Arizona Hunting Season
Get Ready For Hunting Season
October 1, 2019
Arizona is blessed by an abundance of gorgeous hunting country, but that also means that hunters have a lot of ground to cover while hunting. Optics are crucial in most western hunts, but particularly in hunting Coues deer. There's more to "glassing" than just sitting down with a pair of binoculars, so I'm sharing some tips from Leupold, makers of some of the finest optics I've ever used. I'll also share some tips on ammo, gear to carry, and more.
Most hunters carry binoculars, but the serious ones usually add a spotting scope to the mix. Spotting scopes are bigger and heavier, but they also have a lot more power and will allow you to peer under the brush for a very long distance. The general rule, says Leupold, is to use the binoculars first. Get comfortable, get the binos steady, and start searching. If you detect movement, switch to the spotting scope for better identification. I know from experience how hard it is to see antlers on a deer that is bedded down under a tree half a mile away. A spotting scope makes it a lot easier.
Look Closer As Well
When you first sit down to do some serious glassing, it's natural to look far away from where you are. But don't forget to look closer as well. I've had Coues deer bedded down just a few yards away from me, and they'd stay there while I walked right past. One way to pattern your glassing is to divide the landscape into grids roughly the size of your field of view. Scrutinize every inch before moving on to the next portion.
Crucial: Comfort, Stability
Comfort and stability are crucial to successful glassing. Margie and I carry inflatable cushions to sit on – they hardly take up any room and weigh only a couple ounces, but they make a big difference as opposed to sitting right on a rock for several hours. Also, pick your spot wisely. Stay away from those giant ant nests, for example. Try to find a place where you can be in the shade. This will not only keep you comfortable, it will help conceal you from any deer that are watching from across the way. You can rest your elbows on your knees to stabilize your optics, but honestly, tripods are better. In spite of the extra weight in your pack, you'll be glad to have them.
Leupold suggests that instead of twisting your eyecups all the way out, leave them all the way in, rest the top of the eyecups on your brow, and slightly tilt your head down while leaning into the binoculars. This, they say, puts less pressure around your eye sockets and gives you a more comfortable neck position while opening your field of view. You can also put your fingers against the brim of your cap for even more stability. Margie and I also use binocular shades – they fit over the eyecups and then go up and around to block out vision and light from the sides. They really help, especially if you wear glasses.
One thing I do before every hunting trip is head to the range with my hunting rifle to make sure it is dialed in. I like to try a variety of different brands of hunting ammo to see which ones work best in my rifle, but the key is to make sure it is properly sighted in and shooting accurately.
A commercial shooting range is ideal for this, since they have ranges where you can set targets at different distances, and those distances are accurately measured out for you. Make sure you set your rifle firmly on a vise or use sandbags or something so that all you need to do is squint through the scope and pull the trigger.
Need To Knows
There are a couple of things that help with this process. Bring the directions to your scope or sights with you. It can be hard to remember details while you're at the range. I mean details like "how far does one click move the center up, down, or sideways"? This stuff is crucial. You can get there eventually by trial and error, but it's so much easier if you can just move it the right number of clicks right off the bat.
It's also good to have ballistic information about the ammo you're shooting. You need to know things like how much the bullet will drop at various distances and how much hitting power it has when it gets there. Once I choose my ammo, I used to write this info on a piece of painters tape and wrap it around my gun stock, but now I have a new Leupold scope with CDS and they just sent me a dial for my scope, custom made for the ammo I plan to use. All I have to do is use the rangefinder to get the distance, then dial that into the scope. Done.
Must-Carry Hunting Gear
The older I get, the lighter I want my pack to be when I'm hunting. That said, there are still things that I consider to be absolute must-haves when I'm out hunting. First of all, let me say that I no longer backpack-hunt. I have a base camp I return to each night, so that makes things much easier. So here's what I carry.
1. Rifle, of course, but with a good strap that I can use not only to carry it, but to steady it if I have to shoot off-hand. Extra ammo, but not too much. Ammo is heavy.
2. Binoculars. I have a small, light, but excellent pair.
4. Spotting Scope
5. Water and electrolyte pouches
6. Food – lunch and snacks
7. Hunting knife and sharpener
8. LifeStraw in case I run out of water
9. Animal prep supplies: plastic gloves, hand towel, bags for meat.
Margie and I stay together, so she carries this stuff:
1. Rifle and ammo
5. Water and electrolyte pouches
6. Food – lunch and snacks
7. Maps and compass
8. Walkie Talkies – so one can stay and direct the other to the downed animal
9. Life Straw
10. First Aid kit
These are what I'd consider to the be absolute minimum. You can add as much stuff as you can carry, but I find that the more I carry, the less distance I can cover. Since bagging a good deer usually means being at least one ridge away from a road, distance is crucial. We both also usually carry a sidearm, and I'll talk more about that, and about the best holsters for carrying while hunting next month.