We all know pig hunting with dogs is not pretty and that is reflected in most of the video clips we see posted publically on the internet, its dirty and bloody and doesn’t often end well for the pig, but that’s just the way it is. Now this article is not intended as a “telling off”, by all means get out there and capture your adventures and share them with like minded people, it’s all good. The only problem with the sharing is that there are way more people out there that are NOT “like minded” and our own videos become fuel for the anti-hunting brigade who would love to see our lifestyle of heading into the bush to provide food for our families, banned!
An increasingly urbanised and mixed culture New Zealand public is fast losing an understanding of where real food comes from and for the most part they do not get why on earth we would need to use hunting dogs! We know the use of hunting dogs has been banned or heavily regulated in other countries but what some of us may not know is that the New Zealand Animal Ethics Committee had the hunting dog issue on its agenda during advisory panel discussions to assist with amendments to the Animal Welfare Act in 2015. The act now states that all animals are recognised by law as sentient beings. The area of the amended law we have to be most cautious with is “willful or reckless ill-treatment of wild animals”.
This means that we need to be very vigilant not to allow pig hunting with dogs to be judged by the general public as falling into that category. A key part of this statement is “the general public”. There are ways we can enjoy filming, editing and sharing footage without thrusting it into the public arena.
One way of doing that is by clicking the UNLISTED button when loading a clip to YouTube, instead of letting it go public. You can then copy the URL link to the video and share it with like minded people, anyone with access to the link can watch the video. The link can be shared to social media hunting groups, like Face Book pages and Forums that you may be part of. That means anyone else in that group can watch the video if they choose. You can post unlisted links on web sites, send them via e-mail or as messages. If you have footage of a mate’s young pup in action or a dog you want to sell for example, you can share the unlisted link with the interested party without the general public even knowing about it.
If you want to publish your hunting adventure movie and make it appeal to a wider audience then there are some tricks you can use to get way more thumbs up than thumbs down.
The first thing to consider before you even start filming is that you are telling a story. A standard story line has an opening, a build-up to a climax and then a conclusion. A story has characters and scenes. If you can narrate on the hill to explain what is going on that’s great and if you can see the person that is speaking even better as that gets the audience very connected. A great story line also adds a hurdle or issue that the characters have to overcome in order to achieve some ultimate goal. At least that’s what the mould for Discovery Channel shows like Deadliest Catch are all about. But a good old kiwi pig hunt can tell a video story in just a few scenes and with only a couple of minutes of edited footage.
Capturing the raw footage for the story is simpler if you have your camera or cameras easy to access during the hunt. Carrying a camera on your belt to quickly get filming allows you to get a fair bit of action but don’t forget the characters and scenes. The characters include the dogs, the hunters and the wild life, that’s if you’re lucky enough to get a shot of the wild life. This could mean filming the hunter walking along, the knife pouch, the dog scenting and tracking off and even close ups of a dog’s nose twitching the breeze or the hunters frown as they stare at the tracker, etc.
The scenes could include getting to the block, releasing the dogs, walking through fresh pig sign, the hills, bush and weather. Other cool extra clips could be close ups of boots crossing a creek, rain hitting a jacket, panning over a rifle in the hunters hands, or the closing latch on the dog box. You can get all arty and use low angles by getting the camera near the ground and filming the subjects passing by, even filming through some foliage or through fence wires, etc.
There’s lots of fun to be had when playing with your movie camera so take the time to try different stuff. You can do a lot of this playing around after the stress of catching the pig is over and “back film” the opening scenes while everyone is still wearing the same clothes and the same dogs are running around.
Of course there will hopefully be some pig action and this scene is often the only scene many people choose to film and often choose not to edit very hard. However on the grand scale of the whole story the action scene doesn’t actually need to show that much at all. The dogs running through the foliage, the hunters following at pace, the sound of a bark, pushing through the scrub are all good clips to build up to the catch. Once you arrive if the dogs are hanging on you could choose to limit that clip to just a few seconds as the hunter moves in to make the kill. For a bailing scene you could choose to show a bit more as the hunter prepares to take the shot. You could zoom in on the pig sharpening its tusks and the dog barking away, provided the situation looks stable enough to do so.
The really good action scenes include the hunter and the quarry in the same view, if you capture that at the time of the kill and it’s steady you’ve got yourself a winning clip.
