Solid glassing tips when you can't use a tripod
I spend a great deal of time discussing the virtues of glassing with a tripod. There is no question in my mind that doing so means spotting more game with less eye fatigue or strain. Simply put, more time behind your optics with less movement means more game found. But what about when you are on the move and setting your tripod up is not warranted or efficient? Here are some ways to steady your optics without your tripod.
Trekking poles/monopod/walking stick or staff
Because these are already out and in your hands they can be very effective and steady. You can hold your binocular with poles placed firmly in the ground or on top of a boulder or log. If the pole is extendable you may be able to rest your binoculars right on top of the handle. Note: I have used all of these at one time or another. Make sure you are careful when taking your focus off of these poles, especially if they are aluminum. The possibility of hitting limbs, rocks or clanking them together is real. Be slow and methodical.
Sometimes it’s easier to use what is right in front of you or in this case... behind you. If you are in steep country, lean into the slope.
If the slope is not steep enough, sit down and lay back with your pack. Use a boulder or log. Lean into a tree trunk or low branch. The idea here is to get contact with something to control your head, hands and body from moving enough in order to steady your binoculars.
Fence posts make for a solid mount. Even barbed wire will help (but be careful). If you are around your truck, lean into it. I like to lean across the bedrail. I don’t like the front hood because if the truck was running the hood puts off heat waves. If the wind is blowing, get off the body of the truck and lean your back into the tires, doing this could be a great way to glass in the shade too.
Another option is to modify what you have in front of you. In the case of the photo above, you might have caught some movement with your eyes and you quickly grabbed your binoculars, so instead of taking off your spotter and mounting the binoculars to the tripod, just use the spotting scope to help steady the binoculars so you don't risk that animal getting away into brush or over a ridge.
Binocular harness or chest rig
When you take your binoculars out of the rig, hook your thumbs under the shoulder harness and slightly lift up. The resistance will help steady your binoculars effectively. If your binoculars are tethered to your harness, you can shorten the tethers enough so you can get just enough resistance to steady your binoculars. These work a little better with elastic.
Rifle sling or bow sling
With your rifle slung on your shoulder, grab your binoculars with your thumb under the sling just below the top of the shoulder. The weight of the rifle will definitely steady your optics. The rifle sling is my favorite way to control the movement. You can also do this with a bow sling. These are simple movements that are effective while not alerting game to your movement if you’re already close.
Using a rifle
There are a couple of ways to use your rifle to stabilize your binoculars. First, you can put the butt of your gun on a rock and hold your rifle and binoculars together much like the trekking poles. The second way to do this is to again support the butt of the gun on something. Next, grab the barrel pointed up with one hand and let the binocular objective tubes straddle the barrel and rest on your hand. Please make sure to practice muzzle control and gun safety. Second, you can try the PH carry. You’ve probably seen a Professional Hunter carry his rifle barrel down with butt of the gun skyward. With the hand that the rifle is on, place that same hand perpendicular to the barrel while holding the binoculars. The weight of the rifle teeters off the back of the shoulder, which puts upward pressure on the hand holding the binoculars. Practice safe muzzle control, try it and enjoy the rock-solid view of your quarry.
Using your bow
I have hung the bow off the back of my shoulder. The hand that holds my binoculars then goes between the string and limb. The weight of the bow hanging off the shoulder counterbalances the binoculars. Or another way is to rest your bow cam on something and then place your binoculars on the top cam.
Please take a look at the pictures in this article. You can practice these techniques at home in order to figure out which ones work best for you. Please practice good rifle and bow safety when trying these suggestions. If practiced correctly — and safely — I guarantee you’ll see more game and have less eye fatigue!
More glassing-related articles you might find helpful:
- A glassing stool — the piece of gear you might be missing
- How to make the most of your time behind your binoculars
- Rangefinding binoculars vs. regular rangefinders