Glassing in low density deer & elk areas.
Once you have your quality binoculars, spotting scope and tripod, many just assume they are going to find game. Although the statement, "you will find more game with your optics mounted to a tripod", is 100% true, you need a strategy and plan to be effective.
Many areas in the Southwest (where I hunt & guide) have extremely low density elk & deer populations, when compared to other states. Some areas in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico may only hold 1 mule deer per square mile. It varies and it can be a tremendous challenge to find them, even when using your optics "the right way."
So what's the first step in glassing in low density population areas?
If you are familiar with the area, because it's a place you have hunted for 5+ years, then you have a huge advantage. You actually have boots on the ground and you should have a historical perspective of where deer and elk prefer to be. This varies from season-to-season, but it can't be understated how important this experience is.
Now, if you are going into a new area, I always like to start with Google Earth. I will identify the type of country that looks hunt-able (aka glass-able) and then start writing down or imputing gps coordinates into my gps. I might next try to get a hold of the wildlife manager or anyone I can think of who may know a little about the unit/gmu, even if they are not a hunter. I want to feel like I have hunted the area before my hunt starts, I want to feel like a local who lives in the area.
Next, you have to go scout the unit/gmu. You need to get familiar with the terrain, access and topography. Google Earth and Topos are not enough. You need to look and find deer &/or elk sign. Tracks and scat DO NOT LIE!!! I can not stress this statement enough, all to often we get all of this amazing gear and then we forget the fundamentals of hunting. If you don't have proper fundamentals in a low density area, you will get your butt handed to you. You can have the best gear in the WORLD, but you still have to have game in the area, if you are going to glass them up. Once I have all of my information, I may put up a few trail-cameras to do inventory, but it depends upon the dynamics of the area.
Glassing from a tripod will help you find game you would NEVER otherwise see, but you need to start with the fundamentals in these low density areas.
- Get familar with the area.
- Find the sign (tracks, scat, scrapes & rubs).
- Make a plan (where to glass in the morning, mid day & evening).
After you have done all 3 of these, you can finally let your glass and gear do the work. Confidence and patience are 2 of the keys to becoming a more successful western hunter. You will be more confident and patient while glassing if you do your homework.