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Digiscoping: The Best Way to Take Photos & Video through Your Optics

Whether you want to take footage of animals on your hunts, the winter range, or record videos of your long-range steel target shooting, It is easy to capture and share these moments with today’s digiscoping products. Let’s look at a couple of options, the pros and cons and compare custom fit adapters to Universal Adapters. With any of these products, you’ll be taking quality images through your spotting scope or binoculars!

Our Favorite: Phone Skope Kit with Phone Case and Optic Specific Adapter

Phone Skope Digiscoping Kit

Phone Skope is our favorite digiscoping product because it’s easy to use, affordable and very quick to deploy. While Phone skope does offer some universal adapters, I prefer the custom adapters that are made to fit my specific optics that I carry in the field. The phone skope system is composed of 2 parts – a case made for your smartphone, and an adapter that slides over the eyepiece of your optic. These pieces can be purchased separately, so if you purchase a new phone, or a new optic, you can just purchase the part you need. The case detaches from the adapter easily so you can leave your phone in the case all season.

Pros: Easy to use, Affordable, Fast Setup
Cons: Only fits one optic unless you purchase additional adapters (we still think it is worth it). 

Phone Skope on Angled Spotting Scope
Image taken from Above Image – around 150 yards

Universal Adapter:

If you run a variety of optics and don’t want to have separate pieces for all of them, there are also a number of universal adapters on the market. The most user friendly and popular among our staff members is the Tines up Phone Cam Adapter. This adapter works really well and can be fit to any phone case. Using their alignment tool, it’s very easy to attach the adhesive mount that is low profile and easy to use.

Another widely used universal adapter is the Phone Skope Universal Adapter. This adapter is available in 2 sizes to fit a large range of eyepiece diameters. 

Pros: Fits any Optic, you only need one piece of equipment for any optic.
Cons: Not as easy or quick to deploy as the Optic Specific Adapter, bulkier.

As always feel free to reach out if you have any questions about digiscoping or getting setup to take high quality photos and video through your optics!

The Best Camera for Hunting

Are you looking for the best camera for filming or photographing your hunting adventures? Honestly, most of us can’t afford the “best” camera out there. However, in this article we’ll look at a few options in a few different price ranges that are a very solid camera for filming your outdoor adventures.
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Vortex Optics Fury Binocular

Vortex Rangefinding Binoculars

Vortex Optics will be releasing a new rangefinding binocular for summer 2017. While we don’t know much about them yet, we do know that they will be called the Fury and will be in a popular 10×42 size with the ability to range out to 1600 yards.

We don’t yet know what MSRP will be, although the email release does state that they won’t “kill your pocket book.  They are advertised as being an HD glass, and will, of course, be backed by their 100% lifetime warranty. This will be an interesting product to follow to see if they fall into a price point that isn’t being touched by most of the rangefinding binoculars that are available right now.

Image from Vortex Optics.

 

Minox MD50 – More than Expected

Lightweight spotters have always been a favorite of mine. While I do find value in large objective lenses that can gather more light in twilight conditions, personally, I prefer carrying lighter and smaller spotting scopes, as I find them more fitting to my hunting style. For the past few years I have used, almost exclusively while hunting in the backcountry, a 50mm objective spotting.

I first saw the Minox MD50 at the Western Hunting Expo in Salt Lake City. I was impressed with the size, build, and twist up eyepiece that I hadn’t seen in many other compact scopes.  A few weeks later I had one sitting on my front porch and immediately started putting it to work.

minox 50D

I soon found myself carrying the MD50 with me through shed hunting season, summer scouting, and into the next fall.  The MD50 is a well thought out and manufactured spotting scope. Especially for its low ($250-$300) price.

The MD50 is surprisingly small. At under 8 inches in length and weighing in right at 24 oz. it will almost fit in your pocket. The previously mentioned twist up eye-piece is not something that is typically featured on compact scopes. This eye-piece is very sturdy and comfortable. The focus ring is located on the body of the scope, rather than the eyepiece. I found it very easy to use, a little stiff at first, but over time it eased up a bit and worked flawlessly. The large diameter of the focus ring makes it easy to focus, and make small focus adjustments.

The MD50 features 16-30x zoom and optically was clear on all magnifications. Optical quality was good, and very good for the price. It features a waterproof body, with Nitrogen filling and coated glass.

