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When searching for game, let your eyes do the walking

Posted: Friday, September 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS -- The best way to find moose, or any big game in Alaska, isn't to cover a lot of country with your feet, four-wheeler or boat. You're better off letting your eyes do the walking.

Just ask Clark Klimaschesky, whose hunting party of six people bagged four bulls last year off the Elliott Highway, including two behemoths that had antler spreads of over 60 inches. They found all four bulls doing the same thing -- sitting on a hillside using binoculars/spotting scopes to scan the country for moose.

''I've hunted a lot of different ways and that seems to work the best,'' said Klimaschesky, who shot a 48-inch bull last year. ''Get above treeline and see if they're moving around.''

Hunters refer to it simply as ''glassing'' -- sitting on a hillside and using binoculars or a spotting scope to scan the country for any sign of wildlife.

''It's the single most important thing you can do, be a diligent glasser,'' said longtime Alaska hunter Dave Kelleyhouse.

''A lot of people move around in the woods too much and cover too much ground,'' Kelleyhouse said. ''What they don't realize is they're laying a scent trail everywhere they go.''

The first step in glassing is picking a piece of country that provides a good viewpoint.

''When I'm glassing I try to get as high as I can,'' Kelleyhouse said. ''It's much better to look down than to look up.''

Position yourself on the north side of a slope because animals tend to favor the warmer south- and west-facing sides of hills.

The key to glassing is to develop a search pattern, Kelleyhouse said. Pick a spot, examine it thoroughly and pick another spot.

''Concentrate on a certain part of terrain and search for anything unusual,'' Kelleyhouse said. ''You're seldom looking for the entire animal because of the brush or terrain.''

Kelleyhouse also suggests glassing the same area repeatedly.

''Just because you didn't see an animal the first time you glassed that hillside doesn't mean there isn't an animal there, laying in the brush or on the hillside.''

Glassing for caribou is different than searching for moose.

''When they're glassing for caribou, a lot of people make the mistake of just looking at the ridge tops,'' Kelleyhouse said. ''Many times in the fall caribou are bedded down in the creek bottoms and alder and willow brush because they're still eating leaves. You don't always have to look in the tundra for 'em.''

The most common mistake hunters make, Kelleyhouse said, is ''sweeping'' over an area.

''If you're constantly moving when you're glassing you're not going to see an animal moving,'' he said.

A hunter should buy quality optics and be prepared to spend at least $500 for a good pair of binoculars, Kelleyhouse said. He suggests top brands such as Leitz, Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski.

''Your eyes don't get fatigued as much with high-quality glass as they do with cheaper brands,'' said Kelleyhouse, who owns a pair of 10 x 40 power Leitz.

You can't purchase patience and that's one of the most integral aspects of glassing, Kelleyhouse said.

''I get up in the morning, put on my Refrigwear and bunny boots and plan to spend most of the day glassing,'' he said. ''I just snuggle in and make a day out of it. I've had bulls stand up at noon that I didn't see after glassing four or five hours.

''It works, you've just gotta have faith that the big guy is going to show up,'' he said. ''When you choose the country you're going to hunt in, have faith there are animals in there.''

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