During one of my recent catch-ups with a friend about hunting, I was told that since his deep freeze was full, there was no need to go hunting. But my response was you do not have to kill a deer to have a good time. You can just get to know the country better or watch deer. And there is a way you can hunt—and that is with the camera.
Many hunters are finding greater satisfaction in hunting with a camera than a rifle. Indeed, some have even forsaken the rifle for the camera completely.
Every experienced hunter matures to the stage of being somewhat reluctant to kill a deer or whatever big game animal pursued. Many decades ago, one autumn in the Tararua Ranges, my friend John and I had been holed up in the old Kime Hut as a southerly blew scattering snow on the ridges and pelting rain on the snowgrass ridges. We decided to try some deer photography. Those were the days of films. I had an Agfa 120 folding type with bellows—nothing flash but adequate. It had no telephoto.
We spotted some deer scattered just above the sub-alpine leatherwood belt enjoying the first rays of sunshine after the southerly drenching. We decided to stalk a hind and its youngster. When we got to 35 feet (11 metres plus), I pressed the shutter trigger. Back home, a friend enlarged the photo. Remembering I had no telephoto, the image of the hind needed a fair bit of enlarging. Initially, I was a bit disappointed in the speckled image but then reflecting back, I thought—heck, after all, it beat shooting the deer with a bullet.
Today, hunters with a desire to shoot a deer with a camera are lucky. The gear is much better than my old Agfa 120 black and white film camera.
We live in a digital age with cameras that can zoom in on the deer. You do not have to get as close as 11 metres as I did that morning in the Tararuas. But you have to get in closer than rifle range. Nor do you have to be concerned about film. With digital, you can click away merrily because substandard images can be quickly deleted.
If you are keen on photography, there is a great selection of digital cameras. Shop around. It is a competitive market and brands such as Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Canon, and Panasonic strive to improve their product. Another benefit is that digital cameras are compact. You do not have to lug your camera and big telephoto around. Apart from a zoom lens, cameras these days are packed with feature such as image stabiliser that reduces camera shake.
Gone are the days where you could not really shoot with a camera under 1/120th shutter speed. Now, with digital, I have shot at 1/30th. Just ensure that at 1/30th, your camera is as doubly steady by resting your elbows on knees, resting the camera on a fence post, or steadying yourself against a tree. A tripod is, of course, the best of all.
And there is no shortage of animal subjects: wild pig, goats, chamois, tahr, hares, rabbits—you can choose your pick.
Birds such as bush robins, falcons, and fantails also make for good subjects. Insects, too, with a macro lens. You still hunt the same as with a rifle—respecting the wind and other factors—but you have to get in closer.
So if your deep freeze has ample meat this season, well, you can still go hunting—this time, with a camera. You will get good exercise, keep your fitness up, and capturing game and bird images on film is immensely satisfying.