Wednesday, 01 October 2014 09:55

Early Season Hunting

WV DoeWith a busy work schedule, preparing for hunting season, having kids who play sports and a whole list of other responsibilities, I’ve found it difficult to keep up with a bi-weekly blog. Now that it’s hunting season, I know it’s going to be even more difficult (at least in the early season). I’m just like most of you…I hunt when I can and where I can. I get to work a few minutes earlier each day and find myself not wanting to leave the office for an hour lunch break. I typically run out and grab something (or brown bag it) and just eat at my desk, then when 4pm rolls around, I’m out the door and on my way to a deer stand.Nice buck feeding

 

 

Those last few hours in the day in late September and early October can really produce a lot of deer sightings. Deer that are potentially still on a feeding pattern, still using field edges during the cool evenings and especially deer that haven’t been pressured by a lot of hunters in the woods. These ‘knowns’ can be used to our advantages during the early season, but I caution you to not be too aggressive yet. Sure, the early season is when I love to get out and shoot does. Filling the freezer is always a lot of fun and it’s a GREAT tune up, hunting situation test, for when that buck does step into range.

 

 

Deer feedingGetting too aggressive and hunting your best spots can certainly leave you wondering in early December…”What Happened To My Deer Season???” I’m not saying that if you have the right wind and everything is setup perfect to hunt that spot that you should still stay out of there. That would be dumb! But if you don’t have the right wind and it’s not setup perfectly, I would urge you to hang back. A buck will quickly turn nocturnal on you if he even thinks he’s being hunted so use caution on your best spots early season. Simply hunting other spots that are easy to access and leave without alerting the deer can produce some GREAT early season action.

 

 

The issue I think most hunters have is simply lack of hunting ground or stands to go to. Some of you may only have one small piece of property with one stand on it. I used to be WV Doein that situation and I completely understand. If this is you…then hunt. Our sport is there to enjoy no matter what your acreage is so I simply urge you to get out there and enjoy it. God created all this for us, but I think he had all us hunters in mind when he created Fall. J

 

 

Best of Luck,

 

Josh

Published in The Blog
Thursday, 12 June 2014 09:09

Trail Cameras

Josh Checking trail camAs summer quickly approaches I’ve got three things on my mind. Barbecues, beach and BUCKS!!! Yup, that’s right, BUCKS! The hunting season is still four months away, but the bucks are starting to grow antlers and I want to watch them grow and keep tabs on them. This is where the use of trail cameras come in to play. Trail cameras are becoming more and more popular as hunters and hunting clubs practice quality deer management. They’re not only useful in monitoring your antler growth and ultimately what bucks you would like to shoot, but also helping you determine the number of deer on your property. Working with your fellow club members or even with a local game biologist, you can determine your harvest numbers each year and keep your deer herd healthy based off of the carrying capacity of your property, but that’s a whole other blog discussion.

 

 

I don’t get too aggressive with my trail camera positioning during the summer months. High travel routes to and from a bedding area or a water source that creates the least amount of intrusion on my part is where I like to start. In WV and the parts of VA where I hunt, the use of ‘enticement’ or ‘bait’ is illegal even for running trail cameras so I have to be smart about where I put them in order to see as many of my deer as often as possible. Anywhere on a field edge where heavily used trails are coming into the field is a great spot especially since you can drive your ATV, tractor or truck right up WV Buckto the camera. I guess that’s the lazy way out, but I put enough miles on my boots during hunting season so work smarter, not harder like my dad always said.

