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Hunting the Green Monster

How It Starts

There I was, opening day of Rifle season, sitting in a breakfast joint with my wife when I get a call from my best friend.

“ Dude! We just doubled up on four point Muleys! Can you come help us pack out, we are five miles from the truck.”  Instead of being excited for my two friends, I was instantly overcome by jealousy, the Green Monster.

You see, a few years back I decided to leave rifle hunting behind and pick up a bow and arrow. Early archery season had already come and gone without success for me, and I was upset that it wasn’t me out there. How could they go out there in one morning and double up, when I put in a full month of hard hunting without a notched tag. To add insult to injury, they wanted my help packing out! I wanted to do anything but go help. Them shooting two deer in the area I hunted so hard was a double lung to my pride. I felt deflated as a hunter. Like I was a failure.

The Problem

I believe that all hunters at one time of another find themselves feeling jealous of other hunter’s success. This day and age we are constantly subject to people’s success. Our social media feeds are swarmed with big deer, big bull, and any other trophy you can think of.  We see a far higher percentage of success than we do failure. This makes us start to feel that we are doing something wrong, or that we are missing something. What is it that I don’t know? How can everyone else harvest such monsters, but we haven’t notched a tag in two years?  We start to hope that it is our equipment, it must be my camos fault or maybe my scent control, so we spend money on gear we don’t need thinking it’s going to help us be more successful. What if you shoot a deer that isn’t big enough? So you pass on opportunity because you are worried about what everyone on Facebook is going to think of your “sub par” deer, even though five years ago, you would have considered it a trophy in your own books.  These are all natural feelings. So how do we overcome it?

The Solution

You have to ask yourself, “Why do I hunt?” As hunters we like to say it’s not all about the kill.It is about the experience, the family, the friendship, and the memories. It is the appreciation for this big wild world we live in and the opportunity to be a part of it. When I look back at my best hunting memories, it has never been pulling the trigger. It is always the packout, or the much needed beer after getting back to camp, or mutual misery of sleeping in a tent in sub-zero temps. I started bow hunting for the experience, and oh boy have I gotten it. I didn’t do it to increase my harvest rate or shoot bigger deer, I did it for the challenge and the sport. Whether I harvest a deer or not is never going to change the fact that I love hunting, and that is the answer to jealousy.

So, I drove the hour home, grabbed my pack, put on my boots and orange vest, then drove another hour to the trailhead and hiked in to help my best friends pack out their deer. And

I can tell you this, it was miserable, they shot the deer in a hole, and it was 5 miles out, all uphill. But, it was the highlight of this season, and a memory I will never forget. I hope they do the same thing next year.

A Spring to Remember

As the harsh winter months toil on, I sit by my fireplace and reminisce of hunts of yesteryear. All the days spent scouting and preparing for that coming season.  All those days spent a field where the only thing I managed to kill was time. All those days are made worth it when that day finally comes, the day that makes it all worth it. One such hunt always sticks out in my mind as the most memorable I’d ever been part of, my very first successful harvest of a spring gobbler.

The Story Begins…

It was the spring of 2017 after a winter that lasted well into March.  We turkey hunters were anxious for the land to start thawing out and for those old toms to start up their bird love orchestra. I had secured permission to hunt a friend’s farm not far from where I had been archery hunting every year. The interesting thing about this property was that my friends were actually have trouble with several wild gobblers coming onto their property and bullying their domestic farm turkeys. For a turkey hunter, this is a very good problem to have. Although it presents an interesting challenge; how do I tell the difference between the wild birds and the domestic farm birds?  The farm birds regularly wandered into the fields that I would later be hunting so I knew I would need to be absolutely sure of my target before pulling that trigger.

Opening day came and went with no sight or sound of birds anywhere in the fields and woods I was hunting. Did that old tom bullying the farm turkeys get shot? Did he get hit by a car? Or did he just get wise? All these questions raced through my head as I gear up for the second Saturday of the season.  I had decided to bring along my brother and friend Cody to add a couple more bird brains in the blind. We walked about 400 yards out through a cut corn field and set up on a finger of woods jutting out into the bottom of the field.  It looked to be the perfect spot to ambush an unsuspected turkey.

