Blood Trail Info: A Side Benefit of Filming Your Own Hunts
Watch this video. It's enough to make any editor cringe. The end of it is shaky, and with the rain, the audio is ruined to the point of being annoying. But I'm posting it anyway because, despite its problems, it's a particularly good lesson on why filming your own hunts can make you a more effective hunter. Let me explain.
I've self-filmed quite a few short video tips for Realtree.com. While I own some decent camera equipment and try to put enough forethought into those tips to make them useful and watchable, most of my filming in the field is on the fly and fairly redneck. It's usually with a pocket-sized Kodak Playsport camera that costs under $200. The camera is waterproof, and I can carry it, an extra battery and a bendable tripod to the stand with me without sacrificing much room in my pack. I also don't worry about being out a fortune if the camera gets wet.
The footage I get with it is far from television production quality, but for a bowhunter, it's useful in several ways beyond from creating web content. More than once, it's helped me make good decisions in the adrenaline-charged moments right after a shot.
The video of this hog hunt in South Florida a couple weeks ago is a good example. I had the camera tripod mounted on my ladder stand, and when I saw a pig coming to the feeder, I turned the camera on. A few minutes later, I took the shot.
I'd no more than released the arrow than it started raining, and when I say rain, I mean a veritable tropical storm. The arrow looked good, but the hog instantly disappeared into the palmettos. The day before, I'd shot a pig and lost it, and the memory of that was still fresh in my mind. I knew the blood trail was being washed away by the second, but I didn't want to climb down and rush things. You bowhunters know how those mind-games go.
So I picked up my camera and reviewed the footage. I played it back three or four times, studying exactly where the arrow hit. I came to the conclusion that based on the footage and the pig's quartering-away angle, my broadhead had to have sliced through the vitals. No way the pig went far. I climbed down and started searching. For 20 minutes, I couldn't find squat. But I kept looking. I finally found my pig in a tangle of head-high grass 100 yards from my stand, dead as hell from a perfect double-lung hit.
Hansen had a similiar incident last fall when he shot a dandy public-land whitetail for an episode of Antler Geeks. He was hunting off the ground, and when the buck came in, it caught him out of position. Tony let an arrow go and hit him, but not where he wanted. In true Antler Geeks fashion, nothing is hidden. You can see that the shot caught the buck through the hams by watching the video. Initially, Tony was mad at himself, thinking he'd gut-shot the deer. After reviewing the footage (which is HD quality and a lot better than mine), he could see blood pouring out of the buck, and surmised that he'd likely caught the femoral artery. No doubt, he would've rather hit the lungs and still wasn't pleased with the shot, but he did sleep a little better that night knowing the buck probably wouldn't make it far. He found the deer first thing the next morning and says if he had it to do over, given the footage, he'd have taken up the trail and recovered him that night.
Bad footage or great footage, you get the gist of what I'm saying. If you can review your shot after it happens on film, it helps you make better decisions on taking up the blood trail. To me, even if you never use footage of your hunts for anything beyond teachable moments like that, it makes a camera a worthwhile piece of gear to add to your pack.