How To Set Up Your Tripod for Shooting

YouTube player

Since I first tried it, shooting off a tripod has become my favourite method for shooting. It didn’t take me long to realise that the stability of a rifle on a tripod is simply incredible. While it does allow a shooter to shoot accurately at greater distances, as a hunter, I see the primary benefit as being how I can shoot more ethically and effectively at conventional distances.

It did take me a few hunts and some training at Gunwerk’s Long Range University to learn how best to use the tripod to its full capacity.

What I focus on in this video are two simple things: setting up the tripod with two legs rearward and one leg forward and using an inverted grip with my non-shooting hand to stabilise the tripod.

The reason I prefer shooting with the two-legged-back configuration is quite simple. When shooting, the rifle and tripod experience recoil rearward. If I have one leg to the rear, the tripod could come to rest with my rifle pointed in a new direction. If the front legs come off the ground, the rifle could twist before coming back to the ground. With two legs to the back, the rifle will rock evenly backward and rest in the same position as before the shot. A light-recoil rifle system will make this point less important, while a heavily recoiling rifle will benefit most.

The second component is what to do with your stabilizing hand. If you shoot right-handed, this is your left hand. I prefer to cross it under the rifle and hold the right tripod leg with an inverted grip. I keep my arm straight and apply some pressure to offer additional stabilization to the system.

This approach will work with prone, seated, kneeling or standing shooting positions. Let me know in the comments how this works for you!

Download my tripod guide to learn about all the pieces in my system.

How I Mount My Binoculars on a Tripod

I’m a late-comer to mounting my binoculars on a tripod, and it didn’t take long to convince me that it’s a great way to glass. It wasn’t until I took the time to try this technique that I understood the hype. The stability of the binos is massively enhanced when they are on a tripod, and my ability to see the details on a mountainside is much, much higher than using them handheld. Mounting the binoculars on the tripod is as simple as grabbing a small adapter and clipping it to the binos.

I’ve been using Really Right Stuff’s Cinch-LR Binocular Mount. It’s a small and light unit that clips around one of the binocular’s barrels. It has an integrated dovetail to clip into any ARCA Swiss tripod head. It’s that easy. The Cinch is low-profile, and I don’t have to worry about removing it from my binos to stow them back in my binocular harness. There’s not too much more to say about this. If you’ve thought, as I have, that putting my elbows on my knees while glassing was enough to make my binoculars stable for glassing, you’re wrong (as I was). Check out the Cinch-LR, which is available in nylon or aluminum. These will change the way you use your optics and will make you a better hunter.

YouTube player

Field Tip: Seated Tripod Shooting with a Strap

By now, you know I’m a huge fan of tripod shooting. What if you wanted to make your shots even more stable? This is where the Gunwerks Custom Tripod Sling Kit comes into play. Tripods make us more stable and accurate shooters by anchoring the rifle to the ground and reducing our reliance on muscles to hold the rifle steady. The tripod sling kit in this video is a simple tool that enhances this connection to the ground: Attach the sling to the rifle (while it’s mounted on the tripod) and then to your belt with a carabiner. Taking your position behind the rifle, you pull on the strap with your hips, further anchoring the tripod and rifle to the earth. Voila, even MORE stability for your seated, kneeling or standing shooting.

This is a low-cost method that doesn’t take a lot of skill to pull off. You won’t find a steadier set-up.

YouTube player

My Mountain Hunting Kit

Every year, I tweak the gear I take into the hills, and this year was no different. While I continue to use the excellent optics I’ve had for a few seasons, I’ve added a binocular adapter and begun using it earnestly. I continue to bring a minimum of clothing but select the items carefully to ensure I have as little duplication as possible.

You’ll notice very few “nice to haves” on this list. I prioritize my physical fitness and a lighter pack above comfort. With few exceptions, optional items will make a hunter slower and thus less effective. Will you feel stronger with a book that helps you relax? Perhaps.

In most cases, however, these ounces make pounds, and the fatigue you feel from carrying all this junk will definitely lower your chances of success. Of course, you can make your own choices and be whatever kind of hunter you want, but I find more satisfaction in being successful than comfortable when hunting sheep and goats. If you also want to be successful, be careful what other items you add to your pack.

Greg McHale’s 2023 Gear List
Greg McHale’s 2023 Gear List

If you have any other awesome pieces of gear you would bring on a mountain hunt, send me a DM on Instagram or Facebook or an email via the contact form on this site.

Watch the Video!

YouTube player

Slope Angle on onX Maps

Most hunters take advantage of the incredible mapping capabilities of a smartphone while hunting. I’m sure most of you use your phone to mark camp, review satellite imagery, and plan your stalks.

One fantastic feature of onX Maps that I used extensively on a recent goat hunt is the Slope Angle layer. While you can tell the slope of a hill by how close together the contours on a topographical map are, the Slope Angle layer is far superior. Hit Hunt Map Layers > Land & Access > Slope Angle. There you go, you’ve got slope angles visualized on your screen, from green to blue, showing you how steep the country is.

