Need some help? Check out the hunting optics buyer’s guide.
As regulations grow more specific on the sex, size and characteristics of species legal to harvest, this hunting optics buyer’s guide will help you go to the field prepared.
Hunting Optics Buyer’s Guide
Optics is a numbers game. Size is denoted by two to three numbers.
Various Scope ReticlesEach option is designed for a particular use or advantage. Choose what works best for you.
The first number is the magnification. If the size is 3-9×40, that optic is adjustable from 3 power, three times the ability of a normal eye, to 9 power, or nine times the eye’s ability.
The second number is the lens diameter in millimeters. A 3×40 is a three power optic with a 40 millimeter lens.
The rule is simple. The larger the lens, the larger your field of view and more light is gathered for brighter images.
Always go with the largest diameter you can afford and are able to handle.
First Choice: Scopes
The most universal of the optics selections. Do not skimp on the scope just to add additional optics choices.
In a pinch, the scope can effectively serve as sole source of information on an animal’s size and condition. For the best versatility, choose a multi-power scope.
The most common is the 3-9x. At 3 power, you have the largest field of view, so it is easiest for finding targets.
Dialed up to 9 power, you can discern details at much greater distances for and aim smaller for longer shots.
The down side is that it can be tiresome watching for long periods through the scope, as it comes attached to a loaded hunting rifle. So, if there is room for one more optic type in the budget, get some binoculars.
Second Choice: Binoculars
Even the heaviest binoculars are lighter than a deer rifle. With two eyepieces, clarity and brightness are considerably better for bringing out small details.
The field of view is much greater to be able to watch larger areas with less movement. Binoculars are easier to use from a place of concealment.
Binoculars are also one of the most universally useful selection in our list of optics. Binoculars can come in handy during other outdoor activities, ball games, or on vacation. You will not regret investing in a good pair. 7x to 8x is ample for most situations.
Third Choice: Spotting Scope
I can argue for either for the spotting scope or the rangefinder as a third choice. I went with the spotting scope solely because it is a touch more useful, but only a touch. You may find that the rangefinder is a better pick for your third selection.
Spotting scopes are sized the same as scopes or binoculars, but are closer to a telescope. The typical magnification ranges between 20x-60x. Spotting scopes are usually attached to a light weight tripod to hold them still. At great distances, the slightest movement of the scope will interrupt your field of view.
Spotting scopes are applied in large, open areas to locate target animals so the hunter can plan their hunt. Spotting scopes are also incredibly useful at the firing range when shooting at a distance.
A decent spotting scope allows you to mark where you are hitting without walking downrange. Sighting in scopes or basic practice is improved immensely by the presence of a spotting scope.
Spotting scopes can range anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars. As with all optics, you get what you pay for.
Fourth Choice: Rangefinder
If you hunt with close range weapons such as a bow or pistol, the rangefinder is hands down your top choice after binoculars. However, due to trajectory, a good rangefinder is just as critical for long range shots.
A rangefinder takes the guess work out of judging distance. Arrows and bullets travel in an arc. Knowing the exact distance allows you to calculate how the point of impact might differ from the cross hairs so that you can adjust accordingly. For very close and very far shots, a range finder can be the difference between a trophy and a story about the one that got away.
Game Changer: Your HD Digital Camera
Chances are you already have one laying around at home. Most digital cameras these days have high definition clarity, view screens, the ability to film video, and impressive zoom features. Many hunters are already taking cameras and tripods into the woods to record their hunts.
The downside is that cameras are fragile and sensitive to weather conditions. Also, you may have to carry additional batteries and storage to cover a complete hunt.
Probably the biggest obstacle I encountered is that most cameras are meant for consumers taking generic photos and videos. The autofocus can be tricky at distances and locks on to smaller, up close obstacles, leaving the target area nothing but a blurry mess.
However, we can argue that the camera is certainly the most versatile of these options as it can replace all but the scope and is useful for all outdoor activities and indoor as well.
Plus, if you use it to success, you can take a selfie with your trophy.