Just after daybreak we scratched that old slate call a couple times and then we heard the old tom let out his first gobble of the morning.  It thundered through the hollow and our hearts started jumping out of our chests. I called again and again he bellowed back at me. Then my brother whispers to me “I think I see him”. I turn to his side of the blind and see a turkey, but I notice the bottom portion of his breast feathers had been pulled out, and then I realized that was one of the farm turkeys.  I clucked a few more times, then we heard another gobble from down in the hollow behind us. We then realized what was going on, we actually had a wild gobbler and a farm gobbler both coming right at our calling and decoys. I turned to my brother and said “keep your eyes on the farm boy and I’ll stay focused on the old tom”. Every time we would scratch that call both birds would let out a thunderous gobble. There was no doubt in my mind that wild old tom was coming right for us.

Unbelief

When the wild tom seemed to be just about 100 yards from us, he just shut up.  We didn’t hear a peep out of that bird for a solid 15 minutes (although it felt like 3 hours).  Discouraged and thinking we’d been beaten, I exited the blind (like a fool) to shoo the farm turkey away from our set up, fearing he’d pushed the wild bird off. I finally convinced the farm bird to leave our hollow and start making his way back to the farm.  As I turned to head back to the blind, I look up and realize that I see  the red of a gobblers head sticking up just over the crest of the hill between us.  In a moment of disbelief, I turned and looked back at the farm bird and then back at the one in front of me, and I realized I had made a big mistake.  The wild bird had simply shut up and began working around us to come into the field on the other side of the hollow. I had two choices, I could either lay low and hope that old bird didn’t spot me, or make a charge over the crest of the hill like a scene out of braveheart.  Well, this crazy turkey hunter chose the ladder.  As I charged up over the hill, that old tom had no idea what was coming for him. As I crested the hill the bird turned to move back toward the woods and I knew I wouldn’t have much time for a shot.  I pulled up the old 12 gauge and let the lightning fly. The next thing I knew, my first gobbler was on the ground.

It was an unorthodox hunt to say the least. I don’t know many guys that have charged a turkey like a character from a Mel Gibson movie, and actually came out of it with a bird. After it was all said and done and it was time for pictures, my brother Kyle, Cody, and I couldn’t help but sit there and laugh at the chain of events that led to getting that bird on the ground. It’s a hunt that will live on in my memory forever.  It doesn’t matter if your hunt plays out like a hunting show or like a cartoon show, what matters is the experience you had along the way. I appreciate the opportunity to harvest that bird, and getting to do it with my brother and best friend made it all the better.

 

Walking with the Warlord

There’s a song by Rhett Akins I really love called “Granddaddy’s Gun.” It’s the ballad of a young man recalling the story of the shotgun his grandfather gifted him on his thirteenth birthday, and the deep meaning the gun holds for him. He reminisces about tales from yesteryear, and shares the hope he has to one day pass it on to his son. To him, no amount of money in the world could buy the memories and tradition that his granddaddy’s gun holds. If we’re lucky enough, I’m sure many of us can point to a certain gun or bow that can unlock the past and show us the treasures they possess for us, even though they may appear worthless to the untrained eye. This is the story of the gun that holds that prestige to me; my father’s rifle, the one he calls “The Warlord.”

Our story begins thirty-five years ago, when my father was just fifteen years old. Many early mornings in the milking parlor and long, hot days on the construction site had finally earned him enough money to buy a brand-new Ruger model 77 rifle, chambered in .300 Winchester mag. The sharp recoil landed hard against his small but wiry frame, but he was determined to conquer this rifle and that’s exactly what he did. His passion for this gun and shooting it well quickly turned into an obsession, which manifested itself in the proficiency and notoriety amongst my dad and the newly minted Warlord would soon gain.

Whitetails would be the first to feel the wrath of the Warlord. As a young man my father would roam the mountains and hills of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia in search of these beautiful deer each autumn, and felled many with quick and deadly precision. One such instance was in the crisp opening morning air early in the 1980s. After an unsuccessful hunt, my father and his companions had gathered around the truck to recount the morning’s misfortune. Suddenly, upon a distant ridge a ten point buck came bounding out of the wood line and began racing across the field. Dad smoothly leveled his rifle across the hood of that old Chevy Cheyenne, settled the crosshairs on the buck’s line of travel, and fired. To the amazement of the onlookers, the buck folded mid stride and crashed to the earth in a tumbling heap some four hundred yards away.