I have now used this scope on several hunts and in varied weather and hunting conditions. It’s done more than I expected at a price point that fits almost any hunters’ budget. If you prefer a light-weight spotter, take a close look at the MD50. The MD50 is available in a straight (as pictured) and angled model.  It think you’d be hard pressed to find something as optically clear and well put together as this little scope.

Straight model available from Amazon.com: Minox MDS50 16-30x50mm Straight Spotter  – $279

Angled model available from Amazon.com: Minox MD50 16-30x50mm Angled Spotter – $259

Review: Salomon Speedcross 3 CS

The Salomon Speedcross 3 CS is an incredible shoe. I can honestly see why these shoes are getting very popular among hunters. They are very light, but maintain a rigid and strong sole which sets them apart from many of the lightweight “running” type shoes I’ve tried in the past. The speedcross also provides good traction, strong construction, and breathability. The CS (ClimaShield) boasts a “waterproof insulation” that is specific to the Speedcross CS line and was surprisingly quite waterproof.

Salomon Speedcross 3 CS Unboxing

My Experience: My family tradition hunting mid to late season hunts in Wyoming’s high country was to wear a pair of Danner Elk Hunters on every hunt. Don’t get me wrong, these were great boots that provided great stability and protection from the elements and moisture. As I started hunting more early season hunts, I found boots to be overkill and started wearing mid and low height hiking shoes to hunt, but could barely get a season out of them. Typically the toe or sidewall of the show on the outside front edge would come apart from the stress of hiking steep slopes.

I purchased these shoes over a year ago, having seen a couple of positive reviews on social media. I’d been looking or a lightweight shoe that could hold up for more than a single hunting season. I’ve wore the Speedcross 3 CS almost exclusively throughout last summer, my early fall hunts (even in shallow snow conditions), for spring shed hunting, and summer scouting this season. They might not look like your traditional hunting shoe — that’s because they aren’t. This shoe has held together better than any shoe I’ve ever worn. The soles show minimal amounts of wear, the seams are holding tight, and the still seem quite waterproof. Even through stream crossings and a pushing through knee deep snow drifts while shed hunting this spring, I’ve found that they dry extremely well and perform well when wet. The quick lace system stays snug all day through any terrain I’ve hiked. I like these shoes so much I wear them when I should probably be wearing a boot, but find the lightweight less fatiguing on very long hikes. I would recommend the Speedcross 3 CS to anyone looking for an early season, lightweight shoe. Now if it only came in camo…
Salomon-Speedcross-3-CS-Mens-sole

The only downside to the SpeedCross 3 CS is there is no ankle support, which is not expected from a trail running shoe. I’ve been so impressed with this shoe that I’d recommend looking hard at other offerings from Salomon if you’re wanting a lightweight shoe in the mid to high heights that will be lightweight and not need much break-in.

Where to buy the Salomon Speedcross 3 CS (check pricing as it changes often):

Salomon Men’s Speedcross 3 CS Trail Running Shoe @ Amazon.com

Other models I’d recommend looking into for more ankle support:

I’ve long been looking for a

FHF Gear Binocular Harness Review

This harness from FHF Gear has been making waves with western hunters and rightfully so.  This is one of the most well thought-out products I’ve seen. Sure it’s simple and holds your binoculars, but this design truly fits the western DIY spot and stalk lightweight style of hunting.  The great thing about this system is it is available in several sizes so you’ll be able to fit all any model of binocular — including larger models like the popular Vortex 15 x 56 Kaibab.  I typically carry 10 x 42mm binoculars, which fit great in the “small” size. Coming in at only 9 oz it was considerably lighter weight than similar products. The clasp lid was easy to operate with one hand, and I was easily able to close the lid with the eyepieces of my optics either in or out. This model also has a zipper pocket in the front and two mesh side pockets where I could easily carry game calls, windicator powder, a lens cloth, and similar sized items.

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The backside of the pouch that sits against your chest is made of a lightweight mesh that I found to stay cool, even in early season and scouting weather where I saw temperatures exceeding 80 degrees. The fit was excellent. There is very little stretch incorporated to the straps which I personally like. This kept the binoculars from bouncing around or hanging too low when crawling or crossing fences.

