Hunting Tips

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.

Blood Trailing with a Bow

So you’re probably thinking, oh this just another article telling me to back out if I think I made a bad shot. Well… you’re wrong and right. This time you’re going to learn about the evidence your arrow leaves you, and how this is the most important information you have.

I had a personal problem with doe that I double lung shot earlier in the season. It happened like this; I shot the doe perfectly broadside at 24 yards. The shot felt great however, I went in much to fast, just thirty minutes or so after I shot her. I found blood very quickly and very plentifully, I had tracked about eighty yards and I heard a deer jump up and take off running. I figured this was just another deer bedded down. I soon came upon a massive pool of blood and the blood stopped after that. I marked my spot on my phone and picked up the trail the next morning. I did not find blood for another eighty yards, and when I did it was very spotty. I soon began to lose the blood trail and after about one hundred it ceased completely. I searched for another couple of hours but I was never able to recover the deer. I do not want this situation to happen to anyone else, so I made this four part guide on how to track a deer with a bow.


1 of 4: Gut Shots

Gut shots… everyone’s biggest fear. The best way to tell if the remnants on your arrow are gut remnants is by smell checking. Sometimes a deer can be shot in the gut but still make contact with the liver making it seem as though you made a good shoot because you have blood on your arrow. Always smell your arrow, you will know if it is a gut shot because it will have a distinct stench. When you have gut shot a deer always mark where the deer was standing and back out for at least six hours before taking up the trail.

2 of 4: Liver or Muscle

Liver and/or muscle shots can be tricky to identify. Usually the arrow will be covered in super dark red blood. When you identify this you should wait at least four to five hours before taking up the blood trail.


3 of 4: Oxygen rich Artery/Heart

These are the ideal shots and they get the job done quick. They are typically light to medium red in blood color. The animal expires very quickly and suffers little to none. It is a good idea to wait at least one to two hours to track these deer just to be safe.


4 of 4: Lung Shots

The ideal shot for a hunter other than a heart shot is a lung shot. Arrows will typically be light colored blood with bubbles in it.
[Image Source: Ryan Kirby (commissioned by Realtree)]

These bubbles indicate the oxygen from the lungs. When dealing with a lung shot deer, it is best to wait at least one to two hours to track them.


A personal preference in arrows is the Black Eagle Arrows’ Zombie Slayer.  I hope this guide helps you and any of your friends who need tips on tracking deer. Good luck hunting!


Arizona Hunting: Over the Counter Elk?

You’re telling me you don’t have to get drawn?

Yes, it is possible you can buy a tag to hunt elk at any properly vetted license and tag dealer (cough, WalMart) and go elk hunting all year.  Now of course I’ll dive into the specifics and the catches of this hunt because usually if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. What I’ll share with you is mostly informational, but if you are wanting more information about states out west, this will be some good wisdom to have in your conservation brain.


How does it work?

Of course there is the associated tag and license fees that can come with it, and out of state license and  tag fees can be hefty for anyone out of the the Grand Canyon State.  Specifically, an out of state license is $160 and the non-permit tag is $650 for out of state residents, which is brutal, but for in state residents, the price is manageable. What is interesting though is your non-permit tag would last for the entire year and you can use it for any of the four designated areas.  These areas include:

Winslow – Holbrook Area
Camp Verde Area
Alamo Lake Area
Units 28-31 Safford Area

Each of these designated areas have their own specific boundaries, private versus public access, and some have specific dates. Generally, elk can be hunted most of year where Arizona Game and Fish is trying to keep unwanted elk out of areas of agricultural fields and in areas of competitive species, such as mule deer. What’s really cool is you can shoot any elk, with any weapon of choice, including a high power rifle.  Some of the areas may be in a town limits, and you’d have to adhere to local laws which may restrict to archery only.  For the nuts and bolts of each of the four specific areas and mapping,  here is a link providing all the rules and restrictions.

Of course this seems way too good to be true, and so I did some local online forum research.  To my surprise, I did find reports and pictures of people who have taken elk in these population management designated areas, specifically to an area I was interested in going to.

My Experience with Camp Verde OC Non-permit Elk Tag

It was crazy, there was big bulls bugling everywhere.  I’m sure you’re saying no way, but in reality, after a day and a half, I didn’t see any elk.  I covered ground hiking and glassing, miles of road and more glassing, but no elk. Mainly, I went up to this hunt over the weekend of December 1st and 2nd because of a snowstorm in the mountains of the high country, and December 1st was the opening day in this area for this specific population management hunt.  You can hunt elk all year in this area, but then it closes September 14 for the start of the regular elk seasons, while not opening till the December 1st again.  I thought the odds of seeing an elk were in my favor because of the weather and the season allotments, but it looks like the Dumb and Dumber voice in my head “so you think there’s a chance” may have been false.