Eventually wanderlust overtook my dad and he, with the Warlord safely in tow, made the journey west to the Rockies and the vast wilderness of central Idaho. Deer and elk were to be his principle quarry, and he would get his first opportunity within days of arrival on the deer of a lifetime. Upon his trusty horse Blue he glassed as dawn broke over the valley below. The spruce and fir trees that lined the landscape created a seemingly endless ocean of green. As he glassed diligently, the familiar gleam of antler and tawny hide rose from the tide and into view. This buck was tall and heavy with split brow tines, exactly what he had traveled west for. As Dad settled behind the scope and prepared for the shot, the buck did an about face and began his ascent up a distant hill. As the buck quickly began to fade over the roll of hill, a shot rent the air and the Warlord claimed its next victim. Three hundred yards away, the split brow eleven point lay dead, having crumpled and succumbed to a perfectly executed “Texas heart shot”. As he held the magnificent antlers of his Idaho trophy, my father wore an unerasable smile, one that signified the fulfillment of a childhood dream, catalyzed by his beloved rifle.

A few years and a bull elk later (a story for another day because I surely can’t divulge everything), dad found himself back in Idaho, this time as a guide. One fateful morning he was accompanied by my grandfather, his client for the week. Pap had been intrigued by dad’s success and stories of the wilderness and the giants that it contained, and decided he wanted a piece of it. After making it to a good spot above the tree line to stop and glass, things took a turn. During the glassing a rock gave way beneath him, sending my father careening down the mountainside, finally coming to rest beneath a log. The log slowly began to crush him and the pain was excruciating. Pap rushed to his aid but was unable to free his son and panic had start to set in. However, in stroke of fate the Warlord had drifted to my father’s side during the fall and it proved to be an excellent lever. Dad let out a sigh as he pushed with all his power to relieve himself of the weight that held him captive, eventually freeing himself while the log disappeared over the edge of the mountain into the valley below. Just this once, the Warlord went from reaper to savior.

With the legend cemented and my mother waiting in the east, the Warlord returned home for the final time. My father continued to dazzle back home in the east, with many deer and a bear or two feeling the wrath of his rifle. One buck in particular fell victim to the Warlord’s kiss of death, even though his vitals were obstructed by the oak board of a split rail fence. This season, I will be carrying the Warlord with me into the woods. My father beamed with pride when I came to him with this proposition, saying only, “Treat her well, and she’ll take care of you just like she took care of me.” This season, I will feel every nick and scratch in the wood of the stock and feel the history come alive beneath my hands. This season, I will hopefully gaze into the scope and draw the crosshairs on the shoulder of a big whitetail buck, just as Dad did all those times. This season, I’ll be walking with the Warlord.                     

Hard Work + Patience = Success

There is something about duck hunting that makes everyone smile and shake their head frustrated at the same time.  I love how you can take a guy out once and have him hooked for life.  One good trip is all it takes.  Y’all know what I’m talking about. The ability to shoot more than once on a hunting trip. The building of the blind, and silent sit and wait. (Okay if you go with buddies it may not be silent).

What about the not so fun duck
hunting trips? The ones where you drive for hours, break ice to setup decoys, fill your waders filling in the blind, and get skunked. I know what y’all are thinking. “No thanks.” Something about waterfowl can be so intriguing, yet so aggravating. I know from experience the feeling of disappointment when you put in the time and no dice, nor ducks. However, today I want to talk about how hard work plus patience equals success.

Hard Work

A friend and I went on a duck hunting trip after scouting a spot in northern New Mexico (yes, we have water) and knowing there were going to be some ducks in this spot we planned to hunt there. We left his house at 0230 and arrived at our spot along the Rio Grande and started putting in the hard work. It was cold, but not frigid and the water on the river was running fast. The bottom of the river was covered in rocks and we couldn’t punch our motion decoy stick through, so we got wet by removing a foot and a half of rocks only to find more rocks.  We eventually realized how foolish and futile our attempt was and decided to wedge our motion decoy stick in the rocks. Hoping and asking mother nature not to knock it over.

We set out our decoys for a NW wind. When we went to scout we saw some Mallards, Wigeon, and Wood Ducks. We set out our floating decoys, jerk cords, and setup some floating Canadian Geese just in case. (You never know.) We wanted to go out into the river to make sure any ducks flying down or up stream could see our spread clearly. We brushed up the bind with natural cover around, and hunkered down to wait for shooting light.

