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How to Really Use Your Binoculars

Toby Walrath

Know how to really use your binoculars may not seem like a very difficult thing to do but the fact is most hunters don't.

I was sneaking along a dense canyon bottom filled with Douglas fir sprouting up and shielding bedded elk from my view. I stepped slowly and silently once every minute.

I could only see about 30 yards in front of me through tangled blow downs, brush and evergreens. I held binoculars in my hands and between each slow step I glassed into the thick forested hillside and rolled my finger across the center focusing wheel to adjust my vision as I turned my head picking apart every detail. Then I saw what I thought might be a piece of a bull elk.

I waited, looked again and waited. Soon I realized that the yellowish object less than 40 yards away was the rump of a bull. I took my boots off and slipped in close. There were two bulls bedded in there and when my .338 cracked I made sure one of them went home with me.

See the light

Having good optics is often important for hunting success. Knowing how to get the most from your binoculars can be the difference between hunting success and failure. The first thing you should do is learn the arts of your binoculars and how to adjust the eye relief and truly focus the optics to your advantage.

Binocular parts

Not everyone has identical vision in both eyes so if your binoculars have the ability to adjust each lens individually, use the feature, it will be a real "eye opener."

Second, sun shield cups or side light screens are great features that cut down on glare from the sun when it's at your side. If you don't have side light screens, use your hands or a piece of cloth like your extra shirt to cover your head while you're glassing. This will eliminate the glare and allow you to focus in on that big buck bedded on the hillside.

Whether you are glassing in thick timber or taking on the challenge of picking apart an open mountain side, take your time. Start at the top and move left to right very slowly. It may take thirty minutes or three hours to glass an area effectively and there is no point glassing an area half heartedly only to bust game a short time later.

The minutes you spend glassing now will result in hours of good stalking later. Spend your time effectively. Glassing can be tedious and downright boring at times, but you have to choose what you would rather do; walk around all day or get a good vantage point and put the sneak on animals that you have pinpointed.

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When you find a bedded animal, look for other animals near it, because often when you find one animal there are more nearby. It's important to know where they all are so you can begin planning your route to get within shooting range.

Tire them out

Use your binoculars all day. I have a friend who carries great optics but when hunting with him recently I asked him several times if he wanted to stop and glass the timbered hillsides for elk. He said he never glassed. I asked him why he carried his binoculars and he said; "I might need them."

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Carrying binoculars around your neck is not an effective practice unless you actually use them.

When using binoculars, make sure you get comfortable. Sit down and put your back against a rock or tree and your elbows up on your pack or your knees. Settle in and relax. Make sure you take breaks every few minutes to avoid eye strain.

Get the most from your binoculars by going over each area at least twice. When glassing on open sage flats, it is common to glass an area for an hour and then be suddenly surprised.

The bottom line is to carry good optics and have them ready. Regardless of the type of terrain you are hunting in knowing how to get the most from your binoculars will improve your chances for locating animals.

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How to Really Use Your Binoculars