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Optics and other Devices for Hunting out West Elk (CO Rifle 2)

shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior MemberPosts: 5,889 Senior Member
edited May 2020 in Hunting #1
BLUF: Should I be looking at buying a compact spotting scope, more powerful binos, or neither for Elk during Rifle 2 (end of October) on the western slopes of Colorado?

Currently I have a set of ~15 year old Nikon Monarch 8x42 binos, and a Sig Kilo 2200 (IIRC) 7x25 or so rangefinder. Last year I hunted the western slopes in a spot and stalk style, and did have some difficulty spotting animals. However, I am not confident that this was due to poor equipment as opposed to inexperience.

I am considering picking up a compact to mid-sized spotting scope (no larger than 60MM objective) for my return this year, but I'm also debating if other equipment is more worth my resources. I will be hunting on foot, and most likely pack the animal out (going to pull the trigger on a Mystery Ranch Metcalf fairly soon; and I've already got some very good boots), so weight and bulk are a factor, but not a deal breaker. Size wise, I'm looking at something along the lines of the Vortex Razor HD 22-48x65 (https://vortexoptics.com/vortex-razor-hd-22-48x65-spotting-scope-angled.html) or the Leupold Gold Ring / Mark 4 12-40x60 (https://www.leupold.com/spotting-scopes/hd-spotting-scopes/gr-12-40x60mm-hd) (https://www.leupold.com/spotting-scopes/mark-4-12-40x60mm-tactical-spotting-scope)

As opposed to a spotting scope, a lot of people on more western hunting oriented boards have mentioned favoring higher power binos. I'm not opposed to this, but I am suspicious that a midsized or compact spotter will "fill the gap" in my gear bag a bit better, and maybe be more useful at the range and antelope hunting than higher power binos. Additionally, I already have some mid grade binos and am unsure about adding a second set. I'm interested in the Sig Kilo 3000 10x42 bino/LRF combo, but I already have binos and LRF, and $1000 will buy a pretty good spotting scope. (https://www.sigsauer.com/products/electro-optics/rangefinders/kilo3000/)

SO, for those that have been there and done that insofar as western hunts, what worked for you? Is a spotting scope worth the extra bulk, weight, and cost? What would you have done differently with your gear layout, and why? I'm open to any recommendations, etc.
- I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
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Replies

  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    I've hunted the west a lot, and never felt the need or desire for a spotting scope.  I've carried one when hunting antelope, and didn't feel it added a lot of value.  However, I should add that the scope I have is not especially good.

    If you have a range finder you are comfortable with, and one that will range as far as you're comfortable shooting, stay with it.  Otherwise, I would consider upgrading.

    Rather than putting money in a new spotting scope, I would consider upgrading your binoculars.  I like 10x42, but your mileage may vary.  Keep in mind that a poor quality 10x is probably not as good as a mid to high quality 8x.  I have also tried carrying a regular sized pair of  binocs for glassing and a compact pair for working through timber, but didn't really feel I gained anything by doing so.

    I've never tried a binoc/range finder combo, but find the notion appealing.  Most of the ones I've seen are pretty heavy, but probably no heavier than a pair of binoculars and range finder combined.

    One last thing.  If you are glassing an area, use the range finder to range various objects just to get a feel for how far things really are.  If a shot suddenly presents itself, you may find there is no need to range it as you already know.

    Good luck.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,833 Senior Member
    Spotting scopes save shoe leather at the rifle range. I can't imagine toting one in the field.

    Anytime Ive ever carried glasses, they were an un-necessary encumbrance.

    Dry feet are happy feet. Drinking water is good to have along. A time piece, a snack, tp, a compass are good things to take. More stuff means more weight.

    Elk avoid people that time of year. Out of state adventurers are into vehicles, and equipment that make noise. Quiet hidden spots that watch over likely escape routes are nice to sit at from dark pre dawn until late morning.
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    Matt,

    just curious, but what gmu will you be hunting?  There may be some here who have hunted it, and can offer some advice.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,513 Senior Member
    edited May 2020 #5
    Jerry's post sums up my feelings also. When I moved to Colorado I bought a spotting scope for hunting use and quickly realized I didn't need it on the plains and it was practically useless in the mountains. I mailed it to a forum member, though I don't recall who. Varmintmist, maybe? I really don't recall.

    For my money, out west, the most important piece of optics is a good rangefinder. Get the one with the highest magnification and longest reach that you can barely afford, and keep in mind that if it ranges critters at 75% of its advertised range, you've done well.

    Decent binocs, and "decent" binocs can be had for $250 or less. In fact, my favorite binocs were sent as a freebie when I bought the spotting scope. "Winchester" brand, as I recall. But they bought the farm when Jerry drove his Godzilla-sized truck through an even larger hole at a more than pedestrian pace. 