 

 

There are so many options when it comes to buying a trail camera, but from my experience the following features are important to me. Burst Mode: Making sure your trail camera will shoot in burst mode is a must. A deer could be walking through your setup or on a trail and having two or even three pictures of the same deer will get you the shot you need to determine its size, possible age and SD Cards & AA Batterieshow many points he may have. Memory cards have come way down in price so get something 4GB or larger and you can take a lot of photos without having to check the camera as often. Video Mode: I love running my trail cameras on video mode, especially on scrapes or big rubs during the hunting season when I know a buck is using these areas to mark his territory or track down does. These 10, 15 or even 30 second video clips are fun to watch and can really tell you some cool characteristics about your deer. Field Scan or Plot Mode: I’m a big fan of Dr. Grant Bresser trail camWoods and Bill Winke. These guys live off of field scan throughout the summer months and sometimes even during the hunting season. Positioning a camera 8 to 10 feet (or higher) off the ground overlooking a field can help you determine where deer are coming/going to and from the field and at what time. This information becomes extremely helpful during the hunting season and will show you where to position your stand or blind in an excellent ambush spot. AA Batteries: I can tell you from experience that the cameras that use the D or C batteries don’t last very long in the elements. I’ve had a few cameras that used each of these power sources and by far the AA battery operated cameras are definitely the way to go. With one of my trail cameras, I was able to go a full 8.5 months off of one set (8) of AA batteries. I had it set to burst mode and it was in a heavily used area which resulted in a lot of pictures and I was very pleased with the results. If you wanna save some coin in the long run, purchase the rechargeable batteries and you’ll have months if not years of use out of those batteries and your camera.

 

 

WV BearNo matter what trail camera you choose to buy, I hope these few tips help make your choice easier. There are a lot of good cameras on the market ranging as low as $99 to as much as $600, but if you look for these features in your next camera, I promise you’ll have a blast looking at the photos or watching the short video clips. They provide excellent insight into your hunting areas and show you things you may have never even known were there.

 

 

Good luck & Shoot em’ straight!

 

Josh

Published in The Blog
Thursday, 17 April 2014 09:43

Bleaching A Deer Skull

Removing meat before boilingI got a text message from a buddy of mine late last deer season asking me if I still messed with doing European mounts for folks. I’ve done a few of these for myself, but mostly for other people for a number of years now. I really didn’t have the time, but he’s a good friend so I said ‘sure’ and he said ‘Good, cause it’s already in your garage…LOL’. There are many ways to display your trophy, but I have to tell you, I really like the look of the European mount. If it’s not a giant buck that you’re going to spend the money to shoulder mount, a European mount looks awesome (for any size buck) and you can put it anywhere… with your wife’s permission. I’ve already completed the work on my friend’s deer head, but I still had one from my dad that I told him I would do for him. I’ve been pretty busy with work and my son’s baseball team, but I recently cleaned out my garage for spring and knew it was now or never on this deer skull. I thought this would be a good blog post to show you how I clean them and bleach them so I went ahead and filmed the whole experience. It’s not as hard as you think and doesn’t take all that long, plus it actually saves you quite a bit of money by just doing it yourself. 

 

I got bored while it boiled! LOLFirst things first, I remove the head from the spinal column. You can feel (with your knife) and see where the spine attaches to the back of the head and where all the nerves and vessels make their way into the brain cavity.  Carefully cut those nerves, vessels and connective tissue until the only thing you’re holding is the head. After removing the head, I skin it out and remove the lower jaw along with the tongue and as much of the chunky meat around the ear and nasal areas as possible. It’s not extremely important to work a long time during this phase, but while I’m already bloody and have it in front of me I just get rid of the bigger chunks. You can remove the eyes here if you wish, but the next step helps make that a lot easier before boiling. After the initial prep work I soak the skull for a month or more in just a 5 gallon buck of water. The bacteria in the water (after it sits for a while) will actually help you out as it starts to break down the remaining meat and connective tissue. This can get a little smelly as the days and weeks go on so for as long as you can take it, let it sit. I recommend at least 30 days, but I’ve had great success with letting it soak for 60 days or more (obviously in my garage and not my basement). If the smell becomes unbearable, I’ve even dumped half the bucket of water out and filled it back up with fresh water. The bacteria are still in the water from the portion you left, but the fresh water will get rid of the smell (at least for a while). 

