Vortex Kaibab Binoculars And Outdoorsmans Tripod Review
By Len Backus
Best lightweight spotting equipment setup for mobile long range hunting?
When I am hunting from a truck and walking only a few hundred yards to a mile or so, it’s easy to take along everything but the kitchen sink. This means an 80mm spotting scope, a set of binoculars, a mid-weight tripod and plenty of other stuff. But when I go off for the whole day with a pack large and sturdy enough to carry back my heavy rifle and the meat from a deer or antelope, I always struggle over which gear to leave behind.
For quite a while I’ve wondered about my idea of using just one multi-purpose optic on the foot-mobile long range hunt instead of both binoculars and spotting scope. So for this entire past fall hunting season I used a Vortex Kaibab 15X56mm binocular on an Outdoorsmans Tripod with a Jim White Head.
For the pure trophy hunter, the 15 power binocular may not be enough. I found it very adequate for my own antler judging out to well over a mile. Though I have harvested a 150 class whitetail and some 170 plus class mule deer, I find it hard to combine trophy hunting with long range hunting. My largest mule deer were both shot at less than 400 yards, hardly long range for many of us.
For the past several years I have been forming the opinion that it is hard to combine both the challenging, rewarding long range distance shot setup with the perfect choice of a certain trophy-sized deer, antelope or elk. The two just don’t come together in one opportunity very often. I know Shawn and Kirby have shot some nice trophies at long range but even they will say that combining the two goals is just plain difficult.
So I am concluding that on foot-mobile long range hunt sessions I don’t need an optic that enables me to accurately score a potential trophy at 2.5 miles. Enter the concept of the 15X56mm premium quality binocular for mobile long range hunting, especially for solo hunts where there is no partner to share the meat hauling.
The Vortex Kaibab binoculars that I used are bright, clear and easily focused. The edge to edge sharpness is excellent and near to that of the best German optics costing many hundreds more. Contrast is very good and there was never the hint of eye fatigue throughout the many hours I spent using them last fall.
Vortex Kaibab Binocs On Right.
Named in honor of the famous North Kaibab plateau in northern Arizona, home of some of the country's largest mule deer, the Vortex Kaibab is the sort of high-powered binocular preferred for western hunting—especially during the productive late season when the mulies are bedded down in pockets of trees in the canyon heads and draws. It takes serious patience and the highest quality optics, like the Vortex Kaibab 15x56 binocular, to consistently locate trophy deer.
They come with a tripod mounting system that gives the choice of an easily removable setup or a more solid, rigid attachment to a tripod head. I chose the solid attachment for maximum steadiness.
The head I used was the “Jim White head”, well known among serious western trophy hunters who spend many hours behind their tripod-mounted glasses for days on end in a quest for the ultimate big horn ram or Coues deer. You really can’t imagine what it is like panning and tilting with a superior designed and built head like this one. It is a smoooooth and solid feeling!
The street price of the Vortex Kaibab 15x56 binoculars is around $1,200. The Jim White head is $249 and the Outdoorsmans tripod is $399. If you are hunting with a $3,000 rifle, a $1,500 rifle scope and a $2,000 spotting scope, a cheap tripod and head makes no sense at all. Without a quality tripod and head you can’t physically take advantage of the superior glass resol
The Outdoorsmans tripod was the perfect mate to the Jim White head. I have about $30,000 in pro level photography equipment including several tripods that each cost around $600 with heads that cost around $400. Years ago I learned to match the quality of the support system to the camera/lens system in order to maximize sharpness in my images. When I attach a $9,000 lens to a $5,000 camera I know I need a tripod/head combo costing around $1,000 in order to get the full potential out of the camera/lens combo.
It is equally true of the tripod and head used in spotting game. The Outdoorsmans tripod comes in 3 extended lengths. I chose the medium one since I never stand to spot and wanted a light one that I could also use to get me close to the ground. I also removed a few inches from the center column to enable me to use it while prone. That works really slick. I set the Vortex binoculars on the tripod just off to my rifle’s left and I’m able to alternate between the rifle scope and the binocs without changing my position. For a solo long range hunter, that enables me to be spotting off a tripod up until just seconds before my shot.
On one of my western hunts last fall I shot an antelope doe at 625 yards with my 243AI rifle. I was within sight of dozens of antelope and I had snuck up on the top of a ridge and set up prone for the shot. After my shot I watched the doe run off a hundred yards and then topple over. Enjoying the early morning sun on the side of my face, I just lay there for about 30 minutes watching the rest of the antelope herd almost immediately get back to normal activity. I was watching this activity through my “spotting” binoculars without having given away my position -- and in perfect comfort. The higher powered binoculars also give one eye comfort that isn’t matched by squinting with one eye through a scope.
Another of my solo hunts was in Wyoming where I walked in 3 miles the first day loaded down with spotting scope and binoculars -- as well as the other stuff you need. Eventually I was set up on a beautiful ridge where I could see for miles. I had only a doe tag on this late season hunt but saw several small bucks that morning. My main mission was actually to scout for a possible return to hunt bucks next year. While there I used both the binoculars and my spotting scope. As I approached my car later that day I already knew that I would only take the Vortex Kaibab binoculars back for the next morning’s hunt. Around 10 AM the next day I took a doe mulie at just over 500 yards. As I carried the boned meat up over the ridges back to the car I was very glad I had no scope to carry! And the 15X56 binocs were all I needed to evaluate several larger bucks -- and to decide to come back next fall, buck tag in hand.
Len Backus is the owner of www.LongRangeHunting.com. He has been a long range hunter for over 10 years and is as likely to bag his game with a camera as with a rifle or a specialty handgun.