    My ex-boss had a pair of Swarovski gyro-stabilized that I freaking loved. But, he paid $1400 for a used unit....I'd do that if I was a guide and spent hours a day glassing for weeks on end. But I'm not, and the ~$200-250 price range has served me well.

    Mike

    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • CHIRO1989CHIRO1989 Senior Member Posts: 13,539 Senior Member
    edited May 2020 #6
    I think binoculars with a good rest is the way to go if you are sitting and looking, otherwise I used my rangefinder to look at stuff, I actually used it a lot compared to my binoculars. I brought my spotting scope, I just never needed to look that far away that I could not see something elk sized or mule deer sized in a clearing with my range finder or bino's.
    I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn away from their ways and live. Eze 33:11
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 8,790 Senior Member
    I would not go over 10x on binos unless you plan to bolt them to a tripod, and if they're that big, heavy, and high-powered, you'll want to ALSO carry smaller binos at the same time.  I picked up a pair of Leupold Pro Guide HD 8x42's a couple years ago and the glass quality is AWESOME.  These replaced my somewhat murky 20 year old Wind River 10x42's.  I'm mostly looking to plug deer inside of 200 yards, so the trade off for me was steadier hold and less eye fatigue and the cost of a little less magnification.

    That said, I'm toying with the idea of picking up the 10x42 version.  My only elk hunt was in 2012 around the Silt / Rifle / Parachute area of Colorado, and I would ABSOLUTELY want that extra magnification there.

    I've yet to hunt with a spotting scope, but it will be the "Z-prism" Leupold 12-40x60 HD for a few reasons:

    1.  The z-prism shortens the length.

    2.  The body is magnesium alloy - light.

    3.  It's got A LOT of eye relief, so glasses or sunglasses friendly.

    4.  Once focused, it does a fair job of staying focused as you crank the magnification up and down.

    If you're planning to park your butt on one hill and look to another (as I spent a morning in CO doing) it would be a very good thing.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • Johnny rebJohnny reb Member Posts: 700 Senior Member
    I’m going to go the opposite way. It was stated in an above post that a spotting scope saves boot leather on the range. Well it will also save boot leather hunting. Being able to cover big sections of country that you would otherwise miss. Looking through Binos all day is hard on you’re eyes. I would recommend having some way to mount them on a tripod or a set of shooting sticks. It will be a lot less fatigue on you’re eyes and body. On the binos with built in rangefinders there nice. The downside is the electronics only carry a warranty dependent on manufacture from 1-5 years. I also am of the belief buy the best optics you can. eBay is a good source of used alpha glass that can be bought for the same money as lesser quality glass. 
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    Nothing like a consensus of opinion. :)

    I've hunted elk in Utah (once) and Colorado for over 20 years.  I can't say I'm good at it, but I can only recall one time for which a good spotting scope would have come in handy.  That was for evaluating a deer.

    If SS3 is hunting an area in Colorado that offers OTC bull licenses, there will probably be a point restriction on any animal taken.  In the past, that was a brow time with a length of at least 5 inches, or at least 4 points on one side.  So, I can see where a good scope might be useful in determining if a distant animal was legal and worthy of a difficult stalk.

    Also, if one is a trophy hunter, being able to accurately evaluate an animal from afar would be nice.

    But, based on experience, I just don't see the value of spending a lot on a spotting scope and packing one when climbing those mountains.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • Johnny rebJohnny reb Member Posts: 700 Senior Member
    Nothing like a consensus of opinion. :)

    I've hunted elk in Utah (once) and Colorado for over 20 years.  I can't say I'm good at it, but I can only recall one time for which a good spotting scope would have come in handy.  That was for evaluating a deer.

    If SS3 is hunting an area in Colorado that offers OTC bull licenses, there will probably be a point restriction on any animal taken.  In the past, that was a brow time with a length of at least 5 inches, or at least 4 points on one side.  So, I can see where a good scope might be useful in determining if a distant animal was legal and worthy of a difficult stalk.

    Also, if one is a trophy hunter, being able to accurately evaluate an animal from afar would be nice.

    But, based on experience, I just don't see the value of spending a lot on a spotting scope and packing one when climbing those mountains.
    The spotting scope will keep you from climbing those mtns for nothing. You can spot game that you wouldn’t normally be able too. I’ve seen game in the morning along way off ,and been able to get on them that afternoon or the next day that wouldn’t of even been seen without good glass. I’m a firm believer in letting the glass do the walking for me.
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,889 Senior Member
    Thanks for the input folks. For some idea on the terrain, I will be hunting near Meeker, CO. I put in for cow elk and mule deer buck, however I also have the option for an OTC bull elk tag.