Why would you want this? There are a few primary reasons why knowing the slope will improve your chances of success:

  1. Route finding: Sitting at the bottom of a slope, looking up at goats, makes it challenging to know what the best route is. I used the slope angle layer to identify where we could get up. Purple areas were pushing it and are actually climbing rather than hiking. Red was good, but not ideal. We faced a cliff about 300 m wide on our way off the mountain. In the centre, we identified a narrow chute that was less steep via the app (it was not visible from above). We threaded the needle and saved ourselves a lot of hiking around the cliff.
  2. Safety: There’s nothing worse than working hard to get somewhere, only to find an impassable slope in front of you. If you’re anything like me, you can be tempted to push through difficulties when a wiser soul would turn back. If you can foresee the possibility of getting cliffed out and avoid heading into the trap, you can remove the temptation of pushing beyond the limits of your team.
  3. Energy management: If you’re fortunate enough to have a very heavy pack, steep uphills will burn a lot of mental and physical energy. I like to assess the slope and decide if a shortcut up a steep slope is worth cutting the distance. Often, a longer route can save energy and time.
  4. Animal behaviour: If the game you are chasing tends to be in certain terrain types, the slope angle map will allow you to locate plateaus or steep areas that are not cliffs quickly. For example, goats are comfortable on steep slopes but will only be found on cliffs when a predator or hunter pushes them.

The next time you head into the hills, try out this layer, and I am sure you will find yourself planning your travel and stalks with it.

Hogue Extrak Fixed-Blade Knife

This year, I worked exclusively with Hogue Knives. Because both fixed-blade and replaceable-blade knives have their place, I used the Hogue Extrak Fixed-Blade Knife and the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife on all my hunts.

While both fixed-blade and replaceable-blade knives have their advantages and disadvantages, there are several reasons why a fixed-blade knife might be considered better for mountain hunting:

  1. Durability: Fixed-blade knives are typically more durable than their replaceable-blade counterparts. They lack the additional moving parts that can potentially fail, making them better suited to handle the rigours of mountain hunting.
  2. Strength and Reliability: Fixed-blade knives are usually more robust and reliable than replaceable ones. They are better equipped to handle heavy-duty tasks like cutting through tough animal hide, bone and other materials typically encountered during hunting. If you need to work with wood for any reason, you’ll appreciate having a “real blade.”
  3. Safety: In terms of safety, fixed-blade knives are generally considered to be more secure because they do not have any moving parts that might break or malfunction during use. This can prevent accidents that may occur when a blade unexpectedly detaches from a knife during a critical moment. The fact that a fixed-blade knife can be sharp without being as crazy-sharp as a scalpel is a positive. For this reason, I let my daughter cut with the Extrak but not with the Expel Scalpel knife.
  4. Versatility: Fixed-blade knives are often more versatile in terms of their applications. They can be used for various tasks beyond just skinning and field dressing, such as splitting wood, building shelters, or preparing meals in the wilderness.

However, it’s essential to note that there are also advantages to using a replaceable-blade knife, such as the convenience of quickly changing out a dull blade for a sharp one without the need for sharpening tools. This can be particularly helpful when maintaining a consistently sharp edge during extended hunting trips.

Ultimately, the choice between a fixed blade and a replaceable-blade knife for mountain hunting depends on personal preference, specific hunting needs, and the individual’s comfort and familiarity with the tool. I prefer to carry both knives to ensure I have my bases covered. Because both knives are built with the mountain hunter in mind, the weight penalty for carrying two knives is negligible.

My Tripod Setup Guide

I’ve created a downloadable guide to my tripod setups for glassing and shooting.

I love the expression, “if you know better, do better.” I’ve followed this approach in my evolution as a hunter, and I hope this guide can help you skip some of the poor techniques and gear selection decisions I’ve made over the years.
The tripod is a keystone item I use continuously, from the long glassing sessions to the moment of truth. Thus, how I build out my tripod system is one of the most critical aspects of gear selection.
I hope this simple guide will help you become a better hunter.
Head to my YouTube channel for more videos about this gear and how to use it.

I cover all aspects of my system:

  • Tripod glassing head
  • Mountain hunting tripod
  • Picatinny to ARCA adapter for rifle mounting
  • Moose and bison hunting tripod
  • Moose and bison hunting tripod head
  • Bincolar adapter for tripod glassing
  • Mountain hunting tripod head

Download my guide now to see all the items I use, links to the product pages and my YouTube videos (where available).

Tripod Setup Guide
Tripod Setup Guide

Tripod Videos on My YouTube Channel

Unleash Precision and Power: The Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife for Mountain Hunting

Every piece of gear plays a pivotal role in ensuring success and safety when embarking on a challenging mountain hunting expedition. Among these essentials, a reliable and precision-engineered knife is an indispensable tool. Enter the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife, a cutting-edge companion for mountain hunters that combines cutting precision, durability, and versatility to meet the demands of the rugged outdoors. In this blog post, I’ll explain my thoughts on this knife and how I use it on all my mountain hunts.

