When out hunting, to ‘shoot a fox’ doesn’t necessarily mean you need to carry a gun. After many years of outdoor pursuit, it didn’t really come to me until the kids started venturing along and were old enough to take a shot at the odd fox I’d whistle up for them. Content to do the work and watch them do the shooting was and still is by far the most rewarding experience of my hunting career. During those times I decided to carry a still camera and later a video camera to store and share the memory with family. Today, they are both married with kids of their own and it won’t be long before this granddad starts all over again. Sure, I still hunt and enjoy the odd shot and that will always be my main priority in the bush, but continuing to capture the moment on film for all to see allows me to share that special moment with others while offering a different perspective on the hunt.
As many readers will be aware, over many years of filming I have enjoyed making over a dozen videos and DVD’s from rabbits, goats and foxes, through to many big game hunts I’ve been fortunate enough to do both here in Australia and overseas. The following not only recounts a recent fox hunt I did but will also give those interested in filming an insight into the ‘hows and whats’ required to capture good video footage to share with family and friends.
Choosing the right video camera for the job requires some careful consideration and no, you don’t have to spend a fortune on the camera to get a pleasing result, as many of today’s affordable models do a very creditable job of producing good quality footage. One thing you will require, however, is magnification to be able to zoom in close on your quarry at long distances. So choose a camera with minimum of 12 x OPTICAL zoom. Most cameras display a high DIGITAL zoom, but when used, it tends to cause the picture to pixilate and therefore, using optical zoom, ensures this won’t happen.
To double the magnification, purchase a 2 x converter, which screws to the front of the lens and doubles the optical zoom, so a 12x becomes a 24x zoom. I personally prefer a video camera that takes a blank tape rather than the new hard drive/storage models and preferably a Mini DV tape. These will record in digital (usually single or three chip) or HD (High Definition). Having a tape as a master/ hard copy is a lot better than having to cart a laptop around to down load footage onto and then, if anything goes wrong with the hard drive, you’ve lost the lot! Later, when you decide to edit the footage via a computer programme, using a tape will allow you to download to the computer, while leaving a master for safekeeping.
Settings are also important. As most model TV’s today are in 16:9 format(panoramic), set the picture to this mode when capturing footage. Next you’ll need a tripod to keep the camera still and shake free. It’s also a good idea to invest in a spare battery or two for your camera when away hunting in areas where re-charging facilities are unavailable. And finally, you will need lots of patience.
On this particular trip I was out hunting with friends Alex and Len. As usual, I’d do the calling and filming while Alex would carry the shotgun for foxes in close and Len, a .223 for the odd cunning dog that may decide to observe from a distance. Like most trips when out whistling, until we arrived at the property and worked out wind direction or thermal flow (on still days), we really didn’t know which direction to take. But that was soon taken care of, by simply carrying a small squeeze bottle of scentless powder which will give you a direction even with the very faintest of thermal movement.
Remember to always walk into the breeze because anything but will give you away, even if you’re several hundred meters away from where you intend to try whistling. Scent can carry for miles and most game animals have an acute sense of smell. When filming, a good field of view is imperative, as in most cases as soon as you see the fox you simply have to click record and film him coming in. It’s also important to sit with the shooter, so you can signal quietly when you have the fox in the viewfinder. If the fox comes in too close, stop him by calling something like ‘Hey’ and always try to get the shooter to take the shot when the fox is still, so you’re not trying to keep the camera on a fleeing fox while the shooter takes the shot.
This morning began quite calm and still and the country we were hunting was a mixture of rolling hills and grassy flats. I could feel the thermals slowly creeping upwards into the hills and a quick squeeze of scentless powder from the powder puffer confirmed it. On still mornings in hilly terrain, I prefer to walk the tops, as the thermal current are usually heading up hill, which means a fox below won’t catch my scent. A quick look around and a steep grassy gully with a few patches of bush caught my eye. The rest was quite open with very little cover. Below it was a large dam surrounded with grassy reeds and a patch of bullrushes. ‘If there’s one about, that’s where he’ll be’, I thought to myself. The only cover we had to call him in from was a small rocky outcrop on a grassy shelf half way down the hill, which was better than sitting out in the open.
Setting the camera up, we prepared for our first whistle for the morning. I usually carry the camera with tripod attached at all times, so all I need do is adjust the legs to the required height, making sure the camera is level and press record. At the first report of the whistle, out he came from a patch of long grass below as if waiting for us and he was moving fast. Looking in our direction with bushy tail out floating behind as he ran, the fox just kept on coming. Knowing he wasn’t going to stop, I didn’t bother zooming in too close with the camera, as he’d surely be up close and personal within seconds. Capturing his every move, the fox continued up hill until no more than ten or fifteen meters away. ‘That’s close enough’ I shouted, which brought him to an abrupt halt at less than ten meters away.
As the fox froze still, Alex sent a load of BBs in his direction, which hit like a ton of bricks. Continuing to whistle, then waiting a minute or so to ensure another wasn’t going to appear, I signalled Alex the thumbs up. An inspection of the fox revealed he was in excellent condition, with a thick bushy tail and prime winter skin. After a few photos and some video, we moved on to the next stand.
Again we set up on the side of a hill overlooking a likely spot and again on-cue emerged another fox. This time however, he’d travelled from the next gully around, which took a little longer but, set up with a good field of view, I captured his every move on film. The fox pulled up some 120 metres below and decided to sit on his rear end. As he looked away I gave another toot on the whistle which caught his attention, but the old dog refused to move. Perhaps our scent had carried across when descending down to get the last fox only several hundred meters behind. Again he looked away and again I called him, but to no avail, he held his ground. After several attempts, I was sure he’d detected our position and knowing he simply wasn’t going to come in any closer, I signalled Lenny to use the .223 on him. Lining up from the seated position Len took the shot offhand. At the report of the rifle, the fox dropped flat to the ground. I was impressed to say the least at Len’s shooting skills.
Having played this fox for several minutes with the whistle, without any other sign of movement, we headed down to inspect him. Another prime pelt confirmed winter was well and truly here and after the usual photo and video session, we continued on. Several other likely spots were whistled and while not every stand produced a fox, we did manage to call in a few more for the morning. Although I certainly don’t profess to being the Steve Spielberg of hunting videos, when out filming, remember there’s more to a hunt than just the kill. I find that filming the area you’re in, other wildlife encounters, the lead up to the end result and many other aspects of the hunt, all make good viewing, so don’t forget to continue filming at every opportunity throughout the trip.
Most computers these days have a basic video editing of some description built into the unit and all that’s required is to plug your camera into the computer and download the footage. Once this is achieved, you can edit your movie, add music, narration, titles and lots more. For a programme a little more advanced with additional features such as 3D titles, and other tricks and effects, ask at your local computer outlet. Happy shooting!