The HuntGauge™ is a framework I developed and use on this blog to gauge certain types of Hunting Videos (HVs), more specifically individual Hunts on the HV, according to the following perspectives: Hunting, Storytelling, Educating. I say certain types of HV’s because for this framework to work you have to compare apples with apples, and not lemons. Most HVs shot on the African continent are composed of several different Hunts, where different animal species are hunted and filmed. For these type of HVs each Hunt can be gauged separately as a “chapter” of a full hunting story. Before we can discuss HuntGauge™ further, I first need to explain what I think constitutes a Hunting Video, assuming only one Hunt.
Based on many, many hours of watching online Hunting Video’s, I’ve found that there is a common structure. Let’s unravel The 4-Part Anatomy of a Hunting Video in the figure below.
A Hunting Video (HV) can be divided into four parts that are commonly found in HVs, each with three distinct scenes or features (a, b and c), starting from the beginning to the end of the HV, but not always sequentially as described here:
Part 1: Hunting Team, Weapon & Hunt Style
1a – Hunting Team: the introduction of the Hunting Team usually happens at the start of the HV, where the viewer can get a sense of the person who’s going to pull the trigger, his/her experience level and the other members that perform important functions such as guiding, tracking, spotting game, etc.
1b – Weapon: the Hunter or Huntress uses a primary Weapon, such as a rifle, handgun, bow or crossbow. The choice of weapon and their proficiency thereof will have a significant bearing on the hunt. It’s very rare that you’ll see a secondary weapon being used.
1c – Hunt Style: the Hunt Style can be described as the intention of the Hunting Team to either target a specific Animal or trophy deliberately, or alternatively, head off into the “bush” to opportunistically hunt any number of Animal species that may be available to hunt on that piece of land. More often than not in Africa, targeting a specific Animal or trophy deliberately, is the more challenging hunt to embark on.
What about travelling to the hunting camp, checking out the accommodation and facilities, or sighting in the rifle at the range? These are all interesting and necessary for the hunt in reality, especially checking weapons, but when presented in a video this “preamble” is usually varied and takes different forms. Sometimes this footage is treated as supplementary or B-roll (#BRoll) when included in the final HV.
Part 2: Method, Conditions & Animal sighting
What’s with the hashtags? When analysing Hunting Videos I make use hashtags to help sort and search HVs here and on social media.
2b – Conditions: the Hunting Conditions include environmental factors like temperature, wind, light and the type of terrain being hunted, with varying types of cover, land features or ground that is quiet or noisy underfoot. Hiking in the mountains in 40 °C heat is much more challenging than walking on flat-ground in cooler conditions.
2c – Animal Sighting: depending on the Hunting Methods and Conditions, finding the game or Sighting the specific Animal being targeted can sometimes be the most challenging part of the entire hunt.
Part 3: Animal approach, Setup & First shot
3a – Approach: once the targeted Animal has been sighted then the Approach follows. This involves the Hunter and Animal closing the distance between themselves, usually with the Hunter or team stalking closer; or sometimes positioning themselves to intercept the Animal’s identified path of travel; or the Huntress has to maintain movement and noise discipline while the Animal approaches an ambush position.
3b – Setup: next comes the Setup where the Hunter makes ready by positioning themselves, either standing, kneeling, sitting or prone and the weapon, either on shooting-sticks, makeshift rest (branch, backpack, mound, rock, etc), or unsupported.
3c – First Shot: all of this is necessary to ensure that the Hunter is ready to take the First Shot, and ideally the only shot, with the proper shot placement on the Animal. Additional follow-up shots or tracking of a wounded animal may be necessary, and may or may not be shown in the HV, but can sometimes be deduced based on other information in the HV.
What if the video doesn’t contain a shot? Then it’s not considered here on Hunt Gauge.
What if a video doesn’t contain an impact shot (ie bullet hitting the animal)? It is still considered a Hunting Video and of interest here on Hunt Gauge.
Part 4: Animal expiry, Debrief & Recovery
4a – Animal Expiry: the Animal expiry, whether captured in an HV or not, is only confirmed once the Hunter or another team member makes physical contact with the expired animal and/or in the case of the dangerous game makes use of a reassurance-shot of the downed animal.
4b – Debrief: a Debrief by the Hunter or Huntress usually happens when setting up for a Trophy photo and allows for the recounting of the hunt through their eyes, which can add an extra layer of detail and information to the HV.
4c – Recovery: the Recovery of the animal usually involves the removal of the animal from the field by a recovery team and/or vehicle.