About 10 minutes to sunrise we hear a pack of coyotes howling and heading to their den for the day. We play the rookie mistake of calling out with a cottontail distress call. To our dumbfounded senses we hear ducks get up off the water and fly away. BUSTED!! By a dumb out of place call.  What were we thinking? We came to shoot ducks and literally scared them off as they were swimming into our spread from upstream. Rookie mistake. After having a moment of shame, and reminding ourselves the day is young, we quiet down and get ready to hunt.

Patience

The morning goes by slowly. We shoot some singles, and debate whether or not to stay. I say let’s stay for another hour and if nothing comes flying by we will pack up and leave. My buddy agrees. This was the best decision we made that day.

About 25 minutes later we see off in the distance some Canadian Geese flying high but, dropping in altitude. I flag them and they descend even more. As they approach my buddy works them with his best honk, cluck and moan sequence. The geese circle overhead and we allow them to work so we don’t sky-bust (another topic soon) and scare them away. We allow them to work, but then I see our motion decoy moving still. I reach for the remote to shut it off. The geese flare because they see me move. I am so mad at myself at this point. I know the motion decoys make geese wary, but I busted myself by another rookie mistake.

I start lifting up prayers to the Almighty and ask Him for a favor. To my surprise we hear geese mimicking my buddy’s honk, cluck, moan sequence. My buddy gets back on his call and works them into the decoys again! This time the motion decoy is off, and we are ready to kill some geese. The geese worked so beautifully I regret not setting up my camera. The lead goose puts its’ feet down and we now have 12 geese landing into our decoys up-river. I call out, “Kill ‘em” and we shoot one each because both of our guns failed to eject the shells. We are on the river so we hurry to get out of the blind and retrieve the birds. (Still training my gundog). My buddy takes his gun with him like a smart hunter. To our delight, one of the geese circles back and my buddy shoots him down. We had 3 geese.

Success!

All this is to say how hard works pays in the end. Yes, you may have some difficulties hunting and may even get skunked. My opinion is the Almighty favors those who work for it. You get out what you put in. We started discouraged, wet, cold, and tired, but we worked hard and were patient. In the end we were rewarded with some ducks and 3 geese.

That Bow Season Feeling (in Upstate New York)

Non-stop action

Early bow season 2018 – a true season to remember. The bow swinging in the breeze and the deer on the move. With new spots scouted out and some old ‘tried-true’; successful harvests have found me over the course of the whole early bow season.

Meat in the Freezer

The first came from a stand I had never been in. I had asked permission last spring to hunt gobblers with no success, but I knew it would be a nice spot to check up on deer later in the
year. With work being busy, I got up the courage to ask the owner if I could bowhunt the
property knowing there was another person set to gun hunt it.

Permission granted, I made a quick set after work and like clockwork the deer started filtering
into the corner I had chosen. A big doe and two little ones came first at 50 yards, then some 300
yards out. As I watched and contemplated a shot, biding my time, another nice doe made an
appearance at 25 yards. The bow drawn and tactacam rolling, I sent the carnivore and jak knife
clean through. It was the second week in October and the weather was cool, just about how you
would dream it.

More!

I spent the next couple weeks hunting when I could, mostly afternoons, as I did not take any full days off to hunt in the week. Seeing deer pretty much every day; I was loving every minute of just being in the woods.
I made weekends about spending time on a small postage stamp of WNY land I hunt with a good friend and my girlfriend. We had a tough first weekend – with lots of deer coming in to only taunt our intentions of putting carbon airborne.

With a few weeks rest, the weather cooler yet we met back up and managed to nearly each harvest an antlerless deer. I was able to bring a mature doe in on a string to a mock Evercalm scrape and my buddy met success in his ‘five finger’ stand just riding the breeze. It was a proud weekend as I recorded his first bow kill on camera. The emotion and spirits were real; the kind that truly make for life-long memories.

Success – Hunting the Rut

The hunt is always on for me, pretty much year round I’m thinking, prepping, and dreaming of
November days just like these. A brisk 30 degrees, barely frozen, the is air wafting fresh, wet
snow. I picked up some tarsal scent from buck camp the weekend before. I set up in a stand I
had not hunted since opening week. I stamped that stranger buck scent in a few strategic locations, making it the first thing any wandering buck would wind. It worked flawlessly, so much so, that the deer were all over within 40 yards.
Now into full blown rut, it is the second week in November. No amount of self filming could have prepared me for the onslaught of activity. Camera set, the deer started and didn’t stop coming. When that 200 pound 8 stepped on the scene it was like magic. With 15 seconds to manage time, I opted to forego trying for the camera and steady the bow. He spotted me almost as soon as he stepped in, blew right by at 10 yards and made that classic stop at 25 to make sure his eyes weren’t deceived. I had branches but quickly drew and looked for an opening. It came fast,
between the hardwood canopy and overgrown saplings, he made one last glance and caught the green streak of the Nock Out contender 6 ribs back. The air escaped his side in a hiss, he disappeared down the hill – crash.

