Photo Credit: Jeffrey Solberg

It happens the same way every year. Hunting season rolls around and social media, websites, and cell phones are consumed by picture after picture of big bucks, bulls, rams, and more being harvested across the country. Have you ever stopped to notice what makes some pictures look much better than others? Often it is not the caliber of the animal shot, rather it is the preparation involved in taking the picture. It’s the post harvest photo setup. We call this the hero shot. You have busted your tail, kept your nerves, and made a successful shot on a beautiful animal. So, how do you best capture the moment?

Some people think having a high dollar camera is the only way to get a quality picture. However, spending a little time preparing the animal for the picture is much more valuable. Below are several tips to help make your hero shot a quality image that best captures the moment.

1 – Clean up the blood

It’s safe to say that those who hunt enjoy looking at other trophy shots, but there are reasons we like looking at some pictures over others. A big reason is the blood factor. Take a bottle of water along and pour it over the face of your animal, and/or where the wound is, to wash away some of the unnecessary blood. Even if you don’t want to carry around a bottle of water in your pack, there is often snow or leaves on the ground that can be used to help wipe away blotches of blood.

Wait to field dress your harvest until after your pictures have been taken. The animal is the centerpiece of your picture. Seeing empty rib cages or cut up animals makes for a far less appealing image. Don’t forget to tuck the tongue back in the animal’s mouth as well. It sounds like a simple thing, but almost everyone who has ever taken a picture with a harvested animal has made this mistake.

2 – Pay attention to your pose

It probably sounds goofy to most that the hunter’s pose has a big influence on the overall appeal of a hero shot. Yet, we see this mistake every year. For example, we often see a hunter, who has shot the biggest animal of their life, take a picture standing over the top of it like they are riding it in a rodeo. If you are looking to take quality hero shots, that simply will not do. Rather, sit back behind the animal and hold it out in front of you. After all, the animal really is the subject of these pictures. Take a few different shots of the animal directly facing the camera, some slightly turned, and some profiled. It is far better to take too many pictures than not enough.

3 – Take it in a natural place

When taking a hero shot, take the picture in the same area. A hero shot does way more than just capture the size of an animal. It tells a story.

It can help capture the emotions the hunter was feeling, show the terrain of the land where it was harvested, and capture what the weather conditions were.

Taking the picture in a garage, or in the bed of a truck, takes away from not only the appeal of your picture but also the memories captured by an image taken in a natural setting.

4 – Include everyone

If your hunt occurred with someone special, whether it is family, a spouse, friends, an outfitter, or someone running a camera, they were all with you during the hunt and shared the memories with you. So, why not include them in a hero shot or two? Some of my favorite hero shots are me and a hunting partner with a deer they shot. It’s the memories that truthfully make a hunt. Even though harvesting a large animal makes hunts successful to most, to me it’s the adventures encountered that define success. A lot of people say that they can’t include everyone because somebody has to take the picture. However, almost every camera manufactured today has a 10-second timer on it, which when paired with a tripod, gives ample time to get everyone situated.

5 – Don’t be afraid to accessorize

Was there certain pieces of equipment that were vital in the success of your hunt? Don’t be afraid to include them. For instance, many people include the weapon they used in their pictures. Other people will include a pair of sheds they found of the animal they harvested, a pair of rattling antlers if they were used to call in a buck, or even a decoy in the background. However, accessorizing a shot should not be taken to the extreme by including every piece of equipment available. The hero shot should help tell the story and focus on the animal. So, if there is one particular piece of equipment that was important to the success, use it. As with anything, it is possible to over accessorize. A quick rule of thumb; it is better to be too simple than too complex when taking a hero shot.

6 – Smile

Today’s world of “trophy” standards makes rack size and trophy caliber status outweigh general success in the eyes of most hunters. Everybody shoots a doe or small buck at some point in their lifetime, and there is absolutely no reason why such a harvest should be deemed as unsuccessful. Every harvest is a successful harvest, therefore any successful hero shots are worth smiling over. In my years as an outdoorsmen, I am more proud of my first button buck than I am of my largest buck. Sometimes the small things are the biggest memories. Frankly, if you can’t smile while your standing next to something you harvested, you shouldn’t have harvested it at all. Be proud of your success. After all, a facial expression is the best way to convey your feelings.

These are a few helpful hints to make your hero shots of your harvested animals look more professional while capturing such fantastic memories. The more care you put into your pictures, the better they will turn out for you later.

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  1. Good read. I agree with what you have said 100%. You can never take to many pics of your trophy harvest but you will always regret not having enough. I try to take pics until we are tired of taking pics and then take a bunch more. LOL Trophy photos are forever so make sure to get them the best you can.