By Gerald Almy
Photos by Gerald Almy
Are you proud of that buck you shot after long days of scouting, patterning his behavior, and waiting on stand? Or maybe a particularly large doe, or a 3-year old gobbler with long spurs and a thick bushy beard? Chances are good you are proud, or you wouldn’t pull out your camera and start taking photos of the hard-earned game you took, and probably posting them on social media or sharing with friends on your phone.
If you’re proud of being a hunter and meeting the challenge of harvesting that animal, it’s ideal to show the quarry the respect it deserves as a wild creature that you had a meaningful experience with. That can be demonstrated in the way you treat the animal and the food its meat will provide, and how you display it by taking dignified, tasteful photos. Most people want to show a gamebird or deer they harvest that respect, but some just don’t know about a few simple steps to take and rules you should follow that will ensure dignified, respectful photographs of the hunter and his or her quarry.
Having done this for many years as an outdoor writer/photographer, when having attractive images of the hunter and his quarry might mean the difference between an article sale and a rejection slip, I’ve learned a few tricks. I’ve also picked up many others from fellow hunters and photographers who had a knack for capturing a tasteful, engaging pictures of a hunter and his deer or turkey. Here are a few guidelines.
- Try to get a simple, uncluttered background, preferably the woods or field near where you harvested the animal. Never photograph game you have a reverence for in front of a garage or in a pickup bed or strapped to an ATV.
- Clean any visible blood off the face and body of the deer or other game. A wet paper towel, leaves, or grass work fine.
- If the tongue is hanging out, push it back into the mouth where it’s not visible or cut it off.
- The most popular photo hunters take is of the deer with its head up and the rack in the hunter’s hands. Make sure its antlers stand out clearly, such as in front of a blaze orange coat or against a field or blue sky background.
- Either look straight at the camera or be admiring the animal that allowed you to have a successful hunt. This unites the two subjects in the portrait (you and the deer) with your eyes focused on the quarry.
- If possible, tuck the legs under the body of the deer.
- Another type of photo that can display the animal respectfully and attractively is to simply have the hunter kneel behind the deer and be admiring it, but not touching the animal or holding its antlers.
- If you hunted with a friend or guide, take a few photos of both of you with the deer or gobbler. That will help bring back memories of the time you spent together with companions, which always makes hunting more memorable.
- Try some different shots, such as walking up to the quarry. Also take a photo of dragging out a deer from behind the deer, or slightly quartering and behind. This makes an attention-grabbing shot and demonstrates the hard work that is part of hunting. It also shows that hunters appreciate their quarry and plan to use the meat.
- Never take a photo of yourself squatting on top of the deer or standing above it. Kneeling or sitting behind the animal is usually the best pose.
- When possible, try to take photos in warm early morning or late afternoon light.
- Don’t try to make a buck look extra-large by having the hunter pose far behind it, holding it far out in front, or using a wide-angle lens. Most viewers will see the trick. Let the animal’s size and beauty speak for itself.
- If the sun is bright, try to avoid harsh shadows on the hunter’s face. Removing hats or using fill flash usually helps.
- Always wear blaze orange in the photo when it is required by law.
- When photographing a gobbler, spreading the fan completely open usually offers results in the most impressive photo, but also take a few of holding the bird up by the legs.
- Remember that pictures can spread wide on social media. Don’t take any photo that is disrespectful of the game or might be considered so by non-hunters.
- Try to photograph other scenes such as the habitat where you hunted and other wildlife you saw, including game and non-game species. As all hunters know, there’s so much more to a hunt than taking an animal. Convey that with some images of these other highlights.
It’s a terrible thought to make it through a long, challenging hunt and then get injured while taking photos. But it happens every year. In the desire to get a great photo, caution is sometimes forgotten. That can be a costly mistake, potentially very costly.
- ALWAYS unload your firearm immediately after game has been harvested and the hunt is finished.
- Convey safe practices in pictures by never pointing a firearm or crossbow at yourself or another person in the photo or allowing it to look like it is, even if its unloaded.
- If you take an image of a hunter in a tree-stand, make sure that person has a full-body harness attached to the tree with a tether or lifeline.
- Don’t photograph a hunter in a rickety or decayed-looking wooden stand.
- Make sure hands and fingers are in safe positions when handling a crossbow in a photo.
- If you are showing a drive being conducted with hunters walking through a field or woods, make sure they are side-by-side and some aren’t in front of others.
- If you are photographing a turkey with a spread fan, make sure other hunters are not in the immediate area or set out some blaze orange near your position.
Follow these tips and you should get photos that will make both you and all hunters proud.
Gerald Almy lives in the Shenandoah Valley but travels widely for his work as a full-time outdoor writer. He is currently a columnist for Sports Afield and a contributing editor for Field & Stream.