How to Use Your Binos More Effectively While Whitetail Hunting

How to Use Your Binos More Effectively While Whitetail Hunting

Western hunters have the optics thing figured out. Big country will do that to you. They understand that instead of walking across a mountain basin to see what’s on the other side, it’s a hell of a lot easier to let their binos do the walking for them.

In the smaller country of the whitetail, glassing isn’t viewed the same way. Off-season hunters might post up on a beanfield to watch for bachelor groups, but you’ll find very, very few whitetail hunters who lug a spotting scope into the woods during the season.

After all, why would they? Whitetail hunting is a close-game affair, and the tight quarters where bucks call home don’t lend themselves to much in the realm of glassing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t religiously carry, and use, binos while deer hunting. (You definitely should.)

Surprises Are No Good

In the TV sitcom world, there is a trope that involves an introverted character who loathes attention and surprises. Guess what? Some well-meaning character always finds a reason to throw that person a surprise party, and hilarity ensues (sorry for the spoiler).

Some people love surprises, others don’t. Hunters shouldn’t. At least not when it involves a deer suddenly appearing in bow range and the mad scramble to shoot that often follows.

Sometimes it can’t be helped. During rainy or windy conditions, when you hunt super thick stuff, or during the rut when bucks can pop up out of nowhere, surprises happen. When they do, mistakes happen. The wrong pin gets used, ranges get misjudged, or often, the arrow never leaves the string because we get busted reaching for our bow. If you can glass, then you should. Even the difference between being aware of an approaching buck that’s at 60 yards, instead of 30, is a huge advantage.

While western hunters live off of blind glassing sessions where they hope to turn something up, whitetail hunters mostly only glass after they’ve seen something that catches their eye. A better strategy is to scan the woods periodically to make sure you don’t have something moving in on your setup.

Focus, For Real

Western hunters agonize over their optics choice. They know quality costs money, but quality also equals better glassing. They have to consider weight versus hunt usefulness, which is no small thing when you’re hunting an up-and-down world or one that might require you to find antelope two miles away on a shimmering prairie.

Whitetail hunters often just buy some binos and call it good. Granted, glassing the hardwoods doesn’t require glass that costs more than a semester at a state school, but quality is quality. This will also affect adjustability and glassing in low light (which is a huge consideration for whitetail hunters).

At the very least, no matter the quality of your binos, learn to use them well. Learn how to dial them in so they are focused for your eyesight, and then learn to quickly focus them so that you can scan the woods properly. Picking apart every spot around your stand or blind that allows you to see deeper into the cover, or more clearly across the CRP, is a good way to see more deer than you normally would.

Now, you might think that seeing a deer half of a mile away doesn’t do you much good when you have a 40-yard-and-under weapon, but every sighting is a gift. One that you could use to set up in a new spot tomorrow, for example.

Watch, Really Watch

One of the best reasons to glass during deer hunts is to watch whitetails do what whitetails do. The doe with two fawns in tow might not be on your hitlist, so you might not be inclined to pay that much attention when they walk through the woods. But what if they stop under a specific white oak tree to mill around for a few minutes? Or what if they dip down into a pond from a certain trail, or maybe cross the creek in a specific spot? What they can tell you is a lot, and it doesn’t pertain just to them.

The white oak or apple tree they check out might also interest bucks in your neck of the woods. And it’s far easier to decipher what they are doing, and potentially why they are doing it, if you can see them better. Glassing can put you right there with them, and that’s important.


Don’t leave the glassing to the mule deer and elk hunters. Whitetail junkies have plenty of opportunities to use binoculars to their advantage, as well. This can keep you from getting caught snoozing when a buck approaches, and teach you what the deer really like to do when they pass through your woods, but you have to be able to use your binos correctly.

For more information on hunting with optics, check out these articles: Alaskan Lessons In Hunting Optics, Steves’s Garage: Glassing Kit, and 3 Long-Range Glassing Mistakes Whitetail Hunters Make.

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