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What binos/spotting scope?
OK. I dont own a spotting scope. I do have Nikon 10x42 binos.
This fall I will be glassing for elk 3-4 miles away, and making a game plan to go after them.
What else will I need for glass? [I have a tripod so thats not part of this topic]
Binos, spotter, steady and stable tripod with nice pan head.
3-4 miles is a long ways, you may not be able to judge them but you can definitely find them. I'd probably want a 60-85 spotter assuming weight isn't a concern. Light gathering will be a big issue early and late at the higher end magnification. If the sun is out you will have problems with mirage at that range for sure if you don't locate them early/late before it heats up.
Are you trying to decide which ones are bulls or are you trying to decide if they’re 280” or 320”? I had a 65mm vortex razor and at that distance I could see horn but not much else. I sold it. For elk hunting otc elk it was not worth carrying around.
IMO... get the best spotter you can afford.. Vortex Viper or Razor are good options... also the bigger the objective the better too.. for years I would go with a cheaper option and 60mm or 65mm and just wasn't happy.. I sold and bought a Vortex Razor 85mm and love it... and if you don't plan on packing it up the mountain, which I don't it's so much better glassing with the bigger objective lens
Ever look through a Vortex spotter at 4 miles? Factor in heat waves, wind, time of day, shadows, light/dark/dusk, etc... It wouldn't be on my list of finalists if that was the intended use. 4 miles is a long ways, but I have success in looking for game at that distance several times each year. They are white though and usually are not hard to pick out. I'd look into the top 3 and go from there, but you'll pay for it...
4 miles is a long ways. Heat waves will be terrible after the sun is up. I like 15 power optics for finding game and a high end spotter for trophy quality is your best bet!!
This is probably a dumb question but I'm not a spotter guy so really don't know... In response to Nick's comment above do the big 3 handle heat waves better than something like say Vortex? The few times I have used a cheap spotter heat waves made them all but worthless at any distance for much of the day.
Outdoorsman medium Tripod, Brunton epoch 10.5x42 with stud and bino mount for tripod, outdoorsmans pistol grip head, and vortex razor 85mm spotter for me. Has worked great for me. I lug the big glass and it saves me miles on the boots. Glasses rams at 2 miles last year and could count big growth rings in moderate temps
Heat waves will show up in any glass, there's no getting around that, but the quality of the Vortex vs one of the big three certainly is noticeable to me at any range and even more so at long ranges.
If you aren’t worried about grading trophies you could probably not even take a spotter.
A pan head is much better then a pistol grip for glassing with binos or using a spotting scope. Smoother by far!
Just in case it’s what you deciding these...
Swarovski or Leica with a Jim White Pan head.....done!
Bou’bound has the best solution. Buy boots, get closer, a lot closer.
Can’t get closer without losing the glassing opportunity.
The strategy is to watch the elk, wait until thermals switch and then come in on them from above.
^^^ That’s when the boots start working
Hunt smarter not harder
Brad this is a photo through my Vortex Razor 16-48X65 (maxed out at 48) of a black bear at 4 miles away, confirmed by topo map and distance tool. I don't think you'd be able to tell the difference between a 280 and a 320 with it at that distance.
Same spotter. Dall rams at 2 miles, but I was freehanding the phone and it was windy and some light rain. I can't imagine counting annuli at this range or even 1 mile with this spotter.
That’s impressive sheep skills^^^
If you're honestly looking out 4 miles, I think 10s are past their prime at that range. A lot of people will disagree with me on that and I don't have Swaros. I think part of it is personal preference. I think at 3+ miles I prefer the spotter for finding animals. 10s shine under 3 miles, but over that, I prefer the spotter on 16, even 24 for locating animals at 4 miles. I glassed up what I thought was a dall sheep at 5 miles with that same spotter that I had to watch for hours to determine if it was an ewe or a rock and it turned out to be a rock.
I use 10s and think they work well for what your doing.....I also pack a 80mm swaro spotter just about everywhere i go.
I think the key to having your 10s work well is using the sun to your advantage in the morning.....as in have it at your back while glassing if you can...helps big time.
