Contributors to this thread:
Need Guidance On Spotter
For my upcoming Dall's sheep hunt (my other thread titled ("My Sheep Hunt Story"), I'd like to get your input. Here is my dilemma. I have 2 different spotter options. o Vortex Razor HD 27-60X85 – Heavy at 4.1 lbs!! o Vortex Razor HD 11-33X50 – Light at 1.6 lbs From speaking with others the 11-33 may be useless for a sheep hunt. My main interest is to get pics/digiscope and also be IN the experience w/o having to ask my guide to look through his every 5 minutes. I've asked this question on forums before and honestly can say that 60% say BRING a spotter, and 40% say LOSE the weight.
After a long deliberation, I AM BRINGING my own spotting scope. This may be my only rodeo, so I am getting pics if it kills me.
In summary - out of the 2, given the weight penalty what would you do?? NOTE- I can always leave at the base tent when/if I want to. Thanks, Geoff
I have the one in between those two. I haven't hunted sheep, but I've used it for some pretty long distance glassing and I'll tell you this - unless you're really close, that little spotter isn't going to do much for you.
I took my big 82MM Leica on my last Stone's hunt and never regretted having it. On my first Dall's hunt I didn't have a spotter and I still regret it.
For digital-scoping the picture quality will be much better with the larger scope and you'll be able to age and score rams much more easily.
Here's a photo of a black bear from 4 miles away through a Vortex HD 65mm with it maxed out. Photo with my phone. To give you an idea...
This bear was 4.5 miles away and was a mature bear. You could tell the difference at that distance between a mature and average bear, but I bet with sheep, you'd only be able to tell the difference between ewes and rams with the one I have. The little one? I doubt it. At 15X65 you couldn't even see those bears.
If I was paying NR prices to go hunt sheep I'd bring the best spotter I owned or could buy. I'd rather be as much a part of the process than just sitting and watching your guide spot. Additionally I wouldn't want to wait my turn to look at sheep, etc. Weight, to me, wouldn't be a concern as the additional weight would better the overall experience.
Best of luck!
If those were both my spotters I would sell them and buy a Swaro/Leica/Zeiss HD and be happy for the rest of my life. If you are borrowing one of them, take the big one. On my sheep hunt 15 years ago in the Yukon we could see rams at 6 miles thru my 65mm Zeiss. The guide had a Bushnell we left in camp. I still have my Zeiss and it has cost me less than $100/year and the only reason I would consider getting rid of it is if I won one of the Swarovski raffles...
Geoff, Just tried to text you three photos but they didn't go through. California Bighorns at one mile away on the mountain above the house. Swaro 20-60 x 65mmHD, with the photos at 20X, 40X and 60X. Will give you some idea what you get under poor light in January here, with an iPhone 5S. Send me your email and I will get the photos to you. Kurt
90% of your glassing is done behind your binoculars. And the majority of your actual spots are with your binoculars.
You need your scope 1) to confirm a suspected sheep. 2) to evaluate a Rams horns.
On a guided hunt it is not your job to evaluate horns.... it's your guides.
That leaves you with scoping to confirm what you are seeing with your binoculars. The majority of those confirmations can be done with a 30x eyepiece. Your guide can confirm anything you're not sure about.
You can do a lot of sheep hunting with good binoculars, and a 30x eyepiece.
My final thoughts are these...........if you're strong and mountain hardened , or , if you are hunting unguided I would carry the bigger scope. If you are not a seasoned mountain hunter/ or not a great spotter... then I would go with the lighter scope.... might even go with it anyway. You will be carrying your weapon , your binoculars , a tripod , and your scope. First and foremost your guide expects you to get up the mountain.........and you expect to contribute to your hunt. A good friend and I Bow hunted sheep for two weeks last season and we both carried big glass. But , on those days we had hard climbs we shared one scope. Good luck on your hunt !
Bill is absolutley spot on in his advice above. Only point I'd make is that you the hunter must ensure the legality of the sheep you are shooting. This isn't much of an issue for Geoff in the NWT with a ¾ curl minimum with no age restriction for Dall's. It is however a lot more challenging in BC on Stone's with a full curl minimum or 8 year-old minimum age requirement. The guide is there to assist but you are the shooter and ultimately have the responsibility to ensure he is legal.
If I went guided there is no way I would go without my own spotter. You'll be missing out on a lot of fun watching sheep without a scope. You also may spot rams that your guide may miss? It would also be fun evaluating rams side-by-side your guide. You may also want to bring a camcorder with 30x or larger zoom for taking videos. If you don't use a quality spotter you likely won't get that great of digiscope photos? I would try it out before your trip to make sure it's worth taking digiscope photos. You may get better photos from a camera such as a Canon SX60 with 65x lens which also takes HD video. One more thing to haul around!
Had the 11-33x50....returned it (junk...I believe made in China). It's not up to snuff with other Vortex products. Went to full size spotter with no regrets. I went with 65mm objective.
Vortex wouldn't even be considered for me on a hunt like this. Swaro/leica or ziess. You will only buy it once and will probably only dall sheep hunt once. You will get awesome photos and not miss out on the hunt.
