming techniques I will answer another most common question I get: what is best camera to film deer hunting? I will describe my setup and provide links to products if anyone wants to check some details or current prices.

My deer hunting camera

I have no idea what is best deer hunting camera and I don’t own a top latest camcorder… 🙁 I don’t even own a professional model. I only started taking a camera with me because I could squeeze one in my pocket. 🙄 I would have never started filming if I had to take something of a size of a professional camcorder or DSLR with me. I later on realized a couple of more things could be handy when stalking, but I still believe it firstly must be a pleasure of the hunt and filming comes second. I don’t have anyone to help me filming and have to do everything on my own which is not ideal.

Majority of my deer hunting videos was filmed using [amazon_link id=”B000UJHOU0″ target=”_blank” ]Canon HG10[/amazon_link] camcorder. It was quite old camera when I got it. I never liked the idea of spending £1000 on a latest prosumer camcorder, and I think it is best value for money to go for a top of the range model two or three years after their release date. HG10 was one of the first Canon HD camcorders and I got it refurbished from Canon outlet on eBay. 🙄 It lacks latest bells and whistles but it has a big sensor and is quite good in low light. This is what you want from your deer hunting camcorder. Zillion megapixel and x1000 digital zoom is NOT a good camera for deer hunting when it has to produce usable footage at first and last light. Good source of information about camcorders is camcorderinfo.com website and they do low light tests of many models. You want a good low light performance first and all other features should come second.

Another feature that somehow contradicts low light performance is good zoom. You would like as much magnification as possible, but top of the range prosumer camcorders usually don’t offer more than x10 or x12 zoom. Only cheaper camcorders with smaller sensors offer higher magnification, but then they are crap in low light… My HG10 was only x10 and I often wished it offered more, but digital zoom is not a way forward. Some newer camcorders offer digital crop of x2 or intelligent zoom and quality of the footage does not suffer much, but my old Canon did not have that.

As I said my Canon HG10 was decent piece of kit, but after years of use and abuse in any weather, dropped several times, it finally died. I think I may still be able to fix it and keep it as spare, but I had to buy another one and after some research decided to go for  [amazon_link id=”B0031RG4EK” target=”_blank” ]Panasonic TM700[/amazon_link]. Again, it is not the latest model (currently [amazon_link id=”B00B170BKU” target=”_blank” ]X920[/amazon_link]) or even previous ([amazon_link id=”B004I1KPG6″ target=”_blank” ]TM900[/amazon_link]), but still improvement over my old Canon. It has decent low light performance, x18 intelligent zoom, lots of manual controls I like to play with, timelapse feature and manual ring to control focus, zoom and other settings.

It is still early days but I am very happy with my choice so far. One thing to be aware of it shoots in 50p and any editing is very memory and CPU intensive and takes ages on my PC…

I also have [amazon_link id=”B004MPQXZ0″ target=”_blank” ]Canon T3i[/amazon_link] (600d in UK) DSLR that shoots decent videos in 1080p 25p. I use it to take pictures but used to film my reloading videos to film either me shooting or target and it works well off tripod. It also has x3 crop in video mode that with 250-300mm lens gives quite high zoom, but stable ground and tripod is a must. This is not my first choice tool, but DSLR footage is quite nice and I use it for timelapse or to create specific footage with shallow depth of field that I use in my videos to create specific feel.

I believe camcorder choice is not that crucial and probably any decent top end prosumer model from Canon, Sony or Panasonic would work well provided low light performance is good. If you dont know which one to go for,  narrow it down to 2-3 models and check camcorderinfo website and their low light performance tests. If money is an issue as in my case, I believe it is better to go for used couple of years old model than the latest consumer model with smaller sensor and lower quality glass for about the same money.

What other equipment I use

Tripod is most important thing for me. It gives best results, I carry one with me most of the time. I now have [amazon_link id=”B001AZ77Q4″ target=”_blank” ]Giottos MT9340B[/amazon_link] tripod with [amazon_link id=”B008FJX9MY” target=”_blank” ]Manfrotto 128RC[/amazon_link] video head which makes it quite heavy setup. It is stable, especially with a backpack hung on the hook underneath the tripod, but it is bulky and noisy to set up when stalking. Video head is nice to have to get smooth panning effect, but not essential in my view and adds a lot of weight. I also use a cheap tripod I bought from Lidl that works quite well and is much lighter, I think I may go back for that one more often or look for a lightweight replacement at some point.

I mainly use tripod when sitting out for a deer on the ground, but I also use it when stalking. I often carry tripod, with one or two sections of legs extended and camera attached, with one hand together with my shooting sticks. They make a lot less noise that way and I found tripod legs knocking the sticks and vice-verse when carried separately. It takes time to set up the tripod, then sticks, then point camera to deer, then aim and take a shot… And if a deer moves, camera needs adjusting and… you may not get a shot… or footage… or both… 😆

Tripod solution is not ideal so I started looking for some rifle mounted solutions and to be honest I am still looking. I tried various thing some were slightly better some a lot worse, but I was not happy with any of them. I was recommended a rifle mount from Rakd Up which looked like a good idea initially, but I could not get on with it. Firstly it was mounted on the side and rifle is off balance and camera looks lower than a scope – real PITA when shooting off sticks and I could sometimes see part of the sticks on the footage… 🙄 I also could not align it easily and it would move on its own on recoil and when carrying around. On the second thought, putting a strap over the barrel could not be a good idea on a rifle with free floating barrel… 🙄 I sold it and tried several other scope mounts, but they all were more suitable for GoPro type action cameras and not camcorders. For rifle shooting camera has to be aligned and zoomed in to produce interesting footage.

Thanks to Jonathan I bought a [amazon_link id=”B004JWRBZC” target=”_blank” ]Polaroid Flexible Foam Tripod[/amazon_link] to use on a high seat. It is really great idea and this little tripod is something I use when on a high seat. It is cheap, light and easy to use. It has small plastic QD plate and small ball head that can be tightened to keep camera steady. I often use two of these wrapped around the shooting rail (or two windows when on a tower) pointing two different directions and I just move camera from one tripod to another when needed. It is actually quicker than to turn camera around, find the deer and tighten the ball again.

I also found another use for this flexible tripod. I used it to film my hunts when stalking on foot. I simply wrap it around my rifle and it sits on top of the scope. It looks daft 😆 but can be quite effective. Depending on a shape of scope and rifle it can be placed securely on top and stay in place at the shot. It works best on a small caliber rifle like .223 even better when it is moderated. I used it on my .223 and .243 and footage was still usable.

It is important to align camera and scope first. I put my rifle on sticks, turn on the camera and zoom in to max. I want to see the same distant spot both in the camera and scope. I then tighten the screw and take the camera off the rifle leaving the tripod legs wrapped around the scope. When I bump on a deer I put the rifle on sticks first and then when there is still time I attach the camera to the legs, turn it on and it is already aligned with the scope. It is much quicker that way than using a full size tripod. When I anticipate deer, I stalk with the camera already attached to the rifle, then is just a matter of turning it on and hitting record button before pulling the trigger.

How to self film your hunt video tutorial

I hope you find the video more self explanatory, but there are subtitles as well just turn on closed captions (hit CC). Please subscribe to my deer hunting YouTube channel, rate the video and leave comments!

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