Celebrating, but still unsure; I waited to check my arrow, shining green, in a stained blanket of white. It looked great… but feeling just off about the shot, I gave it time, and after 4 hours I made the trip back out. I geared up my novice blood tracker pup and my friend and we set off. The blood was visible in the snow, then washed and pink from rain. The dog accepted my guidance as we followed.

 

 

Heavy prints and wet displaced snow told a story. Then sideways slipping hooves and eventually a landing strip, there he was.

 

Fall Decisions

Fall Decisions in the Midwest

Fall is a magical time throughout the Midwest. The warm summer days have slowly faded to cool crisp mornings. The colors are emerging and leaves are starting to fall. Bucks have shed their velvet and deer movement is picking up. I have always looked forward to this time of year. However, I find it challenging due the numerous activities available. And when I say challenging, the challenge is trying to make a decision on what to invest my time in.

I spend the summer months chasing the elusive muskellunge, which really isn’t very elusive here in Wisconsin. No matter how great the fishing is over the summer months, it’s always a better bite come fall. Typically I would fish for muskies through the month of September, occasionally sitting in a tree trying to get a doe in the freezer. The bucks around my property (a mere 4 acres) don’t move much until mid to late October. This year, instead of fishing through September, I had to put in the time to check baits every few days. I drew a bear tag for this year, which really adds to my indecisions on what to do on a daily basis. The bear activity came to a halt when the acorns dropped, but the deer movement increased with the cooler temps. The archery season for deer opened September 15th this year, so I’ve been ready with my bow in case that Pope & Young buck steps out. Even when I’m sitting over bear bait, a larger part of me is hoping some deer will walk through just to get some action.

On top of all of these decisions, small game season is open too! I just spent a week in Colorado chasing elk for my dad’s archery tag, and we saw dozens of grouse! It made my itch to grab a shotgun and hit the woods back home even harder to ignore. I know I can’t waste time on small game right now, not when there’s bigger fish to fry. A bear tag only comes around every few years, and it’s a big commitment. My wife could attest to that. I’m lucky enough to have a wife that will stay home with our son while I chase my dream, even when we both know I probably won’t see a bear each night I go out. That’s why fall is a magical time. You just never know. You never know what you will see. You never know what opportunities you are missing if you stay in for a night.

It’s easy to choose the day’s outing if you know you will be successful. Success is defined differently to each person, however. I could hit the river three times in a week and come away with three or more muskies, and call that a success. I could come away each of those times with no fish, and still call it a successful outing. The hardest part is deciding to hunt or fish for something that may not yield success by a harvest. The success is in the hunt itself; the preparation, the terrain, the weather, the calming sensation of Mother Nature. My indecisions of the fall season will never change, and neither will my success rate.

Trevor Wittwer
Fall Creek, WI

 

Photography Basics: Capturing Captivating Pictures

I recently published a blog on our sister company angler-pros.com about taking cinematic photos. In the age of digital where there are so many things shared, it’s nice to have content that you are proud of. There is no excuse for grainy, out-of-focus, boring photos as the technology we have at our fingertips makes it so easy to look professional. With applications like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and text messaging, it’s likely the average person sends upwards of a dozen pictures a day, and that equates to thousands of photos a year!

While I want to dive into some of the topics that I did in my fishing photography blog, I want to leave my Cervicide family with a piece of advice: Perfect practice makes perfect. If the photos you are already taking throughout the day (Snapchat, texting, social media) are done haphazardly, then you’re likely never going to be a great photographer. There is so much to process all at one time when taking a cinematic photo that in real world situations, like when you’re celebrating a downed animal, you’re getting a candid action shot in the field, or you’re taking a group photo at camp, sometimes there are only seconds to get the shot just right. This is why perfect practice makes perfect – you shouldn’t have to think twice about taking the right shot.

