I’ve been using some kind of optic since I was in my early teens- Tasco, Redfield, Bushnell, Sears (you read that right) Pentax, Leupold, Steiner, Nikon, Minox, Bushnell, Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski and surely at least a few others that I’ve long forgotten. While I’m no optics expert, I do know what my eyes like.
I bought my first Swarovski Spotter- the unacclaimed CT 30x75mm– in 2004 and have since regarded Swarovski as the top of the optics heap. Over the last decade I’ve collected and tried several other Swaro’ optics and just like the old CT Spotter, found them excellent optics in peformance and durability.
I think every mule deer hunter needs a specific “optics package” that includes
~7,8, or 9×42+mm binocular/rangefinder combo (rangefinder to about 1000+ yards)
~Either/or 25-50×65+mm spotter or a fixed power in the 20-30X range with 50+mm objective
~15X50+mm tripod-mounted binocular
~ Compact Tripod or Tree Fixing Screw
~ Full-size tripod
With these optics/accessories, you’re ready for about anything in mule deer hunting from early archery seasons to late season rut hunts. While they don’t have to be Swarovski, they need to be the best that you can reasonably afford.
As Co-owner of Rokslide, I need to test and use all kinds of gear and often I don’t get to use exactly what I’d prefer on a given year. So when I was putting together my optics package for the 2016 season, I was more than a little giddy when it looked like all I’d be running for glassing gear this year was my favorite: Swarovski.
Before I continue, I must diverge. I’m a freak when it comes to protecting expensive optics. I’ve had too many friends lose optics to thieves who broke into trucks and tents and stole glass that cost a month’s or more wages. While I’d die for my wife, I’d kill for my optics (ha ha) so it’s in this spirit that I try to never leave my optics vulnerable. I have a big red sun-faded gym bag where all my optics are stored. That way, I’m less likely to leave them at risk. I’ve even been known to pack ol’ red in the restaurant if the town looks a little shady! For 2016, my big bag of Swaro’ will never be far from me.
If you’ve ever wondered about Swarovski, then you need to subscribe to this blog as between now and the end of the year, you’ll see a spectrum of Swarovski featured, including…
The 8x42mm EL Range Binocular I reviewed this little powerhouse in 2014 and two years and a hundred mountain-days later, this gem is still swinging around my neck. You can read that review here Swarovski 8×42 EL Range
The 15×56 SLC tripod binocular
If you’re serious about glassing mule deer, you gotta have a pair of 15x tripod-mounted binoculars. I’ve written extensively on this class of optics and used more than a few brands. This year, it’s the big daddy of them all in my bag of optics- the Swarovski 15×56 SLC. I’ve only got a few hours on them so far and so far I say holy smoly are they nice. I just need to push legal shooting light and carry them a hundred miles before I issue any final thoughts. I’ll share all I learn as I put more hours on them.
I’ve used spotting scopes with more than 50x, but I’ve found that in real hunting conditions, you spend very little time above 50x due to conditions like wind, haze, and fading light. This Swaro’ is a big spotter and I don’t always take it on backcountry hunts where weight and space are critical, but when I do, it’s better than driving a paid-for Porsche 911 Carrera (for me at least).
Every time I pull this scope out in front of someone who hasn’t seen one, I’m called everything from a pirate to a Jägermeister. That’s OK, I spot more bucks at half the price and 2/3 the weight as these guys, so I roll with it. I’ve spent hundreds of hours behind this scope because it works and Lord willin’, I’ll spend hundreds more (and c’mon Swarovski, bring this one back to America, the Rockies are mountains, too!)
Here’s another item some guys just won’t be able to wrap their heads around: a tree fixing screw. This device weighs just a few ounces and takes the place of a tripod in a pinch. I had a homebuilt one for years and can attest that they have their place in the backcountry- like the days you know you won’t be spending two hours behind the spotter but want it along just in case you need it- and you’ll be glad you have one. I shot a quick video to explain the concept below, and with some luck, we’ll be carrying them in the Rokslide store soon. In the meantime you can buy them here
This thing is big, beefy, tough, light-for-class, and very adjustable. It’s topped with the DH 101 Swarovski tripod head. I’ve actually had the system for two years but really got it out in the field this summer and have fallen for it. So much so, I’m going to end this blog post with a video review of the big CT Travel Tripod here:
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To learn about the gear and tactics I use, check out my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer