How I Use My Optics To Glass An Area
This thread was started by BuffaloBob's request as follows. I will make several references to sheep scouting in my answers as they are in my opinion, the hardest animals to locate with optics. So, what is good for them can usually be applied to other species.
Anyhow, on to the questions:
Uncle B and/or Goodgrouper
I appreciate the advice you gave me on the Swaro 10X50 SLCs. They are great binoculars.
However, I could use a little instruction on how to actually glass for game at long range using both a spotting scope and binocular combination.
Here are some questions I have.
1. Do you start with the binoculars first or the spotting scope?
It depends on the distance of the area I want to glass. Anything over 3 miles gets the spotting scope first off. Anything under that gets the binos. I prefer 10x for short range to 1.5 miles roughly. From 2 miles out to 3, I love the 15x binos. The downside to the 15x and the spotter is they almost have to be mounted on a tripod to keep from getting eye fatigue(and arm fatigue!). But nothing is sweeter than looking over a nice area with some 15x56 Swaro binos mounted on a tripod. I can look through that setup all day long.
It also can depend on the area being glassed whether I pick the spotter or the binos. If I am relatively certain that animals are in the area I'm glassing but there are many boulders or other objects in which the quarry can hide, I might opt for the spotter even at short distance to look for flicking ears, tails, or body parts hiding amongst the rocks. In sheep scouting for instance, they are often exactly the same size, shape, and color of the boulders in boulder fields on talus slopes. So they will bed down in these areas and vanish in plain sight. Only a spotting scope at close range can see ear flicks or tail flicks in these kinds of conditions.
2. Do you have a search pattern that you use? For example do you start in the upper left of a hillside and work to the right and then adjust lower and work back to the left. Or do you start with the close in terrain first and then work outward.
Many people do this but I have found it to be productive only as a secondary method of glassing. I prefer first to examine the terrain with the bare eye, pick areas of highest probability for animal occupation and glass those first. What I look for is dependant on the species I am looking for. For elk for example, I will look for openings in the pines or aspens in which the bulls can round up cows and graze. These areas will usually be close to heavy cover in which the elk will be bedded down in during the day. So I find the clearings, then try finding the trails to the clearings and follow them as far as I can into the heavy timber and watch for slight movement or darker shadows under trees along the trails. I will use a spotting scope to find the trails and the shadows in the trees, but I might use the binos to glass around the fringes of the clearings. After disecting each clearing and not finding anything, I will go to the upper left field of view and "scan" it like reading a book. This will at least keep me occupied and usually will fend off the afternoon nap.
For sheep, I will look at the terrain and try to pick out connecting ledges and talus slopes that allow sheep to move from one canyon to the next or from one level to another. I also look at sun directions and where the best shade will be during the day which would require the least amount of movement on the sheep's part to go from shadow to shadow. I also look for game trails leading to grassy areas or watering holes. These areas represent a high probability of occupation and I do not see the sense in looking at other areas first with less probability just because they are in the order of the "upper left across to the right" or they were the "closest to the farthest" areas.
You might be looking at the upper left area for only a minute or two and in that time, a ram or buck could be standing right next to a water hole in plain sight and then be gone by the time the water hole's "turn" comes in the order.
So I try to look at the most probable areas first and also give them the most amount of time. Something along the order of 70-30.
But then there is always the possibilty of something showing up where you would least expect them to be......
3. The field of view is large on the stuff I use and I find it difficult to actually look at everything that is in the field of view before I move the spotting scope. Do you have a pattern that you run with your eye to ensure that you look at everything before moving the scope.
Yes. This is a great point. Patience must be exercised in glassing-especially for desert sheep and Coues deer. If you cannot force yourself to "pick apart" everything in your field of view before moving on, you have two options. Either have a buddy glass with you (or two or three buddies-the more the merrier) or get a Bogen pistol grip head. These are great little machines. I put the tension screw on mine all the way on the PLUS end so it is nice and stiff. Then, it forces me to slow down and look at what is in my field of view because my grip gets tired. In other words, when the grip is released, the mount locks and no movement is possible until the grip is squeezed again. So, if my hand stays relaxed, I know I'm going slow enough and glassing properly.
Staying comfortable is also a key to glassing. Especially in sheep hunting because you will be glassing for 6 to 8 hours daily. A good, solid tripod is a must so it keeps you sitting up straight and not holding anything. Also, a good butt pad to sit on or a small chair. And a little care package of snacks and water beside you will also keep you in a good mood and give you something to do while looking through your glass. I always throw in some jalepeno flavored sunflower seeds just for this reason. It gives me something to do so I can fend off that tempting afternoon nap! I also usually take off and put on my shoes several times throughout the day. It is something to do and feels quite good. And a discman or Mp3 player comes in handy too. Anything to keep you looking instead of napping.
4. Do you look for color or movement or just look and hope something draws your attention.
All three. Color is probably the hardest but best thing to master. It also requires OUTSTANDING optics-not just good optics. Movement is the easiest and most positive thing to look for, and regular optics usually will allow for seeing movement. But color differences is what you will probably get and only top notch optics can distinguish colors and textures from long ranges.
When glassing for chucks at over 1 mile, the only thing that tell you that you are looking at a red chuck on a red rock instead of a red rock on another red rock is the ability of your optics to resolve differences in the texture of fur and rock. And to do that, your optics must be outstanding.
Often while glassing, something will grab your attention. It may be color, it may be movement, but most of the time for me anyways, is shapes. Uncle B and I are always spotting "chuckrocks" instead of rockchucks. Or "sheeprocks" instead of sheep. If you are not using your brain's imagination to help your eyes find your animal, you are not glassing efficiently.
You should find 10 "buckrocks" to every real buck on the mountain in my opinion.
I often hear teasing among glassers that go something like this, "ha, you found another log that looks like an elk". "If you found as many elk as you do logs, we'd be done hunting by now".
I find nothing wrong with being teased about finding elk logs. That shows me my hunting partner is actively engaged in finding elk. And if there are elk on that mountain, there is a good chance he is going to find them.
5. How much overlap do you have between the last position the spotting scope was looking at and the new position.
If you have thoroughly "picked apart" the previous FOV, I try to move on to the next area so that I have 100% more area to look at. This applies only to the "upper left corner" method of course. If I am looking at the most probable areas, there might be overlapping of FOV and there might not be. Just depends on the terrain.
6. Is there some secret method that I donít know about?
Nope. Everybody from expert to beginner glasser uses one of these methods. Remember, the experts are using the same glass you have access to, are looking at the same areas, and their eyes work the same as yours do. They must have light and an ubobscured view to see. Now there certainly are guys out there that seem to have been born with the "game eye". For whatever reason, they just seem to be able to find things when others can't. But for the most part, if you weren't born with game eyes, you can still be very successful finding animals using optics just by being methodical and using some of the above points. And remember, even if you have game eyes, you can't find anything if you're not LOOKING!
Hope this helps.
If it's not far, it's boring.