Telescopic optics provide capability to a Hunter that nothing else can. A Spotting scope takes advantage of that technology better than any other piece of equipment we can carry with us into the field.
Anytime you take a spotting scope with you into the field, you bring with you the capability to see for miles around and be able to search out game with pinpoint accuracy far better than you can with any other piece of equipment.
Choosing the right spotting scope to bring these advantages to the table can be difficult at best. Hunting optics are highly technical, can get very expensive, and choosing one largely comes down to a combination of experience and knowledge.
Here are a few factors that you should consider when you are choosing and using a spotting scope for hunting.
Factors to Consider when Shopping for a Spotting Scope
Quality & Cost
Nothing else, when it comes to equipment, can get nearly as expensive as optics. Spotting scopes, in particular, get very expensive very quickly when you start talking about small differences in quality. Most of the midrange priced spotting scopes on the market designed for hunting will be fine for the majority of hunters.
Many hunters opt for nicer models than they need and then tried to justify the cost by telling everyone else that they need the same level of quality. If you like fine optics from European manufacturers, have at it! However, research the level of quality you need and stay within your budget. You’ll appreciate your equipment more knowing that it does exactly what it needs and you didn’t have to sacrifice too hard to get it.
Magnification range in spotting scopes are often much larger than on rifle scopes or binoculars. This is great because the amount of magnification that you can have is largely only limited by the size of the spotting scope that you are willing to carry. In fact, some spotting scopes these days that top out near 80x magnification could qualify as telescopes.
Remember that the amount of magnification you need is going to be determined by the type of game you’re hunting and what you are using it for. For example, if you are a Western Hunter looking to judge the trophy quality of bull elk from over a mile, you are going to need high magnification. However, if you are varmint Hunter on the edge of a Prairie dog field looking for small game to pop up out of holes in the ground, you will likely need the same level of magnification as a long-range trophy Hunter.
Almost as important as weight, size should be a large factor in determining the spotting scope that you buy for hunting. Most of the time when you’re using spotting scope for hunting it means you’re going to be carried get it on your back. You don’t want to be porting a ton of bulky equipment into the field regardless of how much it weighs. Opt for slimmer and trimmer spotting scopes with low-profile tripod mounts whenever possible.
Weight is a large concern for almost all hunters. Unless you constantly hunt with a large group of people that can afford to take heavy equipment field, carrying extra ounces equals pain. Having lightweight equipment is definitely worth the cost when you factor in the enjoyment and increased performance you gain from not being over exerted carrying extra weight.
Spotting scopes recently have embraced carbon fiber, thinner and lighter lens construction as well as smaller footprints in general to save weight. Also remember, the accessories you take with you in the field can weigh you down as well. Look for manufacturers that offer ultra lightweight lens covers, protective cases and especially tripods to save weight in the field.
Features-Wants Vs. Needs
Before you go shopping for a spotting scope, make a list of the features that you have to have an features that you like to have. Nowadays, it’s very common for each manufacturer to have proprietary technologies and patented features on their equipment that can suit individual tastes and requirements.
In many cases, these are useful but often they are very minor differences that only amounts to more money spent in the showroom. Make sure you know exactly what you need before you go shopping so that you don’t end up blowing your budget on equipment you don’t need.
If you are a long-range Hunter, make sure your spotting scope works with your Riflescope and binoculars. This means that if your Riflescope uses a mil-dot reticle or target turrets, your binoculars and spotting scopes should use mil-dot as well. You don’t want to be constantly doing algebraic equations in the field when it comes time to pull the trigger.
Other features like commonality between tripod adapters for multiple pieces of equipment can save you weight in the field. A little planning ahead can save you huge headaches in the field.
Warranty & Insurance
There’s not many piece of equipment that are worth ensuring when it comes to hunting. Optics, especially spotting scopes, are definitely worth buying an extended warranty or taking out an insurance rider for. In many cases, these are offered by the retailer or manufacturer, but make sure you have some sort of protection on your spotting scope before you take it out for a multi-day adventure in the Rockies.
It may seem trivial, but if you drop your spotting scope over ledge and have the objective Bell shatter, you’re going to want to have it replaced regardless of whether or not it ruin that particular hunt. Remember, most manufacturers do not cover wear and tear or accidents on their warranties, however, check before you spend extra money because some do.
Spotting scopes are amazing piece of equipment for hunting. Choosing the right optics for hunting, in general, can be a challenge. Do some reading and find some spotting scope reviews online of models that your incident before you run off to your nearest retailer. Make sure you get a model that you can live with in the field, and get out and use it!
The best spotting scope in the world doesn’t do you any good in its case.