Pre Season Deer Scouting – Spotting Tip & Techniques For Mule Deer


When summer starts to wind down, my favorite time of year is just starting to winded up….FALL! This means pre season deer scouting for me. Not only does this mark the beginning of the hunting season, this means time to brush up on hunting exercises; physical and mental.

Gear. Essential to any outdoors men and woman is the equipment that aids in success. I suppose you could dig a gold mine with a table spoon, but the right equipment coupled with some sound knowledge makes success more probable and attainable. The same concept goes for scouting for deer.

Scouting Fundamentals – Be Strategic

Wouldn’ t it be great if we could just shift from being out of shape to being right able to power up the steepest mountains? Or just hike up to any vantage point and spot that trophy buck right off the bat? that’s Fantasy land!

There are hundreds of ways for hunters and outdoors men alike to make pre season scouting equatable, but it all starts with making the decision to get outdoors. A simple strategic approach will help from this point to successfully finding and spotting game.

  1. The Right Area: This is the first step in my process.  Nailing Down where to go is essential. Don’t get hung up on which particular drainage, or prominent ridge you need to be on, just get an idea of the general area you will be scouting out.
  2. Recon: Study out the area. A great tool for this is Google Earth. With that said, be careful. Although the satellite imagery is great, it doesn’t always tell the real story for the terrain at hand. Google Earth or a paper map will help you start to get the idea of what resources you have to work with, timber, streams, bluffs, and such.
  3. Feet on the Ground: Physically getting out there is the #1 way to get and idea of what the deer are doing. The more time that is spent in deer country the better we will understand how they are moving from beds to water to grazing. This also provides vital cardio preparation, which is what I seem to need more and more of each year!
  4. Timing: Being in the right place at the right time is a huge part of hunting and pursuing game in general. It simplifies to putting in the time. However, picking appropriate times for be out scouting and spotting can be critical to successfully engaging deer. Mornings and evenings are prime time for finding deer out on open mountain sides, whereas mid-afternoon is prime for spotting deer in their beds.



Gear Up – Optics Time

Spotting a buck early in the fall, velvet still on, ignites my passion for the outdoors. What ‘s amazing is that this happens as a result of the fundamentals plus the right gear, specifically Scouting mule deer
optics. There isn’t a single individual time during the fall that I use my optics more than when I am in scouting mode. This is when I glue my eyes to them.

Without going into brand and style detail, a high quality pair of binoculars and spotting scope will pay dividends in regard to spending multiple hours glassing. With that, I’m not going to review which and what are best here, but rather how to put these tools to work.

Although it’s nice to have binoculars and a spotting scope along, either one on its own would work with these techniques.

  • The spot:  Find a good vantage point that will allow a lot of terrain to be viewed. Having a good variety of habitats such as timber, bushy side hills, slides and such will allow for optimism opportunity to catch deer out and about.
  • Look around:  Sometimes what you’re looking for is right under your nose! Before you put your binos or scope to your eyes I suggest just a brief scan of your surroundings.
  • Start close:  Start close and work outwards. Sometime working a grid type pattern between land marks can help with glassing large areas.
  • Be Patient:  Time! Scouting and hunting is all about time. Checking back over an area that was just glassed over will often produce a deer that just walk out from behind a tree or rock. Just because the first round wasn’t successful doesn’t mean the next ten rounds won’t be as well.  If it’s a good spot put in the time.
  • Focus:  Deer are masters of blending in. So many times I have glassed a side hill and not seen anything and had a buddy say, there’s Blending inone! When there seems to be nothing there,  in under the trees and within the brush, and it will surprise you how often there is a concealed deer bedded down.
  • Make a note:  If transitioning from binoculars to a spotting scope make a mental note of some stand out features, a rock, goofy looking tree, something near where the deer is so you are able to acquire it again quickly.

Practice Like You Play

Some good advice I once received was “Practice Like You Play”! This is great advice for any preseason activities. I have implemented this logic when it comes to scouting and particularly spotting mule deer.