Do I think this was a waste of my time?

Absolutely not because:

  1. I was in the field scouting a new area that could help for other species such as mule deer, which I did see a big buck and tracks everywhere.
  2. It felt awesome I was actually elk hunting with a rifle since it had been years.
  3. I could really see for myself what the hoopla was.
  4. The conditions were right because of the weather, and transient elk do go through the area’s deep canyons to the Verde River below.
  5. Discovering a pioneer lookout fort probably from the 1800s.

Why not take advantage of this opportunity since the funds go towards conservation,  and it will be my luck I’ll see an elk when I didn’t buy the tag. I found many areas that looked elky with juniper and pinyon-pine trees, which were perfect cover to meander down to the Verde River in the valley below.  More snow is projected up top on the mountains and rim country, and the elk may push down below through the canyon bottoms the rest of December and January.   What I also do know is over the counter archery deer season is January 1st through 15th, and wouldn’t it be something while looking for mule deer, I come across some elk and also have my 300 win mag with me. BLAM, way better eats too!

Possible 1800s pioneer lookout fort



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.


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.


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.


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


Black Bear Baiting/Hunting 101

The Roots of it All

If you happen to live in a state that is fortunate enough to allow you to bait during black bear season then this is already a win for you.  Hunting bears is an art and something I express almost all of my interest in when bear season comes around. My passion for whitetails is gone and it’s all about the bruins.  There’s nothing more exhilarating than having bears coming in all day eating, playing, fighting, and sparring. I bow hunt northeast black bears from the ground over a bait station.   Personally, I do it because it’s the highest adrenaline rush I have ever experienced and once you get the taste for that kind of adrenaline you can’t help but want more.

In a stand you will see them all day long no problem.  From the ground it becomes a chess match with the North East’s largest predator. Your scent game needs to be stronger than hunting the rut as I use a blend of dirt deodorizer and cedar. You best be a perfect shot because if you need to, you only get one shot at a bear with the bow.  Now, for the most part the bear is much more afraid of you than you are of it and have nothing to worry about but it only takes one time to be the last time. Your safety should always come first. Your senses need to be at their peak and you need to be alert at all times. You need to use your hearing for behind you and your eyes for the front as movement is detrimental to a bear hunt.  Whatever you choose to hunt from just don’t use a blind because they’ll tear them apart if they’re left out and will not bring larger bears in if you’re taking them in and out every day. Always respect the animal you’re hunting and never take them for granted.

The Strategy

The key to a great bear stand is to find an area with cover as bears don’t like feeding in open areas.  Find a place where bushes, deadfalls, and saplings are in abundance as they get a sense of security in these areas.  Another important aspect is being near a source of water because feeding from your bait barrel will make them very thirsty and the closer to a good water source they are the more likely you will keep these bears around.  Pick a tree that suits the spot you found to anchor your bait barrel to.

There are a couple methods I’ve used in the past as far as the actual bait barrel goes. The one I like most is taking a 55 gallon barrel (I use the blue plastic ones) and cutting two holes near the top to have a place to string a ratchet strap through to hook around the tree.  Then on adjacent sides cutting square holes out about 1/3 to ½ the way up the barrel. Large enough so they can get their paw in but not their head! This allows the bear to get the food without taking off with it leaving you with little to no pictures or opportunities for a harvest. The holes in the sides of the barrel allow the bear to line up a perfect broadside shot to your tree as you would face the uncut front side of the barrel directly at your tree stand.  

Bring ‘Em in Far and Wide

Now that set up is out of the way and you’ve got yourself one heck of a spot to start luring these beasts of North America in, it’s time to think about what to put in the barrel to keep them coming day after day.  You want to bait early and often, you’ll get the hang of it after a couple weeks. Learning your area is key and it will teach you how often you need to refill your barrel. I always start baiting a month or two ahead of the season so it gets your bears in a routine.