 My boil pot


Cleaning off the cooked meatOnce you’re ready to boil the skull, go ahead and get your pot and your burner ready to go. I DO NOT use a pot from my wife’s kitchen. That’s how they say ‘the fight got started’! I actually went out to Wal-Mart and bought my own and this is the only thing I use it for. I use a turkey fryer propane base to heat my pot of water and I mix in a good bit of dish soap. This helps degrease the bone and helps the meat come right off (usually a lot of it in the boil pot). While the water is heating up, I throw on a pair of latex gloves and remove the eyes and any other pieces of meat I can. Once the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat just to maintain that constant slow boil and place your deer skull in. Covering up the base of the antlers with boiling water is OK. I was worried about this when I first started, but it’s no big deal. It’s difficult to save any pieces of tree where the deer was rubbing simply because of the steam from the boiling pot. You can try, but it’s more work than it’s really worth to me. Boil your skull for a good 30-40 minutes. Keep the water at a slow boil by adjusting your temperature. Stay nearby because if the water boils over it will put out your flame. This has happened multiple times to me. LOL If you’ve soaked the head as suggested above, this first boil will help you remove a good 80% of the meat and tissue.

Watching & Waiting


Looking pretty goodAfter your first boil, remove the head and quickly start working on removing the pieces of meat that have cooked. Be careful because it will be hot so wear some old work or butchering gloves. Tools that come in handy are needle nose pliers, flat screw driver, putty knife, a sharp knife and small wire brushes. Sensitive/thin areas in the bone and cartilage are the nasal cavity, tear duct/gland and the inside part of the eye sockets. If you’re not careful you can easily puncture a hole in these areas and not necessarily ruin the mount, but you’ll have a hole where you really shouldn’t. It’s a fairly nasty, smelly and difficult job to do, but after this first boil you’ll need to stick something up inside the brain cavity and give it a good stir. I use the bottom of a tomato cage that I cut off and bent a hook on the end. It works GREAT! After you’ve gotten as much as you can off during the first round, take a garden hose with fairly good pressure and spray out the brain and nasal cavities and give it a good spray down all over.  Put it back in the boil pot for another 20 minutes and repeat these steps until you’ve cleaned every piece of meat off the skull. I’ve rarely had to boil it more than twice using the ‘soak method’. That really seems to help break everything Hanging out to drydown to where it just ‘falls off the bone’. 

 


Applying the bleaching creamAfter you’ve hosed it down one last time to make sure everything is clean, hang it up and let it dry completely. At this point, it can still smell a little so I wouldn’t recommend drying it in the house. After it’s completely dry, it’s time to paint on the bleaching agent. In the past, I’ve used the basic peroxide that mom used to put on my cuts and scrapes and it would burn the crap out of me! Most recently, I’ve used the 40 Volume Crème Developer that salons use to dye hair. I use the cream instead of the liquid because it’s easier to paint on the skull and it doesn’t run down on the teeth (which I like to keep looking ‘normal’ instead of bleach white). Another tip for this phase is DO NOT get any cream on the antlers. It will bleach anything it touches and you want your antlers to stay their natural color. After a good layer of cream has been painted on, let it sit for 24 hours to soak up the peroxide solution and bleach the skull. If it’s a nice sunny day, I’ll hang the skull out in the sun and this helps it bleach out even more. You can repeat this step until it’s reached your desired bleach color. Some skulls vary, but most that I’ve done only require two coats of the solution.

Bleaching overnight

 

After the bleaching process is complete, spray it down with the garden hose one last time to remove the peroxide solution and wipe it down with an old rag or towel and let it hang dry overnight. You’ve now completed the European mount and can display it in several different ways with many different mounts they sell on the market. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to shoot, process and preserve your trophy. Next time you harvest a nice buck that you’re not going to shoulder mount, give this a try and I’m confident you’ll be pleased with the results!

Shoot ‘em Straight!

