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HUNTING WITH BINOCULARS

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 09:49
John Barsness View Drop Down
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This is the third in a monthly series of articles written by John Barsness (www.riflesandrecipes.com)

 

            There are several ways that binoculars help big game hunters, but the biggest is in locating animals before they see us. Serious glassing means looking long and hard, often searching for parts of animals or hints of movement.

            Big game animals are alert for exactly the same things, because their lives depend on discovering danger in time to escape. Often their eyesight is better than ours, so adding magnification to our eyes barely puts us on the same level.

            Many hunters make the mistake of using their binocular only after they see something. By then it’s often too late. Instead the most effective way to glass is while remaining still, looking for the tell-tale signs of nearby game. Also, too many hunters think of glassing as only an open-country tactic, when one of the most effective ways to glass is while still-hunting in thicker cover.

            To many hunters still-hunting means walking slowly through the woods. Much of the time this is worse than walking fast through the woods. One of the things prey animals are always alert for is something moving half-slowly nearby. Often they’re less alarmed by somebody simply hiking along, as if hunting were the last things on their mind.

            Instead, real still-hunting involves long periods of standing still, mixed with moving so slowly that (hopefully) any nearby animals won’t notice us. This is hard to do, but binoculars can help make it more successful. When we’re standing still we should be glassing for any sign of nearby animals—but again, very slowly.

            One of the worst things we can do in thick woods is raise our binocular quickly when we start to glass. Quick upwards movements tend to alarm to prey animals, because they’re a sign of alarm: squirrels climbing a tree, birds flying up into a branch, other deer lifting their heads. So raise your binocular very slowly, and after thoroughly glassing in one direction turn your head slowly to glass another.

            Usually in thicker cover we see part of an animal first, and often when it’s moving. Deer tend to move their heads and ears more than any other part of their body, even when bedded down, and when feeding they raise their heads often to look around. Also, both mule and white-tailed deer have pale markings on their heads and necks. These will often stand out, especially during the dim hours when deer move most often.    Sometimes we’ll see antlers or horns before seeing the rest of the animal. I’ve spotted weird branches in the woods that turned into deer or elk antlers before any other part of the animal became visible. (At other times, of course, they remain weird branches.)

            The same thing has happened in Africa. I’ve spotted the peculiar corkscrew shape of kudu horns uncountable times, long before the rest of the kudu became visible. Kudu are masters at standing still, using gray thornbrush to mask their gray-brown, subtly striped bodies. Kudu also have pale facial markings, but they seem even more aware of them than deer do, often standing so that a branch masks their face, all the while searching with their acute eyes and listening with their huge ears.

            Binoculars also help even when grunting and rattling for whitetails. I hate treestands, and much prefer just sitting somewhere in the woods, where if I get bored I can still-hunt for a while before sitting down again. (Probably this is a result of growing up in the West, where there’s so much public land to roam.) After grunting or rattling I just sit there with my rifle across my lap and my binocular in my hands, looking hard through the woods—and I do mean “through.”

            One of the great things about binoculars is that their shallow depth of field can “fuzz out” the layers of branches and leaves that often obscure an animal’s form. Once while guiding for deer on the Missouri River bottomlands, after a rattling sequence I sat glassing beside my hunter, who never lifted his binoculars. I saw four different bucks come in, all just beyond the low brush and trees all around us. They eased in and then stood there, looking things over carefully, then faded away when they didn’t see the “deer” that were making the noise. None of the bucks were what we were looking for, so I didn’t make any sign that they were nearby. My hunter was astonished when I later asked him about the four bucks, because he hadn’t seen any of them.

            Many hunters assume that small, low-powered binoculars are best for thick-cover hunting, but I tend to prefer at an 8x30 or 8x32, and sometimes even carry a 10x with at least 40mm objectives. These are far brighter than any compact binoculars, and the higher power helps fuzz out branches—and judge antlers.

            Small, relatively low-power binoculars are ac

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 13:25
Roy Finn View Drop Down
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Good info as usual John. I do have a question on actual glassing techniques. When glassing, do you prefer to glass near to far or do you start farther out and work your way in close. Also, do you have a technique for viewing terrain with the binocular such as dividing the terrain into blocks and cover the terrain systematically? Thanks for your help.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 14:08
John Barsness View Drop Down
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I start out near and work further out. Actually, I start out looking with my bare eyes nearby. I have seen a lot of people get to the top of the ridge and start glassing the next ridge, when a deer or elk was right below them wondering about that guy on the ridgetop.