Now depending what your season is will be how you determine what to put in your barrel. My season here in NJ is a week in October (Bow) and a week in December (Shotgun). So during the October season you can put just about anything in there, sweets, protein, fats etc. as everyone knows, bears will eat just about anything.  Now when the December season comes around or if yours is November like Pennsylvania’s is even though they can’t bait, then protein and fats are your best friends. They need to bulk up and add a ton of weight heading into winter and will absolutely empty your barrel in three days if you have a decent amount of bears in the area (10-15).  That’s when you fill that barrel as high as possible with dog food, bird seed or any protein you can think of. Get a good fryer grease hookup and douse that barrel with 5 gallons of used fryer grease. Spread it all over, inside, outside, on the ground, on the tree, everywhere! The grease acts as a high distance attractant, much needed fat for the bear and as they roll and eat through the food they get covered in grease and track it through the woods for any bear to come across the tracks and follow it to your barrel.  This method has worked for my dad, my uncle, myself and many others in our neck of the woods in North West New Jersey.

For those of you that have spring bear hunts you want to focus on the sweets as too much fat and protein will irritate their stomach and digestive tract coming out of winter hibernation. A buddy of mine in Maine uses Oreos, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, and any type of sweet he can get a hold of in bunches from his bait dealer up there. Fluff is his main stay as whoever he works with can get gallons on gallons of expired fluff.  Once the barrel has been filled, stuff the access holes with sticks and logs, it’ll keep the raccoons, opossums, ravens, and crows out of it and will let you know when there’s something hitting it. So whenever your season is and whatever stand you prefer, these methods will give you a great, if not the best chance to take the bear of a lifetime.

P.S.  For those of you that are not allowed to use bait during the season, Signal 11 Peanut Butter Spray is a bear attractant godsend.  


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.


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.


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.


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.

Filming on a Budget, Part One

Why Film?

My filming endeavours started back in high school, I wanted to be able to look back through the years and relive all my hunting seasons, my successes, failures, learning opportunities and those times where I found myself thinking, “if only I had a camera to get that on film.” I also wanted to use my film as a way to teach others about hunting by providing tips and tricks in my videos. It can also be a tool to help change hunters mindsets to one focused more on conservation and the story of the hunt, rather than the kill. I started filming with a cheap camcorder, a tripod that I strapped to my deer stand with a ratchet, and absolutely no clue what I was doing. Twelve years has taught me a lot about filming my outdoor adventures, and I am still learning new things every season. This is a short article to provide some recommendations on equipment for those wanting to start filming hunts on a budget.

The Recording Device

DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras are great, they are versatile and provide you with some amazing film and photography, however, for a hunter on a budget, they are expensive and not as friendly as a camcorder for those who self-film their hunts. Camcorders are less expensive, have awesome optical zoom built in, and are made for video. That is why I recommend the Canon Vixia HF R800 or R700 to start out filming your outdoor adventures. Both camcorders record in Full HD 1080p and are capable of recording 60fps. The cameras or camcorders I usually purchase are used and I have never has issues with them at all. Buy The HF R800 or R700 at the Canon Store for around $200. You can also try the Sony HandyCam line of camcorders.


Memory and Batteries

Having extra batteries and memory cards are a necessity when filming hunts. Nothing is worse than running out of battery or memory during a hunt. I always carry two spare batteries and enough memory to film my entire day and then some. For SD cards make sure you get a card that will record at a fast enough rate for your video. 64GB SDXC Class 10 Speed memory cards work well. Two batteries and memory will run you around $125 +/- depending on the brands you get.




Having quality audio is crucial to creating quality video. I have gone back to watch some of the first movies I filmed without a shotgun mic and the wind noise and hollow tone of the audio were distracting enough to make the film nearly unusable. I primarily use the Rode Videomic ($150) or the Videomic Pro ($230). Both microphones will give you excellent audio and cut down on many of the distracting ambient noises. Be extremely cautious of purchasing shotgun microphones on Ebay or Amazon, a lot of them are knock-offs and it is easy to get burned unless you can spot their very subtle differences. (For Rode, the gold dot on the battery cover is shinier on the legit ones and the legit ones have smoother edges). If you do get a knock-off you will definitely be able to hear it in you recordings, the audio will sound worse that the microphone built into the camcorder. You can purchase these used, just make sure they are from a reputable source such as Adorama or B&H. Other good brands are Azden and Sennheiser. You will also need a microphone mount to go on your Vixia HF R800 camcorder; these can be purchased at Campbell Cameras for a reasonable price. There are cheaper options for Rode Microphones such as the Rode Go. Unfortunately, many camcorders and cameras do not supply power to the microphone, so you will need to get a microphone that is self-powered, usually by a 9v battery; the Rode Videomic and Videomic Pro are both self-powered.


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 to have 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.


Stay tuned for part two of this series featuring accessories, editing software, and tips on how to put it all together!