Ever wonder what sort of optics that you really must have when you’re out on the field or up in a blind? For hunters who only get one or two opportunities a year to get out there, it may seem as if you have to load yourself down with equipment to make sure you don’t miss anything. Or, you just might be on a budget, so the last thing you want to do is buy a piece of optics that you just aren’t ever going to use. Well, in this post we break down riflescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars and rangefinders so that you know what you really need for good game.
The riflescope is perhaps the most important “go-to” tool that any long-range hunter would rely on to take the perfect shot. If you can’t see your target, then you can’t shoot it. So, if you want to take down the game from a distance, go out and buy a riflescope with enough range to make even a Navy SEAL jealous. Simple enough concept, right?
Not in the slightest.
Sure, you pretty much need a quality riflescope if you’re taking long range shots, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be a spotting game with it too. There are plenty of things to consider before you limit yourself, or overburden yourself, with equipment, whatever the case may be. But before you consider other options, here’s a few things to look for so you can get the most out of a riflescope to really dial in on some prize game.
- Bells: Between 30mm and 50mm; any bigger is just too much for most hunting
- Eye relief: At least 3 inches; 4 inches if it really has a kick
- Adjustments: Seek out ones that click or thunk (great for when hands are cold) and locking reticle focus
- Reticles: Matter of preference, though LEDs can improve aiming speed
- Magnification: Stick with a multiplier that fits the game size you normally hunt
- Dangerous game under 200 yards: 1X – 4X
- Most big game: 2X-10X
- Varmint hunting: 6X-24X
A spotting scope can help you cover hundreds of acres of territory without you having to move. If it is out there, odds are you’ll spot it through the scope first. And that will save you time and legwork that may lead you nowhere.
Do I really need a spotting scope?
Just like any other gear that a hunter takes to the field, the necessity of a spotting scope is on a case by case basis. If you spend most of your time waiting in a deer stand, walking through thick forests, rolling hills, and the like, then you most likely don’t need the extra weight or expense, and you definitely aren’t going to get much use out of the tripod on which you’ll mount it.
Spotting scopes come in handy for trophy hunters and hunters that partner up to take down big game. If you’re a trophy hunter, nothing’s worse than stalking a potential target for hours, only to realize that it isn’t what you were looking for. A spotting scope will help you make that determination long beforehand. And if you have a partner, your partner uses the scope to help you keep track of the target while you dial it in with your riflescope. With a field of view of 55 feet at 1,000 yards at 60x magnification, the Bushnell Trophy XLT 20-60x 65mm Waterproof Compact Tripod Spotting Scope makes it difficult for you to miss anything.
At first thought, a pair of binoculars may seem to hunters like something better suited to bird watching and baseball games. For some hunters, binoculars may not have that sportsman “feel” that they are looking for, so they haven’t even considered packing a pair for their next trip. But there are plenty of reasons you might choose this option as the way to go.
If you’re the type of hunter that carries a lot of gear out into the field, then the last thing you want is another item to get your way of quick access to shells, water, knives, or whatever other gear you might have on you. Most full-size binoculars come with a neck or shoulder strap. This keeps them away from your gear while still easy to grab. And if you are looking for something more lightweight, there are plenty of compact models that will fit in a pocket and stay out of your way until you need it.
Another great advantage with binoculars is reaction time. Their size and weight allow you to get them to your eyes quickly and expand your sightline. Binoculars aren’t fixed to a rifle or tripod, so you don’t have to move your rifle around to identify distant movement and take the chance of scaring off any potential game.
When it comes to spotting gear, a quality pair of binoculars usually cost less than other comparable optics. They might not come with all power or high-tech features that others offer, but if you are a hunter on a strict budget, something like the Bushnell Falcon 7×35 Binoculars might just be the optics you are looking for.
If getting the perfect shot lined up every time you brought your firearm to bear where easy, hunting wouldn’t be much of a sport for most of us. Same thing goes for bow hunting. A calculating range is such a critical element inaccuracy in every shot taken over a hundred yards that you might as shoot blindly if you don’t bother to consider it. With the help of high-powered optics and lasers, a rangefinder can help you eliminate guess work so you do line up the perfect shot.
The most important factor to consider when it comes to rangefinders is ranging distance. How far away are your targets? Are you shooting small game from a distance or large game close up? Unless you are a complete novice, you should already know the answer to these questions. Knowing the game size and average distance that you shoot will go a long way in determining what you need and how much you should spend.
Once you’ve done your calculations you are better prepared to make a purchase. Examine the manufacturer specifics for yardage range to find one the outstrips your own average by about a hundred yards. Once you’ve found one that fits your yardage needs, you can then consider other factors, such as magnification, yardage precision, water resistance, and others. Consider the Halo XRT6 Laser Rangefinder for a 600-yard range, or if you need much more distance, the Nikon PROSTAFF 7i Rangefinderwill get you all the way out to 1,300 yards without straining an eye.
These days, optics are just as important as any other gear when it comes to hunting game. The “Be prepared” adage certainly applies, but you can be over prepared. Too much gear can slow you down or cause you to miss a true trophy. For best results in spotting game, take only what you need and rely on your hunting skills to do the rest.