How to Film Your Own Deer Hunts

Deer Hunter
Self-filming presents a whole new challenge when bowhunting whitetails, but when everything comes together, the feeling is unbeatable! Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

This was it. One deer hunter had been waiting for this moment in his bowhunting career for a long, long time. He first heard the buck snort-wheeze in a thicket over 70 yards North. Moments later he emerged from the thicket and after glassing him over it was easy to dub him as a shooter. As he made his way closer, nerves settled in. The deer hunter’s breathing increased heavily, and he began to shake. Then he remembered the routine he had played over and over again in his head. 40 yards…30 yards. When he walked behind a branch that blocked the hunter’s presence from his, the hunter drew. Just 10 more steps and he would be at a mere 20 yards broadside. He then stopped on his own perfectly, and the hunter breathed a prayer before letting the broadhead do its job. The arrow quickly pierced the buck’s heart and exited out the other side. The buck run just 60 yards before tipping over. After seeing the monster go down, the deer hunter immediately spun the camera towards himself so he could film the ecstatic excitement that is, your very first filmed bowhunt.

Capturing hunts and outdoor adventures on film has dramatically increased in popularity over the past decade. Millions of deer hunters fixate on the television or computer screen weekly to watch their favorite hunting celebrity harvest trophy class animals at an alarmingly successful rate. Many of those same hunters often think, “Man, I would love to be able to record all of my successful hunts on video!” Unfortunately, their aspiration of capturing cool hunting footage ends there as they believe a camera man is necessary. Nothing could be more further from the truth. With the proper equipment, extra time, effort and a little patience, every hunter can successfully record quality video of themselves in hunting situations. Here’s how.

Choosing the Right Equipment to Film Your Own Deer Hunts

Obviously the first piece of equipment you’ll need as a self-filming hunter is a camera. What camera you decide to buy is entirely up to you and what you want to accomplish. The excitement of a buck harvest can be relived the same way regardless if your camera costs as little as $400 or as much as $5000. It all depends on the quality of the video you want to capture. Many of today’s cameras in the $1000 price range capture video in dazzling High Definition that rivals that of what you would expect to watch on your television. However, it is important to remember that when self-filming, you are doing all the work. It is up to you to transport the camera to and from your treestand, set it up carefully and efficiently and make sure all the settings are correct for your hunting situation. Since you are self-filming, there is no camera man to rely on to take care of these necessary steps so a simple, compact and light camcorder is likely the way to go.

Easily the next most important piece of equipment is a camera arm you trust, fits your camera and can be easily used. A quality camera arm will keep your camera rock solid when mounted to a tree to capture the steadiest footage possible. There are several camera arms on the market today, but it’s important to match the size of your camera with the size of your camera arm. A camcorder that is too heavy for your arm will result in sloppy footage and there is simply no need to have a huge, heavy duty camera arm for a smaller camcorder. A good camera arm is one that can quietly and smoothly pan nearly 360 degrees from the tree and one you feel comfortable using. Stable support, quick setup and ease of control are all characteristics to look for when purchasing a camera arm. Remember, your camera arm is what you trust to hold your camera in place during the moment of truth, so find one that you have confidence in and is user friendly.

Time to Get to Work: Preparations Necessary for Self-Filming

Hunting Camera
Hunting with a camera rolling in the background is always fun, but when it’s up to you to control the camera AND hunt, a new level of difficulty is added to the hunt.

Once you have determined what gear you will be using, it’s time to get to work, literally. Self-filming is no easy task and it requires a lot of extra time, effort and patience. A few deep breaths and saying, “This will all be worth it when I shoot that monster buck!” works wonders too. It’s wise to practice with your setup before actually heading afield to build your confidence and to ensure you don’t accidentally damage your camera. This process should begin well before the season arrives. Hang a treestand in your back yard to practice ascending and descending with all of your hear. Develop a routine when mounting the mounting bracket of the camera to the tree and practice it until you have it mastered. For right handed shooters, it’s recommended to place mount the camcorder on your right side as most of your shots will likely be to your left, and controlling the camera with your dominant hand will come more naturally and easily than doing so with your off hand or having to reach across your body. Conversely, left handed shooters should mount the camera on their left side. It’s also important to keep the camera no higher than shoulder level while in stand. This will eliminate movement when using your camera and will allow you to look into the viewfinder of your camcorder with ease so you quickly know what you are filming. Being at shoulder level will also aid in finding the object you are wishing to film more quickly as there will be little discrepancy between the height of your viewfinder and your field of view. This means placing the mounting bracket at waist level when you are sitting down in your treestand. This is important to remember as a camera too high or too low will make for finding the object you want to film difficult, not to mention the added movement when using the camera.

