Sportsmen and women put a lot of effort into making their deer hunt successful. Hours and footsteps are spent in pre-season scouting and sighting-in the rifle. Clothing is warm and dry. Lunch is packed for the long-haul. The ambush site is tactically selected.
So it puzzles me, when the trophy is down (and it is measured in the eye of the rifle-holder), that so many proud hunters give so little thought to recording the triumphant moment respectfully and pleasantly.
I’ve seen some pretty hideous dead deer photos in my days of prepping them for my columns. A few were actually too disgusting to pass on to readers.
To create a lasting memory of this year’s great hunt, as something to look back on fondly, consider three key elements in the next picture taken of proud hunter and happily gotten game.
Prey. Place. People.
Deer are the specific target today, but many of the photo principles apply when taking pictures of any animal, including fish and fowl.
In reality, apply some of the following rules to improve photos of the kids, presents and tree on Christmas morning. Don’t go so far as to put a tag in young Jimmy’s ear.
Take more than one photo, I beg you. Give yourself, and the rest of us, a choice or two.
Disrespect the animal; disrespect yourself.
Getting the animal out of the woods is messy business. Take a moment to clean up the animal that can’t do it for itself. Wipe away any blood on the antlers or face.
It may take some extra time to re-position yourself or the trophy, but effort should be made to avoid showing the body cavity. Nobody wants to see it. Likewise for the wound spot. Prop the rifle or other piece of equipment in the strategic place to take care of this.
The deer’s last act of defiance is to stick its tongue out. No one wants to see that either. Tuck it in or cut it off before posing.
Likewise, remove the drag rope and ear tag (just for the picture).
Avoid, if possible, the hangman’s pose. Meat on the game pole was quaint in the old days, but does little to flatter the animal today. Besides, how is family going to count all the points when they cannot see the rack?
Mocking a dead deer amuses only anti-hunters who use such a disgusting display as another opportunity to make their misguided points against our enjoyment of the outdoors.
Light source should be the top consideration when setting up such a photo.
The most common mistake is shooting the photo with the sun, headlights or garage lights in the background. Photography 101 teaches to never, ever shoot a photo while facing into the light. Light burst from behind the subject washes out the entire picture. If possible, avoid the other extreme that forces the hunter to squint into the sun that is over the photographer’s shoulder. The deer won’t mind. Side lighting is preferable.
As for surroundings, the natural setting—most likely the actual harvest site—is the top choice. Those hunting with a buddy who can take the photos, or those carrying a tripod in the truck, should make this shot happen. At home, use the lawn or backyard as a setting.
Pro photographers are on guard for clothesline posts sticking out of hunter’s heads in the background.
If not in the wild, consider the background when taking these photos. Inappropriate elements can ruin an image as seriously as a blinking hunter. (Don’t count on the deer ruining it on that account.) In my time reviewing deer and hunter photos, I’ve seen more beer cans than bucks. Other offenses are offensive signs, nude calendars, graffiti on garage walls and refrigerators.
As the highest member of the photo’s food chain, be presentable. If the testosterone rush hasn’t subsided and you must wear a T-shirt to show off the guns (biceps), at least be sure it is without holes, last night’s dinner stains or an offensive slogan. Preferably with sleeves, but that might be too much to ask. As a writer of news for rednecks for three decades, I know of what I describe.
Look for blood. There were days when, after field dressing the buck and getting it out of the woods, I couldn’t tell his blood from mine. It’s a matter of mutual respect to clean yourself up a bit.
Consider what you wear. Camo or fluorescent orange are very appropriate. A word of caution – be aware of the pattern. An otherwise well-composed photo a few years ago was confused by the jacket I chose to wear.
I’ve always been partial to Predator camo with its stark, contrasting tentacles in black, brown or green depending on the season. But the rack of the buck I was posed with, got lost in the camo pattern on my chest. Consider all backgrounds.
It’s just me, but I’d prefer to see the hunter with both hands on a nice set of antlers, instead of a beer can or cigarette.
It’s OK to let the kids and family dog(s) share the frame. All things before this being considered. The kids shouldn’t look frightened.
One more thing.