Learning The Trade
“He’s right there!”, I thought to myself, “Why isn’t Todd telling me to shoot?”. Twenty yards in front of me was the first turkey I’d ever had in bow range, and my trusty cameraman wasn’t telling me to shoot. I knew the communication process was hard and maybe I had missed a signal or something, but nope, I got nothing. That turkey is the absolute only turkey in this world to ever get past Karla Black in bow range. That doesn’t happen too often.
I had a wide open view of the big gobbler in my sights, but my cameraman Todd, had a completely different view. In fact, he had no view at all really. All due to a tree right smack dab in front of the turkey. I can promise you that letting that turkey go was the most devastating thing for fourteen year old me. But that’s all part of the process of hunting with a camera. You may have the most beautiful, perfect shot for yourself, but the cameraman over your shoulder has the one and only limb on that oak tree right in his view. It’s all your choice whether you want to sacrifice that shot for the sake of your job. Even though it may be tough, sometimes it’s the right thing to do.
When I shot my first deer with a crossbow, I was new to the whole idea of hunting with a camera and cameraman. Not only was it a transition from hunting with my dad to Todd, but a change in the kill process. I had to learn that even though things can happen in the blink of an eye, I had to take my shot slowly. I was still unsure and not confident in my yardage skills when I had my first deer in bow range. So reluctantly I asked Todd for help.
Some of you may know that things look closer than they really are on camera so he had to put the camera down to tell me a precise yardage. I was armed and ready and as soon as I heard the whisper of Todd telling me to use the top pin, I pulled the trigger quicker than he could get the words out of his mouth. I pulled the trigger so quickly that Todd didn’t even have time to get the camera back up on to the big doe. That was a successful first kill but a failed attempt to film it. But hey, we can only learn from our mistakes, can’t we?
The length and quality of the video is also a factor. If you don’t have a long enough video to fill the amount of time needed, you’re then scrambling to find clips and commercials that fit the time you want. This has taught me to be patient and give the cameraman enough time to get some good video of the deer. Whether it’s entering, eating, or a buck on the trail of a hot doe, you need to give it time.
Communication is something that you can’t avoid when hunting with a camera. And with an animal that can hear a pin drop within 30 yards of you, it’s a hard puzzle to solve. I have learned how to give myself time and identify yardages on my own a lot better over the past few years. I’ve also learned that the camera can hear a lot more than you’d think, just like the deer. So asking Todd if it’s alright to shoot can be pretty difficult. Especially from two separate treestands where you practically have to whisper-shout just to hear each other. This is why blinds are ideal for hunting with a camera.
Hunting with a camera can be a difficult task, but it's so cool to be able to go back and re-watch the shot a million times. It can also help in finding a shot animal that has run off into the woods. You can pause the video at the exact time of your Lumenok glowing in the side of a deer. Or it can lead you to the direction that the animal ran off. We all know we can get confused when trailing a deer, especially with no blood trail. That can lead us to return back to the spot of the kill shot thinking “Maybe it went that way”, “No, maybe it went this way.”, when it went 40 yards in the opposite direction.
I also love sharing the videos with others so they can experience it too. I still hear my dad out in the kitchen every now and then, listening to that familiar “Hi guys, it's Karla.” from hunts years ago. Even if it's the 100th time he's watched it, he still relives it like it just happened. But nothing can replace the memory you have in your head of the hunt that lasts forever. To this day I can still remember things that a camera can't catch like the cool crisp air or the beautiful sunrises that pictures don't do justice.
These are the things that make the hunts special and memorable. These are also things that most people miss and that you can't get from sitting on your couch watching the Outdoor Channel. It may seem you've seen the whole hunt, but you've seen only bits and pieces of it. And the kill shot is only the beginning. It's the little things that matter and bring back memories from some of the best times in your life. I'm happy to say that all mine involve something with a tree, a bow, an arrow, and a story to tell again and again.