There are numerous articles that recommend optical equipment for glassing big game. The standard theory down in the southwestern states is to carry big, heavy 18×50-plus binoculars, so you can watch a deer wiggle his ear in the heavy brush two miles away. However, when you’re backpacking in the northwestern backcountry, everything is on your back, and weight is crucial. Personally, I feel these huge binoculars aren’t necessary for finding mule deer.
Glassing With The Grain Of The Terrain
Even from the highest point, there may be areas you are unable to see well, such as a slide partially obscured by the tree line, or sets of basins where you can only see one side, or just small portions of them. You feel you don’t have a clear view of some of the best habitat that you know holds bucks. If these problems sound familiar, you may be glassing against the grain of the terrain.
Western terrain is made up of small creek drainages that have their beginnings in a snowbank, or a high basin spring. From there, they run down into another creek and eventually into a river at the valley floor. When you get to the head of one of these drainages, spend most of your time glassing the high pockets, slides and knife ridges that run up to the peaks.
I use a system of glassing taught to me by my father Gordon Eastman when I began hunting more than 57 years ago. First, I begin glassing with my binoculars at the top of the terrain, even if there’s nothing but granite for cover. I quickly work across and down, checking for any animal that may be out in the open. When you are glassing for mule deer, the first pass with your binoculars is the most important, because a buck moves while he eats and I can quickly find him before he drifts out of my view…