The basis of all Alpine hunting relies on our ability to cover steep, ruthless terrain and spot game while we are up there. Therefore no two things are more important to the alpine hunter than good boots and quality optics; without either of these one will struggle to find animals. Boots are a huge topic in themselves and with everybody’s feet being different, a blackhole of opinion - so that’s a whole other post for another day!
Over the years I’ve hunted with a lot of experienced people, some of whom were more successful than others. The general trend I picked amongst the more successful guys was that, they place a larger emphasis on the smart and systematic use of high-end binoculars. By better using optics to your advantage you are able to cover more of the terrain that matters at the time of day that it counts.
Tools for the job.
In the Southern Alps, my recommendation would be the use a quality pair of X 10 magnification binoculars. Less magnification than this and you’ll struggle when looking past 500 yards, more than, and you’re adding unnecessary weight and will struggle to hold them steady without support.
If you’re serious about finding something to put on the wall then your best bet is to use a combination of bino’s and a spotting scope. Spotting scopes commonly have a magnification of 20-60 X making them invaluable for assessing if that buck really is worth walking for a couple of hours to get into a shooting position.
Quality only hurts once
When it comes to optics you really do get what you pay for. So take your time, shop around and make sure you get the best quality glass that your budget can handle.
Spotting scopes are similar but one thing extra to note is that, generally (apart from a couple of exceptions) the tripod that comes with the spotting scope is going to be next to useless. A slight wind with a cheap tripod makes the whole thing redundant and just a burden weight wise. Save yourself the pain and get a good quality lightweight tripod preferably with a ball head.
Get into position
As obvious as it may sound you need to have covered the ground and be looking into the country you want to be scoping for the first or last couple of hours of daylight. I think it’s a real advantage to be able to camp high as you can easily access the prime country without disturbing it and you can also move catchments during the day when most animals are parked up chewing cud.
Avoid animals getting the drop on you by carefully sliding over ridges and crests, be careful not to create a silhouette or move around on skylines more than necessary.
Get comfortable. Take your pack off and get a lean or try and use your knees to steady your bino’s for longer; this really makes a difference as you start to fatigue.
There isn’t really one right or wrong way to glass for game, and if you are finding them then obviously you’ve got it pretty sorted.
Personally, my tactics here are to start by glassing what I would consider to be the hotspots. This can vary depending on a bunch of things such as weather, time of day and year, but generally there’s a consistent theme…. FEED!
Next I tend to systematically work my eyes over the whole zone, often repeating this a couple of times. Again there’s no correct way to do this. I prefer to use the natural features as ‘my grid’, however some people will work a whole face in a set horizontal grid for example.
Look for things that just don’t seem to fit in and when you see something keep looking at it for a while to try and establish some movement. If you’re still unsure then make a mental note of some significant feature near it so that you can easily keep glancing back at it while continuing your search of the area.
Chamois and Tahr are fairly unpredictable by nature and can often pop up somewhere unexpected. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “they are where you find them!”
I find it’s often productive to start glassing the face with the sun on it as they really do stand out with a bit of sun on them.
By no means are the above simple tactics the only ways to glass game, so be sure to let your eyes do most of the leg work and the animals will always be “where you find them”.