I have gotten the same inspiration lately. I guess hunting just isn't frustrating enough for me anymore.
Just ordered a Panasonic HC V550 from Amazon. IT seems like a pretty amazing little camera for the DIY film maker. 50X optical zoom and 90X intelligent zoom and it looks like the picture at 90X is pretty dang good. The little sucker is only $329 too! I remember the first video cam we bought being well over $1000 and it is sitting in the closet antiquated.
I've been looking at the inexpensive models of canon and sony. It's confusing about the options available and low light use. The fact most do not have a view finder anymore adds to the questions. I'm curious what do most of the shows on tv use in the small handy cams?
Optical zoom is way more important than digital zoom. You will want a lot of reach if you are trying to record critters more than 20 yards away.
If you are zoomed in on something (and even frequently if you are not), use a tripod. It may not look so bad when you are in the field or watching it on the screen, but when you take it home and look at it on a bigger screen, you'll regret it.
Besides that, have fun. Don't let trying to record a hunt ruin the fun of it. The point is to remember the good memories and not get in the way of actually making good memories.
I would recommend getting a DSLR camera. If you are looking at going the handy cam route ($600-$900) you can get a good DSLR for that price and have AWESOME video and can take GREAT pictures as well. There is a couple downsides to DSLR cameras that is the zoom is manual (on a dial) where as a handy cam you have a rocker. Also sound quality on the DSLR is a little lacking (for TV production use) but if you are just looking at saving your own memories for personal use the sound will not be an issue.
I also agree with Cornell 100% optical zoom is the only thing to really look at when looking at zoom capabilities digital zoom makes for a very grainy looking picture. Also a tripod or monopod are a MUST.