YouTube player
  1. Safety
    What separates the Expel Scalpel from other replaceable blade knives is the integration of a dual-action switch that functions as an ejector and blade lock. When using the knife, lock the blade and don’t worry that it will slip out. When it’s time to replace a blade, retract the lock and push it forward to pop the blade off with no other tools needed. The switch makes this replaceable-blade knife exceptionally safe to use.
The integrated lock and ejector make this knife exceptionally safe to use.
  1. Precision Redefine
    At the heart of the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife lies its exceptional precision. This knife’s design draws inspiration from medical scalpels, incorporating a slim, ultra-sharp blade that effortlessly slices through tough materials. Whether you’re field dressing game, preparing campfire meals, or addressing unexpected challenges, the scalpel-like edge provides surgical precision, minimizing effort and ensuring clean cuts. This precision is crucial for maintaining the quality of harvested meat and safety in the field.
  2. Durability for Demanding Environments
    Mountain hunting environments can be unforgiving, subjecting gear to extreme conditions. The Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife rises to the challenge with its rugged construction. Crafted from high-quality stainless steel, the blade resists corrosion and maintains its edge, even after extended use. The knife’s minimalist design eliminates unnecessary components, reducing the risk of failure and enhancing its overall durability. This means you can confidently rely on the Expel Scalpel Knife to perform flawlessly in the harshest mountain conditions.
Men butchering a goat on a mountainside.
Not the place to injure yourself with a knife.
  1. Lightweight and Compact Design
    Mountain hunting demands that gear is practical and easy to carry. The Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife excels with its lightweight and compact design. Its slim profile allows it to slip into a pocket, pouch, or sheath without adding bulk. This portability ensures the knife is readily accessible when needed without hindering your movement or adding unnecessary weight to your gear loadout.
  2. Versatility in the Wilderness
    A successful mountain hunting trip often requires adaptability, as situations can change rapidly. The versatility of the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife shines through in its ability to handle various tasks beyond just dressing game. Whether you’re cutting rope, fashioning a shelter, or preparing food, the knife’s sharp edge and precise control make it a versatile tool for a wide range of outdoor tasks. This adaptability streamlines your gear setup, helping you travel lighter without compromising utility.
  3. Ergonomic Grip for Comfort
    Extended periods of field use can take a toll on your hands. To combat fatigue and provide optimal control, the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife features an ergonomic grip that fits comfortably in your hand. The textured handle material ensures a secure grip even in wet or slippery conditions, reducing the risk of accidents. This comfort factor translates to increased accuracy and a more pleasant overall experience during your mountain hunting expedition.

Conclusion

In mountain hunting, where precision, durability, and versatility are paramount, the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife is a reliable and indispensable tool. Its scalpel-like precision, robust construction, lightweight design, adaptability, and ergonomic grip make it a worthy companion for the challenges of the wilderness. Investing in a high-quality knife like the Hogue Expel Scalpel can significantly enhance your mountain hunting experience, ensuring you are well-equipped to conquer the unpredictable terrain and conditions these adventures entail.

Field Tip: Rifle Field Care

Every hunter should understand and prioritize taking care of their rifle and optics in the field. When the time comes to take a shot, knowing that the rifle has been cared for through adverse conditions will bring you peace of mind and lead to better shooting. I protect my optics and action with a specialized scope cover. Covering the muzzle with electrical tape before and after shooting is also a best practice. Watch this video to see my system. I’d love to hear if you have any tips or tricks, so leave a comment on YouTube with your feedback.

YouTube player

Vortex Optics LHT 4.5–22×50 FFP Riflescope

The Vortex Optics LHT riflescope hits the sweet spot between magnification and weight. A maximum zoom of 22x will be sufficient for most realistic hunting situations. It is built with the quality, durability and reliability we have come to expect from Vortex Optics. If you are looking for a riflescope, look no further than the one I have selected for my own rifles.

The Vortex Optics LHT 4.5–22×50 FFP Riflescope is a lightweight hunting scope with a first focal plane reticle and a 50mm objective lens. It is designed to provide clear and bright images in low-light conditions, making it a good choice for hunting in mountainous terrain where visibility can be limited. The scope also features a long eye relief, allowing for comfortable and accurate shooting even with heavy recoil.

YouTube player

My previous scope was the Vortex Optics Razor HD AMG 6–24×50 FFP scope. Compared to the LHT, AMG is a more powerful scope designed for long-range shooting. It features a first focal plane reticle, a 50mm objective lens, and a wider magnification range, making it ideal for shooting longer distances. However, its heavier weight may not be ideal for mountain hunting, where a lighter setup may be more comfortable for carrying and maneuvering.

A moose we took at >500 yards with the AMG scope and my Gunwerks Clymr rifle (300 WM).
YouTube player

Ultimately, the best scope for mountain hunting will depend on your specific needs and preferences. It’s essential to consider factors such as the terrain you’ll be hunting in, the distances you’ll be shooting at, and your personal shooting style when selecting a scope.