Cruising through forums, meeting new people and, in general, talking about hunting, I have heard or been asked the question: How can I find game easier through my glass? Now, I will never claim to be an expert by any means, but being from the eastern half of the states originally, I can relate when people ask the question. Every year, many people from the flatter portions of the country make plans to go west for a hunt whether it's every year or once-in-a-lifetime, whicht means that they want to gain as much of an edge as possible and rightfully so. There's also those individuals in the western half of the states who may just be starting to hunt or haven’t had luck finding game who may benefit from a little help. Therefore, I'm going to share the techniques I personally have adopted since moving west because, so far, they have proven to do me well.
Starting with your binoculars gives you the opportunity to quickly assess the playing field. The first technique I learned from a friend who was taking a seat and using a trekking pole as a point of contact with the ground to stabilize my binos by resting them upon the handle of the pole. Another technique I've used is resting my binos on top of my spotting scope, moving both laterally at the same time.
Once you find something of interest in your binos, then you can move to the spotter, which should be close to where you were glassing with your binos. Be sure that when you transition from binos to spotter that your spotter is on a lower magnification in order to give you a better field of view and enable you to spot your target sooner.
Looking at a large hillside, canyon or draw can be alot to take in all at once. Therefore, breaking the land into sections or a grid will help in breaking it down. If with a friend or group, the area can be broken up into "sectors of glassing" and everyone can get a slice of the pie. Focusing on each section at a time for the obvious is what I do first. Once I've looked for the obvious signs of life through the whole area, or my sector, then I go back through them all again; this time, picking it apart for the finer details. Search in the shadows and dark timber for the commonly unseen like bedded animals, an ear or a tine. Even after combing the landscape thoroughly, I will go back and do it all over again. I have surprised myself more times than not (especially during bear hunts) by looking at an area what feels like 100 times to then all of a sudden see an animal in a spot I almost gave up on.
I like this technique if I am going to be spending days in an area. If I’m successful in finding the species I'm after, I will use my GPS to track and log the animals throughout the days. You can also use your preferred phone app that allows you to use icons. Marking when and where the bulls/bucks/rams/does/cows/ewes are at in the morning, mid-day and evening will start to paint a picture of what their current pattern is. This aids in finding game faster in your binos or spotter — i.e when you have logged your target buck every morning for two mornings near a certain rock out cropping. This means you can start your glassing in the morning where you typically see the buck instead trying to find him again every day. Also, use your GPS to view topography lines to notice where you are seeing game the most in relation to terrain features. This helps you look for these certain features when choosing locations to hunt in the future due to previous success finding animals with particular trends using terrain features like benches, bluffs, depressions and directional draws.
Part of being an aviator in the military is understanding your body to a certain degree. How does that translate to glassing? Well, in the aspect of glassing, it pertains greatly to eye fatigue. Ever noticed that when you have one eye closed for an extended period the vision in your open eye soon becomes less acute or blurry? That is your eye becoming fatigued due to prolonged use trying to carry the optical load that would typically be shared with both eyes open. Some remedies for this occurrence is learning how to use the spotting scope with both eyes open or alternating from eye to eye. This keeps you searching while still giving your eyes the respective amount of time to recover, which, in turn, lessens the chances of issues like headaches or dry eyes. You can also go full pirate and buy a cheap eye patch to keep your less dominant eye open yet not have it impede your vision while glassing. Or the easiest way to save your eyeballs for the long haul is to simply lean back and take a break for a couple minutes.
This was by far the hardest trait for myself to learn. I used to get so excited to find something right off the bat. When I didn't see anything after a few minutes I would just pack up and leave that spot to head to another glassing location. I can't even imagine how many animals I passed over or never saw due to being impatient. Take your time to really pick apart the land. Hunting for me removes stress so why add stress by rushing to find game? I have since learned from close friends to just calm down, take it all in and, after a sufficient amount of time has passed, then move on. Patience pays off when glassing, even in areas you don't think will produce anything.
I’m excited to share these tips with you. I knew nothing when I made the voyage west to Montana and was eager to learn. To this day, I continue to learn, ask and read new ways to be more efficient while in the field. Throw in some tactics in the comments that you use for being efficient behind the glass so we can all continue to learn!
Stay safe and hunt hard.