Precision Shooting 1-Part 2: Optics, Data and Logic
Precision Shooting 1-Part 2: Optics, Data and LogicBy Ward Brien
Sniper Tools Design Co., LLC
There are so many different kinds of binoculars to choose from. With the natural world unbelievably rich in diversity with so many different landscapes, light and weather conditions, every one of us has specific needs and expectations from "our" binoculars. Because of this, using two different kinds of binoculars can be a necessity. For instance, compare the hazy, smoggy and sunny environment of the San Fernando Valley in the City of Los Angeles to the clear crisp air of the Colorado Rockies. Just the thought should change your mindset as the contrast between these two areas is obvious and there is quite a bit to take into account.
Breaking down our needs to a more manageable level, we see the need for a binocular that works in our environment. Let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum to where we probably won’t be doing any hunting, however makes several important points; the San Fernando Valley. As mentioned it can be very hazy, have lots of refracted light with many different geological outlays bordering it. There are large boulders on the northwest corner of the valley and vegetation covered hills on the south.
The large rocky boulders on the northwest make for some of the most eye fatiguing glassing sessions a person can have, with reflected light bouncing all over the place. The boulders that are sitting side by side are reflecting two different intensities of light. One second you are looking into a slightly shaded area and the next at intensely reflected light.
The vegetation on the south end of the Valley is much easier on your eyes because the light is fairly even and there are no attributes acting like mirrors, reflecting the light back into your eyes. However you will be glassing aggressively, and looking into the shadows where your eyes do not naturally gravitate to. Are you aware that when you are glassing that your mind instinctively pulls your focus into the open areas and away from the shadows? None the less, the environment is different from the large boulders and yet you still have the problem of haze to deal with. Haze is magnified by the power of the binoculars so that when glassing a hazy area, it appears somewhat milky. What we want is clear, crisp, clean viewing that is as easy on the eyes as possible.
With the reflecting light of the boulders we would not want to use or increase the power settings of a binocular unless we were glassing at a time when the sunlight was not at its strongest; this would be in the early morning or evening hours. We would also want a coated lens that offers optimum color fidelity across the whole light spectrum, cutting the glare, increasing the contrast and cooling down the image. An 8x32 power binocular with this type of coating would be next to perfect.
With the vegetation of the south end of the valley, we still have the issue of haze and the necessity of working the canyons. In this area there is no rhyme or reason to where the deer will be. It is not cold enough to keep them off of the sunless north face of the hills, and there is no need for them to follow the sun to keep warm either; so they can be anywhere. The 10 x 42 Swarovski’s could work very well, however during mid day the haze would have a marginal negative effect. This means that the seven or eight power binoculars would be the best all around choice for this scenario. Ten power is probably the most power you can hold in your hands without going to a tripod. Although attaching the binoculars to a bipod increases the effectiveness of your glassing enormously. It eliminates the wobble caused from hand holding the glasses and also minimizes the shakiness caused by the wind. Once mounted onto a tri-pod your field of view appears dramatically clear.
In addition to the power settings, in a lot of cases the lower power binoculars are found to be smaller and do not only save weight but are easier to pack and carry. When walking, I like to strap them around my neck and carry them tucked into the top of my jersey; sitting ontop of my chest.
In the mountains of Colorado, these same binoculars would work just fine, but may not be the most optimum to use. Because of the clearness of the air, we can go to a higher power. But with the higher power we loose field of view. In other words, our view is narrower. Here are the field of view numbers for several of Swarovski’s binoculars. The SLC 8x32 WB gives you a field of view of four hundred eight (408’) feet at one thousand yards. The SLC10x42 WB gives you a field of view of three hundred thirty (330’) feet at one thousand yards, and the 15x56 WB gives you a field of view of two hundred thirty one (231’) feet at one thousand yards. This really isn’t that big of a deal; I just wanted to make mention of it.
Although, as previously stated, the environment here is vastly different. There is little if any reflected light bouncing around, with partial shade from the clouds above. There will be trees and wide open expanses. Here, the Swarovski remains popular but also “Zeiss” who is known for their clean and clear lenses is also an excellent choice. In any regards, it is hard to go wrong in this environment. You can use just about whatever you want and suits your needs best. If you have the funds, we could put a pair of Leica 12x56 or Swarovski 15x56 on a tri-pod and glass the hillsides and canyons all day and perhaps pick out the tip of an antler. When night falls for us, the day usually comes to a close. However in a military environment the necessity to glass still remains. For this situation, you will find them using 7x50’s because of their ability to soak up whatever light is available. You will also see them using night vision devices.
Techniques of glassing
Rule number one: Don’t let them see or smell you first; and keep the breeze in your face. In most cases when we glass, our focus is on looking for the quarry or “indicators” and want to do this in the most practical and successful way possible. As I mentioned earlier in the chapter, our brains steer our eyes and our eyes naturally want to look at the open and obvious areas. However, it is important that when we are glassing, that we look at everything in our line of sight, forcing ourselves to look into the shadows.
