Josiah Signor and Brad Forrest first sat in a tree stand together, waiting for deer to pass by, when they were 14 and 12. Now, at 39 and 37, they’re doing it again on camera. Filming on rocks in streams and behind the crosshairs of rifle scopes, cousins Signor and Forrest aim to bring their game, their guns, their grill and the oft-overlooked bounty of the Hudson Valley to your device via their cheekily named YouTube channel “Hudson Valley Forrests.”
Outdoorsman Forrest, often appearing on camera alongside his children and his deer butchering father, aims to teach both his NYU film school graduate cousin and online audience about the ins, outs and joys of living off the land. Currently, their videos have just over 22,000 views, and their Instagram page @hudsonvalleyforrests, which features surprisingly appetizing squirrel meat and a host of colorful venison dishes, has a following of nearly 530.
“I don’t even know where it came from, but I have this burning desire to have people love eating venison,” said Forrest of his motivation in starting the production. “People say, ‘Oh, it’s gamey, it’s no good.’ They probably had it from Uncle Joe who had it in the freezer and in the wrong type of packaging and he cooked it wrong. When you do it right, it’s delicious.”
Backyard gourmand Forrest harvests his own food from the forest and the garden, offsetting any unfavorable preconceived notions of prepared game with dishes walked through in videos or displayed on the brand’s Instagram. Preparations include brined, apple and plum wood-smoked wild trout; trout browned in a cast-iron pot and served alongside beet and dandelion greens; venison hotdogs; venison meatloaf stuffed with feta cheese and basil; Mongolian venison meatballs; Sicilian venison sausage ragout; venison kofta with rosemary lemon sauce, fresh basil and mint; morel gnocchi; creamy ragout with freshly-found golden chanterelle, black trumpet and oyster mushrooms over shirataki noodles; and foraged mushroom stew with moose meat.
The pair aims to produce a hunting channel without a political bent, rock music or a “yeehaw” outlook. Rather, they work to underscore the bounty of the valley and show viewers how attainable a hunting ground-to-table lifestyle can be.
“The idea of the show is to come hang out with us,” said Signor.
The finished product galvanizes Forrest’s passed down outdoor know-how with the sort of camera work and editing closer to what one might expect from the Discovery Channel than your typical online hunting channel. Currently watchable are a trout-gutting tutorial; preparation techniques for just-caught ranging from foil-wrapped grilling to “trout cakes” to an ambitious trout pizza; deer hunting with a crossbow; a step-by-step walkthrough of the deer skinning and butchering process; and fishing videos that put the viewer right on the river. All of them are filmed here, in Saugerties. Upcoming are guides in mushroom foraging, in which Forrest and his son Anders find morels and chicken of the woods and a turkey hunting video — although Signor has managed to capture a wealth of b-roll video and still shots of turkeys, the pair have yet to actually shoot one with a gun. They hope to follow Anders’ learning curve after attaining his hunting license, and to capture the moment in which Signor bags his first deer.
Signor, who wrote the Woodstock Film Festival-featured film The Bastards of Young, edited movies like Pete Smalls is Dead which starred Peter Dinklage and is currently employed as a video editor for PMC Supplies, a jewelry company, said putting together the hunting-centered series is unlike anything he has had a hand in. A video editor by trade, the channel gives him an opportunity to get behind the camera lens.
“All of our actors have no idea that they’re in a film, or that they’re going to die, so it’s kind of tough. It’s a tough Craigslist ad,” said Signor of the unpredictability of the subject matter. “[I told Forrest], worst-case scenario you have great videos of you dad, your kids and your son doing all this stuff. The most awesome family album ever.”
Forrest’s father, Brad “Boris” Forrest Sr. provides the font of butchering knowledge.
“He grew up living next door to a farm and hunting but he sort of just became the default butcher for all of his friends. He just took the leap and said ‘I’ll do it’… after many years of doing that, he met a German butcher who taught him the next level of how to do it. He was self-taught, this guy showed him the real way to do things and taught him to make venison pepperoni and venison prosciutto.”
A deer hunting video on the channel took two years to publish, simply because they were unable to fell a deer in the first deer season. Likewise, a recent squirrel-hunting video had to be re-imagined when no squirrels were shot. Having never edited film consisting of this type of content, Signor says he learns as he goes. When he showed a finished clip to Forrest in which a line-casting sound was added to a fishing scene, Signor said Forrest told him that it sounded like the rod needed to be oiled. To achieve an impressive underwater shot of fish, one of the pair guided an underwater camera through the water on a string while the other did the same with a small hooked fish. As Forrest teaches Signor about the outdoorsman lifestyle, he in turn learns more about the process of putting a film together.
“I haven’t learned as much about video editing as he has about the outdoors,” said Forrest. “[I’ve realized] how hard it is — it isn’t just pressing on and having everything. The hardest things for me were the things that weren’t hunting. The cooking ones, those were difficult. ‘Action.’ ‘Start talking.’ ‘Stop saying um.’”
“I haven’t learned as much about video editing as he has about the outdoors,” said Forrest. “[I’ve realized] how hard [producing videos] is — it isn’t just pressing on and having everything. The hardest things for me were the things that weren’t hunting. The cooking ones, those were difficult. ‘Action.’ ‘Start talking.’ ‘Stop saying um.’”
“It really changes how you look at your plate. Suddenly, you don’t want to throw anything away, you appreciate the food that you get yourself,” said Signor. “It’s a grocery store out there for free. We want to take away that stigma, the nervousness — it’s fun and rewarding.”