    Last year the hunting was a 50/50 mix of setting up on a high ridge and glassing, and genuinely spotting and moving across the low ground. There was some thick brush that a muley could easily hide in, but no dark timber that is associated with some parts of the American West.
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,833 Senior Member
    I used to hunt about 4 miles south of Buford off the Buford/Newcastle road. Took the carcasses into Meeker to be processed and froze for the trip home. Nice town. Nice small and freindly grocery store there. Lots of memories in those woods.
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 8,790 Senior Member
    It's an interesting discussion topic, and a puzzle for us all.

    I'd love to have the capabilities of a spotting scope in the field, but it's always been a bulk/weight concern.  I can't really agree with the argument that it saves you a lot of walking.  Elk hunting is going to involve a lot of walking anyway, so that always seemed to me as nonsensical as the "benefit" of handicapped parking places at Wal Mart or Home Depot - sure, you parked 20 yards closer, but you still have to navigate inside a building that's a 200-yard square.

    It has the capability to save you SOME walking, and absolutely might clue you in to where you need to walk TO.  What I keep running into is the things I am absolutely NOT going deep into the field without - a couple liters of water, food, first aid kit, the layers needed to stay warm & dry, and the gear to dress out a critter. . .and then you have to ponder getting the critter OUT of the field.

    Soooo. . .yeah. . .If I have a horse and a mule to carry stuff, sure.  If I'm glassing at a short radius from truck, sure.  Working it in on foot for miles is something I don't have a handle on.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    Good point, BIgSlug.  If you've ever had to hump an elk or deer out of the mountains, you know what a chore that can be.  I've done it three times, twice without help.  Even with help (ask Linefinder), you had better get an early start and pack a lunch.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • Johnny rebJohnny reb Member Posts: 700 Senior Member
    Bigslug said:
    It's an interesting discussion topic, and a puzzle for us all.

    I'd love to have the capabilities of a spotting scope in the field, but it's always been a bulk/weight concern.  I can't really agree with the argument that it saves you a lot of walking.  Elk hunting is going to involve a lot of walking anyway, so that always seemed to me as nonsensical as the "benefit" of handicapped parking places at Wal Mart or Home Depot - sure, you parked 20 yards closer, but you still have to navigate inside a building that's a 200-yard square.

    It has the capability to save you SOME walking, and absolutely might clue you in to where you need to walk TO.  What I keep running into is the things I am absolutely NOT going deep into the field without - a couple liters of water, food, first aid kit, the layers needed to stay warm & dry, and the gear to dress out a critter. . .and then you have to ponder getting the critter OUT of the field.

    Soooo. . .yeah. . .If I have a horse and a mule to carry stuff, sure.  If I'm glassing at a short radius from truck, sure.  Working it in on foot for miles is something I don't have a handle on.
    Depending on spotting scope brand and size I would say most are between 2.5 to 5lb. My Swarovski with 20x60eyepiec is less than 4lb. To me that weight is worth the benefit it provides. The ability to see what otherwise might no be seen and the possibility to save many miles is worth it. Conversations and threads like this are what make forums like this a great place. Whatever you decide good luck on you’re hunt and hope you get a good one.
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,889 Senior Member
    Thanks for the input folks, keep it coming! 

    A lot of places online are recommending 12x50 or similarly sized binos on a tripod. I can see the utility of this, especially if the tripod can also be used for shooting

    If it influences opinion at all, here are some ideas of what the terrain looks like:


    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,833 Senior Member
    Elk are pretty big. Even in open country like that its not like trying to find a sleeping coyote.

    Not likely in October, but I've seen temps that froze up the focus knobs so they wouldnt turn. 
  • VarmintmistVarmintmist Senior Member Posts: 7,673 Senior Member
    Jerry's post sums up my feelings also. When I moved to Colorado I bought a spotting scope for hunting use and quickly realized I didn't need it on the plains and it was practically useless in the mountains. I mailed it to a forum member, though I don't recall who. Varmintmist, maybe? I really don't recall.

    Nope, but if you have something like a something to 60x88mm Kowa with eye peices that needs a home, my mailbox is large enough to accommodate.
    It's boring, and your lack of creativity knows no bounds.
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,889 Senior Member
    FOLLOW UP:

    After a lot of research on a few different forums, I've decided on a combination of 12x binos and my 7x rangefinder. With this in mind, I've got some Meopta Meostar B1.1 HD 12x50's on the way.

    Now I just need to a find shooting sticks/optics tripod combo.
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,833 Senior Member
    Shaping up to be a dry summer. A lot of open terrain out that way. Likely good decisions.

