BRAXTON'S SPOTTING SCOPE SET UP
This Is My First Gear Review
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not much of a so-called "gear nut." I have always found that I can get by on cheaper gear or no gear at all. I don't get interested with crazy technology and new clothing. Maybe it is because I have always been a backpacker with the mindset of "what else can I take out of my pack." I am sure that has to do with the fact that I am only 155 lbs. I don’t like to do a whole lot of research on products and compare and spend time reading reviews, not going to lie. So what I try to do is find people who I trust and listen to their opinions on products and they are people who I usually am in the field with and can see the gear in action. I then decide if it is something I truly need or just something that would be nice, but may not be for me.
I have nothing against the guy who loves to get new stuff and test it out and some of the fancier clothing or anything, although I may poke fun, I get it. I understand the draw to it and when I bought my first pair of “hunting pants” I told myself that I wouldn’t go back because there is a HUGE difference in comfort on the mountain in a nice pair of pants designed to be hiked in, worn and abused vs. the denim pair for sale on Cabela’s. So maybe if I just started trying new gear, I would eventually turn into a gear nut, but my propensity to spend money on gas not gear is always going to take precedence; I am not the richest man in the woods and yearn for adventure over comfortability.
With all that being said I have found that there are a few things in my tackle that I will spend money on, and if I can find the “best for your money” option I almost always will take it. If you ever see a gear review from me, you will get an honest opinion good or bad. I am never speaking on a piece of gear to try and get a sponsorship or a deal by saying good words about a product. If I am discussing gear, it is because it is important and changed my hunt. Period.
My Old Set Up
This brings me to my spotting scope set up I have implemented this year. Previous to this set up I have been using a Vortex Razor 11-33x50MM Angled spotting scope that sat upon a Vortex high country tripod and a Phone Scope phone adapter for photos and video. The spotting scope is great with one small issue, that I will get to in a second. I still have this scope and will use it on pure deep country back pack trips when I need to shed weight. For as small and light weight as it is, I find that it picks up a lot of animals and has a large field of view that is very handy when it comes to certain stages of glassing and also makes it easy to acquire your target when initially setting up the scope. The tripod is very light but that’s about the only thing its good for. It is very shaky in any kind of wind which is almost constant in Wyoming. Because of that I always run the legs as short as possible to keep it grounded and locked in best. The head that is on it is a ball head which is ok and easy to get used to but you have to grab the scope to move it and it is not smooth if looking through at a moving target. As far as the Phone Scope set up I don’t have their universal adapter so I think that would be an upgrade due to this issue I have; The adapter fits extremely snug onto the spotters eye piece and when taking on and off this particular scope I have worn out the scopes eye piece threads where it threads into the body multiple times and have had to send my scope into Vortex to get repaired a few times. This is partly the scopes flaw but also the Phone Scope adapter. So be sure to get the universal adapter Phone Scope sells. The other thing I don’t like about the Phone Scope is that it is bulky when in your pocket and not something you would keep your phone in 24/7. Enough with my old set up, but that gives you an idea of why I wanted to try something different.
My New Setup
I use pack goats now and wanted to get a bigger scope to see longer distances and see those bucks that are 3 miles away and walk with my glass rather than my feet, so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to buy a bigger scope that weighs more. I looked at the options in the bigger scopes, everything from the high end Swarro’s (which I decided I didn’t want to spend that much money on) to the lower end models. I concluded that I wanted, once again, to go with the best for your money, Vortex. I have used both of Vortex’ new and older generations and I think when vortex went away from the micro adjustment and tried to mimic the Swarro look they made a huge mistake. Their main reason for doing so was that they were getting a lot of complaints from people saying their focus adjustments were getting caught on backpack straps. Come on people. Put it in a different pocket. So after using some buddies gen 2 Razor scopes I decided I hated them but still liked the price. I waited for black Friday and bought a Vortex Razor Gen 1 20-60x85MM Angled Spotter. This thing is sweet. No I don’t think it is as clear as the higher end scopes and doesn’t pick up as much light as others but pretty dang close and for $780 you cant beat it.
