Filming Your Turkey Hunts Like A Pro

by Chris Larsen

filming turkey huntsAs the price of quality cameras continue to drop, more hunters are opting to film their hunts. The term “filming” was an outdated word due to the proliferation of video tape, but now many cameras record straight to a hard drive or memory card. I don’t think anyone wants me to refer to recording a hunt as “memory carding,” so I’m going to stick with filming.

While filming a hunt may sound like a lot of fun, it raises the level of difficulty exponentially. Not only do you have to call a bird in without being seen, your camera operator can not be seen either. Sure, there are people who film their own hunts, but I believe you can only do one or the other well. If you manage to get that wily gobbler to come into range, being sure that the hunter and the camera operator have a great view is the next challenge. Here are a few tips on how to film your turkey hunt like a pro.

Smell The Roses

The wild turkey is your target species, but don’t forget to film deer, squirrels, and raccoons while you are out in the woods. In my opinion, the fringe benefits of the day are just as rewarding as the hunted species. Last spring, a skunk scooted by within 10 feet of my hunting partner. The look on his face was absolutely priceless. And you should have seen my buddy!

Wake Up In The Woods

As the sun peaks over the horizon, the turkey woods comes to life. There may not be much to see, but the sound of gobbling from nearby treetops is awe inspiring. Record that sound to take home to your eventual viewers. Make sure the sound is on throughout the day. Silent movies are only entertaining if Charlie Chaplin is starring.

Camera Stability & Zoom

I recommend a tripod. This will keep your camera solid as a rock even during the shot. At the very least get a telescopic monopod, especially if you are using a hand-held camera. Shoulder mounted cameras are slightly more steady. Keep in mind the tighter you are zoomed in, the more visible shake you will see in the video. A tripod allows you to zoom in and maintain a steady shot. When zooming in and out use a steady motion. Some cameras allow you to adjust the speed of the zoom. Use the slowest speed possible and practice before hunting. Visualize in your mind when you will zoom in and when you will zoom out. Quick back and forth zooms make video difficult to watch.

The Big Moment

When turkeys are making their way to the decoy, stay focused on the birds. Follow the turkeys from the time they are first visible until the trigger is pulled. Agree on a code word that lets the shooter know the bird is in frame before he shoots. If there are multiple targets, say “right” or “left”. When gobblers are focused on the decoy, one word is not going to spook them. After the shot, zoom out and pan over to the hunter for a reaction shot. Let him get up and claim his prize but be sure that he brings the turkey back within five yards of the camera location to give you the play by play of the hunt.

The Speech

Just like the movies, the star of the show can make or break it. Keep speeches and play by play short and simple. Talk about what happened and how excited you are. Most people can’t talk into a camera for five minutes and sound compelling. At some point it just becomes rambling. Try to keep your speech a minute or two in length. This will keep the story from becoming boring.

Television Magic

While watching that ol’ tom heading for your decoy is pretty exciting, the magic of television is in the editing. Both Mac’s and PC’s typically come with video editing software already installed. While this software is not as powerful as pro editing software, you can make a decent home hunting video with it. In order to make some edits, cutaway shots are needed. Cutaway shots are simply shots of things happening away from the main action. For example, get some shots of the hunter calling, putting his gun to his shoulder, and perhaps just anticipating the turkeys headed his or her way. These shots should be taken immediately following the recovery of the bird so that the intensity of natural lighting remains constant. Be sure to take these shots from creative angles to add interest to your video. Get wide, medium, and tight shots as well. The more variety, the better. Watch hunting shows and pay attention to different camera shots and how they are utilized within the video.

Filming your hunt takes a lot of work and effort, but you get what you put into it. Having a fully edited video that documents the day is much more rewarding than a grip and grin photo taken in the garage. After the video is completed take a look at it with a critical eye and think about how you could do it better. If you keep improving, perhaps you may find yourself starring in your favorite hunting show.