    I kept to the shadows where I hunted. Kind of a close quarters unique little spot. I never needed much optical power.
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    I'm not a big fan of bipods, and have never tried tripods or shooting sticks.  I suppose if you will be doing extended glassing with your 12x binocs, having them mounted on a tripod is a good idea.  It's just something I've never done.

    I recall reading a story from the RMEF publication years ago.  The author had a bull in sight at a distance of less than 100 yards.  According to the story, though, the bull slipped away while he was getting his shooting sticks set up.  I had to wonder why in the world the guy needed shooting sticks for a shot that close.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • bullsi1911bullsi1911 Moderator Posts: 11,682 Senior Member
    FOLLOW UP:

    After a lot of research on a few different forums, I've decided on a combination of 12x binos and my 7x rangefinder. With this in mind, I've got some Meopta Meostar B1.1 HD 12x50's on the way.

    Now I just need to a find shooting sticks/optics tripod combo.
    I have just recently been messing with one of the BOG Havoc Tripods to set up impromptu shooting ranges on the ranch.  It seems like a decent option for a lightweight tripod for both glassing and shooting.  Seems like you could easily lash it to the outside of a pack and have it easily accessible.    I’ll try it for hunting soon.  

    https://www.cabelas.com/product/BOG-HAVOC-SHOOTING-STICK/3298308.uts?slotId=2
    To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex.
    -Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,513 Senior Member
    Here's a thought for you that I've had good luck with. Buy a relatively cheap camera tripod did adjust and every direction you'd care to adjust it in. You can go from shoulder height the ground level in a heartbeat, You Can level it in a heartbeat, and it's steady enough for spotting.
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • tinytank1tinytank1 Posts: 10 New Member
    I went hunting in the west last year and thankfully never felt the need for a scope. Tripods worked awfully well for me, bipods seemed to be a little unsteady. Tripods allow quick movement.
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    tinytank1 said:
    I went hunting in the west last year and thankfully never felt the need for a scope. Tripods worked awfully well for me, bipods seemed to be a little unsteady. Tripods allow quick movement.
    I'm not following you.  Are you saying you had shots that were close enough you could make them using just iron sights, or something else?  Also, in what capacity did you use a tripod?  If I were to carry one, I would use it only as a platform for glassing, not for shooting.

    FWIW, my experience with shooting off of bipods has not been positive.  The only rifle I used one on shot high from a bipod, something I learned AFTER missing several very makeable shots on antelope.

    I'm just curious as to what you mean.  Please don't take my comments as anything more.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • bullsi1911bullsi1911 Moderator Posts: 11,682 Senior Member
    FYI, DVOR has a sale today on BOG tripods and bipods:
    https://www.dvor.com/bog-tripods-and-shooting-gear-84-2020-07-09.html
    To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex.
    -Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,911 Senior Member
    I have moved to a all-in-one set-up after a number of years.  Using Darrell Holland's a  number of times, helped in the decision.  Expensive?  Yes!
    Picked it up on a demo sale and love it Leica Geovids 10x42.  With a tripod, if there is a need for one where you are hunting, it really lets you lockdown/be steady for extended glassing sessions.  They make a variety of units that hold your binocs on your tripod.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • CHIRO1989CHIRO1989 Senior Member Posts: 13,539 Senior Member
    FYI, DVOR has a sale today on BOG tripods and bipods:
    https://www.dvor.com/bog-tripods-and-shooting-gear-84-2020-07-09.html
    How is your DVOR "mebership" working for you? How long have you been a member?
    I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn away from their ways and live. Eze 33:11
  • bullsi1911bullsi1911 Moderator Posts: 11,682 Senior Member
    Been a member for several years.  I see cool stuff that I buy sometimes.  Maybe 3-4 orders per year.  Unfortunately, I often waffle on buying stuff and its sold out before I make up my mind- Like the SIG Romeo 5 that was on there this week.  $115... I was considering it... then- Nope!  sold out

    To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex.
    -Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • CHIRO1989CHIRO1989 Senior Member Posts: 13,539 Senior Member
    Been a member for several years.  I see cool stuff that I buy sometimes.  Maybe 3-4 orders per year.  Unfortunately, I often waffle on buying stuff and its sold out before I make up my mind- Like the SIG Romeo 5 that was on there this week.  $115... I was considering it... then- Nope!  sold out

    Thank hey, I suppose one more daily email about gun stuff won't break the bank.
    I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn away from their ways and live. Eze 33:11
  • CHIRO1989CHIRO1989 Senior Member Posts: 13,539 Senior Member
    I placed my first order, see how they do.
    I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn away from their ways and live. Eze 33:11
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