I then changed my camera adapter to the Tines Up Phone Cam adapter. Their adapter is much more durable and is made out of aluminum vs plastic. It is faster and easier to put on a scope and acquire a target. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the adapter a little heavy but is worth its weight. The part that is on the phone is tiny and easy to put in the pocket of your jeans. They sell it on a case designed for your phone or you can buy it with a sticky back and place it on your own phone case, but it would have to be centered just right so that scared me and I bought the case from them.
When looking for a tripod, my needs were simple. It needed to hold a big spotting scope steady, be able to attach a head and light weight. I was not sure at where to look so I phoned a friend. I knew he was in love with his set up and had seen it in action, so I settled on his tripod, with one variable. I got the smaller/shorter version. It is the Slik PRO 635 CF. Here is a snippet of the features.
The SLIK Pro CF-635 Tripod is constructed from carbon fiber to maximize durability while limiting weight. It supports up to 6.6 lb and measures 14.6" when folded. Each of its 5-section legs features an independent spread, a 3-position angle lock, twist locks for rapid deployment, and rubber feet help to enhance stability on a wide variety of surfaces. The included push-and-pull, rapid center column is removable, which permits a minimum height of 3.5". The SLIK Pro CF-635 Tripod provides a maximum height of 44.1" and 51.6" with the column fully raised.
The taller version is the 634, that goes to 62.6” if you do a lot of standing up when glassing this would be the one.
I knew that I wanted a good head because that’s all everyone talks about. “You can have the best spotter and tripod on the market but if the head is trash your whole set up is.” Since this was the first time using a detatchable panning head I again had no clue where to go. Again, I looked to my buddies set up. He is an absolute gear freak who spends as much time behind glass as anyone I know, so I trust him wholly. His recommendation was the SIRUI VA-5 Ultra-Compact Video head. I googled it and was a little blown away at the price. I didn’t like the idea of buying a head that was almost just as much as my tripod so I dug my feet in and did a little more research. This head was designed for large cameras and video cameras. It was designed to create smooth video pans and can hold up to 6.6 lb. It is pretty compact and easy to use. Everywhere I looked had great reviews and people were loving them with large spotting scopes. I pulled the trigger.
First Impression of Setup
Once I assembled it for the first time I was a little blown away at how much different the entire set up was from what I had previously been using. I was hoping I wasn’t in over my head. To be completely honest it took me a second to get my motor functions used to the change when it came to adjusting tripod, and head. But it didn’t take long and I was using it like a pro. Before I set it all up I was worried I wouldn’t like where I was going to have to put everything in my bag to accommodate the larger sizes, but after I had it together it fits perfectly in every pocket and can even strap it all to the backpack with ease and simplicity.
In The Field and Final Thoughts
I recently took it to the mountains of Idaho on a bear hunt with my buddy that helped me decide what to get. We both basically have the same set up now. I know what your thinking, you guys have decided to be twinzies. Not the case at all. We actually disagree on a lot of different things when it comes to gear and we both landed on the Vortex Razor 85mm Gen 1 on our own accord. I was honestly blown away when using this set up. It was so smooth!!! I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on. I could keep my eye in the glass and pan anywhere and everywhere as smooth and as slow or fast as I wanted with no shake. It looked as though I was watching a perfectly filmed hunting video. I am very impressed with it. As I update more gear along the way I don’t always say, “Wow, that’s a game changer why haven’t I been doing this the whole time?!” I try to be somewhat critical of my purchasing decisions, but this time I truly felt like this will be a total game changer in how successful my hunts are. I am very excited to use this looking for alpine muleys! I know I haven’t had it long and haven’t been able to beat it up a ton, but from first impressions I know it is working past my expectations. Thus, why you are getting a gear review from a not so gear oriented fella. If anything changes in the use of this system I will definitely be back to bash on it, but I don’t foresee any issues.
BE WYLD MY FRIENDS!
· Vortex Razor HD 20-60X85MM Gen 1
· SLIK Pro CF-635 Tripod
· SIRUI VA-5 Ultra-Compact Video head
· Tines Up Phone Cam Adapter