Binoculars can also be attached using straps that are conveniently sewn on the front harness straps. These are adjustable (unique to this product) so when your binos are not in the pouch they will hang right where you want them. I did find these straps to loosed over time. If I am glassing a lot, I typically don’t place the binoculars back in the pouch and let the straps support the full weight of the binos. I found that over the course of a few days doing this while antelope hunting, the straps lengthened and needed to be re-adjusted. It wasn’t a big issue and was easy to re-adjust. The ability to adjust the length of these straps far outweighs having to fix the length every now and then.

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Check out this video from FHF gear on how to adjust the Bino Harness, along with video showing the features of the product.

FHF Gear makes the Binocular Harness sytem in Multicam (As pictured), Kryptek Highlander and a solid Foliage Green/Tan. Sizes vary from small (6″ tall) to XL (8.5″ tall). Prices start at $85 for the small version up to $100 for the large version.

The harness also is available in two sizes to fit different body types — which is a great idea that I haven’t seen elsewhere. I

Overall I was very impressed with the simplicity, functionality and thought that went into this harness and pouch system. I feel this is the perfect system for someone who wants a durable, lightweight solution that doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a full pack on your chest while still providing full protection to your optics. Even with the mesh and open sides of the pouch, I found that it protected the lenses from excessive dust and water in normal hunting situations.

bradglass
FHF (Fish, Hunt, Fight) Gear is a relatively small company who make tactical and hunting gear centered on function, utility, and durability out of Bozeman MT. This product can be ordered from their online store and is available in a very select few retail locations. For more information, or to order visit: FHFGear.com

Best Backpack for Hunting – under $250

Western hunting often demands long hikes, especially when day hunting. For hunts where leaving camp well before light and arriving back after the sun has set, you may want to look for a backpack that could work as a daypack, carrying  essential,s plus enough to stay overnight if need be, and also had the capability to carry a first load of meat if an animal is harvested. You’ll want a pack that is lightweight, small, and has the ability to carry heavy loads.

There are many great backpack companies who cater specifically to hunters. I found specifically what I was looking for in three packs, all from different manufacturers. I would consider the three packs listed below to be the best in their price range for their ability to carry heavy loads without being over-sized for day to day hunts:

Badlands 2200

The badlands 2200 is a do it all pack. At around 2200 cubic inches, it fits the bill of being a large day pack with the ability to pack heavy loads. I’ve had the opportunity to harvest several mule deer with this pack in tow. One of which was in a nasty timber basin. I was grateful to have a pack that could take out a load on the first hike back to camp. Between two of us, we boned out the buck, threw the meat in the packs along with all of our gear and had the whole deer packed home in one relatively easy trip. I’ve done this on several occasions since.

The Badlands 2200 has a fold out wing design, which is nice and makes the pack quite expandable. Badlands shoulder straps have always been very comfortable, and one feature that I really like about this particular pack is a zipper on the back of the pack (rests against your back) allowing you to get into your gear by either swinging the pack around while still wearing the waist belt, or accessing items in your pack when you have a load strapped on the other side. The 2200 also has the capability to be carry a rifle or a bow.

The Badlands 2200 was re-designed in 2014 and is the most expensive of the listed packs (the new price is actually more than $250). The 2200 is a very popular pack among western hunters and has been reliable with a great warranty.

For more information about the Badlands 2200 CLICK HERE

Eberlestock X2

The Eberlestock X2 is one of my favorites because it’s compact size. It is the smallest of the packs featured on this article, coming in at 1800 cubic inches. Don’t let the size fool you, this pack is solid. The only reason I would hesitate to throw a elk quarter in this pack and hike for miles, is because I’d wear out long before the pack ever did.  It’s compactness is what really sets it apart from it’s counterparts.  It has a lightweight aluminum  frame, with great organization pockets for your spotting scope, water, calls, and other items you might need quick access to. Most Eberlestock packs are compatible with a rifle scabbard, and the X2 is no exception. Or, if you’re an archery hunter who likes carrying your bow on your pack, it has the ability to do that as well with the added “ButtBucket.”

As far as size, design, and functionality goes, this pack is one of my favorite and is high on my personal wish list.

