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Hunting Optics: Cheating or Not?

Are hunting optics the modern way, or an unethical and technological advantage?

In the old days, a hunter heading out into the woods to bag a buck had nothing but a rifle – often without a scope – and his or her sheer marksmanship skills in hand.

Fast forward to 2013 and the world of hunting has, understandably, been revolutionized by technological advancement in nearly every regard.

Bows can shoot further, rifles are more accurate and reliable, and state-of-the-art scopes and optics systems are available that do almost all the work for the hunter. It’s hard to argue with better bows or more reliable rifles, but some find it easy to argue against high-tech optics systems.

If a hunter can simply strap on a scope, lock it onto a target, and have it calculate everything from distance and angle of the shot to the animal’s movement and speed, then do they even need to bring their own skills to the table? Or has technology now made it possible for any and all individuals to experience success in the hunting realm?

Such are the arguments thrown around about optics and scopes and how they may or may not represent a form of cheating in the hunting field. But assessing cheating is a tough thing to do in a sport that, traditionally, has had no rules beyond a goodwill code of ethics among hunters.

Scope companies are certainly not implementing technological advances into their products with the goal of providing some hunters with an unfair advantage over others. After all, advanced optical scopes are on the market and freely available to anyone.

But for those of us who have spent 20 or 30 years honing our shooting skills, a scope that does most of the work for you does feel a bit cheap. We are talking about scopes today that utilize some of the same technology as military-grade fighter jets.

Do hunters really need that much help to get a perfect shot? And if they do, do they deserve the trophy animal that the scope helped them bring down?

Many die hard hunting enthusiasts would, of course, answer that last question with a resounding “No,” and most competitive hunting outfits would agree with them. High-tech scopes, as well as so-called “smart rifles” – weapons from companies such as TrackingPoint, which claims to make shooting animals at 1,000 yards range not only possible, but downright easy as well – are largely banned from any and all competitive hunting events.

In other words, hunting authorities still want to separate the men from the boys when money or other rewards are at stake. And there is also something to be said for fair chase and for giving deer and other game a chance at survival.

Then again, does hunting want to become a place where technological advancements are rejected in favor of the old ways of doing things?

Such practices bring the hunting world dangerously close to “dinosaur” territory, and could do a lot to alienate younger hunters who see state-of-the-art scopes and optics as just another part of the sport.

Our verdict? Keep optics out of the competitive realm, but don’t reprimand hunters for using them in the field. We all operate under different rules, and if someone wants to use a scope that makes the hunt easier and more fun for them, we shouldn’t establish a stigma against that.

What are your thoughts on the use of hunting optics? Share them in the comments below.

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Hunting Optics: Cheating or Not?