Spotting Scope Etiquette

Spotting scopes are the key for observing animals in Yellowstone National Park. Many times the animals in observation are far away and easily disguised in the native vegetation. Although a helping tool in finding animals, binoculars are sometimes not enough to thoroughly see the action. Spotting scopes are a must.

However, with the great power of the spotting scope comes great responsibility. On my tours, I am often helping clients see the wonders of nature with the spotting scopes. Sometimes I get lucky and will be the first to see a wolf, bear, or big elk in the distance and sometimes I join the crowd of onlookers for wildlife watching. Both scenarios result in setting up my scope(s) and getting my clients to see the animals as quickly as possible.

When the wildlife action is good, the crowds will start to build. Many of the tourists are unprepared to properly view wildlife. Most don’t have binoculars, scopes, or any type of optics. They will start to squint, crowd, and gradually inch their way towards the spotting scopes with the expectations of using my equipment. To this my internal response is, “BACK UP!”

I am not alone with these thoughts. Many guides get frustrated with visitors’ need to smother and sometimes cut in front of your paying clients. One time near Tower Junction, I had a visitor look through my scope before the clients got a chance. She quickly got on the scope as my clients were trying to find a black bear family with their binoculars and I was preoccupied with setting up a second scope for the paying customer. Luckily restraint got the best of me and nothing was said.  

As a visitor, here is what you can do to improve your chances of looking through a guides spotting scope…

Be patient. I see you there waiting.

Be patient. You know we are on a guided tour or with a group. Let the paying customers look first. How would you feel if the roles were reversed?

Ask one of the customers, not the guide. They are the ones paying for the use of the equipment. If there cool with showing you, I’m cool with it too.

Be young. I will often let little kids look first. Letting children or teenagers look is the best way to get them in touch with nature. Hopefully, the brief glance of a bear or wolf through a scope inspires the next generation of conservationists.

Rent a scope. There are many places to rent spotting scopes in and around Yellowstone. Why be unprepared when visiting one of North America’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries?

Be patient. I appreciate you waiting patiently. Now go ahead and look!

Thanks for listening to me vent!