By Bob Humphrey
Spot-and-stalk hunting is one of the more popular methods, especially for the western big game hunter. Before you can stalk however, you have to spot, and in order to do that effectively you need quality optics.
At the very least, you’ll need binoculars. In open country consider 10x a minimum, but go as high as you can hold steady. Higher powers will magnify the image, but also any movement.
It’s helpful if you can rest against something solid, be it a tree trunk, your knees or whatever is available. If you’re using ATVs or Side-by-Side vehicles you can use your equipment - a gear box, windshield - to steady yourself.
Begin with a quick pan of the area, trying to pick out closer animals that might be ready to bolt, or obvious ones in the distance. It may take a little time to develop a search image. You’re not looking for a deer; you’re looking for parts of a deer: a white face or rear, a horizontal line, a patch of brown or a glint of sun off an antler.
If you don’t pick up anything right away, start again and do a slower pan, looking the landscape over more carefully. Look under trees and bushes for anything that seems out of place or catches your eye. Work in a grid, up and down or left and right until you’ve covered all that is within your view.
If you still haven’t picked up anything, or especially if you do, it’s time to move up to a spotting scope. Here you’ll be looking at 15 - 20x as a minimum. Scopes with zoom capability offer the advantage of being able to zoom in once you’ve located a potential subject.
If you haven’t found anything, put your scope on the lowest power and begin slowly and meticulously picking apart the landscape. Take your time and be thorough.
If you do find something, the scope can help you determine what it is, and if it’s worth following up with a stalk. Effecting a successful stalk can take considerable time and effort, and you want to be sure what you’re going after is worth it. With a scope at maximum power you can judge body and antler size, then make up your mind.