Complete Guide to Self Filming Your Hunts

*Updated 6/25/2023

Why Do You Want to Film Your Hunts?

Filming your hunts can be extremely rewarding and fun. It is also expensive, time consuming, and can be very frustrating and discouraging. This game is not for the faint of heart or dip your toes in personalities. It is an all in activity that will require dedication and grit. If your reason to film is to promote yourself, make money, or get famous this is not the thing for you. People will notice that as soon as they watch your videos and it will turn them off. If your objective is to have a good time, capture memories, and share those memories with others even if it will inconvenience you, then read on!

Why I Started Filming My Hunts

I have been self filming my hunts since 2015. Like many hunters, my hope was to capture my memories and save them in a way that I could look back on my hunts and relive the moments. I also truly have a joy for creating and I found my creative outlet within videography. I started uploading my hunts to YouTube not with the intention to share with the world or to grow a YouTube channel. I viewed YouTube as free cloud storage for my videos. It wasn't until people started watching and commenting that I started doing videos for others. That was almost 6 years ago. I hope to share my knowledge and what I learned in this article to help you start filming your hunts or improve your current filming. 

Not All Cameras Are Created Equal
I started filming with a GoPro Hero 3. I quickly learned although action cameras are great for easy recording; the wide angel view and inability to zoom leaves a lot of voids for capturing hunts. I now use a GoPro Hero 7 and would be hard pressed to find a video I filmed a hunt or fly fishing outing where I don't incorporate some footage from the GoPro. Action cameras are fantastic second angle cameras or can be used to capture video quickly and efficiently. But if you want to create awesome hunting videos, a GoPro should not be your A roll camera.

I prefer GoPros over Tactacams, Shotkams or any Asian knockoffs. Sure there are good reviews on YouTube but the low light quality of a GoPro vs. these knockoffs is usually much better. Also, GoPro has really stepped up its game for image stabilization which helps a lot to keep from giving your viewers motion sickness and clicking away. I attach my GoPro to my safety harness with a clip. It provides a good second angle.

Video Camera Options
A video camera is going to be your best bet for price, image quality, low light, and ease of use. If you think about the size of a video camera compared to a GoPro, you are going to get a much larger sensor within the video camera. The sensor dictates image quality, low light performance, and other important features. If budget is not an issue, try to get a good 4K camera with good image stabilization. I also recommend at least a 20x optical zoom. 

Entry Level
I started self filming with a lower cost Sony Handy Cam. I was able to create decent videos and work past the limitations of my camera. I was in a tough place financially and couldn't afford to spend $1,000 on a toy. When I see hunters ask now what is the best camera to buy for less than $500, I cringe knowing they would be much better spending an extra $200 or $300 on a great used camera then a brand new entry level one. But, if you are in a situation where you just can't then a great option would be the Sony HDR-CX675 (This is no longer being made by Sony so you will have to watch eBay for a used one). You can use a Sony compatible remote with this. 

If the CX-675 is not an option, check out the *Sony HDRCX405. (fair disclosure, I've never used this camera. BUT from my research it has image stabilization, great reviews, ability to plug in a remote control, and is an affordable option.) It is not 4K but can record in 1080p.

Mid Level
I use a *Sony AX53. Here is my quick review of the AX53. It is a 4k video camera, performs well in low light, has incredible image stabilization, and is an overall great run and gun video camera. The reason I picked the Sony AX53 to film my hunts was because of these features as well as the ability to shoot 120 FPS (more to come on this later), time lapse record feature, and overall look of the footage.

I was torn between the Sony AX53 vs. the Canon G30. A lot of guys are now recommending the Canon G50 because it does have the capability of shooting in 4K but still cannot shoot in 120 FPS. I still think there is a lot of value there with the AX53 or AX43 especially if you can get a good price on a used one. You can use a Sony compatible remote which makes self filming so much easier!

High End
The next step up would be either the *Sony FDR-AX700 or the *Sony AX100. These cameras will shoot in 4k, have 120FPS or higher shooting options and offer more manual controls. One of my pet peeves with the AX53 is you cannot control F stop, ISO, and shutter speed at the same time. This will limit some control and force you to use auto in some of these areas. The image quality from these cameras is incredible and they seem to be great options for hunting videos. These cameras will have options for remotes.

DSLRs & Mirrorless Cameras
I love the narrow depth of field that creates the soft bokeh background that gives hunting films a cinematic look. This look cannot be achieved (correctly) with a small sensor video camera. The best option is to use a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

I own a *Panasonic GH5 and use it for every fly fishing film. It is a great camera that has expanded my creativity and taken my films to the next level. The issue is, it is extremely difficult to self film. The Panasonic GH5 struggles in low light, has a bad auto focus system, and is difficult to operate with one hand. This makes it nearly useless in a self filming situation. I use this camera for b-roll and cinematic footage for filler shots but this is not what I take to my tree stand. 