Being stealthily working into an area where you have done some homework on, and then executing good spotting technique can improve any pre-hunt and “real” time hunt in huge ways. Of course one can rely on luck, and some seem to have luck constantly on their side, but as you prefect and add to these techniques you’ll start to make your own luck!

Have a great one, and get out and enjoy our amazing outdoors.



Unique Camping Gear — Small Things Make Big Differences


One great thing about camping is that you can do it with virtually little to no investment. You can go as plain as you want or go with some unique camping gear. The reality is you can spend as much as you want and go as extravagant on the gear as you want or just rough it under the stars.

There are still some days that I just pull a tarp over a tight string and nestle my bed roll in a pile if foliage. That’s pretty simple, yet that has served many well for years. Then some trips it’s nice to have it all plus the kitchen sick.

As with everything in our world there are innovations and upgrades nearly every day. I sometimes get upgrade weary as we get flooded with the acclaimed newest and greatest must haves. My goal here is to shed some light on a few items I’ve used in some of my experience that will enhance your outdoor experience.


Planning & Preparation

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? I do. The key there is a plan! A bit of preparation will go along way when you have a tripped planned.

Start a list couple of days before you go. It almost never fails when I’m pushing the envelope of time that I forget something that I really wanted to have along. Often I have remedied my forgetfulness with basically packing everything I can fit in. That brings along its own set of problems, as you can imagine.

At least with a list you can go over it and add and delete things as you see fit. Starting a list early allows you to think through what you need, how much you need, and things to enhance you experience.

High mountain lake

Where and what?

Asking yourself these questions can help you determine what you need and don’t need. An example of this played out on a camping trip my son and I went on a couple of years ago.

We had planned for a hike into a high mountain lake in Wyoming and to spend a couple of days relaxing, fishing, and glassing for wildlife. He was 13 at the time, and packed for himself. As we went over the inventory, I began to see that he had not fully understood my instructions on packing for this trip. Typical teenage right!

Well, I figured a hard lesson sometimes is the best lesson, and allowed him to take what he thought was necessary. The majority of the trek in is up hill with some very steep traverses. It didn’t take very long at all for him to regret some of his decisions in planning and packing.

We all can be guilty at times of not thinking through something and finding ourselves in a pickle. As my son learned this lesson the hard way on the hike, he began to see the wisdom of planning as we lightened his load of excess weight.

When you have determined the where, you can narrow down the what. In the experience I related, it would have been very beneficial for my son to plan a bit better, right. He probably didn’t need a comfortable, but heavy, sleeping pad, full sized pillow, excessive snacks, and a bunch of other small but weighty items for a high back country camping trip.

When you know where you are heading out to, take the time to plan what you need. I have found that simplifying usually coincidence with light weighting. In an alike scenario as my mentioned trip, the weight in your packs play a major role in the overall experience.

Losing Pounds — Packing Lighter

There has been some huge advances in the outdoor world, especially with respect to weight and compact ability. Hydration, meals, sleeping bags and pads, pack frames, clothing, tents, cook ware, and stoves are some of the Backpackerfirst things that I think of when I think about lightweight innovation.

There are a few things that I have fully adopted into just about every backpacking trip these days. The first thing that I think about is hydration. How and what am I going to bring? Am I going to need to pack water bottles, which are very weighty, or is there another option?

Yes there is! There a many options for hydration. From packing your own water to filtration to ultra violet treatment. A few things to think about include: If you like flavoring enhancers, if weight is an issue, and if water is even available.

If you like to add tang or some other flavor packet and you are packing light then you might seriously look st the UV light treatment options. They are way lighter than packing water bottles, which my son can attest to! When just good old H2O is all you need, another lightweight effective options is a filtration straw or bottle.

The next thing that comes to my mind is FOOD, naturally! It would be nice to sit down to a nice steak and baked potato dinner on every camp out, but not always practical or possible. However, these days there are some very good freeze-dried meals. In fact the are freeze died breakfast, lunch, and dinner that are pretty dang good!

