I’m a deer hunter. In my life I’ve only hunted deer, harvested them, and ate them. I never gave much thought to filming my hunts, mainly because I have never been around many people that did and I didn’t have a camera. In recent years though, I’ve spent a lot of time hunting with my good friend Jeremy Johnson on his family farm in South Alabama. Any fans of the show will know that Jeremy is a dedicated camera man for the Backwoods crew and films a lot of hunts of himself and his family. After a few season of hunting with him, it made me curious about filming deer hunts. He has been very helpful to me and taught me much about the specifics and techniques of successful filming. Little did I know this was only the tip of the iceberg.
In January, The Backwoods Life guys came to hunt with us at the farm. Jeremy asked me to help out this year since Woody, Kevin, and Michael were coming at the same time. I said sure, since I had met them guys on a few occasions.
The first morning we all gathered at the cabin and picked our stands and I was paired up with Kevin. He told everyone that he was going to let me be his “cameraman” for the day. I was thinking….”Huh? I’m just supposed to be the Guide.” But I said ok and off we went to the stand. Kevin said that he was going to give me a class in “How to Video Deer Hunts 101” and he said I would do fine. He even made me carry the camera to the stand which was very brave on his part I must say.
After settling into the stand, he showed me how to position myself and how to set the camera in the best position. As I found out, in the dark it is very important for a cameraman to be very familiar with his equipment. As the sun rose, he talked about what I needed to concentrate on when deer were coming out and how we would communicate if a “shooter” appeared. We went over how the camera works, lighting, focusing, and centering your subject. We spent a long time that morning discussing things that good cameramen must do and things they shouldn’t do. It was very helpful to me and interesting to learn more about how a professional deer hunting show is put together for viewing. Kevin said, “You can never film too much as long as you do it correctly. If we don’t have the footage we can’t use it.”
The guys planned on hunting for a few days, so the next day I was paired up with Woody. Or should I say Woody said, “Your going with me. I’m gonna show you some things.” Again, Woody trusted me to carry his camera all the way down the road to the stand. As we got closer to the stand I realized it wasn’t so much that he trusted me, but when I told him it was a pretty long walk, carrying the camera automatically became my job. I figured that out quickly. Which brings me to the point that producing good quality scenes isn’t easy. There is much work that goes into producing even one quality hunt, much less the number of hunts the Backwoods Life films each year. By the time we got everything set up in the stand and ready to film, I was sweating and it was January. Even in the deep south, January is pretty cold.
Woody gave me some good instruction on finding the deer in the view finder, the best way to follow the deer, and how to keep focused. Also, he was good to talk to me about lighting and how to “pan away’ after the shot. Then we went over things we would have to do after he shot the deer on camera and what I needed to film immediately after the shot. Things I never considered before. Watching a television show and actually having to filming it are two entirely different things I assure you.
While some of you are reading this and have been filming your hunts forever, I’m giving you my perspective as someone new to filming. It never occurred to me the details that go into one hunt, much less a whole season of footage. The Backwoods Life guys are as professional as you can get and genuinely care about the product they put on the screen and into your living rooms. Their knowledge is vast and it shows not only on the show, but also in the minor details. All the way down to teaching a new cameraman the ropes. Thanks for the opportunity guys and I hope to get to do it again some day.
On a side note, I will say this to Woody. Kevin did give his cameraman some cookies to eat while we hunted together and you didn’t. I’m just saying…….
Jeff Turner, Backwoods Life Guest Blogger