There are several pictures of sheep and one of a black bear I took through my big Leica on a Stone sheep hunt in the thread accessed via the link. Most were taken at more than 500 yards. Being able to look back made carrying the scope and tripod worth it.
Maybe sell a few other odds and ends and get yourself one of the Big 3 spotters - Swarovski/Zeiss/Leica - you will never regret it. Make sure to get a top-end carbon fiber tripod and pan head to mount it to. My spotting scope and tripod is a must have for any hunt I go on.
Take the best that you can get your hands on.
Yes, the guide will have a spotting scope and binos, but this is your hunt! You want to be behind the best glass you can. You also want a top-notch tripod to mount it to in order to get the best glassing/photo platform you can have.
I took my Swarovski 65mm HD spotter on my Dall hunt. Also took my Manfrotto Carbon tripod. Would have dropped the extra bow, extra arrows or something else to make that fit in the gear. I really debated taking the 15x56 bino's and decided to leave them (more open country than tight glassing for Coues in brush). I did not miss the 15's on that hunt.
The spotting scope was definitely a big plus on the trip. Was able to find lots of critters from lots further away and tell what they were than my guide was with his Leupold. He deferred to me and/or confirmed through my scope.
Just went thru my pictures again. Lots of pictures with spotting scopes and glassing.
You can just go and let the guide take care of all the long-distance glassing, but then you are at a disadvantage of not being able to glass in a different direction or help in finding or judging animals. Plus, it would really suck if the guide dropped or broke his spotting scope out there. I would definitely want a top-notch backup just in case.
I hauled back a full Dall cape and horns, a really wide caribou and cape, plus a cooler full of meat from the sheep and caribou. It was one hell of a pain in the ass to get all that along with what I had brought, but seriously worth it! My family loved the meat! Was able to get my scope and tripod back along with all that extra stuff! I would definitely not have scrimped and left my scope at home.
A few years I took the plunge and picked up two spotters. I wanted a big spotter and a small spotter so that I could choose which was most useful depending on whether I was looking from the truck or hiking several miles with it. I bought a used Leica 77 and a new Vortex 50. They were a good balance between optical quality and weight. After taking both on several hunts I realized that I wasn't using the little Vortex (it's just not that good) and I was humping the 4-1/2 pound Leica everywhere because the clarity was simply incredible. Once you've looked through a Leica-Swaro-Zeiss you can't forget it. You can't unsee once you've seen.
Sold both and picked up a used Swaro 65 (3 pounds). It is my last spotter. If I had the money for a guided sheep hunt there is no doubt that the Swaro 65 would be coming along. Used Swaro 65's can be found on eBay for $1,400-$1,700.
If you plan to digiscope, get the HD if buying a used Swaro spotter. I also get a sharper view from an HD scope. This was with Swaro 65mm scopes and Leupold Gold Ring 60mm scopes. Some claim they can't see the difference though.
Go the used Swaro route for the best deals. I have a 65 and use it for photos all the time with my iPhone 6 and phone skope. Also as mentioned don't forget about the tripod. My tripod is set up to glass with my Swaro EL bino's and with the quick attachment to switch back and forth with the scope. I can find so much more with binos on a tripod, then put on the spotter for close up and pics.
Good stuff, guys. Appreciate this!
Here's a couple of shots taken with my phone through my Vortex 65mm spotter with no attachment, just me holding phone to scope. The mule deer were at a range of about 1.5 miles and the elk are around 5 miles.
No Mercy's Link
Last fall, one of the guys had a good camera and he would take pics of caribou (point restricted) and then enlarge on the screen until he could get a certain point count. You could certainly do the same on sheep with good glass and digiscoping. Sometimes you only get a few seconds at the right angle, but if you can "freeze" that shot, you can study it for as long as you need. I'll definitely have a Phone Skope this fall.
I will second the comments above about buy one quality scope in 65mm. Good used can be very affordable. I love my Nikon ED 50 and it's all I carry now. But when my partner puts his Zeiss 65mm on the same animal at long distances, the difference is there.
Vortex has a great warranty and we know that because we hear about people using it regularly. Cold comfort if you need that warranty on the first day of your big hunt.
I have the new Vortex Razor 27-60 X 80. I absolutely love it! I filmed my dads biggest mule deer kill last year using an iphone 6 and a phoneskope. I just got an iphone 7+ and the new Phoneskope and can't wait to get out with it to see how the better camera does.
With respect to warranty, I have not needed it with Swarovski.
I will say that they treated me very well when I sent in my 10's and 15's last year for some maintenance. My 10's have seen hard use over the last 10+ years and had some pretty serious wear. They came back in about a week looking and functioning like a new pair off the shelf. Can't remember if they even charged me for the work.
I had picked up the 15's about 7 years ago and they were pretty worn when I got them. The black coating was chipped around the front lenses and they had been used hard. I had a tripod blow over and scratched the front lenses pretty bad - still functioned and could still pick up Coues deer a long ways out, but would catch the sun sometimes and I could tell the optical quality was off a bit. They replaced all of the lenses, the rubber armoring, re-purged, sealed, and re-coated the black on the front tubes. They charged me like $300 for all that and the binoculars came back looking brand new! Awesome!
