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Sig Sauer Zulu9 11×45 HDX Binocular Review

Written by Matt Hartsky, iHuntFit

What are the toughest glassing situations you’ve found yourself in?  For many, it may have been an early morning, low light hunt, picking apart the cedars and scrub oak, searching for that bedded muley buck.  Others may have found themselves in the rugged mountains, scouring a far pine ridge, hoping for a glimpse of hidden elk.  Some might consider the long days of scanning through Coues country their biggest challenge.  While any hunter faced with the disparity of finding an aoudad ram in the high cliffs of the Southwest knows the definition of a long day of glassing. 

In the last year, I have been fortunate to encounter all of these scenarios, and more.  And through all of these hunts, I count myself as fortunate to have carried the Sig Sauer Zulu9 11×45 HDX binoculars for several months to help me successfully hunt pronghorn, mule deer, elk, black bear and mountain goat.  When I think of quality optics, and their benefit as a tool to make me a better hunter, several important factors stand out to include exceptionally clear glass, crisp images in low and bright light, and powerful magnification, all wrapped up into a reasonable size and weight that make it worthwhile to pack deep into the backcountry.  Sig Optics knows the importance of these qualities found in high performance optics and focuses on functional ergonomics because they are mostly outdoorsmen and women with many years of industry experience.

My use of the Zulu9 began during the summer scouting months, which I used to familiarize myself with how they would perform while glassing pronghorn, mule deer, and elk in my home state of Wyoming.  Having previously owned a pair of Vortex Razors, which I initially kept on hand for comparison purposes, I was blown away at the improved brightness and clarity of the Zulu9.  After a few months of scouting, I was really looking forward to spending the countless hours behind glass which I felt would ultimately improve my odds of finding my tough to spot quarry.

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When August finally arrived, it was time to do the cactus shuffle for spot and stalk archery pronghorn.  While pronghorn are fairly easy to spot during that early time of year, determining if there is a buck worthy of a stalk isn’t.  From low light mornings and evenings, to heat mirage filled days, the Zulu9 performed flawlessly and the crisp, clear images allowed me to easily field judge dozens of bucks, and at greater distances than I had ever been able to do before.  With time running short, I was able to range a decent archery buck with my Sig Kilo2200 (another quality piece of gear) at 53 yards, and filled my first tag of the season.

Ultimate Predator Matt Hartsky iHuntFit

The next opportunity to test out the Zulu9 began just two days later, as I scoured thick sage, dense cedars and shadow strewn rocky ridges, looking for a mule deer buck who might give me an opportunity for a stalk into archery range. Days turned into two weeks, and several blown stalks, and many opportunities to make my new glass do work.  Many mornings spent glassing as the sun would finally peak over the ridge, left me with no doubt as to the ability of the Zulu9 to transmit light when there was very little to be had.  If there were deer, I was finding them, and again, with time running out, I was able to find a buck in a perfect stalking position.  Two hours later, I sent my arrow from two yards and another tag was filled.

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I had little time to regroup for the next hunt, but I had wanted to take a black bear with my bow from the ground for as long as I could remember.  I had a slim total of five days to seal the deal before heading to Alaska to hunt mountain goat.  Throughout those five days of glassing dark thickets, where every shadow could hold the bears we knew were in the area, it was evident that the Zulu9 prisms provide ample contrast and detailed resolution.  On the final evening of the last day, I began to think my new Sig optics might just be my new good luck charm as I was able to fulfill a long-time goal and slip an arrow into a mature bear at 12 yards.

Pnuma Matt Hartsky iHuntFit

Up to this point in the season, the weather had been warm and dry.  But anyone who has hunted or read about hunting Alaskan mountain goats in October will tell you, the adventure is synonymous with some of the most harsh, wet, and challenging conditions out there.  Sure enough, upon landing, we were greeted with a few days of cold rain and fog, which kept us stuck seaside and unable to embark on the mountain.  On the fourth day, we saw our first glimpse of sunshine and a couple similar days in the forecast, so we made our move.

