This article on Digiscoping for Whitetails was written by our friends at 1st Light Hunting Journal.
The How and Why to Digiscoping for Whitetails: The Basics
Whitetail deer hunters love their gear. There is a ton of it out there all aimed at increasing your odds of taking a quality buck. Products ranging from the basic to the revolutionary abound. The problem is many revolutionary offerings, while kind of cool, provide little real utility. From boots to rangefinders, bows to the most technical camo – it’s hard to distinguish between the needed and the frivolous. Whatever the case, whitetail hunters benefit from quality gear.
Ask your average deer hunter and they will tell you that solid, if not exceptional optics are a must. You can have the coolest rifle out there but if you pair it with a mediocre scope, you’ve taken steps backward. That’s why most deer hunters’ packs are filled with optics that make up a significant portion of their hunting budget.
Drawing distant objects in closer is paramount to success when pursuing whitetails. It’s not reserved for western hunters needing the ability to pull off long-distance stalks. For decades, deer hunters have depended on optics for scouting but there has been a resurgence for sure. And rightly so. For the smart ones, a great pair of binoculars is akin to a sharp knife or the very weapon they shoot.
Another utility-packed tool these days is the smartphone. No, not for passing tree stand time playing candy crush, rather for photography and even collecting deer data.
Today’s smartphones are teaming with functionality for the whitetail hunter. For example, they can be cellularly linked to trail cameras and offer navigation tools. However, it’s the cameras within that are amazing. I’m talking about the ability to produce extremely clear digital images with filtering capabilities that are off the charts.
The only thing lacking is the ability to bring deer and other wild game in close enough for useful photos and videos.
Enter Phone Skope
Paired with your binoculars or spotting scope, Phone Skope kits include a custom fitting case for your brand and model of smartphone, as well as an adapter to connect it to, you guessed it, your optic of choice (brand and model). The result is a sturdy, lightweight, and affordable tool. One that’s far from frivolous and heavy on usefulness.
No expensive and bulky camera equipment is required.
If you’re not already doing it, this season is a great time to add digiscoping to your whitetail hunting arsenal. Here are a few basic steps and tips that might just help you pattern and ultimately down a big mature whitetail buck.
Buy Your Kit
Your first step is to purchase your adaptor kit. While they’re available at Cabela’s and other big box stores, there is no better way to obtain one than online at PhoneSkope.com. Here, you can seamlessly pick your kit based on the brand and model of your device and optics. You can also ask questions and access a lot of practical how-to information.
When you receive your kit, it’s imperative to get your bearings. After attaching it to your phone and optics, practice on objects repeatedly. If you have to, start by capturing images in your yard or on your street. Even better, head to more rural spaces and get acclimated. Batches of subpar photos only get you closer to mastering the process.
Assume a steady position, zoom in on fixed objects, take lots of images, and learn.
Don’t Disregard Basic Whitetail Hunting Logic
When it’s time to hit your deer lease, club, or favorite public land grounds to digiscope, don’t forget to employ the basics. Account for wind conditions. As always, the whitetail’s nose is your foe. Whether hunting or scouting, exercise scent control. While you can’t totally account for where deer may come from, don’t throw caution to the wind.
Likewise, stay concealed. Stay tucked away in heavy cover (even take time to create a make-shift blind made from the native brush). Pop-up blinds are a great option too. Dress in camo (or at least dark colors).
Remember, you’re on an intel mission. Don’t blow it before you get started.
Advantageous Land Features
Whitetail hunters, especially bowhunters, love to seek out the hot areas where deer typically travel. Treat your digiscoping no differently. Seek sets that have a good view of funnels, food sources, and even known scrapes and rubs. One of the bests areas to capitalize on is the stretch between food sources and bedding areas. The idea is to locate and capture shooter bucks. Look for the areas they’re likely to roam. If you’re completely new to the area, concentrate on good concealment, line of sight, and scent control.
Yes, digiscoping draws deer and objects in close. However, it also heightens movement from an unsteady trigger finger or windy conditions. While you can take good photos with your kit freehand, consider using a brace such as a hunting blind opening or tree branch.
For best results, use a tripod (the heavier the better). Many tripods have a universal ¼-inch receiver that will accept a binocular adaptor. These units come at an array of price points. Even lightweight and inexpensive units go a long way toward minimizing vibration. While, they are typically easy to set up, practice it so it’s fast and easy in the field.
No one likes the picture of a majestic mainframe 10-pointer that looks like a blurred basket-rack. With digiscoping, the glare of the sun can be downright inhospitable. Don’t set up directly facing it. It’s not a good idea when you hunt and it’s even worse for digiscoping. If you do, images will be distorted. Great times to digiscope include the early hours of the morning and late afternoon. Overcast days are good as well.
When you’re digiscoping for whitetails, your optics and smartphone are trying to focus at the same time. To combat this, press and hold your finger on your subject on your screen. The screen will respond with “AE/AF Lock”. This will allow you to more easily focus on your target. In essence, this effectively disables the autofocus system, giving you good control over exposure and focus. One of the biggest advantages of using the AE/AF lock is when you wish to take multiple images of the same subject, as it doesn’t have to be set for each shot.
After the Shot
When you capture deer via digiscoping for whitetails with your Phone Skope kit, you have additional ways to enhance it. There is some filtering ability in the Phone Skope app, your iPhone or Android camera, and outside apps designed for photo enhancement. This will allow you to sharpen or remove the vignette-effect as well as adjust clarity, lighting, shadows, and color. The sky is the limit. I like to use the Phonto app in conjunction with my Phone Skope photos.
Remember to never stop practicing. Get comfortable digiscoping in various conditions. At the same time, seek the best circumstances possible. Also, remember that not every picture is going to be a piece of art. And it doesn’t have to be. Oftentimes, as whitetail hunters, the primary goal is to obtain new information about area deer herds. If you get an adequate image of a buck from a large distance, you’ve gained a lot.
All thanks to digiscoping for whitetails. On top of the hunting and scouting benefits, the sharing value is priceless. Hardcore whitetail hunters love images of bucks and sharing with friends and fellow hunters via texting or social media is fun and rewarding.