A lot of guys are running the *Sony A6500. You can get a power zoom lens, remote control, and the auto focus system seems to be workable. Canon has some good mirrorless options and Sony's Alpha lineup has a wealthier me salivating! The camera bodies on these options can be $2,000 - $3,000. Then you have to buy lenses which can also be in the $1,000 range. You could easily have $4,000 - $5,000 by the time you buy everything you need.

Remote Controls
The first couple of years I self filmed I did not have a remote control. I spooked more deer because of this. Little hand movements like moving my hand from the fluid head to the top of the camera to zoom were noticed. Using a remote was a game changer when I upgraded my setup! I could now pan my camera and zoom in and out very efficiently without moving my hand. Make sure the remote you choose is compatible with your camera model. I am using the *Sony RM-VPR1 but a slightly cheaper alternative is the *JJC RM-VPR1 which works with a lot of Sony camera models.

Camera Arms
I started with a basic camera arm that you had to manually screw into the tree. I believe I bought it for around $30. There was not a good way to level the camera arm and it was not very solid. I upgraded to the *Muddy Outfitter Camera arm. It is extremely solid, easy to set up, and I can get it perfectly level on every tree I would go up in. I am able to use the ratchet strap without making any noise but this takes practice. I decided on the Muddy Camera arm because the weight is about equivalent to the fourth arrow and it appeared to be easier to setup and possibly more solid. Fourth Arrow has come out with some new models but the minor weight savings and higher cost has kept me from upgrading. Lone Wolf Custom Gear has a cast aluminum arm that is intriguing. But with a heavier camera there is a lot of bounce after touching your camera or panning. It is also pretty pricey.

Update* I purchased the Lone Wolf Pocket Arm and love how much weight I saved from switching. There are some major trade offs as far as not having as solid of a platform but I use that every setup now and have no regrets!

Fluid Heads
I am currently in the market for a new fluid head. The version I have will get a little loose and is spring loaded so it wants to go level with the horizon. I'm looking at the following, but suggestions are welcome if you have a lightweight option you are happy with. I've heard good things about the *Manfrotto MVH400AHUS Be Free Live Video Head. I am running the *Neewer Metal Heavy Duty Video Head 

The Sony AX53 has pretty decent audio and I felt like I could get away with not spending the money on a microphone. When I started filming with the Panasonic GH5, I noticed the audio wasn't as good. I then invested in a *Rode Video Mic Pro. I am happy with the ease of use and the professional sound quality I can get out of the mic. I am considering investing in a wireless microphone in the future but have not pulled the trigger yet.

**Update I purchased the Wireless Go II by Rode, I wish I would've done this sooner. The production of my audio went from beginner to professional and I can't believe it took me this long to purchase. You don't know what you are missing until you have high quality audio. The wireless mics help cut out a lot of the garbage ambient sounds that get picked up with a shotgun mic like traffic, planes, loud birds, etc. 

SD Cards
I use two 128 GB SD SanDisk* cards. If you are shooting 4K or a higher quality image you should be able to get away with UHS-1 card. The card I use is from SanDisk with write speeds of around 170 MBps. I do recommend always having at least two SD cards with you when filming. I've had cards fail while on stand. If you are planning on shooting 4K in 60 FPS or other very high MPps footage you may have to go with an ultra fast speed card which can get pricey.

**Update, bigger is better! Go with 256 GB SD cards especially if you are recording in 4K, this will help alleviate running out of space.

Camera Settings: Understanding Frame Rates, Bitrate, Shutter Speed, 1080P vs. 4K and CODECs

Frame Rates
Video is created by a camera taking multiple pictures very quickly and lining them up. Those pictures are referred to as frames. Common recording frame rates are either 24 frames per second (FPS) or 30 FPS. Whichever you choose is less important, but being consistent among all your cameras is crucial. What is also crucial is rendering (completing / saving) your project after editing in the same frame rate as you recorded. 24 FPS will create a little more motion blur (less pictures to show movement will create blur between the frames) Most cinematic films are shot in 24 FPS for a more dreamy look. 24 FPS will also use less space and be easier to edit (slightly) then 30 FPS. If you want to capture fast movements or action type videos a higher frame rate will be better.

Bitrate MBps
This refers to the Megabytes per second your video is recording in and corresponds to the size of your file. A larger MBps recording rate could increase the recording quality. BUT.... YouTube will automatically convert your video from 8 MBps to 12MBps for 1080 and 35MBps - 45MBps for 4k. So if your goal is to export to YouTube and you are recording at 100MBps then uploading at 8MBps you are using up a lot of SD card space, computer space, and wasted computing power in editing. I usually record in a slightly higher bitrate than I plan on uploading in case I ever want a slightly higher quality video down the road. Same goes for exporting. I usually export in around 10-20MBps for upload to  YouTube.