~Josh

 Finished skull

 

 

 

Published in The Blog
Friday, 04 April 2014 11:47

Film Your Hunt Part II

Josh with GobblerWelcome to Part II of Film Your Hunt…In my last blog I covered the basics about the main parts of some filming equipment and some of the options you have at your disposal should you decide to go out and buy a filming ‘rig’. So, now that you have gone out and spent some of your hard earned ‘jack’ on gear, let’s dive right into the part that’s the most rewarding and fun…the filming part. I’ve gotta be honest with you…this is the part that I’m still figuring out. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning when it comes to filming. I learn something each and every time I turn on a camera. Not just trying to record good footage for our TV show, but actually learning about what I’m doing and what makes a great shot. Being able to take creative ideas and share that with someone else through the lens of a camera is what I really love trying to accomplish. Hopefully, after reading this blog, you’ll have some creative ideas of your own and can incorporate those into some amazing footage to share with your friends and family. Or better yet, you could submit that footage to SVOutdoors for our Film Your Hunt segment and potentially have your hunt aired on our TV show this fall. I’m going to break this down into four (4) areas that, in my mind, cover everything that an audience needs to see to stay engaged in your storyline so let’s get started...

 

Josh InterviewIn Field Interviews…In my mind, there are four main types of in the field interviews. The pre-hunt, the update, the recovery and the post hunt interview. Let’s talk about all four quickly. The Pre-Hunt Interview is usually, but not always, conducted at the stand site or blind location. Right at first light or right after getting to your setup for an afternoon hunt, the hunter lets the viewers know simply what’s going on. Be as descriptive as possible without being too wordy. You can go to our Episodes page on our website or watch some YouTube or Vimeo videos and see how these types of interviews are done. Once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes rather easy to explain the setup and the situation in a minute or so. The Update Interview simply gives the viewers an update on what you’ve seen so far during your sit. I for one like to sit all day when it’s really good hunting and you simply can’t bring all that footage to the viewer so having one or two short update interviews in the middle of the hunt is always good. Talk Buck in frameabout how many deer, turkey, bear, etc. you’ve seen and just let the viewers know how it’s been going so far. The update interview (to me) is also an interview you do after shooting an animal. Your emotions are running high and you’re excited (or disappopinted). Let the camera capture all that emotion so you can share it with your viewers. The Recovery Interview is the awesome interview you get to do while sitting behind your trophy. Clean your animal a little with field wipes, sit behind it lookin’ sharp in all your gear and talk about the experience. Sometimes there is history with the animal or you’ve never seen it before and it just popped out of nowhere or it’s simply a successful hunt with a doe or youth. This is the most exciting interview and it shows off your trophy so have fun with it and don’t be afraid to smile and show some emotion. You just had a successful hunt and you’re happy! Show it! Hunters who act all ‘hardcore’ or ‘super cool’ just get on my nerves. We all know that inside you’re jumping up and down like a 4 yr old at his/her birthday party so let it out and have a good time with it. The Post-Hunt Interview simply closes out the day or that particular sit/hunt so tell us what went on and what the plan is for the next hunt. There may be weather moving in or you have to go back to work or your wife may be having a baby…on second thought, if she’s having a baby you should probably just get home or head to the hospital and do an interview later. J Whatever it is…explain the situation and let the viewers know how the hunt went. During all these interviews, be yourself. Act as you normally would and just have fun. People can tell when you’re uncomfortable in front of the camera so just try to block it out and pretend like you’re talking to one of your hunting buddies. Remember to keep eye contact with the camera as much as possible. Don’t be looking around or fooling with your gear too much. Engage the viewer by talking to them and your interviews will turn out great.

