The best system for big game glass

“Spotting scope” is kind of a misnomer. Yes, you can spot creatures with one, but that’s not the best use for your tall glass. The right way to aim for big game in open country is to do your first scouting with binoculars, then take out the spotting scope for closer examination. I know this from hard experience. When I was young and green, I used to scan distant hillsides with my spotter, thinking that all the extra magnification would help me pull in the woods, sides, and rumps of distant meadows and woodland edges. . Instead, the heat waves distorted my vision, the field of vision was too narrow and I had to stop regularly because I had a headache.

These days I start my glass with 12x binoculars. But I also added a piece of equipment that made a huge difference: a binocular tripod adapter. You might not think at first that strapping your bino to a tripod would be so much better than just resting it on it, but it is, and you’ll spot more critters than you otherwise would.

What makes this system better

A binocular is the best optic for finding animals because the dual eyepiece design doubles your field of view. And the lower power, compared to a spotter, is an asset and not a defect. As long as you buy a quality class and get yours in 12x or 15x, you’ll have the perfect combination of power and a larger viewing area, and the ability to glass for hours without having to reach the ibuprofen.

When you mount your bino on a high-end bino adapter and attach that adapter to a tripod, you get the same level of stability as when you slap a spotter on a tripod. Shake is eliminated and you can pan and sweep in a smooth grid pattern on the terrain. Compared to using a spotter, it allows you to see more countries, see it faster and more thoroughly, and I promise you’ll find more game.

photo of binoculars on tripod
The author attaches a 12X binocular to a tripod using a rod-type adapter. Jace Bauserman

I used this glazing system on a recent bighorn sheep hunt, and it was super effective. For 19 days I not only spotted lots of rams, but also put my 12X binoculars on loads of mule deer and elk. When I located a group of rams or another animal I wanted to take a closer look at, I swapped my bino for my spotter, then was able to zoom in and assess the headgear. There were also several times when the binoculars locked onto a log, twig, branch, white plastic bag, etc. Often these things look like an animal, but when the observer steps outside it is easy to see that they are not. This is the purpose of a spotting scope – clarification and confirmation.

photo of a hunter looking at game
After spotting a group of bighorn sheep with his binoculars, the author switches to a spotter to see better. Jace Bauserman

A quick tip worth mentioning here is that you need to pay close attention to detail when locating game, or what you think is game, with your binoculars before moving on to your spotter. Too many times over the years I got excited, rushed the process, didn’t get my bearings around what I was looking at through my binoculars, then couldn’t find it when I’m passed to my observer.

Two years ago, when I was looking for bull elk, I was sure what I was looking at with my binoculars was nothing more than a fallen tree branch behind some brush. By the time I switched to my observer, the light had changed, and since I hadn’t taken any landmarks, I couldn’t move what I was looking at. Luckily my buddy kept his pan head locked so his tripod head didn’t move during the swap. What I thought was a branch turned out to be a 330 inch elk lying against a giant ponderosa pine.

The perfect setup for glass play

When I’m packing mule deer, sheep, or upland elk, the bino around my neck is a 12X model, and that’s what I strap to my tripod. My spotter is the Leupold SX-5 Santiam HD 27-55×80. I use a Leupold Alpine CF-425 tripod, and Leupold’s Quick Rod Binocular Tripod Adapter is in my bag. If I’m near the truck, I prefer Leupold’s Binocular Field Clamp Adapter. Both adapters work with almost any binocular, although the Field Clamp version is more versatile. (There are also many good adapters offered by other manufacturers that are worth looking into.) The Field Clamp is also a little heavier than the Stem, so I prefer the latter for hunts off the beaten path.

photo of binoculars on tripod
The author’s binoculars attached to a tripod with the Leupold Field Clamp adapter. Jace Bauserman

When I get to my glassware area, I take a quick scan with my 12x binoculars – in case there are any easy catches – then set up my tripod and attach the binos via the adapter. When using a rod type adapter, you need to remove the small set screw with the logo in the bridge of the binoculars and screw in the binocular adapter screw. The process is simple and takes seconds. If you opt for a clamp-style binocular adapter, you simply open the jaws and then close them around one of the binocular barrels.

binocular forceps

Once your binos are secure, adjust the tripod settings before you start scanning. Make sure you can swing your head left, right, up, and down smoothly, but with some tension so things don’t get sloppy. Take your time and scan carefully. If you find a creature you want to examine more closely, leave your tripod pan head locked, then remove the bino adapter and replace it with your spotting scope mount. It’s so easy.

Don’t forget the part about locking the pan head, like I did with this big bull. Above all, don’t roll back the larger process by starting with your spotter. Glass sessions must begin with binoculars, and the spotter only comes out for clarification before starting your rod.

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