Now when you keep the “wilful ill-treatment” law in mind there are a couple of things to consider during the pig hunting action scenes and you can patch things up with editing. A smaller hog being dominated by dogs and squealing loudly does not really need to be filmed much if at all as it won’t add anything to your storyline. You can cut to straight after the kill or show a very short one or two seconds of action, even muting the noise and using music instead if you want. With a smaller pig you still get some good meat and you still get a carry out scene for your story and that’s all good, after all we don’t always catch great big pigs and a small pig is still an adventure.
Another thing to consider is the way the hunters act prior to the killing of the pig. Prolonged filming, standing around watching or even chahooing and celebrating before the pig is dead could be judged as wilful ill-treatment and you could be faced with a conviction if you’re not careful.
It is our duty as a hunter to dispatch the quarry as quickly and cleanly as possible so that needs to be reflected in the video. Releasing a captured wild animal or using catch dogs inside enclosed areas are also deemed to be convictable offences so don’t implicate yourself with your own video footage of those kind of activities either. When it comes to the act of killing with a rifle or knife for example, this is all part of the climax of the action scene and as it is perfectly legal to hunt and kill a free ranging wild animal there are no problems there. Once the animal is down it is time to capture the celebration of the hunters in that moment, the dog praise the high fives, it’s all good stuff and the viewers love seeing that part of it.
After the action scene is all over the filming of the story doesn’t end. The animal needs to be prepared and carried out and often these scenes are some of the most epic and gut busting parts of the adventure so capture as much of it as you can over as many changing scenes as you can. The conclusion could include getting the pig back onto the ute and the dogs jumping back into the box, but it could also be back home preparing the captured game for the table to showcase the reasons for being out there. There are plenty of different ways to make a concluding scene if you take a bit of time to think outside the square.
Here are a few other quick filming and editing tips;
- When editing remember the 3 second rule. That is that a viewer is bored with a certain “unchanging” scene in about three seconds. That’s where different angles and close-ups are useful to draw out the same scene with different clips.
- Carry something to clean your lens and check it often as your camera will no doubt get fogged up, damp and dirty. Wool, fleece and polyprop are not good at clearing moisture and just smear the lens. Cotton t-shirts and toilet paper are not recommended over proper chammy clothes but they can do the trick.
- If you want to attempt narration then be aware that it’s not easy to get right on the hill. The pros actually use wireless mics, but you can achieve a reasonable result with most in built camera mics these days. Most action cams need to be removed from their protective housing to get the mic capturing sound properly. Whispering doesn’t work so wait for the times that you can do the narration loud and proud. Wind wrecks your audio so wait until you find a sheltered spot to record some narrative. If you can see the speaker for at least some of the time even better and you can overlay a lot of the speaking onto the scenes during editing. Sometimes you need to step aside after the action and “selfy” narrate the story of what just happened so that it can be cut into the final edit.
- Tell you’re hunting mates that you are going to film and ask their permission to show a wide audience. If they accept then in return you can ask them to cut out the hard core swearing while you are filming. It’s great to capture the passion and excitement and thrill of the hunt, but cursing just ruins the appeal to a general audience which often includes kids.
- Stabilise the camera! Sit down and tuck your elbows in to your chest to hold real steady while filming a scene, especially when zooming in or panning around. If you can use a rock or post or tree to stabilise when you need extra support then do it, no one wants to feel sea sick while they watch so it has to be as steady as possible.
- Consider carrying a tripod, at least in the ute. You can film truck drive-by shots and yourself starting the walk in to the hunting area. The tripod can double as a selfy stick so that you can hold the camera back a bit further from your face while talking. If you are lucky enough to see a distant pig or other game that you would like to film then the tripod will allow you to zoom in and hold steady on the target, it’s not unlike shooting with a rifle.
- When filming in a dim gully or at night you may have to carry a decent wide beam head lamp or hand held torch to light up that scene. Make sure the light source is slightly in front of and to the side of the camera or you will have issues with glare and shadow block.
- Don’t try to make your finished movie longer than it needs to be, edit hard and remember a short story can be just as effective as a long one.
What-ever your filming/editing goals are remember you have the choice of how far and wide you want the footage to go. If you don’t have the time for editing to suit a general public audience then you can always go down the UNLISTED path and just share with likeminded people. Good luck on the next filming expedition.
Here is one of Shaun's pig hunting videos filmed with relatively cheap gear and edited in a way that tells a bit of a story. You can check out more footage on Shaun's NZWildThings youtube channel