It doesn’t matter whether you’re hunting on your own or with a friend, or if you’ve employed the services of a guide. The more hunting skill and enthusiasm you bring to the pursuit, the more you’re going to enjoy the hunt and the higher your odds of success and chalking up memories to last a lifetime. That’s especially true when it comes to skills like glassing for game. Your hunting partner(s) may be great at glassing and spotting game, but you double your chances of spotting the animals if your skills are as good or nearly as good as theirs.
So with that in mind, it’s logical to share some pointers from a guy who makes his pay … and even more so—his tips … by finding wary animals at a distance for his hunters.
Jackie Murphy is a professional hunting guide for Wildlife Systems of San Angelo, Texas. He guides dozens of hunts each year, mostly for mule deer and Aoudad sheep with Nilgai antelope and some other critters thrown in for variety. Hunting mule deer and sheep in West Texas is all about glassing. Jackie figures at least 80% of his hunting time is spent glassing to initially spot animals, judge trophy quality, and keep tabs on animals as a stalk is underway. Here are the “secrets” that help him make a living:
Use Good Glass – considering the hours each day he puts in with binoculars and spotting scope to his eyes, Jackie believes quality optics are of the highest importance. At the most basic level good glass reduces eye-fatigue which means he’s more efficient and better at spotting animals even in the waning light at the end of a long day. Additionally, high-quality optics allow him to “look into the shadows” to find game. Average glass will only show you a black spot in shadow. High-quality glass will let you look into the shadow and see what might be hiding there.
Adjust Your Search to the Game You’re After – When he’s looking for Aoudad on the mountainside, Jackie is primarily looking for “the right color.” After so many sheep hunts, he has trained his eyes to search for just the right color and texture to give away stationary or even bedded sheep. But when he’s hunting for mule deer whose color tends to blend in more with the background and shadows, Jackie is more attuned to shape—like ears, heads and horizontal lines in primarily vertical cover.
Of course he’s looking for movement, but he says relying primarily on movement to spot game is relying too much on luck. Animals, particularly if bedded, often don’t move that much. If that’s your primary search, you’re going to miss too many animals that are stone still when you glass the area in which they are hiding.
Consider Animals’ Preferences – Jackie knows Aoudad, for example, love to stand on top of rocks to survey the area. So when searching for sheep, he first searches rocky outcrops and rim rock. Mule deer like to hide on the sides of draws, so those areas get the most attention when he’s mule deer hunting.
Work in a Grid – When you sit down to glass a mountainside, or any area for that matter, check the most likely spots first, but then glass in a rigid grid so that you don’t miss any of the cover. Make sure your grid overlaps, and when you think you’re done, glass the grid at least one more time.
Don’t Give Up – Jackie doesn’t have a set amount of time for which he’ll glass an area. He plays it by the cover and the conditions. Yet he seldom gives up on a piece of cover where he’s confident there are animals hidden. His advice is once you’ve “completely” glassed a mountainside and you’re certain there’s nothing there, get up, move 200 yards and start over. Just that small change in your vantage point offers an all-new view of a mountainside that might be a mile or more distant. The new viewpoint opens up all new crevices and draws and “bumps” that you couldn’t even tell were there from your last location.