And then there is shelter, and sleeping gear to sort out. As I mentioned before I still occasionally rough it, but I have noticed that the older I get the more I prefer some comfort. Luckily the days of leaving comfort behind for sake of pounds has come to an end.

The old heavy canvas bed roll can be substituted for a lightweight synthetic filled sleeping bag. Those sturdy spring bar type tents have a lightweight counter part often utilizing trekking poles as part of the tent! And sleeping pads have comes leaps and bounds from the old egg crate or solid foam to ultra light self-inflating pads.

Made Room…. Here Come The Enhancers

Now that it’s possible to pack lighter, we can start looking at taking a few of those items that may have been left home before. These are the items that can elevate the experience.

  • Optics: Whether this is binoculars, spotting scope, or camera this to me is a must. I love spending the evening picking out wildlife Spotting wildlife from off the hills and watching the last sun light climb up the mountain peaks. If outdoor photography is a passion or hobby or just capturing a memory then you get how important this is.
  • The Old Pen & Paper: Taking a journal or note book may seem weird at first, but give a go. Writing down what you saw, or heard and what you felt is great for revisiting down the road. It’s amazing how quickly we forget things, and having even a few words jotted down might just solidify a great experience.
  • A Smart Phone: I realized some may have just when ???WHAT THE…..???? But hear me out. I would hope you can get out of service when you get to go camping. So then why pack a phone? For me, I love having it along to use it attached to my spotting scope to record and take pictures of wildlife or capturing little moments of camp life. I use a map app as well that allows you to download and use off-line. You see it really helps to have one item, the phone, to take the place of at least a couple of things.

Time To Go

There are tons of unique gear for the outdoors and camping out there. Hopefully this gives you some insight and perspective to think about as you plan and prepare for your next outdoor adventure. As you get outdoors and work on the things mentioned here you’ll start depositing some wonderful memories and experience.

Have fun out there and let me know in the comments if you have any questions or a fun experience to relate.


Western skies




Birding Binocular Recommendations & Tips – Getting Started Right

In the outdoor world there is a realm, which isn’t small, and that is bird watching. You can just watch from your window, park, or favorite outdoor haunt with your built in optics, your eyes, right. However, you’ll be missing what everyone else is getting hooked on!

A good pair of binoculars will not only enhance what you see, it may just change how you interpret the world. I’ll give some birding binocular recommendations and tips so you’ll be sure to have great experiences over and over.


Your Birding Spots – This Is The Place!

I wouldn’t have said that I was an avid birding guy growing up, nor an absolute authority now, but as I’ve went introspective and looked back on my experiences I realized maybe I was a bit of one then, and am one now.

I’ve taken countless trips and spent many hours in the Rocky Mountains perched on a ridge with my eyes glued in my optics.  Searching the high country, alpine medows, and river bottoms for just a glimps of the wonders of the wild.

Of course many of these trips were intended for spotting big game; however, when there wasn’t a deer or an elk immediately in view I found myself watching sparrows play chase around a pine tree, or a hawk riding an updraft. I realized I have probably watched more avians than any of the big game animals I intended to seek.

Whether you are specifically focused on bird watching or just enjoying all aspects of the outdoors, where you are going to participate in glassing and spotting birds can determine the equipment you’re able to pack around.

At or Near Home: Whenever I find myself glassing close to home or just in the back yard checking out the birds and critters in the trees and shrubs, I tend not to worry too much about whether my optics are bulky or heavy. Brand and cost also become a debatable point.

An average pair of binoculars, 7×42 clear up to 15×56, or anything right in that ball park with a reasonable amount of quality will preform to a pretty substantial level. This is because you are more likely to be in good light conditions and fairly close proximity to your viewing objects, birds, and squirrels, etc.

With these circumstances, you wouldn’t be playing into the true advantages of the higher end, higher dollar, optics, at least not in a way that would justify the investment. Those options become more worthy of your investment as you venture into larger arenas with widening conditions.

The Day Tripper: Probably the most common of my own trips fall into this category. Up before dawn and back after dark. These adventures can often consist of a multiple mile hikes or long afternoon drives through the mountains.