We think we know where we are going to be hunting and have taken the time to study our maps enough so that we know the main or key features of the terrain, and mentally memorize them. This way if we decide to start hiking we can mentally check them off in our minds without getting lost. In addition, we are carrying our compasses, are familiar with reading a map and know where we are.
We begin our information gathering by studying our map and locating the natural water sources such as streams, lakes and or rivers, as well as natural feed areas, landmarks and where we think that our deer may be. Then we pick several “ideal” locations where we can sit comfortably in an over-watch position and begin to glass. We are prepared and have our rucks filled with protein bars, water, baby wipes, a small med kit, medical warm muscle patches, extra socks, a poncho and other essentials. The medical warm muscle patches which are available at most drug stores are an important item to me that I like to carry. If I begin to chill, I’ll break one or two of these open and stick them under my sternum (ontop of my organs in my abdomen) to keep me warm, they work very well and last approximately eight hours. I also carry my binoculars and a very light tripod to mount them on to.
Once I have located a good spot, I am capable of effectively overseeing an area as far as seven miles in each direction of me, although I will be focusing only on an area of about 1000 yards in each direction along the canyon. The area that I am sitting in allows me to view the deer trails criss crossing down the hillsides, the streams below that run into small watering holes and the other natural terrain features. I begin by starting where my eyes do not want to naturally go, at the bottom of the canyon, slowly panning from left to right, then right to left, working back and forth up the canyon and hillside.
I am looking for the animal, any part of him, his tail, his antler’s and any movement. Our eyes and minds register 40 line pairs of resolution, similar to how your brain registers images from your television; so movement matters. Resolution is the amount of object detail reproduced by the imaging system, or in this case, our brains.
However, I am also looking for other “indicators” or “signs” as well. These signs can be mulled up areas of the dirt at the bank of a watering hole, water filled tracks leading away from a stream, tracks cut through grass, or depressions in the grass from where they slept; breath steam, and markings on the trees from where there antlers scraped or any other noticeable indicators.
In addition to using our over-watch site, we also want to use our ears. Though some of us may be partially deaf; if there are no other distracting noises we can hear movement like the crackling of branches as animals pass through a wooded or partially wooded area or the rustling of leaves when there is no wind.
In any regard, we want to look at everything and gather as much information/data as possible. It is fair to assume that if we see tracks that lead to a watering area that we know some animals are using it and then retreating to an area that suits them better. We know that a doe will come down to drink water at least once a day, and a lactating doe will come down to drink twice a day. We also know that a buck will water perhaps once every two to three days. You can claim the watering hole as a target reference point. If you locate any other signs such as the scraping on a tree, you have another one. The criss crossing of fresh spores and you have another one as well as urination marks or dung on the ground. All are target reference points and signs that this is a good spot to watch.
When the trail markings are fresh and you can see the direction in which they are walking, you can assume the area that they will be using or bedded down in, although this is perhaps one of many. If for any reason they are clued into your presence, whether by sight, sound or smell, they will retreat to another area. With our scent being able to be carried for miles, and the sensitivity of their noses, it is imperative to have that problem taken care of. This is why a great many bow hunters use products to eliminate their scent as well as utilize special clothing that is made with “scent lock”.
These are the reasons why allot of hunters walk blind and invest in guesswork, hoping to get their deer. You wouldn’t drive a car fast on a road that you weren’t familiar with, nor would you hunt the same way. A small amount of preparation and knowledge is a fundamental practice that leads to success; and being familiar with your maps, area, wind patterns, and glassing techniques are key elements.
Good guides, really good guides, know the terrain, know approximately how many animals are in the area and where they reside. A good guide knows the different watering and feed locations and when and where the animals are moving. For the most part we aren’t like bears on a salmon filled river; we are working within the rhythms of Mother Nature.
Elk are very smart animals. You may disagree with me, however when a herd of elk encounter a hunter, the Cows will actually try and protect the Bull by attempting to lead the hunter(s) away from him by following her. They are smart and are aware of your intent to kill them.
A good guide is a person with skill and a person you can depend on. He is a person that will probably assume one of two postures regarding technique.
The first technique is to lead you to your quarry. As an example, you have been on foot for half a day. Your guide has been following the signs and or tracking the animal(s) with you. Taking notice of wind direction, moving slowly, staying quiet and glassing ahead of yourself. All of a sudden, off in the distance you see through your binoculars four does and a buck. Now what do you do? If you are taking a tactical approach to your hunting, you will freeze, then very slowly sit down, remain undetected, and obtain your range/distance to target. If you have a solid rifle, a solid zero and a good quality scope (as previously discussed), a data card showing you your holds or minute of angle adjustments, and the animal is within 700 yards and the wind is right, you will take the shot and hit him; and you will do it with confidence. If you do not have these ingredients, you and your guide will try to stalk within 300 yards. Depending on the terrain, that is a considerable distance for two people to travel and could take many hours.
Sounds like a lot of stuff to know about doesn’t it? But it really is a lot simpler than you think and it all comes down to simple procedure, and just a few more ingredients. There are not a 1000 ingredients, or 500 ingredients or even twenty; just a few. So take it easy as we go step by step and give you the ingredients to a tactical approach to practical hunting.
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