Many traditional whitetail hunters are minimalists. Aside from public land bowhunters, most will head to their stand with their weapon of choice, binoculars, and a headlamp. In some cases, they will tote a bag containing such items as calls, scents, and a barrage of other small accessories. The kicker is, most of them won’t be used and could have been left in the truck. For example, I’m sometimes guilty of wasting valuable pack space with a rattling bag with no intention of using it outside of the whitetail rut.
For me, most hunting outings are a scouting session at the same time. This means including (get ready to cringe) two sets of optics. That is, two sets on my person when in the field – while afoot. I suggest you consider doing the same. It’s going to be okay I promise. Hear me out.
You can’t kill a deer without first seeing one. I had to get that profound statement out there. While many deer hunters seemingly don’t use binoculars to their full potential (at least as much as our hunting friends out west), they can play a huge role in many settings. From woodlots to hillsides; ag fields to creek draws optics are indispensable. For me, they’re are non-negotiable. Regardless of weight or size, I can’t let any opportunity slip by without capturing animals – and memories through the lens of binoculars or spotting scopes.
There are a few reasons. First and foremost, I not only view whitetails through my optics, but record them. That is, I capture them via the process of digiscoping with my Phone Skope adapters and other accessories – and herein lies a significant component of my deer scouting routine.
The fact of the matter is, despite the added bulk, it’s easier to hunt and scout with a set of binoculars tethered to me and a separate one attached and ready to digiscope. The approach is similar to videoing your hunt, only easier.
So, what should you carry?
The answer to this question will differ depending the kind of hunt you’re on. For the average whitetail hunt or scouting mission, a couple pairs of binoculars are a sweet spot. Sure, you can include a spotting scope in the mix, but it’s typically not necessary. Take a good high-powered set of binoculars to the stand for attaching to your digiscoping set up. Anywhere from 10×42 to 15×56 is good. I currently take my Vortex Crossfire 12×50’s for digiscoping and a knock around pair of 10×42’s around my neck for general viewing. For still hunting spot-and-stalks, ten-magnification glass is ideal. They’re also well-suited for your initial surveys of ridges and woodlot edges.
Remember, there are always ways to adjust. For example, if you’re employing a more mobile style of hunting such as bow hunting from tree stands, you can digiscope free hand. If you find it too cumbersome, you can opt to leave your kit at the base of the tree until you make your next move.
Consider Your Hunting Grounds
From the hardwood forests of the Northeast to the vast plains of the west, to the long senderos of South Texas, take a little time to consider the combo of optics you’ll employ. Using two sets of optics will, at a minimum, pay dividends in spotting and capturing more animals; but the results only improve if you use the right optics for the setting.
For example, what about glassing and digiscoping bigger country such as mountains and sweeping basins? In this case, it’s a good idea to kick it up a notch by replacing your mounted binoculars with a spotting scope. Still, you can opt to keep your two-binocular system and save some weight and bulk. Either way, the higher the magnification, the easier it is to see movement – and with less eye strain.
What about when you’re in a position for closer shots in denser cover? While 10x42mm binos are the sweet spot for a combination of heavy brush and open country, an 8-power monocular or set of binoculars is best for close quarters. This is a setting common to whitetail bowhunters or photographers simply wanting to close the distance. If you’re digiscoping such close distances, 8 or 10-power magnification is key. Yes, digiscoping can be done at closer distances. It’s more challenging but that’s a positive in my book. In addition to the right optics and Phone Skope adapter, it’s extra-crucial to employ stealth hunting practices in this scenario. Seek good cover, manage your scent, and minimize noise and movement.
For me, the perfect optics combination for closeup viewing and digiscoping is an 8×25 or 8×32 set of binos or monocular and 10×42 optics. Go to great lengths to have your digiscoping gear assembled and on a lightweight tripod. Further, set up facing the area most likely to hold incoming game. It’s a more difficult proposition, but if you tend to details, a real rush may be in store for you!
Toting two sets of optics allows for more seamless viewing while having your Phone Skope kit ready for action. The blend of optics used for this approach isn’t important. Use what works best for you – or for that matter what you own or can afford. When the rubber meets the road, it’s all about readily spotting the game animals you’re chasing and then recording them.
So, it’s unanimous, the eyes have it. Establish a system whereby you employ two sets of optics in the field; one for initial glassing and another for recording your images with your digiscoping gear. If you have to, offset the additional weight by excluding other unnecessary items from your pack.