What about dressing, skinning and butchering of the animal? Most HV’s don’t show this and if it is shown it’s usually quite varied, therefore not necessary to consider when gauging an HV.
Do interviews, commentary or narration included in the video count as a Debrief (either audio or subtitled)? Yes, and these can be spread across The 4-part Anatomy of a Hunting Video, not just presented at 4b as described here.
If all of the four parts are present, there should be almost no unanswered questions when the viewer is done watching the Hunting Video. However, not every part and scene of The 4-Part Anatomy needs to be present to make a good Hunting Video, nor does it have to occur sequentially, even though these elements do occur sequentially off-camera in reality.
For example, not all HV’s show the Animal Expiry (4a) or Recovery (4c) due to the sometimes graphic nature of this and this may be deemed by HV Producer to be disrespectful to the Animal or ineligible for publishing on public platforms and therefore omitted. Sometimes the impact of the First Shot (3c) is prioritised at the cost of capturing the Setup (3b) of the person pulling the trigger, or the actual Sighting (2c) of the animal isn’t captured but can be inferred by the increased pace or sense of urgency with which the Hunting Team moves, for example.
What if a Hunting Video starts off with an Animal “magically” appearing (2c) in front of the Hunter, having skipped features 1a, 1b, 1c, 2a and 2b? Well it may still be possible to deduce the other features based on a good Debrief (4b), where enough information is provided for the viewer to get a sense of who’s in the Hunting Team (1a), what hunting Weapon (1b) was used, and even an idea of the Hunting Style (1c), Method (2a) and Conditions (2b) used and experienced leading up to the Animal Sighting (2c).
There’s an interesting balance between what happened on the hunt, in other words, the truth, and telling a hunting story using video, with all the storytelling techniques that this medium offers. As a rule of thumb, a Hunting Video must contain at least 8 of the 12 features identified here to be considered on Hunt Gauge.
So what else is not considered to be a Hunting Video then?
Kill-shot videos or videos containing only impact shots are not considered to be HVs. Whether you agree or disagree with these type of videos being made, they tend to be made for entertainment purposes only. There simply is not enough information to be able to gauge what actually occurred on those videoed Hunts with usually only one or two of the 12 features, described here, being present. These videos leave more guesswork and unanswered questions in their wake and have virtually no educational or storytelling value.
Similarly, promotional-type, highlight-type or trailer-type videos that contain mixed, truncated-footage of different Hunts and Hunters, which are cross-edited or presented in a somewhat rapidly-changing and random manner, usually in conjunction with a fast-paced soundtrack, are not considered HVs. These videos usually serve as a form of advertising for Outfitter, Videography and other Safari-related companies. These videos are eye-catching and effective when incorporated into event stands at big conventions or shows, but are not of interest here on Hunt Gauge.
Wildlife documentaries or videos are also not considered here on Hunt Gauge because they don’t contain any Human-Animal hunting, although Animal-Animal hunting is often featured. These videos (including series, short and feature movies, etc.) are often made by large production companies and a large emphasis is placed on wildlife education with new filming techniques and technologies being used to capture animal behaviour that’s never been seen before.
If you are interested in how I developed this tool in consideration of The 4-Part Anatomy of a Hunting Video and continue to develop it, then please read further on.
HuntGauge™ as a framework for gauging Hunting Videos
The HuntGauge™ framework is similar in concept to the scoring system used in sports such as gymnastics and diving. There are two parts that make up the final score, namely the Degree of Difficulty (DoD) and the Execution (Ex) of the routine. The DoD is usually known and agreed upon by a judging panel before the athlete performs the routine. The panel then scores the Execution of the routine where usually an average of the panel’s Ex score is combined with the DoD, sometimes added or multiplied, to give the final score. High DoD and high Ex scores yield a high overall score and a low DoD combined with a low Ex yield a low overall score.
In sports like gymnastics, there are also different disciplines and sometimes varying number of athletes (solo, pair, team, etc) to take into consideration. Similar to hunting, there are different hunting disciplines (or reasons for hunting) where not every hunt is for a Trophy-animal. Sometimes specific hunting practices are used for the management of certain animal populations or simply for obtaining meat. In addition to this, there are also different hunting methods that can be employed either deliberately or opportunistically such as #WalkStalk, #NightHunt, #AmbushCalling, etc.
