First Time in the Blind

Today’s blog post comes to us from Wade McMillin, Lead Video Editor of Intrepid Outdoors.  Wade shares his reflections on his first experience filming a hunt.  You can see all the footage that Wade captured on this weeks episode of Intrepid Outdoors: Monday at 6:30 PM ET, Friday at 3 PM ET and Saturday at 12 PM ET.

I discovered a whole new respect for outdoors cameramen last spring while attempting to capture a kill on film for the first time.

Not only was this mid-spring turkey hunt the first hunt I had been a part of, but it was also my debut behind the camera. And let me be just one of probably hundreds to say, it isn’t easy to film a hunt. Yes, it was just an average turkey hunt and yes, I’ve had formal training.

However, I really didn’t know the challenges that cameramen of outdoor television programs go through until I tried it for myself. Usually, my main task is to handle Intrepid Outdoors’ footage after it has been digitized. This time out, I was the one creating it.

Intrepid Outdoors lead video editor Wade McMillin filmed his first hunt last spring at the Solitude Ranch near Devils Tower, Wyoming.

As I made my way to Hulett, Wyoming last spring to meet up with Intrepid’s own Mike Schmid and Bob Lott, I grew more anxious to give this new venture a shot. The three of us met up in town and made our way to greet our hunters at the local airstrip. Bob offered me a little background on our subjects and just from his story, I knew I couldn’t of asked for a better family to film on my debut in the field.

A private jet landed and out popped the Vigil family of Colorado. Father Greg and his two sons, Caleb and Eli, were all smiles as they shook our hands and loaded up the car with their gear. It didn’t take long for us to get into the turkey woods as the Vigils and our film crew were equipped and on a dirt road within 30 minutes. We arrived at a piece of leased land on the outskirts of Hulett for an evening scout. The Vigils were there to hunt and we wasted no time. Before I knew it, I was sitting in a blind with Greg. Mike and Eli were right next to us.

Although there wasn’t much sign of any Merriams in the area, my heart was racing just to be in this unfamiliar elements. Day soon turned into night and not a single gobbler, hen or jake was seen. It was alright, though, we were all confident the toms would come tomorrow. I barely slept that evening, anticipating what was ahead.

Not as easy as it sounds

As any turkey hunter would know, we woke up before the crack of dawn and were back in the blind well before sunrise. The darkness and rush to get into the woods definitely weren’t my friends that morning. The minute I got into the Ameristep blind, my heart sunk as I noticed I forgot the mounting plate to my tripod.

It looked like this was going to be a handheld shoot, something us editors often shun our cameramen for. The only thing racing through my head was, “amateur hour.” I knew the job still needed to be done, though, and I began capturing what I could from the view of the blind.

Like the day before, I was with Greg and Eli was with Mike, who was our dedicated turkey caller that morning. Bob was with Caleb further up a hill in a Blind Turtle hardshell blind in an attempt that he would either chase some turkey our way or vice versa. It didn’t take long for the gobblers to head our way.

Literally, about 20 minutes after the sun came up, a couple of Merriams were being lured in by Mike. I jumped into action, kneeling down in the blind, bracing the camera with all my might. I was still shaking, however, which doesn’t make good footage.

All I could think about was the forgotten piece to my tripod and how I was probably going to blow my assignment. I calmed my nerves, though, reminding myself that we were also there to get the Vigils a spring tom. As the Merriams started to ease toward us, Mike began to call a little more aggressively. Eli, who just turned old enough to hunt big game, was ready to shoot. Greg also had his shotgun in a lethal position. I was on the birds. It seemed like this was actually going to work out. All we needed the turkey to do was to present us with a shot.

And as soon as they saw our decoys, the game was on. The birds took a dead sprint right toward our ground blinds. Greg and Eli bared down. I was rolling and ready for the kill. As the gobblers began to peck at our decoys, Mike warned the hunters to wait just a minute before squeezing their triggers. Greg and Eli did just that. The birds finally gave us just enough space between them and the decoys to make a shot. All Mike said was “OK.” Bang. Bang. Two shells later and the job was done. The look and embrace from our father and son team was proof enough that we had a successful morning.

Caleb, Eli and Greg Vigil scored on three toms in one day of hunting at the Solitude Ranch near Devils Tower, Wyoming.

I was truly happy for Greg and Eli, my only questions were: Did I get it all on film and how good was it going to look? I truly stacked the odds against myself by forgetting equipment, but once I watched what I had captured, all of the second guessing went away.

The footage was a bit shaky. It could’ve been a lot worse, however, considering this was my first time in the blind with camera in hand. To say the least, I was satisfied, even proud of what I had accomplished. It may not have been an enormous buck or a huge bull elk that I filmed go down, but the sense of accomplishment to capture a kill on film is almost indescribable.

There are thousands of cameramen out there who film a plethora of different things. Yet it just might be the outdoors cameraman who faces the most challenges. They have to worry about getting everything on film, not blowing the hunt and in most cases, helping the hunter be successful.

I did not fully appreciate these facts when I took my current desk job in this industry two years ago. Now, because I’ve experienced it first hand, I do. So I tip my hat to all cameramen in this trade. For they truly are the backbone of hunting television.