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LET OPTICS DO THE WALKING

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 09:15
John Barsness View Drop Down
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This is the 8th in a series of articles written for Opticstalk.com by John Barsness, www.riflesandrecipes.com, and staff writer for the on-line magazine Rifle Loony News.

 

            The greatest thing about binoculars and a spotting scope is how much walking they can save us while hunting—and how much game they can find that’s totally unaware of our presence. Not that I dislike hiking when hunting—I do a lot of it with my 4-legged hunting companion, a half-breed Labrador/English setter who likes to scare pheasants into the air—but when hunting big game I long ago learned that most country it’s far better to park my body somewhere and let the optics do the walking.

            A mule deer hunt made about a decade ago in Montana’s Missouri Breaks is a perfect example. I hiked in the pre-dawn darkness to near the edge of a big canyon, then went down on my hands and knees and drawled up behind the spiky leaves of a yucca plant on the edge of the canyon. It took a couple of minutes to get out my spotting scope and set it up on a small tripod next to the yucca, before finally loading the chamber of my 7x57 and rest it over my daypack, ready to go.

            The sun rose over my right shoulder, as planned from the direction of my approach. Any deer in the canyon would soon be illuminated by its orange light, and if they happened to glance toward my yucca-screened position they’d be looking into the sun. I started scanning the canyon methodically with fine German glass, especially the ridge-ends halfway down the far side, where a big buck would be likely to bed.

            The natural world had already started awakening. The calls of robins and magpies rose faintly from the juniper thickets, and soon the white rump patch of a mule deer appeared on one of the ridges below. The view through the spotting scope was a little dim, but backing off the magnification opened up the exit pupil enough to see that the deer was a forkhorn buck, up and feeding, safe from me this early November morning. But it was still a thrill just to see a mule deer, a sight I can’t enough of even after decades of hunting them. (As my wife puts it, rolling her eyes, “John goes nuts for muley butts.”)

            Gradually the light improved as the shadow-line of my bluff-top eased down into the canyon. Now I could occasionally see a magpie or even a robin flying among the junipers. A red-tailed hawk, soon to be on his way to the sunny Southwest, soared above the far side of the canyon on the early thermals. And then I spotted the big buck, bedded a third of the way up from the bottom of the canyon under a rounded juniper, at least 1000 yards away.

            As we lay there, on opposite sides of the canyon, I tried to judge his antlers. He wasn’t the biggest buck in the world but he was mature, his 4x4 antlers spreading out beyond the tips of his ears and rising almost as high as they were wide. It had been really warm for several days—too warm for early November, the day-time highs often nearing or even reaching 70 degrees—and the hunting had been tough. But I much prefer to hunt Montana mule deer bucks in the early part of the month, then elk later. The bigger bucks may be harder to find before the rut, but they taste a heck of a lot better than after they’ve been chasing does for a week or two.

            I lay there a while, trying to figure out how to get within sure range of the buck. There are two major problems involved when stalking a deer in the rough breaks around high-plains rivers: erratic winds and other deer. All I could do about other deer was watch for them, as with the forkhorn buck, but the best thing to do about the wind was wait a little. As the sun rose it would warm both sides of the canyon, and the morning thermals would rise gently into my face, just as they lifted the wings of the red-tail on the other side. The buck appeared to be quite content, so there wasn’t any hurry.

            And then I heard the faint, dull thunk of a pickup’s door being slammed and looked up. Sure enough, on the top of the bluffs across the canyon, ¾ of a mile away, somebody had driven right to the edge. I put the spotting scope on the pickup and saw that it was new and glittering in the sun, the newness the reason I hadn’t heard the engine. There appeared to be only one hunter, who’d slammed the door as he left the pickup and was now walking right down the top of an open ridge into the canyon, in full view of any deer that cared to look.

            I turned the spotting scope back to the buck. His view of the hunter was blocked by the juniper at his back, but he’d heard the slammed door and his head was now turned in that direction, big ears swiveling to hear another sound. I cursed under my breath, then decided there wasn’t time to make a stalk, so might as well see what the buck did and then make a play—if possible.