Here is where I start to lean towards the better quality optics. One reason is this, if I am going to invest the time and energy in a trip, I usually want to get the most out of the experience. When money isn’t disposable, this can become tricky to balance. Choosing the right optics without breaking the bank.

This is when I don’t want a pocket size pair of binoculars. That’s like being thirsty and only having a thimble of water. Conversely, I don’t want to lug the 3 pound binos around the woods all day, that’s like getting the whole Gatorade jug over you’d head.

A good pair of medium power/objective binoculars, 8×42,10×42 seems to be about the perfect option for this kind of birding and outdoor activity. Sort of the old saying of “not too much, but just enough”!

remote area

An Expidition: Some of my favorite outdoor moments have come by way of an extended outdoor adventure. There is something magical about being far out and away from the hustle and commotion of “normal” everyday life that seems to reset the balances.

These get away expeditions have a way of producing lasting and impressionable memories.  There are always new things to explore even if you’ve been to a certain place before, There never seems to be enough time to do all the fun things or see all the beautiful sites.

I always love to glass new remote areas. This is where you are able to see the world in a new light. This can be enhance by having the right equipment for what you’re seeking.

As you know very well, there are many variables that can sway what you might take for optics, such as weight restrictions if packing light, low light conditions, environment considerations, etc. This is where I want my time I’ve invested getting out there to pay off. I don’t what to be disappointed, especially by something I could have controlled.

In my mind there are a few none negotiable points when it comes to my extended time outdoors:

  1. Field of View – Likely, I’m going to be spending considerable amounts of time looking over a large area in search of birds, small and big game, or breath taking landscapes. Thus, 42 to 50 mm objective lens is a must.
  2. Clarity/Contrast- If you had the option to watch your favorite team play in the big game or your favorite show on T.V. in HD or on an old school color T.V. Binocular claritywhich would choose? HD right! The same goes for optics. I definitely want to see the contrastings colors on an eagle perched on a limb across the canyon.
  3. Durability & Dependability- There isn’t anything more frustrating than pulling up your binoculars just to see that moisture has made its way on the inside of your eyepiece glass, or that an earlier stumble has rendered your optics inoperable. Toughness is a must in the rugged back country.


Bird Watching Success – Step by Step

Like any new adventure, you can dive head first into the fire and hope you come out the other side with minimal damage; or plan, prepare, and practice what you have learned and be way more likely to succeed on a fast track.

This describes many of my learning curves in life. You could say a motto that epitomizes many of my life lessons is that “you have to fight something to learn something.” I have learned to give way to a better way in many instances, though I’m still stubborn in some cases.

Bird watching, and glassing, in general can fit this mold. Either you can go out and struggle through a session and see but a few birds, or you can ask and emulate and study successful spotters.

A few tips that I learned along the way that apply in multiple situations will help you spot more than you realized was actually there. This is a game of hide-and-seek, patience, and some luck all jumbled together.

Pick Your Spot

The spot you pick to set up to watch birds is likely the most important step, thus it comes first. You wouldn’t go to a burger joint and likely find good sushi. You must do some kind of scouting, or home work if you will, of the species or area you are considering. This will pay dividends in the long run.

Just like good business, it’s all about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Get Comfortable

When you are uncomfortable you’ll simply move around more. Shifting back and forth, up and down, constantly adjusting. This makes glassing and actually bring an image in to view to observe nearly impossible. Basically the exact opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Find a comfortable spot, make your adjustments and settle in. This is your foundation so to speak. Animals, especially birds seem to always have there head on a swivel, constantly surveying there surroundings for suspicious movements and danger. I have found just being in a relaxed state seems to radiate to your surrounding, including to wildlife.

Now that you’re comfortable you are set up to be able to use time to your advantage. This is a sort of ambush tactic. The more time you’re able to sit and glass the more chances you will have of picking out what your looking for.

