One area eastern hunters are lacking is glassing skills. Almost everyone carries a pair of binos, but how often they get used is another story.
I fall into this mold as well. Even though I carry a pair of Vortex 10×42 binos, they rarely come out of my harness. A deer sighting might entice me to take a closer look, but beyond that, my binos see more birds than deer.
Josh Ilderton, from The Untamed, is an eastern hunter who knows how to handle his glass. Josh is a bowhunter who can get it done in just about any setting. He’s well versed in his skills as a woodsman, but in all honesty, I’ve not spoken with anyone that can glass up a whitetail like this guy. He makes glassing whitetails as easy as catching fish in a barrel.
Talk about a killer; Josh can read a deer’s body language and knows when he should begin creeping in for a shot. I got to chat with Josh recently and picked his brain about some of his best advice. Here’s what he had to share with me and all of you.
Q: Josh, for starters, what type of glass would you recommend?
A: “The type of glass I use is related to the habitat I’m hunting. You can never be over-glassed. It’s all about what gives you the most confidence at that moment.”
Josh’s Spotting Scope: “A spotter would be my go-to for distance glassing. I’ll use them midday when I’m soaking everything in or if I’ve found a good deer and need to know more about him. Reading his actions or seeing details around him is challenging at long range. That’s why a spotting scope is always something I carry.”
Josh’s Binocular Choices: “For binos, I use three types. A pair of 8×42, 10×42, and 12×50 are a part of my pack. I base my choice of the smaller binos on the cover I’m hunting, but I don’t discriminate too much here. The 12x50s I use on a mono-pod for distance glassing. Back to the spotter, I use binos first to find a deer, then switch to my spotter. Binos can be easier on the eyes and, therefore, more effective.”
Q: How do you handle variation in terrain?
A: “Mixing up the terrain is challenging and keeps things fun. My crucial tip is to keep any moves slow and deliberate. It’s also important to flag the time of year.
If I glass one deer in open country in the early season, I know many more eyes are looking back at me. Spotting a mature buck during the rut is different. There may only be one hot doe near that mature buck, but there will be a few wary bucks around the pair. Those satellite bucks will bust you fast if you’re not careful.
Now, big woods is unique. I might only glass short distances, but I move from point to point and keep the visual advantage in front of me. Glassing from an advantage means that I’m looking into a bowl, ravine, holler, draw; whatever you call it where you’re from, that’s what you should be using.
Patience is the biggest factor when I’m glassing. I know I can’t just get up and move when I don’t see anything. If the deer are there, they will show. I have to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind.”
Q: What do you need to know before you begin a stalk?
A: “First, I need to know what that deer is telling me. What are his mannerisms? Is he timid, or is he looking for a fight? That body language will tell me how aggressive I can get.
Next, what is he doing? Did he bed down for the day? If he did, I’d watch him for an hour or so. A deer that only gets up to stretch will probably lay there all day, so I’ll close in for an ambush or to prep for an evening stalk.”
Q: What kind of wind and thermal advantage do you use?
A: “I don’t mess around with the wind. I’m constantly checking the direction with milkweed. I like the wind to be in my face most of the time, but a crosswind will do when I’m stalking a buck on the move.
For a distant deer, I need to figure out what the wind is doing at the location of the deer. I look at the vegetation around him like ragweed or whatever brush you see. Maybe he’s lying in swirling winds that give him a leg up from multiple directions. Use whatever resource you have to get as close as possible.
Another key we should talk about is the line of sight. I like to stay head-on to that buck. But the most important thing is to keep your eyes on him constantly. If he gets out of view, go to the last place you saw him cautiously. If you can’t see him from there, use your judgment. Read the terrain and cover to make sense of his course of action.”
Q: Josh, the obvious way to hunt deer, is out of a tree. Do you ever spend time in a saddle or a stand to glass?
A: “I do what I think is needed to kill a phantom buck. I wouldn’t say I like to sit much, but I will do what gives me the upper hand.
Glassing from a tree is a great way to observe. But I’m not afraid to get down and start stalking if that’s what the condition needs.”
Q: How much success do you have with a spot and stalk?
A: “Aaron, it’s always different, but keeping a positive mental attitude is the only thing that will get you through a rough patch.
I probably fail 80% of the time, but there is nothing like being up close to a mature buck in person. That memory keeps me coming back for more.
The times I find success are sweet, and you can’t beat them. It’s all about hunting the way I like, and I can always mix it up. I have to keep it interesting, but I’m ate up with whitetails and chasing them.”
More on Josh
I can’t say enough good things about this guy. He takes his whitetail hunting seriously, but he keeps it fun, and the man could make anyone laugh for hours. If you want to see more of Josh’s technique, check him out on Instagram@theuntamed, @joshilderton, or on his crew’s YouTube channel The Untamed Hunt.