Have had no problems at all with my 65mm HD, but may consider sending it in just for a good cleaning. Not sure how much dust has gotten into it from dragging it to the ends of the earth and over lots of nasty dusty roads.
The elk are ruffly a mile out.
The elk are ruffly a mile out.
I didn't get a lot of pics last year with my 85 mm Vortex scope but here are a few.
Going from my old 65 mm Nikon to my 85 mm Vortex was night and day different.
I just recently bought 10 x 42 razor HD binoculars. I sat in cabelas for almost an hour comparing them to a pair of Swaros. In the store with the lighting that was available I couldn't tell a lot of difference. I am sure at low light there would be a difference.
The spotter set up glassing for mulies in Ne.
The spotter set up glassing for mulies in Ne.
I only have a vortex tripod. It has twist lock legs that I can't stand. The pan head is decent. If it had cam lock legs I would love it.
Big glass likes a good tripod.
As far as the scope itself goes. I really like it. To me it's worth the weight penalty when packing it around. I would like to see it up next to a swaro in a hunting situation to compare.
This doe was all of 2 miles out.
This doe was all of 2 miles out.
Geoff, if you are travelling thru Yellowknife on your way, I'll give you my sts 80 hd to take in with you......assuming that you'll be back by the end of August. Please pm me if you are interested.
I hunted dalls with the outfitter you are using 5-6 years ago. They said I didn't need a spotting scope since the guide would have one. When we got set up to glass he pulled out a small Bushnell with no tripod. Lesson learned. I'm hunting stones this year and will be taking my swaro 80. Worth the weight. I'll just spend a little extra time on the stair climber.
That is an awesome offer, Tundra Monkey!
How much would it cost you in the end if you bought a high end spotter used and then sold it again when you were done? Depending how much time you have to watch for one to come up for sale you could go from making money to losing $100-$200 and have what you want on the hunt of a lifetime.
Chief - Yes...I made a decision. Last night I stumbled on a used (near perfect condition) Swaro ATM 20-60x65mm. It is not the HD model, but I got a very fair price ($1300) with Swaro cover. I was a little hesitant since it is not an HD, and I want to digiscope, but I am going to roll with it. At 2 lbs. 10 oz. it will be a nice weight savings over the 4 lb. Vortex, which is something I really want. (I will sell the Vortex 11-33X50. The Vortex 85mm was lent from Vortex). If anyone thinks this was the wrong decision, please DON'T tell me, as I still have a hint of uncertainty! If you think it was the right move, then please DO tell me! :)
You made the right decision.
Now find a good Manfrotto carbon tripod with a good smooth ball or pan head and you are set!
You did right and you did good. The money will soon be forgotten, but the pleasure you get when using it will always be there.
Whenever "Swarovski" is part of your decision, it is not wrong. I've got pieces from Leica and Zeiss too...you have to watch what you are doing there, but Swaro is always top notch--you are going to be a happy sheep hunter!
Take your own spotter. Buy, beg, borrow, or steal one of the Big 3. Taking my Swaro 20-60x 65mm literally made the difference on my Yukon Fannin hunt in 2006. Guide had cheapo Leupold Wind River spotter. He would use his binocs and spotter, but then use mine to see longer distances. I finally just let him take over my spotter because his eyes and judging ability was obviously better than mine. He used it to evaluate 13 rams spotted from camp 4 miles away to determine 2 were good rams. I ended up taking the largest of the two. You could barely tell they were sheep through his 20x Leupold.
Take a good Manfrotto or Outdoorsman's tripod too.
I have only been on about 7 Dall sheep hunts myself and have guided a few more so I am far from being an expert. My opinion is if you are going to bring your own spotter bring a REALLY good one. With sheep it is critical to know before you start hiking if that little while dot is a legal ram or a 7/8 curl. You also need to be able to determine the age of the sheep by counting the little growth rings on their horns. Sometimes it is hard enough counting the rings when you have the horns in your hand let alone when you are a mile away. If you can't do that with your spotter than you might as well leave it at home and use the guides cause you will be wanting to look through his anyways. I have owned the $5-600 spotters and I have owned the $2-3000 spotters. There is a reason for the price difference. If it was my hunt I would verify the guide has a great spotter and then just use his. Spend your money on better binos and save some weight in your pack.
It used to be that Swaro, Nikon, Leica and Zeiss were the only options. Now with the Kowas, Meoptas and a couple others...its worth shopping around. The 2 guys I've talked to that have compared the Kowa side by side with swaro would take the Kowa. Point is, there are other good options now.
You will never regret spending money on Quality glass....on the other hand you will regret spending money on mediocre glass when you know something out there is better:)
All of these vortex digiscoping pictures are great advertising on why you should by a swarovski or leica.. The CA and lack of detail are horrible.
Swaro 65mm. Buy once...cry once