Quick Scan

I’ve had to break myself from just settling in and starting at a single point first and slowly working from that point outward, meanwhile missing an opportunity out of my field of view. I learned from a close friend on a preseason deer scouting trip that a quick scan of the area can often produce immediate results.

If by luck there is something out in plain sight you’ll pick that up right off the bat and now you’re in the chips right off.

Pick a Block of Area

After your quick scan make an educated decision on where to start. This will be a likely spot to find what you’re targeting. For example, if you are looking for rapturous birds you might start by looking over the tree tops or ledges. As birds of prey like to have lots of area look over for prey.

As you decided the area, pick a block of that area to pick apart. This could include finding distinct landmarks for your corners and then begin a focused search within that block.

The size and speed of the area you search may be limited by time, or relevant habitat, and even size of bird or animal.


I often find myself getting in a sort of tunnel vision, and have to remind myself to look around at the big picture again. You never know when a new creature might pop out of the wood work.  Making periodic scans of a large area is a  critical part of successful glassing and spotting.


Practice Makes Perfect

I don’t think that we ever fully become perfect at any skill, but through practice and investing time in using your binoculars, we can become very proficient in this skill set. It almost becomes second nature to pull out the hidden images of nature’s wonders.

outdoor wonder

This is the treasure of the great outdoors!

Have a great day and find yourself under some western skies,











Don’t Forget Your Binoculars – Alaskan Cruise!

Bucket lists often consist of dare devil adventures, those wild impulses, and fantasy trips all mixed together. Over time I have visited with many people and found that many bucket list items either get pushed perpetually back or scratched right off the list. There is Alaskan Cruisehowever, one that seems work its way out and get checked off. The Alaskan cruise!

Now I can’t help you check the dream vacation
off the list but one thing we can do is help you experience the amazing sights by helping you find the best binoculars for an Alaskan cruise.

Snow capped mountains Pods of whales Glacier breaks Coastal bears Best binoculars Alaskan cruise. What the heck does all that mean. Well, all those things together makes a ONCE IN A LIFE TIME experience. Wouldn’t it be a gigantic let down to miss out on an up close and personal view of these wonders of the outdoors just because you lacked one simple item, binoculars. So simple right? But it happens, whether they are forgotten or merely an after thought. What’s the most improtant things to pack for an Alaskan Cruise?  Binoculars are need to be in the top 5 for sure!

The Power Struggle

As you know well enough, there are tons of brands and multiple models within each brand. One main option that has to be sorted out is the “power” of the binoculars. The power of a binocular can be described simply as how much closer an object may appear. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the power the bulkier the optics.

Binocular objective lenses

With powers ranging from 6 to upwards of 25, there is some narrowing down to do. I have a hard time picturing myself on an amazing cruise with a 25 power set of binoculars hanging on my neck, ouch. The reciprocal of that can be worse, with exception of simply not have any binoculars, and that is having too little power in your binoculars.

Narrowing there options down is essential in selecting the right binoculars.  the 2 most versatile power options in binoculars are the 8 and 10 power models. So lets get some facts and practicality on these 2 options.

  • 8 X (power): 8x in nearly all instances will have the advantage of weight and size. When every once counts this becomes a leverage point. Even a couple of ounces can make a difference especially when luggage space is limited and when glassing for an extended time. The images you look at in 8X as a whole will have a brighter crisper quality, however, you will lack some fine detail. A good example of this is if you were looking at a landscape you would see more quantity clearer , and if you were looking at a bear on the coast you’ll see finer details clearer.
  • 10 X (power): 10x lends itself to the finer details without the extra bulk of higher power optics. They will have a slightly larger feel, but not too large. They fit most the same new style of harness and cover systems 8X binoculars do. The advantage of 10X is the added detail and the ability to pick out objects in cover.

What’s Your Objective? Lower Power Objective Lens vs. High Power Objective Lens.

The next options that we must navigate is the size of the objective lens. This is the potion of the binocular furthest from your eye, the Light gatherer so to speak. The rule of thumb here too is the bigger the binocular’s objective lens the more light they gather, the brighter the image.

