The following was first published as an article in The Maryland Bowhunters Society's membership magazine, Rubs and Scrapes. It documents the journey to my first self-filmed buck bow-kill as I was filming my Public Land Pope and Young video series available in it's entirety on the Camochair Productions website
The Video Buck
By Mike Kirby
I don't really know who to blame. I'm sure YouTube played a part in it, the endless stream of hunting videos from the field, even if some of that is kind of low quality. But I think a large portion of the animadversion should belong to the gang at Maryland Whitetail.com. It seemed like every time I would log in there, I was confronted with a much higher quality of self filmed hunting videos. It wasn't long until I had decided I wanted to try this myself. It seems like ages ago that I tossed my hat into the ring, even though it has only been a few short years.
It all began in 2009, when I acquired my first video camera. I had been talking with family about my desire to film my hunts, and soon found myself in possession of a video camera as a present. So my journey began. I dove into it with zeal. Quickly, I realized this was more than I had bargained for. After what seemed like a deep black hole of monetary expenditure on editing software and additional equipment, tree arms, tripods, extra batteries, and memory cards, I only thought I was ready. Then came learning how to use it all. An undertaking in itself. But off I went into the woods with my bow and camera.This was a chore. The extra gear cramped my travel light public land hunting style. But I was determined. After learning how to deal with it all, and actually do it quietly, I began to get footage of deer while I was hunting. I would rush home with my footage and impatiently wait while it uploaded to my computer.
I would watch, edit, try and come up with something.I quickly realized that what I was producing was very low quality at best. So then came the upgrades to handle high definition video. During the course of my experimentation, I found reliving my hunts on video was intensely interesting, but only for me. Others I showed my handiwork to, while trying to be encouraging, seemed rather unimpressed and even bored. So I began to try and plan out my videos, give them structure, make a little "hunting show" of it, if you will. Here, the idea for the Public Land Pope and Young series was born. I decided I would head to the woods, to try and take a Pope and Young buck on public land, with my bow, while the camera was rolling.
Off I went to begin the first season of my quest. I began the season filming doe and small buck, letting them walk while waiting for something a little bit bigger. While the videos seemed fairly popular when I would post them on-line, I was less than popular with my wife. She would admonish me for not bringing home meat for the freezer when she saw footage of deer under my stand. I tossed off her critiques, determined to get it done. The rut that first year was good. On the first sit of my rut vacation, about 09:00, I saw a buck come across the hilltop at about 30 yards, moving down the trail into my shooting lane. He was a handsome 8 point, and even though his G-2 was broken off, I had already gotten the camera rolling and decided to take him as my first deer on film. I got the camera zoomed in on a white oak along the trail and began to concentrate on getting my shot. As the deer cleared the oak, and moved into the open, I drew, and loosed my arrow. WHACK! Knocked him clean off his feet sideways. A spine shot. Quickly, I closed the deal with another arrow to the chest. FANTASTIC. What great footage this would make. Imagine my horror as I replayed the scene, and saw only hindquarters moving out of frame and off camera. I had focused on the tree that had been beside the deer, not the one he was going to walk past. You could hear the event clearly, but I had not gotten it on film. I was at once ecstatic to have taken him, a very nice buck for public land, but very disappointed that it had not been recorded. The meat that I brought home to appease the wife was of little consequence to me at this point. I decided I would not shoot another deer unless I was sure it was on film.
The season wained, and I did not produce another kill because of this. My video avocation led me to begin filming fishing trips, and other outdoor adventures. I even started a website to share them with others on the web. But always, in the back of my mind, was deer season, and the clip of the rear end of a whitetail walking off the screen. I had a million ideas of how to continue my quest, and could hardly wait for the archery season to begin the following fall. I scouted hard. Found good sign. I filmed bits and segments I could use as filler between the actual hunting portions of the video. Tips on scouting, and tactics for public land hunts. All I needed was a buck to walk in and take my arrow, and I could finish the project.
Finally, it was September again.I had decided to take a doe if possible. I wanted to get a kill, any kill, on film. I had (and still have) those portions of videos, offering tips on stand placement and hunting on public land to use as a beginning for a doe kill video. Perhaps I will be able to use them at some future date. It did not come to pass my second season afield with my camera and bow. I still had much to learn about not spooking my targets while trying to position the camera on them. I found this out the hard way that second season. While I did manage to publish several more videos that year, they lacked a kill. I offered tips on scouting, explanations of what I was doing, and some fairly good deer footage as well. While these videos also proved somewhat popular on my website, and other on-line outlets, I felt like I was loosing my edge. I was beginning to receive critical comments on these videos because I was not producing a kill. I began doubting my resolve. Would I be considered a fraud? I was presenting myself and my methods as sound tactics for success, yet there was none. Could I even do this thing? Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Should I just toss in the towel?
