By Eric Fowler
Planning ahead key to better photos of hunter and trophy
It's the best deer hunting story of my career. Not five minutes after watching a young whitetail buck and doe run down the trail 30 yards from me, stop on a nearby hillside and do what deer do during the rut, a mature buck came running down the same trail. You could almost sense that he was smoking mad, that he knew
I'd harvested a larger whitetail and a better mule deer buck in previous years. But what makes this story better is the great photograph I have to go with it. I don't have any pictures of my first deer … or my second or third, for that matter. It wasn't important to me then. It is now.
Too often, bag shots are of a hunter sitting on top of the deer in the back of a pickup truck or on the floor of the garage. But there is a better way, one that can produce a photo you could show a nonhunter without them saying "gross." We don't have to make these people happy, but we sure don't want to give them a reason to dislike hunting.
Photos taken near the spot the deer was recovered, or at least in the same environment, are much more pleasing to the eye and help better tell the story of the hunt. They also typically show a hunter with an ear-to-ear grin rather than the dazed, tired look that often accompanies photos taken at the end of a long day.
On the day I shot the buck mentioned earlier, I'd stuffed our old point-and-shoot film camera in my fanny pack when I left the house. After paying my respects and giving myself a high-five, I looked for a place to take the photo. I was alone and would need a place to set the camera. It's not hard to find a stump or log in the woods, but there weren't any trees in the grassland I was hunting. There was, however, a fence. I dragged the deer into position, set the camera on top of a post and placed a stick underneath it to tilt it forward slightly and help the composition. I set the automatic timer, ran behind the deer, dropped to a knee, lifted its head and said "Cheese." I took about 10 photos that morning. If someone had been with me, I would've had them take more. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I'm betting this one will be worth that many and more in 50 years.Hunting Photo Tips
Take the photo before field dressing the deer. Doing otherwise often results in a bloody mess that detracts from the photo. This means always having a camera with you, even if it's just a disposable camera.
Clean blood from the deer's mouth and nose if present. Face any large exit-wound areas away from the camera.
Put the deer's tongue back in its mouth. If it won't stay there, get out your knife and cut it off. Sure the animal's dead, but it doesn't have to look that way.
Don't rest your gun or bow on the deer's antlers. Some may call it a rack, but no one calls it a gun rack. It's disrespectful to the animal.
Some hunters like to stand an arm's length behind the animal to make the horns look bigger. In reality, this fools no one and only makes the hunter look smaller.
Pay attention to the angle of the sun when setting up the photo. The best bet is to have the sun over one shoulder or the other of the photographer. An exception to the rule is at sunset, when you can use a colorful sky as a background and use the camera's flash to illuminate the hunter.
Use fill flash to open the shadow cast on a hunter's face by his hat. If your camera doesn't have a flash, have the hunter tip his hat up.
The old saying is "film is cheap." In the digital age, it's been revised to "pixels are free." Take lots of photos from a variety of angles: high, low, left and right. Horizontal photos can include the deer's entire body and the surrounding landscape. Verticals can zoom in on the deer's head and shoulders and the hunter. Turn the deer's head slightly for each photo, as one angle invariably shows more points than the rest.
A deer doesn't need big antlers to be a trophy. Every hunt - from a youngster's first deer, duck or pheasant to the doe you took for the freezer to the buck of a lifetime - has a story. Make sure you have a photo to go with it.