 

Black Fox SquirrelHunting ‘Events’ as they happen…This is some of the most important footage that you’ll be shooting. The animals that you see during your hunt need to be seen by the viewer. If you’re talking about seeing all these deer,
turkey, bear, etc. in your interviews, but you have no footage of them, it takes away from the story line of your hunt (and obviously no one will believe you saw Bigfoot if you don’t have video of him). Film EVERYTHING that moves. Hopefully you bought a big enough SD card and some extra batteries for your camera because this is where you’ll need them. I film everything from squirrels to birds, deer, turkey, opossums, raccoons, etc. You name it and if it moves, I film it. Heck, I’ve even filmed friends walking to their stand or planes and helicopters flying over my hunting area. Having all this footage will help during the editing process. If you think about it, when the time comes to actually film your shot at an animal, that footage is only as little as 30 seconds sometimes. It can happen that fast! What else do you have to tell your story? Film it all and then review it later to find those moments that really stand out that you would want to use for your final cut. When filming these animals, make sure you get a good focus on them using manual focus (if supported by your camera) and also fill the screen the best you can with the animal. Give some ‘lead room’ on an animal that’s walking instead of trying to keep it directly in the middle of the frame. Having that fluid head on your camera arm or your tripod will help dramatically with staying smooth and moving with an animal. It takes some practice, but you’ll get it with a little camera time.

 

Session Interview with JoshSession Interviews…After your hunt(s), sometimes days or weeks later, sit down and talk a little more in detail about your adventure. Sometimes it’s not all happening in one day. You may have been hunting a certain buck for a week or more and you have several hunts and interviews to try to roll into one segment of video. Conducting session interviews and narrating the story makes for a great video and storyline. You keep the viewer’s attention and can use the voice over while your hunting or b roll footage is playing. Session interviews can be conducted virtually anywhere. Just pick a spot with good lighting for you with a ‘cool’ background that adds some depth to your ‘film set’ and talk about the footage that we’re going to see. I like these interviews to be done without camo or face paint. It’s the ‘real’ you just sitting or standing there talking about your experience. Again, be yourself. Smile and include some humor just like you would be talking to one of your buddies. This makes for great footage and really can bring all your hunting footage together into a nice segment to share with others. Remember to keep that eye contact with your viewers. Look at the lens of the camera and not the view finder. You’re talking directly to the viewer no matter what means of media they’re using to watch you (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, etc.) so make sure you’re looking at them. J

 

Time Lapse FootageB Roll Footage…Something I would consider fairly new to the industry is this term B Roll footage. Another name for it could be ‘fill’ or ‘secondary’ footage. This is where your creative mind can be unleashed. Time lapse shots, focusing shots, using sliders, jibs or my personal favorite, the helicopters for the POV cams…all these techniques (and many more) are used to turn an ordinary video scenario into something that is very catchy and it grabs the attention of the viewers. To be honest, the first time I saw this type of footage, my jaw dropped. Sure you’ve seen really cool camera movements by the Hollywood cameras, but who would have thought that adding that kind of ‘flare’ and ‘flash’ to hunting footage would make it that AWESOME. It does! This footage inserted in the right areas during the production phase can change the mood or emotion of the video. It’s very helpful to have a camera man when filming b roll footage (especially if you’re in it), but most shots can be done by yourself. The key is just being creative. Thinking of shots that you’ve never seen before or one you’ve seen before, but you have a better idea. There are several industry leading hunting shows that now use b roll footage in every episode. During their intros, transitions to segments of the show, even when they’re filming commercials for their sponsors…b roll footage simply makes for awesome video segments to add to final production. Be creative and don’t be afraid to try something crazy. It just may turn out to be an awesome clip and you can use it in your final edit!

 

 

Tommy Long SpursOnce again, this has turned out to be a lot of information, but the cool thing is, this blog isn’t going anywhere so if you need to you can come back to it for reference. Don’t forget that watching what other people do can spark an idea. I watch a lot of YouTube and Vimeo videos to help me with ideas and to help me learn what works best. Simply searching for ‘What is B Roll?’ or ‘How to film interviews?’ on YouTube can yield you a ton of information. I watch a lot of professional videographer’s videos that have nothing to do with the hunting industry, but taking what I learn from them and applying it to my business with SVO helps tremendously. I think the coolest thing about all of this is that it’s your footage and your ideas and your creativity. The end result matters only to you so get out there and have fun with it. Film, learn, share and enjoy! That’s what it’s all about…Good Luck!

 

As always…shoot ‘em straight! 

~Josh

Published in The Blog