“Steady now.” I can still hear my dad’s whisper as I set my sights on one of the first deer I ever shot. Especially when rifle hunting, I still whisper the same thing to myself before a shot.
I’ve come to learn the importance of steadiness when viewing game animals through other optics as well. While routine glassing of deer often only requires holding binoculars up to my face, there are other times when maintaining a still position for an extended period-of-time is much more difficult; and vibration gets the better of me.
It happens if I’m particularly cold or when viewing a mature whitetail buck. Still to this day, a potential shooter buck stirs a little buck fever within me that spreads through, my brain, limbs, and digits. My thought bubble says, “snap out of it” but I can’t always do it. It can be a nightmare.
Shaking also detracts from image quality. Just like with any form of photography or videography, your digiscoping efforts can be sabotaged by it. Magnifying target images with the aid of your optics and smartphone is improved when you don’t rely solely on your hands for stability. How do you keep vibration from spoiling the moment? Luckily, there is a remedy.
It’s time to take your stand.
Not your hunting stand, rather a three-legged one. That’s right, a tripod. While you might not need it for every situation, a dependable tripod “saves me from myself” when antlered subjects enter my field of view. Believe me, there are many reasons to add one to your gear list.
Tripod Basics for Digiscope Scouting
If you know a hunter or hunting guide, they likely use a spotting scope regularly. They also depend on a tripod or some other sort of bracing equipment that holds the scope in a fixed position. However, binoculars can be a different situation altogether, as many hunters only use them freehand from a vehicle, stand, or afoot.
Then there are the smart ones that have decided to realize the benefits of steadying their binoculars and digiscoping apparatus. Suffice to say, stability matters.
There are many brands, characteristics, and price points for tripods made for cameras, spotting scopes, and yes, binoculars. If you care about the quality of your images and videos, there’s no real excuse for not adding a tripod to your binocular digiscoping set up.
With varying heights, there are tripods ideal for both sitting and standing, as well as shorter types ideal suited for tables or hunting blind ledges.
For tripods, the heavier, the steadier. However, if you’re mobile and spend a lot of time walking, the heavier weight can be detrimental. While there is a fine line based on hunting style, any tripod is exponentially better than free-stand glassing.
It’s not all about the stability though. It can be quite a strain to hold binos in place while studying animals, not only to the eyes, but muscles and joints. We’ve all experienced this and it always leads to the vibration that ultimately kills the viewing experience – and for digiscoping, image and video quality.
Complete with a pan head with a handle, tripods greatly reduce both the strain and involuntary movement common with freehand glassing.
A spotting scope requires either a rifle mount or a tripod. However, many binoculars come with a threaded .25” threaded insert that are accepted by many tripod mounts. Even better, there are flat tripod mounts (my favorite) that you can securely set your binoculars on top of.
Price Points and Features
As with a lot of hunting gear, you can spend as little or much as you care to. There are plenty of alternatives out there. As mentioned, perhaps the most common feature is a universal ¼”x20 thread that fits with many binoculars, spotting scopes, and adapters.
A durable aluminum tripod will cost from $40 to over $1,000. Adapter prices are all over the map too, with models ranging from $30 up to the hundreds. Note that many tripod manufacturers sell an adapter as well. I’m pretty much working from the budget end with a QI-EU 51” Extendable Tripod. For $20, it has a universal mount and works with smartphones, GoPros, and DSLR cameras. It also has a remote shutter. Combined with a Snapzoom Universal Binocular Mount ($25), I effectively use my binoculars and Phone Skope digiscoping kit. This combo is effective and easy to use for my many digiscoping trips afield.
A couple of other great tripod alternatives are the Canati PRO Carbon Fiber Tripod and the Vortex Optics Summit line of tripods. Vortex also offers a good binocular tripod adapter for about $20.
Best Set Ups for Binocular Digiscope Scouting
While this may be up for debate, my favorite set up includes a tripod that telescopes up to around 50”. This is perfect for my glassing sits from box blinds and native ground blinds (straight off the ground). Of course, taller tripods serve the same purpose but can be more cumbersome to carry. On the other hand, some prefer to work from the standing position which will require the taller set up.
If you plan on glassing and capturing wildlife for longer periods, you can’t beat a solid tripod and adapter that will steady your digiscoping system (optics, smartphone, and digiscoping adapter). By shifting the weight from your arms to a steady tripod, your digiscoping sits will be less of a strain and more enjoyable. You’ll not only more comfortably see important details, but you’ll reap images that will help you harvest the game animal you’re pursuing. Save the strain for the drag out.