Shutter Speed
I'm not going to get into too many details here. Shutter speed relates to how long the shutter is open when a picture is taken. A longer shutter speed = more light and brighter footage. A faster shutter speed means less light in your camera and darker footage. The longer the shutter is open, the more opportunity and time passes that allow objects to move. If objects move too much they get blurred. A good balance is to set your shutter speed to double your frame rate. 24 fps = 1/48 shutter speed. 30 fps = 1/60 shutter speed. If you want to create motion blur for an artistic effect you may have to experiment and find a good balance. If you want less motion blur and want to be able to see the motion of a fast moving object you will need to increase the shutter speed.

1080P vs. 4k
A big misunderstanding of 4K vs. 1080 is in relation to size of the image. 4k is 4 times larger than 1080P. 4K will use a lot more space on your SD card and be more difficult to edit. This will require a more powerful system. The benefit of shooting in 4K is it gives you flexibility of being zoomed out 4 times further and cropping in closer when editing. You can give a buck more room when filming, so if it moves you don't shoot it while it is out of frame (not visible in the field of view in the camera). This is the biggest benefit of having a 4K camera over 1080. You won't feel the need to stay super tight to an animal and be zoomed in really close when shooting in 4K.

I have a hard time understanding CODECS/Formats, I'm not afraid to admit it. I don't understand the difference between CODECs, containers, and formats. I've learned to use MP4 video formats as this is what is recommended by YouTube. If possible, record in the same format across all your cameras, set your project settings in your video editor to match, and then render / export in the same format. This will help keep things running smoothly.

Proper Slow Motion
There have been too many times that I've watched a video on YouTube that the creator slows down footage incorrectly. Slow motion shots take planning and shouldn't be forced after the fact. If you want to slow down your footage you have to record in a higher frame rate. If you shoot in 60 FPS you can safely slow it down to 30 FPS or 24 FPS without losing too many frames so that the footage becomes blurry and jumpy. If you want to go even slower, shoot in 120 FPS or 240 FPS. Keep in mind light conditions. As you shoot in a higher frame rate, you need to have a faster shutter speed. A faster shutter speed will lower the amount of light captured by your sensor which in turn darkens your footage. If your camera adjusts by bumping up the ISO you can get grainy slow motion footage. You can slow down 120 FPS footage 5x-6x and still have buttery smooth footage at 30fps or 24fps.  

Video Editing Software
The industry standard for video editing is Adobe Premier. Final Cut Pro from Apple is also a professional level editing software. DaVinci Resolve is a powerful, high-end video editing software but it is more difficult to learn and requires a very powerful computer to run. I started editing with a $50-$60 editing software called *Vegas Movie Studio. I then upgraded when I needed more professional features to *Vegas Pro (Check out for discounts from time to time as well. Or start with a free trial and sometimes they offer a discount at the end of the trial). I can do 90% of what can be done with Adobe Premier and it is much more affordable. I can also buy the license and not be stuck paying a monthly fee. If you learn how to use Vegas Movie Studio you can very easily switch to Vegas Pro as the software is very similar.

TIP: When editing pay close attention to audio levels from clip to clip. Normalize audio and reduce the volume on clips that have higher volume or turn up clips with lower volume. Before finalizing your project, watch the entire video with your eyes closed and listen to the audio. Pause and adjust the audio when something jumps out at you.

Video Editing Computers
I am currently using a Dell Inspiron 17 5000 series laptop. It is a good enough laptop to get the job done. I have some frustrations with the computer, which include, the default of running windows on the slower sata drive then using software to utilize the SD drive. I feel like there are times when this software doesn't work correctly. Dell also seemed to skimp on the SD card slot read / write speeds as well as the USB ports. When choosing a laptop, Desktop, or Mac, it is important to pay attention to the processor as well as the hard drive. SD drives will operate faster. Having a graphics card will also help; especially if you want to go the route of a DaVinci Resolve. I would recommend determining what video editing software you want to use first, then do some research of recommended system requirements to run. A desktop will be more friendly for updating components after the fact. A Mac will probably be the best option for minimal research as they will generally be powerful enough out of the gate. With a laptop you will have to be careful that it is powerful enough to handle video editing. Buying a gaming laptop is a smart way to make sure it has enough juice. 

