How I Use My Optics To Glass An Area

Discussion in 'How To Hunt Big Game' started by goodgrouper, Dec 2, 2007.

  1. goodgrouper

    goodgrouper Well-Known Member

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    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 don’t 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.
     
  2. Guy M

    Guy M Well-Known Member

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    Excellent! Thanks for a great description of how to use these fancy optical toys we're buying and lugging around. Good stuff.

    Good glassing can save a lot of tough walking...
     

  3. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    Thanks, that was very helpful and I learned some new things. It had never occurred to me to deliberately search along the game trails. I get so intent on my upper left to lower right method that I do not do a lot of the stuff you mention.

    I have not yet succeeded in finding a bedded down elk so I am still in the amatuer ranks as far a glassing goes. Once again thanks for taking the time to write it up.
     
  4. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

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    BB,

    I learned more from GG's post than you did.:D Mostly because I had MORE to learn......

    Amateur my butt, you're way too humble, you out spotted me in every instance, except for the morning you weren't there and I spotted bedded doe out in the open. And I recall some bedded cows at some gosh awful distance.

    I hate this, not only do I need better binos I need to learn how to use 'em. :(

    Good post GG...
     
  5. goodgrouper

    goodgrouper Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
     
  6. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

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    More advice needed....

    GG,

    While your giving out advice.....

    I've gotta get a better scope and binos. I don't have enough coins to by a decent hand gun to rob a bank with ;)so........

    I'll cut corners on the binos before I'll cut corners on the scope but can't afford the swaro/MK-4 class of either:(

    Right now I'm leaning towards the Leupold VX-III 4.5-20X50 LRT and Zeiss Conquest 4.5-20X50 w/plex or #4 ret.

    Your recommendation on scope and or binos please, ok?
     
  7. IDAHO PREACHER

    IDAHO PREACHER Well-Known Member

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    Goodgrouper and UncleB told me to buy the best and cry once. So I bought the swarovski 10x42 slc bino's and 20x60x80 spotting scope and I will own them till someone inherits them. There should be no reason to ever buy anything else. On the spotting scope I bought the hd because it has better optic for cameras. Your eyes can't tell the difference looking through 2 different spotting scopes models. Which by the way the way is about $300 to $350 difference. I have really enjoyed them and I really enjoy this post, it has some really good points to perfect my glassing. Thanks Goodgrouper and UncleB IP
     
  8. goodgrouper

    goodgrouper Well-Known Member

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    Well, you know I love my 6.5-20x50 Leupolds! I have several. The Zeiss is nice too but I don't much care for their turrets.

    What price range of binos are you looking at?
     
  9. goodgrouper

    goodgrouper Well-Known Member

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    IP,
    Your welcome!

    Don't you think it is better to wait and get what you really want than it is to buy crap now and live with it?
     
  10. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

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    That just depends on how much time you have left to wait.:D

    I think I'll just go out and make more money, faster, and shorten the wait.;)

    IP, if the Swaro 10X42, why not the 10X50?
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2007
  11. new shooter

    new shooter Well-Known Member

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    how i used my optics to glass an area

    Great read how about tripod do you used a carbon manfrollo what model? what weight?
     
  12. goodgrouper

    goodgrouper Well-Known Member

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    I use a Bogen/Manfrotto 3205gn tripod. It is heavy or midweight I guess but it is a bit more stable in wind vibration because of it's mass. I have noticed the carbon fiber tripods shake like a leaf in high wind because they are so light.
     
  13. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    The reason I wanted this section was to discuss "How To". There are lots of "Equipment" sections. I find it unbelievable that the thread is back off to equipment. Equipment doesn't get anything killed. It is what you do with it that kills something.
     
  14. tjbill

    tjbill Well-Known Member

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    Great point Bufalobob. I was fortunate enough growing up to spend countless days with a good friend of the family learning how to hunt. We mostly hunted Blacktails in the timber and clearcuts here in Skagit County and if you've ever looked for blacktails, you know they can be hard to spot. He taught me a lot over all those years and probably the best thing he taught me was how to spot big game animals. I asked him one time when I was probably ten or eleven to tell me how to see animals in the wild. He said "Look for things that don't look like a rock, a bush, or a tree". His answer was oversimplified a bit, but profound. In the twenty-five years or so since that advice I've learned that for some reason - to my eye - deer, elk, bear, antelope, etc., have looked somewhat "unnatural". I don't know if that makes sense (it's early and I'm only on one cup of coffee) but when you break down the body parts of big game you start to realize that a horn doesn't look like a tree branch, a deer's backline really doesn't look like a log, and there is nothing that I have ever seen in nature that looks like the dark eye of a deer or elk. As was mentioned earlier most of these slight differences between big game body parts and other "natural" objects can only be seen consistently at distance with GREAT OPTICS. If you have to pinch pennies (we're all on a budget) DO NOT do it on binos or spotting scopes. You can't shoot an animal you don't know is there and 99% of the time the easiest buck to see is the smallest one.

    As for a glassing routine, I've always approached an area looking for movement on the fringes first as spooked animals don't stick around for long if they are close to cover. Then I start to pick apart the areas that look like they should hold game. Look for areas close to cover like along creek bottoms and on hillsides with reprod. Take your time - in my experience it takes about twenty to forty-five minutes or more once you are into an area for things to go back to normal operation. Yes, I have snuck into areas without being detected by big game, but something always knows you're there and alerts the surrounding area that "something" has changed. You'll have a better chance of seeing game if you sit tight for a while.

    My last advice is, if you are able, learn to spot game yearround. Animals in the spring and summer are generally more out in the open and are usually a brighter color and easier to see. If you continue to scout and spot them, your eyes will adjust to them as they begin to blend into their surroundings more by darkening their coats and you'll be more likely to pick out those single body parts as they become a bit more sneaky. DON'T LOOK FOR AN ENTIRE ANIMAL...YOU WILL RARELY SEE ONE. I don't consider myself an expert spotter but I did learn from one. Kind of sounds like a Holiday Inn express commercial?! You all have a great day - I'm going shooting.

    Bill