Objective lenses are measured in millimeters. a few common sizes, and one we’ll focus on are 32, 42, and 50. As with the power, the objective size translates the same in regards to size and bulk. Finding the happy medium can be found in what your expectations and desired uses are.

  • 32mm objective is going to be very compact. If your looking for something to slip in a jacket pocket then this is the direction you will want to go. Contrast will sacrifice to compactness.
  • 42mm objective will give you more of the contrast and clarity of image as well as a larger field of view. Simply put you will have more quantity of the overall picture, but it will be less compact as a unit.
  • 50mm objective brings in considerably more light, which translates to better image quality and quantity. With the 50mm lens the bulk of the binocular’s size is in the objective side of the chassis, but that’s the ebb and flow of this option. Great contrast and clarity, but not really compact.

Altogether Now

  1. Now we have discussed the options individually, they come together as follows:

8×32 – very compact and packable. Decent field of view, but fall short on specific image detail.

10×32– very compact and packable. Less of a field of view, but better specific image details.

8×42– Great complete image clarity and field of view. Lacks on the details on a specific object in an image.

10×42– Good complete image quality, but smaller field of view. Great ability for detail detection.

10×50– Amazing contrast, and large field of view. Not so compact, but great clarity on details and low light conditions.

Bon Voyage

Hopefully this proves useful to making your decision on what type of binoculars will suit your needs and viewing style. Whether it’s the Alaskan Cruise landscape, sites, or the wildlife that draws you out there, don’t leave the experience to chance. Being prepared is far better than wising you were or would have been.

Have a great one, and see all you can!!





Welcome to Western Skies Outdoors

Here at Western Skies Outdoors the goal is to provide valuable insight and tips on quality affordable optics & accessories, and occasionally some relevant outdoor gear. I want you to feel comfortable and assured in your decisions. When it comes to enjoying the outdoors, having the right gear combined with some knowledge makes all the difference in the world. You’ve worked hard to get out there and now you deserve to see it all.

The Western Skies Outdoor Story

When I was about 8 or 9 I went on my first real camping trip in the back country of Colorado. It was then I knew I would do everything I could to do that again. The stillness of the forest, the wildlife, the views of sub alpine mountains, and rolling mountain streams had me hooked deep.

Flashing forward to present day. I’m blessed to have repeated that experience in several western state, many times. There are lots of great new things I came to love about camping, hunting, fishing, and outdoor survival but that all came second when I was introduced to a pair of binoculars.

I remember the first time I look through my dad’s binoculars. They were an old pair of Bushnells, nothing special right, but when everything came into focus I was completely Old binos floored. I commandeered those for the rest of
that trip and for months after that. I was continually fascinated whether I was looking at a squirrel in a pine tree, a sparrow, or just up a grassy draw.

Optics have played a very important role in my outdoor experiences as well as in my everyday arena. I rarely leave home without a pair in the truck, tucked into a backpack, or on the boat. Life and perspectives change when you are able to see something up close that is normally out of reach and unfocused.

Western Skies Outdoors Is Here To Help You

The last couple of decades has brought great strides in technology.  It seems there are more Old binoculars devices and gadgets by the day and an endless stream of upgrades and updates available. Is this bad? Is this good? What do I need? What don’t I need? Are the reviews trustworthy?

I have found that there are no “one size fits all” solutions or answers for really anything, optics included. Binoculars, spotting scopes, rife scopes, and range finders really haven’I changed in what they do necessarily, but so much has changed in how they do it.

With all these variables how do you pick the best option for you, especially when on a budget? This is where our mission comes in, to help you find what fits you.

The Goal Of Western Skies Outdoors

I want others to be able to benefit from my trial and error, as well as building off where I have found success.  I want to get you into the optics and outdoor gear that suit your needs, your style, and your pocket book. I value your hard work because I know how much I value mine. I’m focused on giving and finding worthy opnions on quality products and companies to steer you too. I want you have the greatest experiences possible in those wonderful outdoors!

If you ever need a hand or have a question, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

All the best,