FIELD-JUDGING ANIMALS

In the Sights

You'll want to start by using your binoculars. Find some elevated terrain, which will give you a view of a vast expanse of real estate. Your binoculars are best suited for the first glimpse at game. You can keep both eyes open, resulting in less fatigue. You will have a wider field of view as well, and be able to pick off animals more efficiently than with a spotting scope. And don't be afraid to mount your binoculars on your tripod. The tripod eliminates the inevitable shaking you get from holding them so you can spot animals more effectively.

Once you find an animal, keep following it in the binoculars until you locate a prominent nearby landmark. If you take your eyes out of the binoculars, you run the risk of losing the animal.

I made this mistake numerous times before I learned this valuable lesson. It may just take that critter stepping behind a bush to seemingly disappear forever. If you have a good landmark, you can easily come back to the precise area and wait for him to reappear. A big rock, large tree or even an off-color log or patch of grass may work as a landmark.

spotting scopeOnce you pick out that landmark, set your spotting scope on the tripod. Using a detachable attachment plate on the bottom on your spotting scope helps speed this process along. Time is of the essence as the animal can quickly move away from the landmark. It also helps to keep all of your equipment readily accessible.

An often-forgotten element in a good glassing system is a quality tripod head. Fluid heads are best, but standard heads work fine if you keep them clean and well lubed. If the animal starts moving you will need to tilt or pan the tripod head to follow. A sticky or jerky tripod head will make it near impossible to follow the game smoothly. I once lost track of a trophy-sized mule deer in the Arizona desert due to a sticky tripod head. The deer was walking though a brushy wash as I was attempting to pan to the side to keep the scope on him. The head would not pan smoothly, it jerked and I lost sight of the animal just as he entered the wash. I never found him again. That big buck may have been memorialized on my wall if it weren't for that cheap tripod head.

Start with your spotting scope on the lowest power setting and find the landmark that you pinpointed earlier with your binoculars. The lowest magnification setting will give you the widest field of view and help you relocate your target quickly. Once found, then you can crank the magnification up, adjusting the focus accordingly. It usually helps if you drape a dark towel or T-shirt over your head to block out the surrounding light. This will also allow you to relax your offside eye a bit. You won't have to squint as hard and it will lead to less eye fatigue and more comfort when looking through the scope for long periods.