Hunting that is captured on film is very, very rarely a solo effort (it does happen, check out #SelfFilmed). There are usually several participants involved in most hunts, either directly in a hunting party or indirectly in a support role. The hunter or huntress is most often accompanied by a Professional Hunter (PH), sometimes also referred to as a guide, and very often a single tracker (sometimes multiple). If there is no one operating a camera in the hunting party then there is no Hunting Video. So a skilled-cameraman or camerawoman is an essential contributing factor to a high scoring Hunting Video. Indirectly, or outside of the hunting party, there are sometimes other participants such as a video producer (editing and packaging or raw footage), park rangers (especially on dangerous game hunts), observers (family or friends of the hunter) and also the local staff of the farm or hunting area that assist in various hunting activities (constructing blinds and baits, animal spotting, calling and recovery, etc). In addition to this, many participants can fulfil multiple roles such as both cameraman AND video producer, or both PH AND tracker, etc.
So, by and large, most people would consider the end product of a Hunting Video to be a TEAM EFFORT made up of multiple skill sets. The HuntGauge™ attempts to take all of this into consideration when used to analyse or gauge a Hunting Video, by not focusing on any single members contribution, but rather by gauging the Hunting Team and video producers as a whole.
So to clear then. HuntGauge™ is not a tool that can be used to point out individual efforts, but rather a framework that can be used to assess the overall team effort in making a Hunting Video.
Below is a summary of how the Degree of Difficulty (DoD) is currently determined and scored.
The Degree of Difficulty of the hunt is based on the following factors:
- The Animal being hunted
- The hunting Method being used
- The Weapon being used by the hunter
- The Terrain in which the hunt is taking place
- The hunting Conditions
Each factor is assessed on a scale of 0-5 (0 lowest, and 5 highest), then averaged to yield a DoD score with the maximum score being 5. Without getting into too much detail, the following hunting examples can be used to illustrate how DoD can be assessed.
An example of a Hunt with the very HIGH DoD score would be:
- Hunting free-range Springbuck – small target, very wary of cars/humans, very skittish with good senses (sight, smell, hearing), usually found in a herd
- Deliberately choosing Walk-n-stalk for that specific animal – need to cover a lot of ground on foot to find the herd and then stalk on foot while avoiding detection from the herd (many eyes, ears and noses)
- Using an open-sight, instinctive, wooden-recurve bow – so have to get very close to the animal relative to other weapons
- In the #Karoo – very flat terrain with almost no land features/bushes/trees to be used as cover
- During the middle of summer – very hot, middle of the day (noon), in bright sunshine (not overcast), and a swirling/gusting wind
An example of a Hunt with a very LOW DoD score would be:
- Hunting “cabbage-patch” Warthog – an animal that is not quite domesticated but is familiar with being in close proximity to humans/cars around crop fields, has poor senses (sight, smell, hearing), and in this example as a solitary animal
- Opportunistically spotting the animal from a stand-blind – near a waterhole/bait ambush setup at the edge of the crop field
- Using an appropriate shotgun and ammo, with the assistance of an illuminated-scope on shooting sticks – at close range (<10 m)
- On a farm in Bushveld-type Savanna – with many buildings, bushes and trees for cover
- During late evening – cool and low-light conditions, with a gentle and steady breeze
The DoD can also be considered as the extent to which the Hunting Team challenged themselves while at the same time hunting safely and ethically.
Below is a summary of how the Execution (Ex) is currently determined and scored.
The Execution of the hunt is based on the following factors:
- Hunt & Skill – did the hunting party challenge themselves (within their limits) and demonstrated good skill(s) in using available land features, cover and conditions to their advantage to stalk, or call, within shooting distance, without alerting the target animal or nearby animals
- Marksmanship & Safety – this all comes down to the person pulling the trigger, he/she needs to safely and effectively set up and shoot the intended animal with the intended shot placement
- Production – sometimes with multiple cameras (drones, wearable camera) being used to capture as much of the hunt detail as is necessary to “re-live” the hunt in the hunter’s shoes, so to speak. The final Hunting Video is well edited and produced, both in terms of sound and picture quality resulting in a Hunting Video that is entertaining to watch and worthy of being recommended and shared with friends or even shown to the Grandkids (or one day being shown to them)
- Authenticity & Ethics – telling the hunting story like it actually happened and not how they wished it had happened. Also, the hunt should be conducted is an ethical and respectful manner to both Animal and all members of the Hunting Team
- Education – something unique or special was captured on film, and the Hunter or PH when to the trouble to explain or teach the members of the Hunting Team, and in turn the viewers, what was being seen or heard. This can include things like animal behaviour (#ZoologyLesson), how to manage a game farm (#FarmManagmentLesson), or more specific to hunting such as #TrophyJudgingLesson or #BlindConstruction.
