The Glassing Technique You Should Be Using, But Aren’t

» by Mark Boardman

Glassing with high-powered binoculars mounted on a tripod with a quality head is one of the most underutilized, yet most effective ways to tear apart the landscape in search of game. Using this technique, you’re going to see more, walk less and execute calculated stalks. Once you do it, you won’t look back.

The advantages

  1. Look Mom, no hands: Hand-holding high powered binoculars like our 15x56 and 20x56 Kaibab HD’s can be an exercise in futility. Natural movement and perceived hand shake not particularly bothersome with a lower power binocular becomes truly magnified. Lock the same bino down on a tripod and you’ll experience greatly enhanced, shake-free, fluid viewing.
  2. Two is better than one: Is it easier to see using both of your eyes, or just one? Exactly. Glassing at long distances with both eyes is more natural, comfortable and greatly reduces eye fatigue. This is not to say spotting scopes don’t have a place while utilizing this technique—they do. It’s just after you’ve found that buck, bull, or conspicuous detail requiring further evaluation.
  3. Slow down: Setting up shop with high-powered, tripod-mounted binoculars inherently causes you to slow down and systematically pick apart terrain piece by piece. Tines, legs, out of place horizontal lines and other conspicuous details lost by a cursory glance are revealed. Heck, even if an animal is standing in the wide open, it will be easier to spot.
  4. Spot movement by not moving: By taking your movement out of the glassing equation, you are much more likely to spot movement—including tail flicks, ear twitches and subtle head turns. While hunting Coues deer in Arizona, our outfitter found a buck when it licked its nose while bedded securely under a palo verde tree. We ended up killing it.
  5. Dude, relax: Tripod glassing alleviates muscle strain and is easier on your arms, back and neck. If you spot something requiring investigation, simply stop and watch it for a while – hands free, shake free and fatigue free. The detail that caught your eye may soon materialize into an entire animal.
Mark Boardman with trophy

Now that you realize you’re ready to take your glassing to the next level, it’s good to have a rough game plan of how to go about it. Below are five tripod glassing tips to get started.

  1. Hit high percentage spots first. When you begin glassing, start by hitting spots known to hold game and obvious looking areas. After that, work from the inside out in hopes of finding animals closer in proximity to your location that may be within shooting range, stalking range or inclined to spook due to your presence. Early and late in the day when game is likely on the move, it’s good to give the extreme edges of the country you’re glassing a priority look. You may just catch an animal you want to go after just as it goes over the hill or otherwise out of sight.
  2. Get on the grid: After you’ve visually hit the hot spots, it’s time to start gridding. I like to start in the lower left portion of my glassing field of view. Use your eyes to search the entire field of view within the binocular before panning to the right just enough to still slightly overlap what you were just looking at. Repeat the process scanning to the right until you run out of room. Then, bump your binoculars up, keeping what was formerly in top of your field of view in the bottom, and work back to your left. Keep it up until you finish out the location. If confident you’re in a good spot, you may want to complete the entire scenario several times...and don’t forget to check back in on those high percentage hot spots periodically.
  3. Don’t be afraid to glass into the sun: Glassing with the sun at your back is definitely effective and more pleasant, but glassing slightly into it may reveal game tucked away in the shade. At times, those shady spots might need to be your primary focus.
  4. Take cover: Bring a T-shirt or light towel to drape over your head and bino. This provides sun protection for your head and face, as well as acts as a sun shade for your binoculars.
  5. Change your outlook: Inevitably, you aren’t going to be able to see everything from a single location. Even minor changes in perspective may reveal country worth a hard look—and possibly the trophy of a lifetime.

The above information is a compilation of guidelines. Type of country, time of day, time of year, the game you’re after and personal experience will affect what will ultimately work best for you. The bottom line is using high-power tripod-mounted binoculars can be an invaluable tool in your hunting arsenal. Give it a try. The results you’ll see will be truly eye opening.

Mark Boardman with trophy
Mark Boardman

Mark Boardman

Born and raised in Washington State, Mark grew up in a family where hunting and fishing were a way of life. He cut his teeth chasing blacktailed deer and Roosevelt’s Elk. Soon, whitetail deer, mule deer, rocky mountain elk, bears, turkeys, waterfowl, upland birds and varmints became staples of his outdoor pursuits as well.

Professionally, Mark has found a home with Vortex Optics. Family owned and operated, Vortex prides itself on providing high-end optics and unmatched customer service to hunters and shooters.

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