Live Hunt Alaska: How to Glass for Dall Sheep

Packing and glassing are the two toughest tasks of a sheep hunt and, combined, they occupy the vast majority of the time you spend in the mountains chasing rams. They are arguably of equal importance, but glassing literally makes or breaks a hunt.

To get off to a good start glassing, quality optics are critical. For the last couple years, I've used Swarovski binoculars and spotting scopes, and they are hard to beat. In fact, most serious sheep hunters will have a pair of Swaro's hanging around their neck. Their clarity, light gathering ability, and ruggedness are second to none. Quality optics are expensive, but without them, all of the other money invested in a hunt might be for nothing.

A good sheep hunting setup requires both a binocular and a spotting scope. I'm using the EL Range 10x42 rangefinding binocular, which eliminates the need to carry a separate rangefinder. My favorite spotting scope is the Swarovski 20-60x65 spotter. I prefer the straight angle eyepiece, as it fits very well in a pack, and you have a lower profile when peeking over ridgelines. The 65mm spotter is also quite a bit lighter and less bulky than the 80mm scope, which comes into play on long walks with heavy packs.

Once you're set up with good optics, there's a certain method to finding good rams. Dall sheep will usually be up and feeding in the morning, early afternoon and evening, and those are the best times to spot them. Often, after not seeing anything for most of the day, the mountains will be full of sheep late in the evening. It doesn't seem like white sheep would be very hard to spot, but a lot of times they will bed down out of sight. Our basic method is to glass hard with binos, especially when they are active. In the area we hunt, most of the rams will be in grassy areas and draws near rocky crags and good escape terrain, whereas ewes and lambs will often be found at much lower elevation. The best glassing is usually from a high vantage, as a lot of the country is hidden from view when glassing from the river bottoms. But to conserve energy, I only climb if I need to.

After sheep are located, often from more than two miles away, we pull out the spotter to get an idea of whether or not they are worth a closer look. It's really hard to accurately judge most rams outside of 1,000 yards, so if one has potential, it's time to put the boots to work.