For the western hunter, taking photos of animals through a spotting scope, also knowns as photoscoping or digiscoping, is the equivalent of setting up trail cameras. Each time I head to the top of a mountain with spotter, camera and photoscoping kit in hand, I get the same information a whitetail hunter gets when he pulls his trail cameras. The difference is I get to take photos of potential shooters from up to three miles away.
These are the main benefits of photoscoping:
1) You can take the photos home with you and field judge all the animals from the comfort of your home. Doing this at home will also allow you to zoom in and out on the animal, and look at every angle of the animal’s horns/antlers at one time.
2) If you have questions about the score of an animal, you can email them to your buddies for a second opinion.
3) When you photoscope during summer feeding patterns, you can get an accurate count of the bull to cow ratio as well as the total overall number of animals.
4) If your-point-and-shoot camera is able to record video, then you will be able to use this to watch each animal in its natural environment and see things from your computer that you could have missed from the field.
5) It’s always nice to get a little contest going with your fellow photoscope buddies: who is going to get the biggest buck/bull/goat or sheep through the spotter.
The key factor in getting good photoscoping images, is to buy the best glass you can afford. My weapon of choice is the 80mm HD Swarovski spotter with a 25×50 wide eyepiece. The 65mm model works great as well (and it saves some weight), but with the extra light gathering the 80mm objective provides, I don’t mind packing the extra weight. The 25×50 eye piece allows for a larger field of view and adds to the light gathering ability of the scope as well.
My camera is the Cannon SX130 IS superzoom. This camera has a few great features that are good for photoscopers, including image stabilization. This gives you some forgiveness on extra long shots, which is good because the toughest part of taking photos through a spotting scope is being able to stabilize the system. This camera offers a solid 40-power zoom and in the right conditions, matched with the Swarovski camera adapter and zoom kit, it can take clear images from more than three miles away. The adapter and zoom kit is a simple mount that attaches your camera to your spotting scope.
Click here to see photoscoping shots from my scouting trips this year.