Each factor is assessed on a scale of 0-5 (0 lowest, and 5 highest), then summed to yield an Ex score with the maximum being 25. Without getting into too much detail, the following hunting examples can be used to illustrate how Execution can be assessed.
An example of a very HIGH Ex score, using the same DoD examples above, would be:
- Hunt & Skill (Hunting free-range Springbuck) – where the bowhunter firstly covers a lot of ground to spot a number of different herds or Springbuck and then selecting the Trophy animal he wants to hunt. Despite the very challenging Hunt Terrain (#Karoo) and Conditions (middle of the day) he deliberately chooses to hunt #WalkStalk (as opposed to #AmbushWaterhole) and makes use of the appropriate camouflage, patiently and slowly stalking the targeted animal by using what minimal cover there is and keeping low to the ground, often #BabyCrawling or #LeopardCrawling to get within range
- Marksmanship & Safety (Using an open-sight, instinctive wooden-recurve bow) – where the bowhunter is obviously very proficient (you get the sense he had spent the necessary time at the range beforehand) so as to effortlessly pull off an ethical shot, with the perfect shot placement, while always operating the weapon safely
- Production – all of the hunting action is perfectly captured by a cameraman, with most of the features of The 4-Part Anatomy of HV being present. Multiple cameras are used to capture different perspectives, such as the Hunter making use of #PointOfView wearable camera, in conjunction with the main camera being used by a skilled cameraman. Additional microphones are also used to get the best sound quality. The HV is beautifully edited using clever storytelling techniques, with the end result being entertaining to watch.
- Authenticity & Ethics – after watching the video you get the sense that you were in the Hunters shoes and that the hunt actually happened as the hunt story was told on film. Also, you would have no hesitation in recommending the Hunting Video to a non-hunter who would be interested in learning more about hunting.
- Education – there’s a deliberate effort by the bowhunter or PH to explain in a little more detail about the hunting area, animals or plants encountered on the hunt, or the reasoning behind the chosen Hunting Method. Also, a brief mention of the limitations of the wooden-recurve bow and how to use it effectively with the appropriate arrows and broadheads.
An example of a very LOW Ex score would be:
- Hunt & Skill (Hunting “cabbage-patch” Warthog) – entering a waterhole-stand blind and choosing to shoot the first animal that enters within range.
- Marksmanship & Safety (Using an appropriate shotgun and ammo) – even though the weapon and chosen ammo may be suitable at the correct range, the Hunter chooses to take a risky shot at a much farther distance. There is also no consideration for weapon safety with things like #MuzzleDiscipline not being adhered to in moving the weapon around in the blind
- Production – shaky footage with poor sound quality results in a #Homevideoish HV where the editing is #Jarring and there is no real effort to tell a hunting story
- Authenticity & Ethics – after watching the video you get a distinct impression that the hunt didn’t exactly happen as t may have appeared on film, and you can see evidence of more than one shot being taken where only the first in the blind was shown.
- Education – there’s no attempt to educate the viewers about what is being filmed
If you are interested in how I determine the final HuntGauge™ score and what Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Guild and Academy refer to, then please read further on.
Determining the final HuntGauge™ score
After the Degree of Difficulty (DoD) and Execution (Ex) have been determined, these two scores are multiplied together to yield the final score that falls within the following ranges (see figure below for corresponding graphics):
HuntGauge Bronze: 66-80 points
HuntGauge Silver: 81-95 points
HuntGauge Gold: 96-110 points
HuntGauge Platinum: 111-125 points
In addition to this, I also recognise Hunting Videos that I think have made an excellent effort in the execution of its Production (from a storytelling perspective) and its Education (from an educating or a knowledge resource perspective). I think it’s important to recognise this because Hunting Videos are more than just about the act of hunting, they are also about telling interesting stories and learning about new things. Sometimes the DoD of a hunt may not be high which results in a low HuntGauge™ score (below the Bronze range), so I gauge HVs that have 5 of out 5 for Production and Education, as HuntGauge Guild and HuntGauge Academy, respectively (see graphic below for corresponding graphics).
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you’ve spotted something I’ve missed or have suggestions for a better framework then please put your thoughts or comments below and I’ll make the effort to respond to you.
Hunt Gauge Guy