There’s a couple things that you need to process immediately in a seamless fashion to get a great action photo that doesn’t look staged. Photography is a dance and you need:

  1. The subject
  2. Capturing emotion
  3. Proper lighting
  4. Depth of field

Wow, sounds easy, right?

The Subject

So why is it that something so simple, that I can break down into only 4 categories can yield so many different outcomes? I conducted an experiment on our private Cervicide FieldStaff page where I asked our staff to upload a pic of their favorite Cervicide hat. I received a bunch of responses where the subject is nearly the same, but there were no rules. I’ll post some of the pictures below so you can see the difference of a cinematic photo vs. one that didn’t have much thought. Now stop and think about the 4 categories that I explained and you’ll have a better understanding that for a photo to truly look good, you need all parts to the equation.

Capturing Emotion

Why did I choose a hat? Well there was a reason behind it – it’s an inanimate object. Essentially it’s up to the photographer how to add emotion to an inanimate object. Place that same hat on someones head and now you just brought it to life. Is that hat drying out in the sun after being wet? Perhaps it was being tossed midair; there are all sorts of ways to add emotion to an inert object.

A great photographer lets the end viewers mind wander so the photo tells a story to them. The viewer’s mind should fill in the blanks. This is why there needs to be a sense of emotion in a photo. Even if the subject you’re photographing doesn’t have emotions, you can position the subject where emotion will bring it to life.

The next important thing I see a lot of hunters doing wrong with photos is not paying attention to the background. In order to nail this down, it is so crucial to practice this anytime you’re taking photos. Even when you’re using Snapchat you can practice this. The background is a perfect opportunity to tell more of the story without words. Put it this way, whitetail deer are huntable in almost every state. When a hunter takes a picture of their harvest, the backdrop can give the viewer a lot of information right off the bat. You get an idea for the terrain it was harvested in: farm country, mountains, maybe there was snow on the ground, or palmetto trees signifying southern heat.Was this in a remote destination or in a city? The background tells a lot of the story and it also adds depth to the picture which makes it more cinematic.

Take this photo for example. The lighting isn’t ideal and there are a lot of shadows being cast on the subject. Additionally, it doesn’t add much emotion or tell a story. As a viewer, this photo is not very captivating.

This photo has better lighting  and the background gives viewers an idea of where the subject is. It also tells a story and is captivating – what exactly is he doing? Where is he going? The viewers’ mind can wander and create a story all their own.

Lighting

The next thing to help with a photo being more cinematic is the lighting. Lighting is such an important thing, and really comes into play for whitetail hunters as there are a lot of instances where harvest pictures are taken at dark. Before the harvest pictures, there’s an elephant in the room I need to address and thats the tree stand selfies. First off, one of the things I see a lot of guys do is snap a bunch of pictures from their tree stand. They are stuck in one position, usually their back to the tree and it almost never fails these pictures are taken about an hour after sunrise. To the hunter it’s bright daylight, they are bored, and they start snapping pictures. This makes for some really grainy pictures, poor usage of the rule of thirds, and angles where the backdrop just looks silly, and is very unflattering for the hunter. There are a few ways to make treestand selfies better (I personally think they are played out) and the first way to up the tree stand selfie game is to wait until there is adequate light!

Here I’ll post one of my all time favorite treestand selfies which has amazing lighting, background, and emotion by Brendan Kelley of Ohio. To get a shot like this you’ll need a DSLR camera with an f stop below 4. I would suggest that you manually focus the lens so it will stay focused on whatever you want (in this case your face). Sometimes the auto focus will jump around so much you’ll never get the shot. A fourth arrow camera arm to hold the camera and a timer are helpful tools, too. Brendan’s emotion in this photo is awesome. He’s focused and it looks like he’s ready to cut the arrow loose!

Cervicide Fieldstaff Bow & Arrow

I don’t want to offend anyone here so just go ahead and open up Instagram and search #treestandselfie and you’ll see for yourself exactly what I’m talking about NOT TO DO.

Depth of Field

Ok – Rule of thirds, I briefly mentioned this before, but let me dive into this one real quick. The idea of the rule of thirds is to divide your photo in 3rds from top to bottom and side to side. You either want your subject to be focused in the dead center of your picture, like Brendan’s above or you want to have the subject offset so you can add some depth of field in the picture. Just go on Google and type in ‘rule of thirds’ for some examples. If you begin applying this rule to your photos, you’ll instantly become more cinematic.

