I had strict instructions. I was to shoot a buck that would qualify for the Pope and Young record book.
I was not sure this one would. It was thick and I could not get a clear look at his antlers.
My videographer, Gary Holmes, looking through the camera, could not tell either.
My binoculars were back in the room.
First, a statement. The proper word is, “binocular.” Unless you have two of them, it is not plural…it is not, “binoculars.” I don’t care. For me, I call them binoculars.
Second, I should not have been without them, even though I was bowhunting in thick cover. I still needed to see.
I have, best I can tell, four “binoculars.” Now that I don’t trophy hunt, I don’t have all that much need of them.
But the one thing I want you to think about is this. If you use a rifle scope to glass game, someone should hit you with a marlin spike.
Because, if you do that -- you are pointing a loaded firearm at something and it may be a human. That is so not cool. In fact, it is just plain dumb.
When you hunt as I did, for 20-plus years, your optics take one heck of a beating. It takes tough binoculars and rifle scopes to stand up to that sort of beating and banging. I’m not here to promote any product. Buy what you like. Use what suits you. But I’ll tell you, I cannot afford Zeiss and Swavorski.
And…I don’t have to.
As the buck moved closer, I calculated. He was 10 points, outside the ears. That made him a candidate for an arrow. Or…was he?
The human eye can be a nefarious orb. It can see things that are not there. It can cause you to make mistakes. It can align with desire and that is a terrible alliance.
When hunting the mountains, chasing elk, mule deer or antelope, good optics are a must. You have to be able to glass distant panoramas. But they are equally important in making decisions in thick cover.
It does not cost a fortune to own quality products. Binoculars and rifle scopes need not break the bank.
But they need to gather light -- allowing you to see in near dark conditions. They must be clear and they must, if you hunt hard, as I did, be tough.
For many years, I used a variety of rifle scopes from bargain basement brands to top of the line. In more recent times, I found it was not necessary to takeout a mortgage to get good optics.
For this column, I asked two somewhat newcomers to the optics scene to tell me what they wanted to achieve with their products.
I have known Jon LaCorte for many years. We met when he was with Nikon and he is probably why I shoot Nikon cameras. When he started Tract Optics, I bought a rifle scope from him. I like it. I like it a lot and it is affordable. I asked Jon what he thought was important in hunting optics.
“While optical quality is paramount in a hunting binocular, another thing to consider is how rugged a binocular is and how will it hold up to the elements," he said. “Many binoculars on the market use plastic frames in order to reduce weight, but if you are hard on your gear you might want to look at other materials.”
“Magnesium Alloy is a great alternative to plastic in these cases. While polycarb/plastic frames might be lighter weight, the Magnesium Alloy is more durable and not that much heavier.
In fact is seems when comparing binoculars with both materials the Magnesium Alloy versions seem to balance better.
Of course the body should always be fully rubber armored.
Many companies commonly use Nitrogen to keep the inside of the binocular dry and void of fogging.
More advanced companies are using Argon gas which has a higher resistance to temperature changes than Nitrogen.
Just a few things to consider as well as the optics when making an optics purchase.” Notice, he said all that without once mentioning his own product.
That is pretty rare but in all the years I have known Jon, he has always let his product make its’ own statement. Maybe you never heard of Tract Optics. Might want to check them out.
The second opinion I wanted came from another new company. My friend, Karen Lutto, down in Texas, turned me onto them. German Precision Optics is another company you maybe never heard of. Mike Jensen runs that outfit.
Obviously, he knows what he is talking about.
"The highest quality optics make the difference between finding and not finding game, between judging rack size to take a shot or not to take a shot, between making that shot count in a poor light conditions or a complete miss, said Mike Jensen, owner and CEO of GPO-USA.
"GPO is dedicated to giving our customers the advantages that they deserve with some of the best optics in the world."
There are other great companies out there. There are a lot of products. You can spend just about as much or as little as you like. The longest shot I ever took on wild game was 422 yards.
Today, I can’t see that far, let alone shoot that far. But now and then, I hunt some pretty big bean fields where 200-300 yards is quite possible. When that happens, I want to feel equipped to make the shot. That, however, does not mean I need a $2500 scope.
So, as we approach our hunting season and maybe you are about to head for a western elk, mule deer or antelope hunt, this is my take on hunting optics and advice from two guys I trust, who know what they are talking about.
Get the clear picture -- through the looking glass.