When the moment of truth arrives on a big game hunt, you want all your actions and reactions to be second nature. You need to be able to make the shot, and a clean kill, almost without thinking at all. Of course, you must never take your mind off safety, but everything else should flow like it has happened 10,000 times before. That’s because it has; if not actually then, at least, in your mental preparation.
It’s especially critical to develop that kind of familiarity with your hunting optics; all of it – binoculars, spotting scope, and riflescope. Once you do, you will know the location of the focus adjustments by feel, without having to look. You will instinctively know which way to turn the dial to increase magnification vs. decrease magnification. Your riflescope should be positioned precisely to your build to maximize the margin in eye relief offering sharp detail and full field of view.
This kind of familiarity doesn’t come from leaving your optics in the closet for 350 days a year and only taking them out when it’s time to pack for your next hunting trip. You must get out and use those optics – the more often the better.
While it would be nice to think you could spend enough time hunting each year to create that instinctive familiarity, chances of that happening for most of us are pretty slim. So learning the ins and outs of your rifle scope calls for more range time, and if you’re fortunate enough to have a place to do is safely, informal “plinking.”
For the binoculars, when you’re not hunting, they should have a place in your everyday driving vehicle. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll pull them out and use them if they are handy. And that’s good!
Find a spot in your daypack for your spotting scope, too. Just leave it there during the non-hunting season. Then, if you’re hiking to get in shape for hunting (as much as you should be) you’ll have the scope and tripod there for some extra weight – and I guarantee you’ll find opportunities to use it more often, too. Just practicing pulling it from the pack and assembling it “by feel” is a skill with benefits while hunting. Imagine you’re working along an esker and movement a mile away catches. Knowing how to put the spotting scope on its sticks and remove the lens caps by feel lets you keep your eye on that exact spot where you saw the motion.
Find ways to stay in touch with all of your hunting optics. Come opener, you’ll be glad you did!