Better Glassing

By Jace Bauserman

hunter looking through a spotting scope

I thought I was a great glasser. I got my reality check on my first scouting trip for Rocky Mountain bighorn. The tag took me 19 years to draw, and I thought I was ready, but three days in, I'd yet to put my binoculars on a single sheep. Panic set in.

Luckily, a real glasser joined me on the morning of day four, and he took me to school. What I learned will help you on your next open-country hunt.

Sunshine On My Shoulder

When looking for animals, it's essential to glass from a position that puts the sun at your back. The sun illuminates the landscape in front of you and makes horns and hair shine.

In the mornings, start glassing as soon as the sun puts enough light on the landscape to confirm specific features. If you can't distinguish a dead tree branch from an antler, you need to wait a bit. As the sun rises, certain spots within your broader glassing area will have more light on them than others. Glass these first.

pronghorns through a spotting scope

If the day is overcast, don't panic. Animals are typically on their feet longer, and with no shadows to combat, finding game isn't super complicated. I love to glass on overcast days. Colors seem to pop, and I often find animals on the move instead of in their beds.

Scan, Grid & Rescan

When glassing big country, put a plan in place, or you will be quickly overwhelmed. The biggest problem that came to light sheep scouting: I was a scanner. I went over the landscape too promptly with a pair of 10-power binos. If I didn't see an animal, I would move on to the next section.

I started finding animals when I picked an area of the mountain to scan by using my 10-power binoculars, then went over that specific area with a pair of 15-power binos mounted to a tripod.

Develop a grid pattern. I like to start toward the top of the mountain or other dominant terrain feature and work left to right. When my glass reaches my furthest right landmark, I pick a landmark directly below that point, drop down so that object is still located at the top of my field of view, and work back across from left to right. I repeat this process until I cover my entire area.

I swap the 15-powers for a quality spotting scope to further analyze trophy potential and terrain features when an animal is located.

Don't Look For The Animal

One of the most important glassing tips is simply to not look for an entire animal. Rather, focus on something that seems out of place amongst the landscape. If you look for a whole animal, you glass too quickly and move over critters you never knew were there.

Know the anatomy of the animal you're glassing. Body colors are significant, as are horn and antler colors. It's also important to remember that a mule deer's coat in August will look much different than it does in November. Many game animals change color—some more than others—but know the colors you're looking for based on what the calendar reads.

hunter sitting outside next to a spotting scope

When glassing, if something looks out of place, it probably is. This is especially true when looking in shadows, timber, rocks, brush and the like. Focus on the object and look for movement: a side-to-side head shift or an ear or tail-flick. Don't move on from the object until you're 100 percent satisfied it's not a living creature. Always confirm a possible sighting with a spotting scope, and if you're with one or more glassers, have them confirm with their optics as well.

Landmarks & Lockdown

When you locate an animal, the first thing you need to do is lock your optics on it. Know your tripod settings inside and out, and be sure to lock on the object before you inadvertently bump the tripod. Next, grab your 10-power binos and start picking multiple landmarks that are easily distinguishable around the animal. Not only will this help you find the animal again if you do bump the tripod, but this allows you to give other glassers in the group landmarks so they can see the animal as well.

Finally, Take A Rest

As good as today's glass is, you'll go cross-eyed if you don't let your eyes rest. One of the best discoveries I made is that when I step away from the glass, drink some water, take a walk and have a snack, I return with strong eyes and a renewed sense of optimism.