These thoughts haunted me the following summer. I pressed on, filming the intro for season three of my quest during one of the hottest summers I can remember. Scouting hard through the heat, finding good sign. But was this going to be enough to take a good buck (or even a doe) on public land? Even if I did get an opportunity, would I be able to keep it together, and get it on film without spooking the deer? I brushed aside my vacillation and wound up carrying my bow and my video gear out to one of my favorite public land destinations on a warm September evening. This was my first hunt of the year. More determined than ever to get a kill on film, I ascended my chosen tree, pulled up the gear, and was affixing the camera to the arm when I heard the twig snap.
A doe and fawn were less than 20 yards from me, and I wasn't even set up yet. How I managed to finish putting it all together, get the camera rolling, pull my bow up and nock an arrow without being spotted I will never know. Another doe passed below me at 10 yards. Camera centered. Check. Broadside at 12 yards, check. Doe in frame and in focus check. Coming to full draw… JUMP…. but it wasn't me who had made the deer spook this time. All three deer were very concerned with something in the brush out of my sight, and they departed rapidly. Waves of disappointment rocked me. But this was public land, and I've had game spooked by other hunters many times. I focused on the cover the doe had been watching, waiting for the other hunter to make his presence known so I could wave him off. It was then I saw the tines in the brush. Almost in disbelief, and with the camera still rolling, I watched as a very nice 8 point buck emerged feeding on acorns. This is what had spooked the doe, but I was ecstatic. He was feeding right out into the open. But I wasn't watching the deer, I was looking at the red dot on the video monitor on my camera. A screen that displayed one of the best bucks I had seen on this area for many years.
The buck made his way out of the cover, not knowing my designs to introduce him to the YouTube generation. I was blessed with clear and unobstructed footage of his approach in to 22 yards. I made one final check after I had come to full draw, making sure he was in frame, and the little red dot was still on that screen, and with a tap of the trigger on my release, he exploded in a fifty yard semi-circle indicative of heart shot. I can not even begin to describe my emotions at that moment. Though he was a modest buck, that would eventually be scored officially at 96 and 2 eights of an inch, I had done it! I had taken a very nice buck for the public land I was hunting, with my bow and arrow. A moment that I will never forget, and a moment that I can relive as often as I like. Because it was all captured on video! My very first kill on film.
As for my quest for a Public Land Pope and Young? I'm sure this will continue. Perhaps, one day, I will be able to share the story and video of that hunt with you as well, you never know. But I am sure of one thing. There's nothing like the feeling you have when you get that first one! Those of you who peaked my interest in filming the hunt, while I do curse you for that on occasion, I also thank you. I now have a hobby that not only allows me the enjoyment of a day in the field hunting game, but also the ability to share the wonders of creation and the exhilaration of the hunt with others.
Sure Jason, thanks for the platform to upload it to. I originally wrote this for our State Bowhunters members magazine a while back. I tripped over it not too long ago, and after watching Ham Bros. Behind the Camera I thought it might be a good fit as a blog here. This stuff we do to film the hunt is at once so incredibly hard yet compelling almost to the point of addiction for me. Certainly not for everyone, I've seen guys try it and decide they would rather just hunt many times. Nothing wrong with that, I can guarantee you trying to film this stuff has cost me more opportunities than I can count. I'm the other side of hanging it up, I feel like I have to have the camera there, and I'm so extreme I have to get it on film, and have passed several very nice deer as well as many others that I could have shot but could not get on camera at the same time. Let's both keep working on what we are doing. At the very least, it is bringing the truth and reality of hunting out of the woods and into the homes of many who only had stories before, and dispelling much of the lies and untruths spoken by anti hunters about our sport.
Thanks for a great read. I am not set up to film hunts but I've done a few very amateur videos. It comes with buying editing software as you said but learning it all is a whole new task. I still need some proper equipment myself. Very interesting to hear your path and how it all started. I was inspired to create and continue to improve this website because of people like you who do this for the love of it. I'm passionate about this stuff but I would make a terrible "on screen" personality to film my own hunts and keep someones interest. However, I thought I could do some good by creating an outlet for hunting and the outdoors where people could collaborate. I am more than grateful for every person that has shown up here so far. I hope you are only getting started and bring your outdoors to my screen for years to come. I am only getting started here at MHP. This place will truly become more and more worthy of all your company and content to better serve the community. Thanks for choosing to share this here with us. Here is to both more ups and downs as we pursue our passions. Without the downs we would miss important lessons.