I intentionally didn’t get into harvest pictures with this blog as I’m going to leave that for another blog. I want you to take some of my advice that I talked bout and begin applying it to your pictures. Most importantly, start applying it to the pictures you already take every day. When you go to take a photo that you want to last a lifetime, you’re going to be so much quicker to do the right things automatically that you’ll be able to get more creative with your shots and move to the next level with your photography skills. Check out the blog post I did on Angler Pros as I dove into some of the concepts we just talked about and applied it to fishing.

Filming On a Budget, Part Two

Filming on a Budget, Part Two

Today, we’re sharing the second installation of our Filming on a Budget series. If you missed Part One, you can read it here.

Remotes

A LANC controller* is a great accessory to have when self-film your hunts. With one hand, you can run all the necessary functions on your camera to record your hunts. Before I had a LANC controller I needed both hands to run the camera, which was not user friendly at all for the self filmer. With the LANC, I can run the camera with one hand and use a call or get my weapon into position for the shot with the other. If you do not have the budget for this and are on the fence between making this purchase or a shotgun microphone, get the shotgun microphone, having quality audio is crucial. The LANC I recommend is the Varizoom VZ-Stealth-LX Zoom Controller. This controller will provide you with some key functions such as zoom, focus and record and makes them easily accessible with one hand. You can get this controller for around $100.

Camera Arms and Tripods 

Another item you will want to purchase is a good tree arm and tripod. For tree arms, I use Fourth Arrow Camera Arms, I like Fourth Arrow due to their quick setup, stability and are not as bulky as some other arms. They will cost you $150 and up. You can also look at the Hawk Arms for a less expensive option. A great tripod to begin with is the Neewer 62″ Tripod, this is one I use and have been impressed with. It sets up quick and is study enough for my equipment.

Fluid Heads

Having a sturdy tree arm or tripod means nothing if you do not have a good fluid head to mount on it. I recommend the Manfrotto 128RC fluid head; you can get these used for around $100. This head will be more than enough to support your gear and provide you with smooth pans.

Editing Software

You are going to need some editing software for all that sick footage you got last fall. I use Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro CC and Lightworks, but for a beginner who wants to throw together a nice video, I would not recommend these programs. These are powerful programs with professional tools; from experience, this can be very frustrating for someone new to editing film. I have been testing PowerDirector 16 Ultimate and have found it to be a very powerful editor capable of producing some very professional video, and it is easy to use. Moreover, there are hours of great support videos online for PowerDirector. To continue my testing, I am going to be using PowerDirector 16 this winter to edit all my video. I would try PowerDirector 16 Ultimate ($65). Additionally, there are many free options online for editing software such as Davinci Resolve.

Accessories

These are not necessity, just some nice equipment to add to your gear list.

  • A fur windscreen is great for cutting down wind noise; you can get one for $20.
  • Gear bags are also a nice accessory, Campbell Camera’s has some nice options starting at $50. Otherwise, many other companies like AlpsOutdoorz sell gear bags.
  • For audio, a nice pair of headphones allow you to hear what your recording sounds like in case you need to make adjustments (this can be crucial and play a hue role in recording quality audio. I would recommend purchasing a pair). Additionally, they can function as a game ear.
  • A lapel microphone, wireless or wired to a digital recorder can provide some great audio if you are filming another hunter from a distance. The mic will record what they are saying from their location, and allow you to use it when putting together your film.
  • Cell phone, we all have them and they work great for a second angle camera and for B-Roll footage. My phone shoots 4k with 240fps slow motion video with a slew of other special effects. Not good for a main camera, but hard to beat for B-Roll.
  • POV camera, Tactacam makes a great POV camera as well as a number of other manufacturers. Set these cameras in your decoy spread, on the ground by your turkey decoy, on your shotgun or bow, or mount it to your head for some sick shots.

Putting it Together

I hope this makes it easier for purchasing your first filming setup. All in you are looking at spending around $900. Keep in mind that all the equipment you purchase now, can be used with your next camcorder or camera if you choose to upgrade in the future. Also, the camcorder you buy now can be used in the future as a sweet second angle. Some things I have learned along the way. You are representing our sport, so stay humble and use this as an opportunity to teach others about conservation and management. It is not about trophies or the kill, tell the true story of the hunt, the successes, failures and what you learned from each hunt. Remember to look up, it is easy to be consumed with filming, get your eyes off the screen and look around, enjoy the hunt. Follow the law always. Keep your films clean. Be creative with your B-Roll. Good luck all of you on your future outdoor adventures and God Bless.