I hunt a lot using the method your talking about.....works well ;)
Here’s your actual target species at about 1.75-2 miles with a vortex viper 65mm spotter. It was about 0 degrees so no heat waves. Gives you an idea. You can pick out the bulls and get an idea and that’s about it. A 60x-85mm Swaro is a giant upgrade over this obviously.
I should add that my first pic is taken without I phone camera zoom and the sheep pic was taken with zoom.
15 power Binos phone scope 1.25 miles no zoom on phone.
3-4 miles with a Swaro spotter isn't going to be easy. With a steady tripod and minimal heat waves I feel that I can judge elk up to 3 miles. When I say "judge" I mean I can tell if it's a 5x5 or a 6x6, and probably if its a really big one. But I can't see if a tine is broken off halfway up. Over 3 miles it's going to be kind of a guess, but you can definitely see bulls and cows. You could certainly observe their behavior/demeanor and that would help to plan your approach.
What will you be looking to do? Just find elk? Find bulls? Judge bulls within 20-30"? Just identify a bull's frame?That unit has a ton of elk up high all summer and into the season so you'll have plenty opportunity to look.
Bull in your unit at 1 mile
Bull in your unit at 1 mile
I lived in that unit you should draw for a lot of years.
There are a lot of vantage points that you can access to cut the distance down and get a solid look at the elk to judge them and figure out what you are after.
However, there are a lot of areas that you can glass many miles away above treeline.
I have owned a lot of different glass over the years and settled on Swarovski 10’s, 15’s, and the 65mm HD spotter with a back up Leupold spotter. But my focus has typically been finding bedded mule deer and sheep up there at very long range. Elk are not as hard to see or figure out what class of bull you are looking at.
I know you said you have a tripod but I have owned a lot of different tripods over the years (some highly rated, high priced ones) and, hands down, nothing comes close to my Manfroto carbon with a pan head. After over 20 years of glassing off tripods for sheep, mule deer and Coues deer, I was blown away by how much more comfortably I could glass and how much more I could see. Even with my 10’s on there!
You do not need 15’s for what you are doing. They will get in the way.
You also don’t need to drop the big bucks on a top notch spotting scope, but you will not regret doing so if you do. I am not a big fan of Vortex optically. They really fall off in lower light and the upper magnification is fuzzy.
I do like the Leupold 12-40 that’ll run you about $1,000 new or $600-800 on eBay. You can get a new 65mm Swarovski HD for $1,700 and the $700 difference is worth the money for more technical glassing. A buddy of mine has a Nikon spotter that is really surprising for what he spent. I want to say that scope is around $500 or less. That may fit your budget and be great for you for many years.
There are a lot to choose from. Read reviews and look at warranty and support as well.
+1 for what Treeline said about Vortex. I'm a long time Vortex user and his comments on the Vortex spotters are dead on. They are good for the money since you can get them pretty reasonably but the optical quality is not there.
"What will you be looking to do? Just find elk? Find bulls? Judge bulls within 20-30"? Just identify a bull's frame?"
I use a pair of Swarovski 15 power binoculars. Granted, I can’t see the exact length of the “g2” or extremely specific parts of a moose, elk or deer antler. Most guys don’t have to know that although many “like knowing they could if they wanted to...et cetera”. However, I can see if those animals and antelope are worth going after with the binoculars at 3 miles. My point: if YOU really need to know the length of an antler at 3 miles you need a spotting scope. Mirage will likely make it impossible. At 4 miles it will likely make much of your desires for glass unattainable. Cabela’s and a lot of other places train us to focus too much on the long-shot scenario...shooting the bull at a country mile as he goes over the ridge at last light on the final day of the hunt et cetera...instead of focusing on maximizing your chances during NORMAL and REALISTIC situations. That sells a lot of gear for them. In my experience it really doesn’t increase a hunter’s chance fir success although I’ve seen hundreds of guys show up for a hunt with a lot of extra-special gear. I would ask myself if I’m really going to be trying to judge animals at 3 miles or 4 miles? Or am I more realistically going to be judging animals at 1 mile? I would suggest possibly not buying a spotting scope but a great set of binoculars. You will spot more game with them, see what you really want to know (should I go after the critter) and pack much less weight. If money or weight isn’t an object go for it! Don’t hold back. A hunter can save the cost of another hunt by buying a reasonable amount of excellent gear compared to going overboard. Some guys like collecting gear as much as collecting experiences...nothing wrong with that. Some guys just love collecting the experiences. Let us know what you go with.