            The buck kept listening and the hunter kept on down the open ridge. Soon he raised his rifle

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 09:22
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That is a great read, Sir.  Thank you.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 09:44
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 13:19
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as usual JB another very useful write up. thanks!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 13:20
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Good advice.  I have done the same many times and it pays off more than it doesn't.  I was able to take this Muley by sitting and glassing.  I have no doubt (100% for sure) that I would not have been able to get this buck if it wasn't for spending hours and hours glassing. 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 13:21
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boy chris thats a dandy
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 13:27
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Great adventure, Chris... nice buck, too...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 14:38
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Originally posted by Chris Farris Chris Farris wrote:

Good advice.  I have done the same many times and it pays off more than it doesn't.  I was able to take this Muley by sitting and glassing.  I have no doubt (100% for sure) that I would not have been able to get this buck if it wasn't for spending hours and hours glassing. 
 


Same here. Thunbs Up



Nice buck Chris!! Excellent



Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 19:17
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Chris,
 
What state?
 
Nice buck!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 19:24
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John, if you click on "full story" below the picture, it tells the whole tale...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 19:45
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Great article!  Thanks again.

Just spent a week in the breaks doing that same thing (only bow for elk this time).  Sounds like you took one of my stories, only mine don't seem to end the same way.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 19:48
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Nice article, John!

Nice buck, Chris!  What year was he taken?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 20:00
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I appreciated the article, John. I have worried most about wind in planning my approaches but will keep in mind where the sun will be too. I've tried to limit my walking around just to be moving but do like to get to know an area. All the best aerial imagery and maps in the world still don't help you find all the best feeding/watering spots and trails. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 20:25
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Kickboxer,
 
Thanks! Dunno how I missed that. Maybe should have been glassing more carefully....
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 22:02
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Glad to be able to be of service...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/07/2009 at 12:32
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Originally posted by John Barsness John Barsness wrote:

Kickboxer,
 
Thanks! Dunno how I missed that. Maybe should have been glassing more carefully....


Funny.
That is a good article and was an enjoyable read. It went beyond using glass and showed the excitement of anticipating an animal.
I love sitting in natural cover and glassing for hours. It makes the day afield a busy experience that keeps me on my toes.
Also, off topic a bit, is that a Leupold on the rifle Chris used on his hunt?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/07/2009 at 13:17
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Good eye, Doug.
 
It was a Leupold 4.5-14 and also Leupold 10x42 Gold Ring binos.  Cool
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/07/2009 at 13:56
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Hey Igor, I mean CF II... Where are those boxes of Leupolds??....


Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/07/2009 at 14:29
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Great read John, and great buck Chris!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/07/2009 at 15:46
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Great read.  It is very had to sit still sometimes as most hunts are only allotted a certain amount of time and we feel compelled to be moving.  This article reminds us of what can be done by not doing something else and Chris, very nice buck, provided ample evidence of what hunting this way can produce.  Thanks for the article.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/07/2009 at 16:33
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Originally posted by Chris Farris Chris Farris wrote:

Good eye, Doug.
 
It was a Leupold 4.5-14 and also Leupold 10x42 Gold Ring binos.  Cool


Big Grin
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2009 at 20:00
John Barsness View Drop Down
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jonoMT,
 
Sorry I didn't reply to your post sooner.
 
Yes, the sun is quite important, especially when stalking or still-hunting. There's an old hunter's saying, "May the wind be in your face and the sun at your back." Game has a LOT harder time seeing you when looking into the sun, and a lot easier time when the sun is shining on you. Also the reverse: We can spot animals a lot easier with the sun glowing off them than when looking into the sun.
 
Especially when glassing into the sun. Even though today's optics are far better, glassing into the sun simply doesn't reveal as much detail.
 
Luckily, in a lot of up-and-down country the heat of the sun tends to draw winds on calm days. The up-and-down pattern of morning and evening thermals is pretty predictable on a sunny day. A lot of the time the prevailing winds are even pretty much straight UP, which helps a lot if you can get the sun behind you.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/10/2009 at 11:19
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Though I seem to have minimal influence over it, I greatly prefer overcast days, certainly in the timber. The very high contrast between sun and shadow on sunny days makes detecting critters in the shadows more difficult.
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