(Special thanks to Codi Makin for supplying the Canon Vixia HF R800 picture.)

*Note: The LANC Controller that I mentioned does not work in that particular camera, it does work in all the other Canon cameras, but not that particular one. They took that function out of that model unfortunately.

Why I Hunt

Why do I hunt? This is a question that I could answer in a sentence or write on for pages. Ever since my Dad took me hunting for the first time I have been hooked on it. Some people will call me crazy for getting up at five in the morning to hunt, but they just don’t understand what they are missing out on. Whether it’s watching that big buck come into range or calling a turkey in, that’s an adrenaline rush I could not describe to anyone else. If it were not for hunting and being introduced into the outdoors, I would not have majored in Wildlife Biology at Clemson now. Hunting has led me to have a love for everything in the outdoors.  To sum up why I hunt in three reasons would be to grow my understanding and love for the outdoors, for conservation, and to help introduce new people into hunting.

Every time I step into the woods, I either gain a memory for life or learn something about the animal or area I am hunting that will stick with me to better the next hunt. I’m always excited getting up in the stand or blind just to watch the sun rise or set and observe all the wildlife around me. It is amazing to see how active the outdoors really is, even if the animal I am pursuing is not moving. Since I have started studying wildlife, my love for all the species has grown since I have more knowledge about the other animals.

Hunting is one of the biggest contributing factors to helping conserve the habitats for wildlife in the world today. Part of the money from sales of firearms and ammunition contributes to helping conserve and protect wildlife thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act.  Most non-hunters don’t understand how much hunters help manage and conserve the game and non-game species in the world. I believe that without hunting most game and non-game species would be over-populated and causing disease throughout their habitats due to their being to many of them. For example, deer are known for causing agricultural damage to crops and countless automobile accidents, if it was not for deer hunters this would be an even worse problem throughout the country. Conservation and hunting are the keys to ensuring plentiful amounts of wildlife for future generations to enjoy in our country.

Another reason I hunt is to try and get more people introduced into hunting. I have read where the number of people hunting is declining. I hate seeing this knowing how much getting into the woods and hunting means to me, so I am always trying to get my friends who do not hunt and know how much it means to me to start hunting. Without hunting I do not know what I would be doing with my life today. These are three of countless reason I could use to explain why I hunt and why hunting is so important in my life.

Beating the Heat for Late Summer Reds

The sun had just broken the treeline when I dropped the second Red of the day into the icebox. I had been fishing for about twenty minutes and had not even begin to sweat, despite it being midsummer in south Alabama. The best part about it, with it being so early, no one was around to compete for the fish that were eager to crush any bait presented to them.

If beating the heat does not have you convinced, maybe the top-water explosions from inshore fish like Speckled Trout and Redfish would be enough to convince you to get out of bed well before daylight. Top-water lures such as the Mirrolure Topdog worked in a “walk the dog”  motion over shallow structures like sandbars or oyster beds tends to entice strikes when it is still dark out. Varying speeds and retrieval patterns are key to finding what the fish are hitting. Black or deep purple lures work well in low light conditions because they are easier to silhouette against the sky. If you are noticing a lot of fish short striking the lure, switch to a smaller top-water lure or a small suspending twitch bait like the Mirrodine by Mirrolure. The twitchbait is especially deadly on the short striking fish as they are more aggressive towards a subsurface lure than a top-water.

Another killer tactic to try when the fish are still in shallow water is fishing a popping cork. Corks that rattle like the Precision Tackle Cajun thunder Jr. help imitate the clicking of a shrimp on top of the water. This draws redfish from across the flats. Try fishing a live shrimp or an imitation like Egret Baits Vudu Shrimp to draw strikes from numerous inshore species.

As the morning wears on, fish move to deeper holes in search of cooler water. Look specifically for areas where the current rips past structures like sandbars or rock piles.  Redfish get in deeper water to ambush the prey fish as they try to fight the current. Swimbaits or similar grubs on a light jig head flutter in the current into the strike zone of predatory fish. Another deadly tactic is Carolina rigging live baits, such as shrimp or Mullet, and bouncing them off the bottom in these deeper spots.

So the next time you hit the snooze button because you are afraid of the heat, imagine the top-water explosions of Spottails in the early morning sun and screaming drag of big Redfish in skinny water.

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