If you need to know what the elk is and if you are going after him then high end glass is what you want. That said, if you don't own a spotter now, I doubt you want to drop 2 to 4k for one. Vortex Razor is decent. Personally I wouldn't go below the Razor line if you go with Vortex. Zeiss has a new spotter, the Harpia, that would be at the top of my list, but you better be sitting when you look at the price;)
Several have asked, but if you just want it to know elk are there then just about anything can work. If you want to determine what that elk scores from 3 to 4 miles you better be looking at Zeiss, Leica or Swaro.
Agree with Matt on the top end stuff. I'd add kowa to the mix. I dropped a boat load of money last year and put all 4 in the 60-77 mm side by side. The kowa 773 was the winner. All that said, if you actually want to accurately field judge bulls from 3-4 miles, you need a telescope or the swaro 90. Crap glass will do all the other tasks you plan on.
Buy the best you can afford. Swaro, Kowa, Zeiss or Leica. Everything is needs an upgrade.
I've looked through Swaro spotters on shooting ranges. At some long distances. Admittedly, none were close to 3-4 miles. Noe do I know the models, the magnification, etc.... I do know they were incredible. But, I can't see where they are any better then the Nightforce Spotters I've looked through. Are the Zeiss, Leica's, and Swaro's better then the offerings at Night Force? I've never spent time looking that far so, I don't know.
I have used Zeiss and Leica, but never seen the Nightforce. I have heard good reports on the Kowa from several guys that know glass.
One neat thing up in that country is the air clarity. Temps are usually low early and late when the elk are going to be out in the open and heat waves are minimal. Lower air density, low humidity, and low particulates (unless there’s a big fire) help a lot when glassing up there above treeline.
If this is just something your trying for this year, consider renting some top end glass vs buying.
In general I think field judging bulls at 4mi is going to be just as much dependent on air quality as your glass. It would suck to drop $3000 on glass and then have smoke or haze make them useless during your hunt!
I like Stykra,,,,, great glass for my eyes,,, I am not a trophy hunter, but love looking anyways,,,,
Just because you make great glass, does not mean it will fit your eyes. after having my eye exam a few weeks ago, I brought this up with the doctor, and he agreed,,,,,
there is a lot of good glass, but it has to fit your eyes,,,, for instance, I own Zeiss bought 30 years ago for 800.00 and yes they are still incredible,,,,, I tried Vortex and Nikon, gave me a head ache, and they are good glass
so you need to find what your head will like
I've been very happy with this double Set-up. The Heatwaves will be your biggest enemy at greater distance.
I've been very happy with this double Set-up. The Heatwaves will be your biggest enemy at greater distance.
Not all of the glassing will be 3-4 miles, but some will. Some vantage points I will be in a different GMU looking into the one I will be hunting.
unless they fixed the eye relief on the NF they isnt worth much. I can buy NF for about 40% off and I still don't think the TS80 was worth it.
I should mention that meopro and meostar are also decent scopes. the Meopro hd 80 is a great value.
You can also pick up a swaro STS demo with the eye piece for under 2K with from euro optic or camera land. I am pretty happy with the STS for the most part.
So much depends on your vision to start with (big point a lot of guys overlook). Someone with 20/10 vision looking through a vortex will still do better than a guy who needs coke bottle glasses to read the Sunday paper.
Kowa and Swaro are the best quality glass I’ve ever looked through personally. But for my uses I still can’t justify their cost (YET!). I have Meopta 15xs and a razor 65mm spotter and between the two I get by fine.
The hard part is knowing how picky of a hunter you are and how much use you will actually get out of them.