arizona strip guides


Hunting Optics


You can’t kill what you can’t see. Period. It’s not going to happen.

You must be able to efficiently glass up and locate mule deer quickly and at extremely long distances if you plan on being a successful trophy mule deer hunter in the wide open spaces of the Arizona Strip and Kaibab Plateau.

I think that most of us hunters can remember getting started early on in hunting using optics that were “humble” to say the least. Also, using optics tripods for your binoculars was virtually unheard of not too many years ago.

I can vividly remember receiving my first pair of cheap 10 power binos that I proudly dangled from my neck with their stiff vinyl strap. A pain in the neck was a certainty after a full day of use along with prolonged spells of dizziness and blurred vision caused by squinting through them trying to get a clear view.

Rain, fog, or any kind of moisture effectively ended any attempts at glassing and wiping the lenses clean with a denim shirt or jacket was the norm. Looking back I almost wonder if some optics weren’t designed by optometrists looking to cash in on all the damaged eyes caused by squinting and straining through inferior optics designs.

Remember the binocular company that was producing the “Self Adjusting” binoculars? The vertigo is only now starting to go away after trying to glass with a pair of those ghastly optics many years ago.

What never ceases to amaze me though is that a vast majority of Big Game hunters are still using outdated optics today.

Many Kaibab and Arizona Strip mule deer hunters today will proudly spend loads of money on brand new quads, dozens of game cameras, giant lifted diesel trucks with hunting stickers, winches, and all the bells and whistles, new camp trailers, new camouflage clothing, new bows, fancy rifles, and side by side utility vehicles with blaring sound systems, but will balk at spending any kind of money on top quality optics when they finally draw their long awaited Arizona Strip or Kaibab mule deer tags. WHY?

You are effectively handicapping and severely limiting your trophy mule deer hunting success by not using the finest optics, tripods, and binoculars money can buy. There are two areas that trophy mule deer hunters should never scrimp on when it comes to spending money on hunting equipment: Optics and boots. You can’t kill it if you can’t see it and you can’t kill it if your feet won’t take you over there.

Swarovski Binoculars, Hunting optics, Swarovski Optics, Hunting Binoculars


Thanks to huge improvements by binocular companies, we now have optics that are designed specifically for trophy mule deer hunting that are truly world class long range glassing instruments. Sure, they might be pricey but when you really look at what your investment will bring you (a few more giant Arizona strip bucks and Kaibab bucks on the wall) the choice to spend the extra money on a world class pair of binoculars is easy.

Today’s optics coupled with a sturdy, high quality glassing tripod have opened up a whole new world to Arizona Strip and Kaibab mule deer hunters and have drastically improved our results out in the field. Upon using my first pair of high quality 15 x 56 Swarovski Binocualrs coupled with a Bogen tripod I felt as if someone had removed a blindfold from my eyes and I could finally see the world.

The results I immediately experienced  in using this new optics system on my hunts were absolutely astounding. I could now glass trophy mule deer bucks all day long without a hint of headache or eye fatigue. Gone was the blurriness at the edges of the lenses. No more straining and shaking. When mule deer were spotted I could now make very accurate field judging estimates due to the stability provided by the tripod and the clarity of the incredibly fine glass.

Adding a top quality spotting scope to the long range optics arsenal took it even one step further. Scrambling over ridges and risking spooking game to get a closer look was rarely an issue anymore when looking through a Zeiss 20 x 60 power by 85mm objective spotting scope with perfect razor sharp clarity. Locating and evaluating Kaibab bucks and Arizona strip bucks at long ranges was now very enjoyable and very efficient.

Swarovski Binoculars, Hunting optics, Swarovski Optics, Hunting Binoculars


We use a 3 step or 3 pronged approach to my glassing when we are guiding trophy mule deer hunters on the Arizona Strip and Kaibab Plateau. Let’s take a look at our 3 step glassing approach and my personal battery of trophy mule deer hunting optics, binoculars, tripods and why I choose them.

My personal choice for the best hunting binoculars in the world is Swarovski. We have tried products from every optics company under the sun and Swarovski optics still remain number one on our list for the best hunting binoculars. Their sleek, lightweight design, clarity, light gathering capabilities, and extreme durability is what make them our hands down favorites.