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Once on the mountain, there was ample glassing time as we spotted goats as close as a few hundred yards, on up to a mile away.  Mobility on the open peak faces is limited to say the least, so I used every bit of magnification and image quality provided by the Zulu9 to help aid in the decision to make a stalk or stay put.  During our time on the mountain, we were constantly in and out of fog, and there always seemed to be a thin layer of moisture covering our gear.  Despite the wet conditions, and cold temperatures, there was never an issue with the rubber texture slipping or the Zulu9 fogging or any sub-par performance.

Sig Optics Zulu9 Binos

We had been on the mountain for seventeen hours, when we were notified a big storm had shifted our way and demanded we make our way back down to the boat within the next couple of hours.  Unfortunately, a thick fog had set in, covering all the goats bedded within a reasonable distance.  We made the decision to make a long looping trek and go high for one last chance to fill my tag before retreating to safety.  Our move paid off as we came out a couple hundred yards below two bedded goats.  My arsenal of Sig optics did their job as well, as I ranged the bigger of the two animals, and then settled the crosshairs of my Whiskey5 scope to complete the harvest.

Pnuma Matt Hartsky iHuntFit

Upon returning home from Alaska and helping my boys take their mule deer and pronghorn, we still needed to find a bull elk for my oldest boy, Fletcher.  Time and time again, I was impressed with the ability of the Zulu9 to help me find bedded elk in the thick pines and deadfall.  Despite using the same power of optics made by another manufacturer, my boys were amazed that I was able to find elk that they were unable to see across canyons and up steep mountainsides.  After passing on many young bulls and dozens of cows, we ran out of time and Fletcher decided to fill the freezer with a couple of giant cows at the end of the season.

Pnuma Fletcher Hartsky iHuntFit
Pnuma Fletcher Hartsky iHuntFit

Transitioning from the Rocky Mountains to the Big Bend area of Southwest Texas, I was fortunate to film an aoudad hunt for iHuntFit Field Producer, Conner Brown.  Upon shaking hands with our guide on day one, the first thing I noticed was the Sig logo visible under his half-zipped jacket.  As it turned out, the Zulu9 were his first choice in optics for spotting what he liked to refer to as “rocks with hair.”  And spot them he could.  While it is still hard to believe, we witnessed first-hand, as he was able to spot bedded aoudad at close to two miles away.  There is no doubt in my mind, that without our ultra-premium Zulu9, we would not have had the ability to pick apart the cactus, ocotillo, and boulder fields to find and harvest Conner’s first of the tough and elusive free ranging aoudad.

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A month later, and I found myself in the desert mountains of Arizona, bowhunting Coues deer and javelina with iHuntfit Communications Director Andrew Marlin.  It was an awesome trip with a couple close calls on Couse deer, which taught me several things: 1) I am absolutely hooked on the extreme challenge of spot and stalk bow hunting the smartest deer on the planet, 2) Quality glass is an absolute must in Coues country, and 3) Without my Zulu9, even more deer would have gone unnoticed, hidden in the thick desert vegetation.  While unable to make a successful stalk on a Couse deer, Andrew was able to call in some charging Javelina, and after using the Sig Kilo2200 to find my range, I was able to bring home a great memory of our rewarding hunt in the desert.

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I have been fortunate to spend 92 days in the field with the Zulu9, in a wide range of environments. From the high mountain valleys of Wyoming, to the rainy peaks of Alaska, and the desert mountains of the Southwest, the Zulu9 proved themselves over and over.  Remaining completely waterproof, fog proof, and dust proof, they performed exactly the way they were designed and as I depended on them to do.  From the required quality and performance I demand from my optics, to their reasonable weight and rugged exterior, the Sig Sauer Zulu9 11×45 HDX binoculars have exceeded my expectations and will continue to be my go-to, long range critter finders.  If interested in other magnifications, the Zulu9 product line also comes in 9×45 and 15×56 models. The entire arsenal of high quality Sig Sauer Optics can be viewed at: https://www.sigsauer.com/products/electro-optics/

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