Back in the very early 1980s I met a young up-and-coming hunting guide who lived in southern Arizona, DuWane Adams (Arizona Big Game Hunting; 520-385-4995; www.azbiggamehunting.com). He grew up hunting the state’s giant mule deer and elk, but had become one of the first proponents of hunting the secretive Coues whitetail. I killed my first Coues buck with DuWane and was hooked for life.
But what DuWane also showed me on that and subsequent hunts was the advantages of glassing wide-open spaces using a binocular in the 15×60 range mounted on a sturdy tripod. Back then the cat’s meow for this type of glass was a large, heavy Zeiss porro prism glass in 15×60. I went right out and bought one, and the investment paid off in spades for me in terms of allowing me to find more animals, day in and day out. I still have those old binos (I’m looking to sell them, though, if anybody is interested, just sayin’), but these days I have upgraded to a Swarovski SLC 15×56 WB glass.Using a lightweight but high-quality tripod, this is the finest system for glassing for western big game I’ve ever used.
What an oversized binocular will do for you is let you see clearly and in great detail in very dim light, when many critters move the most, and let you see in detail at long range. Here’s how I describe it to people who have never used them. When sitting next to somebody using a standard 10×40 bino, with my 15×60, at last light just before legal shooting hours are over, when the other guy can see if a deer is a buck or a doe, I can tell if it’s a big buck, a small buck or a doe. Also, the big binos allow me to get comfortable and meticulously pick apart every bush, tree and shadow within a half-mile of where I am sitting as I try and find a bedded buck or bull. With smaller glasses you just can’t do that.
Why not use a spotting scope? Sometimes, a spotter is better. If you want to size up antlers at long distance, nothing beats a spotter turned up to 40X. However, at intermediate ranges of between 300 to 1,000 yards, the 15s let you spot things quicker, and it’s a lot smaller and lighter than most spotting scopes. Also, you can use both eyes, which helps alleviate fatigue on those days when you spend more time behind your glass than you do inside your sleeping bag. They’re not cheap, but under the right conditions big glasses are more than worth it.
There are others beside the Swarovski that are worth checking out. These include the Zeiss 15×56 Conquest HD, Vortex Kaibab HD 15×56, Nikon Monarch 5 16×56, Minox BL 15x56BR, Doctor Optic Nobelim 15×60, Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD and Meopta MeoStar B1 15×56.
The best of these big binos will set you back a lot of money — as in over two grand in some cases. A quality tripod that stays rock-steady in the wind and adjusts so you can glass standing up or sitting down, as well as a head for it, is another couple Franklins. However, nothing is better for the committed western hunter. It’s an investment that, amortized over the many years you’ll use them, makes a lot of sense for the serious hunter.
How many of you have tried this system? Have questions? Ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.