Tips For Creating Entertaining Hunting Videos
Years ago, all it took to make a successful video was a kill shot on camera. The amount of content on the platform has exploded and it is a very crowded space. You have to put a lot of effort into filming and editing. That is if your goal is to get people to watch your video. The average attention span of Americans is 4 seconds. If you talk for more than 4 seconds without cutting away to b-roll, people will click away or jump forward in your video. If you are going to start a video with an interview you will need to overlay other video clips of deer, you climbing the tree, pulling up your bow, or summer scouting shots. Anything to break up a long, close up clip of your face. A good entertaining video will tell a good story. Why is this hunting season significant? Are you trying to accomplish something unique or do something different? This will help keep people engaged to not only watch one video, but to get to know you and want to subscribe and come back for other videos in the future.

Below is a screen grab of my 2020 archery video to give you an idea of how many clips I use, how I overlay clips overtop of others and my use of music.

Unfortunately you can't just download your favorite country song and throw it into your video. Just about all music is going to be copyrighted and you will get a strike or claim against your video. In most cases, that is ok but the record company will monetize your video and keep all ad revenue from your video. In some cases, the record company will block your video and it won't be available to watch.

I spend way too much time obsessing over my music selection for my videos. I tend to prefer cinematic music that adds a lot of emotion to my films. I do get criticism from time to time for my music selection. You will regardless of genre. Especially if you like heavy metal screamo! PLEASE DON'T! Some guys leave music out all together while others use it heavily. Find a style you like and go for it. Just remember, whatever you pick, count on 25% of your audience hating it, 25% being indifferent, 25% not noticing it, and 25% loving it. That goes for any style or genre.

Free Music
Within the YouTube Studio there is free royalty-free music. You can use this music within your videos without any concerns about copyright issues or being able to monetize later. BE WARNED; a lot of the music is terrible... like torturing an Al Qaeda terrorist terrible. There are some good options though; and I've found quality music that I've used in many videos. I'll post a list of songs I used in the past below that will maybe help you find some good options.

Paid Music Service
I started using a paid music service this year for my videos. I pay a monthly fee but have access to high quality, royalty-free music. It can still be challenging to find the perfect song for certain videos but I feel the cost is well worth it. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. GET TO THE POINT! - Talking is good; it explains your video, who you are, and what you are doing. Talking for 5 minutes at the beginning of your video is going to get it skipped over. If you want to anyway; that is fine. Just understand when YouTube sees people skipping content it tells YouTube the content was not engaging enough. Then YouTube will not surface or recommend your video.

2. EDIT YOUR VIDEOS! - I see a lot of pieces of video that should get cut out. Loud audio bumps, jumps in the camera, shaky footage, out of focus shoots, one loooonnnggg clip of a buck standing and not moving, etc. Editing software is a tool to cut these things out.

3. AVOID CONTROVERSERIAL VIDOES! - Just because it happened doesn't mean you have to show it. Shot a deer or a buck in the guts and don't recover it? Does it add to your story and do you have to show it? Probably not. Admit you haven't had time to practice shooting then shoot a buck in the butt at 60 yards? Please don't! Doing illegal, unethical, or dumb things may cause a video to go viral but does it show your channel in a positive light or the hunting community? We are under attack by the Anti's. Don't give them any more ammo. If someone can find a reason to attack or criticize your video they will. Try not to give them anything. You also run the risk of YouTube demonetizing your video and keeping all the revenue or banning adds. What good will that do?

In one of my videos, the way I edited a pack out of a buck looked like our group just cut off the head and left the body. I didn't show (or have) any videos of us putting meat in the backpack. People started commenting about "what a waste of a buck."  I didn't know what they were referring to until someone asked, "did you really just cut the head off and leave all the meat?"  Lesson learned.

4. Aggressive Panning and Zooming. - Pans and zooms should be slow and smooth.

5. Zooming in too much. - I see a lot of videos that zoom way too close on an animal. If the entire buck's body is filling the frame, you are probably close enough. You don't need to zoom in all the way on his rack or eye. Especially if he is walking or moving. It requires too much camera movement and results in shaky footage. Just because your camera can zoom 20 or 30x doesn't mean you should. Quality could be degraded and the shaky footage is unpleasant.

List of YouTube Studio Music That is Decent
1. Their Story, Them Seeing
2. North
3.The Woods
4. 12th of November
5. Heartland
6. Porches and Universes
7. Open Sea Morning
8. Silver Lakes
9. Sugar Pines
10. Yard Sale
11. Fresh Fallen Snow
12. Plastic or Paper 
13. Tupelo Train
14. Please
15. To the Top
16. The Dismal Hand
17. Tacklebox Blues
18. Fuzzy and True
19. Pick Up On This

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope the information I shared is helpful!

*Links are affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you buy the products through my links. It will not cost you any extra and I am paid directly from Amazon. This helps support my channel and allows me to buy new gear and share my experiences. 

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