For more information about the Eberlestock X2 CLICK HERE

Links for Purchase: (View these links as prices change often)
Eberlestock X2 Pack @ Amazon.com: $189
Eberlestock X2 Pack @ Cabelas.com: $189

Horn Hunter Main Beam

I’ve personally been using the Main Beam as my day pack for the past 3 or 4 seasons. While I’d love to have all of these packs and truly believe any of them would fit the bill perfectly — I chose the Horn Hunter for a couple of reasons. First, cost was a bit lower than the other two, and I was on a budget when choosing this pack. Second, I liked the design of this pack a lot. It has a wing type design, (smaller wings than the 2200) which allows me to access my spotter, tripod, bugle or any somewhat larger item quickly, without a zipper — while still protecting it from getting beat up as I hike. The Main Beam also has over 20 different storage pockets, so I can keep all of my gear organized. It has a fold out orange meat carrier that tucks away in a pocket on the bottom of the bag which is great for packing out a cape and antlers or stuffing your extra clothing, sleeping bag, or whatever else you may be carrying.

The Main beam is listed at 2800 cubic inches, but when carrying it alongside the badlands 2200, it actually  seems a bit smaller. It has more straps for compressing loads than either of the other packs listed in this article, which may be why. Regardless, the pack feels much smaller than the advertised size.

I’ve used my Main beam to pack out a lot of critters over the past few years and have been able to depend on this pack in every situation I’ve been in. I never really weigh my packs when loaded, but it has carried everything I could ever fit in it and has been a great pack for my needs.

For more information about the Horn Hunter “Main Beam,” CLICK HERE

Links for Purchase: (View these links as prices change often)
Horn Hunter “Main Beam” @ Amazon.com: $147 – $179 (price varies)

If you’re looking for the best packs for the DIY hunter for under $250 and are wanting the ability to hunt light and still be able to carry out a heavy load, then take a closer look at the Badlands “2200,” the Eberlestock “X2”, and the Horn Hunter “Main beam.” I highly recommend all of them – each company has fantastic warranties, and they are all durable, dependable, and made especially for hunters.

Other packs you might want to check out that are under $250 include the Badlands Diablo, Eberlestock X1, and the Tenzing TZ 2200.

A few packs to check out that cost more than $250: NEW Eberlestock War Hammer, Horn Hunter Full Curl System, Horn Hunter Curl ComboBadlands Sacrifice, Eberlestock Just One (J34), Mystery Ranch Crew Cab, NEW Mystery Ranch Metcalf.

What’s on your List?

Hunts have either started or are starting within the next few weeks in most western states. This time of year seems to sneak up on a guy. Sure, we’re always looking forward to the upcoming hunt –shooting  bows, sighting in  rifles, anticipating the opener. But every year, I feel like I’m rushing around, trying to get the last few items in my pack, the last few arrows shot, and the last few plans made.

I wasn’t planning on having an early hunt this year. I didn’t draw my favorite deer unit in Utah and scaled back my out of state applications as I knew I wouldn’t be able to make them with a new addition to the family coming soon. I was casually glancing over the leftover list and noticed there were a bunch of tags left over for the unit where I live. I haven’t hunted this unit for 4 seasons, but am excited at the prospect of hunting so close to home. Being as picky as I am, I know I’ll likely end up not finding something I like enough to shoot – or if I do will likely screw up the stalk somehow, but I’m still excited to get out and enjoy it. So if you see me in the hills of Northern Utah – come say hello.

That being said, I do have a few new gear items in my pack this season that I’m pretty excited about. Here’s a few of the new products I’ve added to my arsenal this season that I think you might be interested in:

I’ll be slinging some new broadheads this season courtesy of Wac’em Broadheads. They make a solid head and are a Utah based company. I know their product is solid and have always been a big fan of fixed blades. Hopefully I can post a photo of one covered in BIG buck blood!

I also will be testing out my new DIY homemade Digiscoping adapter. I paired it with an old camera I had sitting around. I’ll give it some thorough field testing and probably make some modifications. I’ll post up a step-by-step once I know I like it.

Catoma tents will be coming with me on my early season overnighters as well. They make a very lightweight bed net system that is permethrin coated (to keep out the bugs). The coolest part is how light it is, and how quick it is to set up and take down. Keep watch, I’ll be showing everyone how it works — I think it’s going to be a good gear addition.

The new product that I’m also very excited about is a unique hydration system developed by Geigerrig. These aren’t your average water bladder, they are pressurized, bomb-proof (literally – watch this video) and have the perfect filtration capabilities. I’ve got a video in the hopper for this as well. I really think this product is head and shoulders above any other hydration system I’ve ever used.

What new products are you adding to your collection this season? Leave a comment and let me know!