Creating an Obsession: The Making of an Outdoor Videographer

I’m not really sure why I hadn’t realized it earlier in life, but I know now that I was born to hunt and film. As a child I loved creating home movies and parodies, and I even attended college as a television studies major. My obsession is for the outdoors, instilled in me by my father. Hunting has always been a component of my family’s life, as if its in our genes. These two lifelong passions (hunting and outdoor videography) melded one early spring afternoon in the fields of Northern Vermont.

I had decided to try my hand at turkey hunting for the first time. Spending the majority of April trying to learn as much of the birds as I could before the May 1st opener, I opted to bring my parents old VHS recorder a field to help me in my quest for knowledge of the woods wise fowl.

Spotting a turkey meandering down a farm road I assumed it was about to cross into the open field, so I made a wide circle to get above the bird for a better view. Nearing the field edge my concentration was on the hen. Redirecting my gazed toward the direction I was traveling, I was shocked to see an enormous black being in the field ahead of me. At first I thought it was a cow that snuck out to pasture early, but upon further investigation I realized I was mere yards away from a massive black bear. Quickly shouldering the ancient Sony, I hit the little red button and began filming the grazing ursus americanus.

Watching the bear through the viewfinder boiled my blood and gave me an incomparable adrenaline rush, I knew at that moment that is was doing what I was born to. As the huge boar lifted its head and stared at me the camcorder shut-down. The old battery was so weak it could no longer run the unit for an extended period of time. I backed slowly away from the bear as he stared intently at me, like a flash he whipped around, took three bounds and was in the dense forest not to be seen again. My heart was about pounding out of my chest when I realized how quick the brute could have been on top of me. I rushed home to share my excitement and footage with my wife.

It wasn’t until almost a full year later that I acquired a video camera capable of filming a hunt decently. In this time I took a course on outdoor videography and also convinced my father to accept turkey hunting as a worthy endeavor.

The fourth day of spring gobbler season found us sitting amongst hardwoods along a old cleared path. My father sat twenty yards in front of me as dawn broke. Overjoyed hearing a shock gobble response to a rooster’s crow, I quickly spat out a yelp on the mouth call. After two hours of sporadic calling with a response each time, I determined the bird must have been glued in place. Working a full-time job I had to leave to be on shift at eight o’clock, so I used the opportunity to test a tactic I’d recently read about. I left my position, situating the camera to keep my father and the spot I expected the bird to show in view. I kept the calling up as I headed in the other direction hoping to imitate a hen moving farther away.

It wasn’t until I was backing out of the drive headed to work that I found out what had transpired. Upon seeing my dad emerge from the forest with bird in hand I immediately pulled the e-brake and dashed out of the vehicle to view the 11-pound Jake, not a large bird but for a first timer a trophy nonetheless. After the congratulations, I checked the handy cam and to my amazement I found that the kill had actually been caught on film. My first true hunt filmed and I wasn’t behind the viewfinder for the kill shot.

The following fall I filmed a bear hunt with dogs for one of only two licensed female bear hound hunters in the state. All the footage came out as fine as can be expected with a hi-8 camera. However at the crucial moment a leafy branch was in my view of the bear. I didn’t have time to move it before the hunter took his shot and once again I failed to view the kill through the lens.

Spring came again and I was determined to get as much footage as possible. Ironically on the fourth day, yet again, my father had his success. With it came my failure. Setup before daylight in a cove of tall pines we seemed to be surrounded by birds. Gobbling was coming from every direction, and my heart was pounding like never before. A few hens flew down followed by a Jake. I quickly zoomed in on the Jake and recorded him during his morning defecation, he the proceeded to chase off a bearded hen and b-line it for the breeding decoys 15 yards in front of me. So intent on the Jake I intended to kill, a large Tom never caught my attention until it was too late. As the Jake closed the distance I pulled the double barrel 20 gauge slowly to my shoulder.

Nearing the decoys I waited for him to break strut and let him have it. The bird flew straight up and landed as if not phased. As I readied for a back-up shot, BLAM, came a blast from my father and my target flew off into the pine forest. My ol’ man had his sights on the Tom and had taken the 21.4 Vermont monster in full run after being startled from my shot.

I could not comprehend how I could’ve missed and we scoured high and low for the Jake but never found a trace. Arriving home and reviewing the footage, I quickly learned that my entire barrel was behind a pine bough that had taken all the shot. This is a very hard lesson learned, but without the footage I would still today be pondering how I missed that shot. To top it off my dad’s Tom was not in camera view at the time of the shot.

I got my compensation and first kill behind the lens four days later. As we sat in a marsh, soaking wet, we listened to the gobbles descending from the oaks at our backs. The previous night we witnessed a flock in this very field. As they roosted the hens went to one side and the Tom to the opposite. Setting up our breeding pair between the them was more than enough to wind up the gobbler. Without persuasion from calls the bird made his way to the ground and toward us. We sat nestled in a small shrub as the Tom strutted to my right, headed straight for our decoys. He then went behind a similar bush to the one we were concealed in. I could see him slightly through the not yet flourished shrub and observed the bird break strut.

Reaching the end of his hiding spot, he kicked it into high gear and ran all-out toward the decoys. Going into full strut for a split second then leaping and spurring the decoy, I waited until he landed and gave the sex crazed bird both barrels from the coach gun. To my dismay he took off in flight, my heart sank thinking I blew it again. Then as the bird sailed toward the 500 yard point in the open field, he began sinking and crash landed, rolling across the lush green grass. Adrenaline took over and I don’t quite remember it but my ol’ man claims I leapt a three foot barbwire fence and sprinted the entire distance to my trophy. At only 16lbs the bird had an impressive 9 inch beard. Culminating one of my most exciting hunts ever, I captured all the action including the kill on film.

I have since compiled this old footage on a DVD, upgraded my equipment, and continue to hone my videography skills every chance I get. At the age of twenty-five my obsession for the outdoors and pursuit for a career as an outdoor videographer has lead me to become a cinematographer. Then I discovered Star Wars. I knew this was calling for sure.