By Michael Deming
Hunting season is once again almost upon us. The excitement of planning, preparing, conditioning and shooting will all soon be over and the day of the big game will be here. Many of you have drawn that supreme, once in a lifetime tag, while others will just hunt their regular general season to enjoy and pass on the tradition. Whether you are a extreme trophy hunter or just a guy who enjoys the hunt, chances are, you will be taking pictures of your success in the field.
Each and every year, we get hundreds of pictures from excited men, women and children wanting to share their trophies with us and fellow readers of Sportsman’s News. I enjoy looking at the pictures and sharing in all of your success, especially when you take along the kids. Each year, we see happy people enjoying the outdoors, but there are literally thousands of pictures in our archives that could have been much better for publishing and for your own trophy wall. So, in this article, I am going to share some tips on how to get the best photos possible.
Preparing your trophy for a great photo is the biggest part of the battle. After all, this is the funeral service for one of Gods’ great creatures and you just sent him to his demise. You owe it to the animal to make sure that he is remembered by all and bring his majestic beauty to life in his final photo session.
This is a very time consuming process and not something that I take lightly. Rushing a photo session will insure that you have bad photos in the end. It won’t matter if you get back to camp an hour or so late, so just be sure to prepare and do the job right.
Let’s assume you made a great double lung shot on a beautiful buck. You walk up and recover your trophy in the tall grass or a creek bottom. You will have a very bloody deer around the nose and mouth and the foliage around your trophy is going to be very thick and overgrown. Unless you go out of your way to make for good photos, this is going to make for a bad end result. If the sun is still up, you want to identify an area that still has good lighting, with the sun at the photographers back. If it is getting dark, the flash on the camera will usually do the trick, but a good setup is essential for a good end result.
The great thing about deer and smaller game is they are relatively easy to move and you can usually get them to a position to take a good photo. Elk, moose, bears and other extra large game are going to be photographed pretty much where they fall, unless you have horses to relocate them.
You will first need to clear out any foliage that will get in the way of the picture. I always have a small saw and some standard garden pruning shears in my bag for just this purpose. You can make short work out of just about any obstruction that will interfere with your picture.
The next thing to be done is to situate the animal into a somewhat natural position. I like to prepare my animals in a natural sort of pose, just like they are lying down with their feet tucked underneath themselves. This makes for a very natural look and gives you a great end result.
Now you must deal with the situation of the great double lung shot. If you want a great photo, you will need to clean off the blood and deal with that tongue sticking out of the animal’s mouth. I always carry several bottles of water in my pack for just this reason, along with several clean white rags and a package of wet wipes. Make sure that you get all of the exposed blood removed from the animal. You can deal with the tongue in a couple of different ways. I usually just remove it by pulling it as far out of the mouth as possible and cutting it off, but I have also taken fishing line and a needle and sewn the mouth shut with a few stitches. Whichever works best for you and you have time for will suffice, but if you don’t deal with the tongue, it will be sticking out in the majority of your pictures.
Now that you have your animal cleaned up and positioned, you are in good shape to start taking pictures. I am usually thinking about where the sun will be in an hour, because this is often the amount of time that it takes to prepare for a photos session and I do my positioning according to where things will be. If you miscalculate, don’t be afraid to reposition the animal. It will be too late once you get home and the animal is in the freezer.
During a photo session, we usually take between 200 and 300 photos and out of all of those photos, I am usually happy with about a dozen or less. If you take only a couple of photos, chances are that you will be disappointed in the end. The great thing about the digital camera era is that you can view each and every picture before you ever leave the site. Try to leave the site with at least a hundred pictures that you are happy with there and I assure you that there will be a select few that are perfect when you print them out at home.
Where do you want to be in the picture? This is the million dollar question with many different answers and each situation has a different answer to that question. The one thing for sure is somewhere behind the animal, but to the left, right or directly behind will be determined by the animal itself, terrain setup, lighting and antler configuration. You probably won’t know the answer to that question until you actually get home and see your pictures on a computer monitor in large size. This is why the photo session takes so long and is not to be rushed. So, take photos in all the positions: way behind, left holding the head, right holding the head. Put the head on a rock and sit behind the animal, sit next to the animal with your hand under the chin and do it on both sides. Get the family and the hunting party in the picture.
Every animal that you harvest will have that one perfect angle that gives you the best look at what he has to offer. By perfecting this talent of picture taking, you will have a photo album of great pictures to share with others for life.
Take the time before your hunting season starts to look at as many outdoor publications as possible and see the photos that have been published. This will help you to see exactly what we are talking about. Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal publish stories written by everyday hunters just like you instead of professional writers. Most of the pictures displayed in these publications have utilized the exact ideas and examples that we have talked about here. These publications are great resources for the western trophy hunter as well and we highly recommend them to our readers.
We look forward to sharing your success this year. So, please send us all your photos for our braggin’ board. If any of you have personal questions that you would like answered, please feel free to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.