In long-range glassing the landscape can usually be broken into drainages. I start there, looking along the edge of the trees and brush that tend to grow in the bottoms of the drainages. Or, if there's a lot of cover, I start with little clearings--but always with the closest ones!
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 16:07
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Good article John, I've come to accept the advantages of having a decent Bino,  in the past I though I could get by the with the "k-Mart" binos, but I was seriously wrong.  Nothing like a good pair of binos.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 17:20
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Good article, John!  I too have found that a good binocular is useful not just in open terrain, but in very thick foliage, precisely for the reasons you state.  They allow you to look "through" the foliage and, as you called it, "fuzz out" the foliage in the foreground.  Folks who haven't tried this have difficulty understanding how they can be helpful in thick woods environments.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 17:57
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  +10 on the article! To me it's the most important piece of hunting equipment. Been using my Nikon Travelite V 8x25 for many years.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 19:51
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Good article.  I don't carry a binocular a lot, but when I do, I use the "slide and flex bino system" strap.  I find it keeps the binocular close to my body while moving, preventing it from bouncing around.  If I know the area I am hunting pretty well, I don't use a binocular, but if I am hunting a new area, I generally do.  In the "wide open spaces", I am about 50/50.  Not my favorite tool, but one that often comes in handy.  Thank you for an excellent discussion of the utility and things to avoid.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 22:04
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Twice in the past 3 years, I've seen deer in thick bush, in the last minutes of shooting time, just poking their noses out to sniff a trail. Both times the distance was just over 70yds and once it was light rain so it was fairly dark, especially in the bush. Also both times I was using an old Zeiss 7x42 Dialyt, pre Phase coating. Even without phase coating these binos are very bright at night and give a very sharp image. I may pick up a used Zeiss 10x40T-FL after I compare and see if they perform enough over the Dialyts to be worth the price (4 times what I paid for the Dialyt.) I find the hunt more enjoyable using binos and never go without them. There's so much to see, even if it's not a deer.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 22:04
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Interesting, John.  I learned a long time ago that if I did something besides just "walk" to my stands I spooked a lot less deer.  Now I may trot, drag one leg, or do anything that doesn't sound like a man walking.  It makes a big difference.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: April/01/2009 at 22:12
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Another technique is to pick up a dead branch maybe 6 feet long and drag it behind you when you walk. Or if you carry long shooting sticks, use them to do the same thing--anything to break up that tell-tale human rhythm.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/21/2009 at 14:56
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Good info, thanks for sharing.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/22/2009 at 12:03
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Hello John,
 
I am interested in your binoculars could you email me at acenlil@mcn.org
 
Thanks 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/22/2009 at 15:04
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John, I am a firm believer that once a hunter is equipped with a good pair of bino's they should stop their quest for the ultimate glass and start developing good glassing techniques. So many hunters seem to feel that buying a pair of the super alpha bino's somehow negates glassing techniques due to the superior optical advantages provided by these alpha glasses. I firmly believe that a hunter who has developed good techniques will allow them to have an advantage over hunters equipped with the latest and greatest equipment with superior optics. I'm sure in all your experience in the field you have seen this many times over. Nothing wrong with a hunter who has the coin to buy the very best out there so long as he or she knows how to use them effectively.

Roy

Edited by Roy Finn - May/22/2009 at 15:09
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/27/2009 at 09:53
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Excellent stuff in this thread.  Roy, I agree 100% with your last post.  Patience is the key for me when glassing, and believe me I've had to make myself stay put and glass much like JB mentioned.....break it down into manageable, smaller "squares", one at a time.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/27/2009 at 10:10
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/27/2009 at 13:25
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/27/2009 at 18:41
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Yep, I would rather hunt with iron sights--or a bow--and a good  binocular than hunt with the best riflescope in the world and no binocular. In fact I feel kinda under-dressed in the woods without a binocular.

Yesterday afternoon Eileen and I went black bear hunting, which in Montana is a glassing game, since we can't bait or use dogs. Per usual, we tested several binoculars, and had a heck of a good time even though we never saw a bear. We had excellent bird-watching and saw bighorn sheep and a BIG bunch of elk. Wouldn't have had near as much fun without the binoculars--and we never looked through a scope.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/27/2009 at 18:54
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/28/2009 at 21:24
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http://www.ivfilms.net/resources/Binoculars_Tut/Binoculars.html
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/30/2009 at 00:00
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When I was poorer I owned a pair of Zenith 8x30. At the time they felt like a good alternative and they definitely helped to enjoy nature and birdwatching. When they broke down and I started looking for a new pair I had gotten to the point where I had a hard time being easily content, but the wallet was still empty. After a long period of strugles, I finaly got to own binoculars as Nikon Premier, Swarovski EL, Zeiss Victory FL, Bushnell Elite and finally wound up keeping a Leica Ultravid HD 8x42, a Swarovski Habicht 8x20 and several Hensoldt 8x30 which I have spread all over (kitchen window, in the car etc), so I would allways be close to a bino regardless of where I am.
 
I have become totally and utterly dependent on binoculars and I can barely emphasize the importance. I recomend several pairs and mags, not the least a good 8x20. Those are awesome to always have around regardless of where you are or what you do.  Swarovski 8x20, Leica 8x20 are the ones I experienced as best but Victory FL would do just fine as well.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/18/2009 at 12:58
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Bino's are well worth the $$ spent for a good pair.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/19/2009 at 09:30
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One nice thing about the current market is that less has to be spent to get good binoculars!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/19/2009 at 12:51
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hopefully, this will translate into an increase of hunting population for the next decade.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/19/2009 at 17:37
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It certainly might help--and it certainly would help the people who start hunting both be more successful AND enjoy being outside more.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/14/2009 at 16:05
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Originally posted by John Barsness John Barsness wrote:

To many hunters still-hunting means walking slowly through the woods. Much of the time this is worse than walking fast through the woods. One of the things prey animals are always alert for is something moving half-slowly nearby. Often they’re less alarmed by somebody simply hiking along, as if hunting were the last things on their mind.


That's good advice that I've sometimes ignored...and I only have had walking slowly through the woods pay off once with elk. Usually, especially with snow, I'd become aware that the animal I was tracking was aware of me and staying safely ahead.

A friend of mine, for a while, rented a place next to a sizeable ranch and always noticed how the elk ignored the ranch trucks dropping bales for the cattle. So on opening day, he and a buddy "just did a little ranching" and got right up within a hundred yards. Not my style, but when your main goal is simply putting some healthy meat on the table, why not?
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