We have successfully used Swarovski binoculars in the absolute worst of conditions on the Kaibab Plateau and Arizona Strip and have yet to encounter any type of problems with them. From freezing rain and snow, to blowing sand and 115 degree heat, these fantastic optics have continued to perform flawlessly for us over the years. The model that I use for my “handheld” pair is the 8 x 30 Sawrovski SLC binoculars. I couple this pair of binoculars with a Crooked Horn Bino Harness system which keeps the binoculars firmly against my chest without any of the neck pain and swinging around associated with neck straps.


The 8 power binoculars allow me to hand hold them steadier than 10′s or 12′s yet still offer me a great field of view. My 8′s are my first step in my glassing and are used to initially sweep and look over an area that I intend to glass before setting up the big optics to really dissect and take apart my glassing area. I never hike up to a glassing location on the Kaibab Plateau or Arizona Strip and sit down before thoroughly covering the area with the Swarovski 8 x 30 binoculars first. After glassing the area with my handheld binoculars I will set up for my second step to slowly take the area apart with my tripod and big glass.


Swarovski Binoculars, Hunting optics, Swarovski Optics, Hunting Binoculars


For my tripod mounted pair I rely on the Swarovski 15 x 56 SLC binoculars. The big 15′s have an amazing field of view, razor sharp clarity from edge to edge, and are packaged up in a sleek lightweight design that allows you to pack them anywhere without being too cumbersome. I attach these binoculars to a Bogen 3001 BD Tripod with a Bogen 3130 fluid pan head attachment. This particular tripod is heavier to pack than some other models but the extra weight pays off immensely by adding stability when glassing in very windy conditions. The fluid pan head is smooth as silk and allows for slow and precise movements when glassing. This setup is my bread and butter system for all of our Arizona Strip and Kaibab mule deer hunts and is far and away the finest combination of optics and tripod I have ever used. I use this binocular and tripod setup to locate 95% or more of the trophy mule deer that we harvest on the Kaibab and Arizona Strip.

I really can’t say enough about this system and I always get a big grin when my trophy mule deer clients ask to look through my tripod mounted Swarovski binoculars. The response is always the same:  “Holy $#+%, these things are awesome, no wonder you’re spotting all of ’em. I gotta get me a pair of these….”


Swarovski Binoculars, Hunting optics, Swarovski Optics, Hunting Binoculars


On to spotting scopes and the third step in my trophy mule deer glassing approach. Now as much as I am a died in the wool Swarovski Binocular junky you may be surprised to find out that Swarovski is not my top choice in spotting scopes.

That’s right, as you may be able to tell from the photo that is above this paragraph, Zeiss is my number one choice when it comes to spotting scopes. Why? After glassing with all the top spotting scope brands Zeiss scopes have far and away the biggest field of view of any brand of spotting scope I have tried to date.

It can be difficult locating your quarry through a spotting scope and the bigger the field of view, the faster you acquire your intended target. Zeiss scopes really stand out from the competition in this area and also have the razor sharp clarity and durability I demand in my hunting optics.  My model of choice is the Zeiss 20 x 60 power Diascope 85 T* FL. I also mount this spotting scope on my previously mentioned Bogen tripod setup.

Now, I don’t ever use a spotting scope to locate or trophy mule deer on the Arizona Strip or the Kaibab Plateau. My spotting scope only comes out as my third step after I have spotted a trophy mule deer buck that is a bit out of reach of my binoculars and needs a closer look. I also rely on my spotting scope to make careful and detailed evaluations of trophy Arizona mule deer bucks. My Zeiss spotting scope really allows me to see trophy detail up close and allows you to field judge trophy mule deer bucks at long distances without any fear of getting too close and spooking anything. The farther you can stay away from trophy mule deer when scouting, the better.

Swarovski Binoculars, Hunting optics, Swarovski Optics, Hunting Binoculars


You can really improve your success on hunting trophy Kaibab bucks and Arizona strip bucks this fall by wisely using all of the incredible long range hunting optics and hunting equipment that we have at our disposal today. The odds of bagging a world class mule deer buck are always slim at best and everything we can do to tip the odds in our favor can lead to you eventually harvesting the trophy mule deer buck of your dreams.

Spare no expense when it comes to hunting optics. The clarity and light gathering capabilities of world class optics such as Swarovski and Zeiss can add an extra 30 minutes of visibility to your day in low light conditions during the early morning and late evening periods when most trophy mule deer bucks are up and moving. This visibility difference will improve your Arizona mule deer hunting success by leaps and bounds.

Remember, you can’t kill what you can’t see……….