Now that you feel comfortable with your setup it’s time to hunt! Self-filming initially sounds like a breeze, but it adds a whole other dimension to your hunt. When self-filming, you will have to get to your stand earlier than you normally would to give yourself plenty of time to get setup without alarming deer. I usually give myself an extra thirty minutes to get situated. This means if you normally get into your stand at 6:00 a.m. waiting for the sun to rise at 7, you should be getting to your stand at 5:30 so you will have ample time getting setup while still allowing an hour for the woods to calm down before sunup.

Once you have your camera securely strapped down to the tree double check all the settings to make sure they are correct. Check your battery levels and if they are low, replace them. It’s important to carry extra batteries for your camera (and microphone systems if you have them) should yours die or fail. The last thing you want is to harvest a deer with a dead camera sitting right beside you. After you’ve determined “all systems are go” then make sure your arm is level and move it in the directions you think the deer will come from, then prepare yourself for the directions you think they won’t come from so you will be totally prepared. After that, repeat the same process with your bow at full draw so you feel completely comfortable with which angles you will be able to record a shot, and which angles you won’t.

Time to Hunt: Self-Filming Your Own Hunts

Now that all the work is over with, it’s time to enjoy the filming aspect of the hunt. Film yourself giving a couple interviews. Be sure to talk about the area you are hunting, why you chose this particular spot and where you think the deer will come from based on wind direction. Be creative and have fun with it. It’s also fun to film the other critters you aren’t looking to shoot like the squirrel foraging for acorns, the two raccoons playing in the creek of the woodpecker pounding away right beside your treestand. This extra footage will give your hunts added depth and allow your viewers to really feel as if they were in the stand with you.

Hopefully throughout the course of your hunts, you will have an encounter with a deer you are looking to harvest. This is when it really gets fun and your nerves will be put to the test. Once you have spotted a deer you are looking to shoot, immediately turn the camera on and press record, regardless of which direction the camera is pointing. Forgetting to press record is the easiest mistake when filming your own hunts. It is so easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and focus on trying to harvest the deer that we forget we even have a camera with us, so eliminating that possibility early on is key. Also, you should grab your weapon and ready yourself for the shot regardless of how far away the animal is. The more time you give yourself to prepare for the shot, the more relaxed you will be, just like any other hunting situation.

When you are sure the animal is going to present a shot, move the camera to the position it is most likely to walk and leave it there, don’t try to follow the animal in and make the shot at the same time. This will result in sloppy footage but more importantly, could result in an ill advised or poorly placed shot on the animal. Remember, you are hunting first and filming second and you owe it to the animal to make a clean, ethical kill. Don’t push your limits and take a shot you aren’t comfortable or confident with just to capture it on film. Don’t zoom in too far, but don’t be completely too far zoomed out either. You want to make sure the entire animal will be in the frame. This will make for better footage as you will be able to see the animal’s reaction to the shot, but will also help aid you in tracking your animal. A major benefit of replaying your footage will help confirm shot placement and give you a better of idea of how long to wait before picking up the trail.

Once you have your camera positioned waiting for the animal to walk into frame, it’s time to focus on the kill, forget about the camera, and trust in your instincts and the camera’s position to capture the shot on film. Handle the shot just you would any other shot at a game animal, take your time and make a good, clean shot. Immediately after the shot, you are still hunting, don’t jerk your bow or rifle to focus on the camera, this could adversely affect your shot placement. Follow through just like you normally would, then shift your attention to the camera. It will be hard to find a running animal in your viewfinder, so it’s important not to be zoomed in too far. Locate the animal and determine whether or not you made a good hit, then find him with your camera for post-shot footage.

When the animal has either fallen or is out of sight, whip that camera around on yourself to capture the true essence and excitement of the hunt, the emotions and adrenaline we all live for! This is the footage people love to see. The genuine excitement experienced when harvesting an animal. But it’s important to be yourself! Don’t try to act all macho and cool like some of the celebrities on television do, be yourself and let your emotions take over. Remember, you just harvested a deer. That’s fun! Enjoy the moment while capturing it all on film!


Self-filming is an adventurous endeavor that requires a lot of hard work and patience to become comfortable with. It can, however, result in memories that be relived forever. It adds another dimension to your hunt that is as challenging as it is rewarding, but more importantly self-filming is fun! So, get out there with your camera equipment hunt, harvest a deer you can be proud and film you doing it. Then replay the footage and realize just how much fun it was to film you harvesting an animal.

For more information on filming your own hunts, or to purchase all of the equipment you need to film your hunts, visit