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Choosing Great Optics – – Part 2


Last time we discussed choosing great binoculars and spotting scopes. This go around we will look at optics that are make or break when it comes to hunting situations; Scopes and Range Finders.

When it comes to hunting situations these two items are indispensable for hunters. Rifle hunters rely heavily on their scopes for clear shot placement and archers rely on range finders for similar functions. First we will look at rifle scopes.

Discussing rifle scopes is like discussing politics, everyone has their opinion and few are persuaded to change. The old adage of “I’d rather have a cheap gun with great optics than an expensive gun and cheap optics” is as true today as ever. But for risk of conversion let’s look at the basics and from there we will delve into the particulars. Most hunters in the south and Midwest face shots at whitetails at distances less than 150 yards. This being the case, extreme magnification and adjustable turrets are seldom necessary. The old standard 3×9 is more than sufficient, with some variation, for example, I have found in the thick midlands of South Carolina where I hunt I really like the lower adjustability of 2x or 2.5x to find deer in the thicker forest. This is where a 2.5×9 can come in handy. These tend to be a lot harder to find and usually considerably more expensive than the more standard 3×9 offerings. Early season hunters in the south are usually hunting late evenings over soy bean fields or food plots where late evening shots are normal. Light gathering capabilities are crucial for killing big bucks at last light.

The 40mm and 50mm scopes offer excellent light gathering capabilities as compared to smaller tubes. Nikon, Zeiss, Tasco, Simmons and Bushnell all offer scopes in moderate price ranges for hunters to choose from. For my money however the Bushnell Legend is the pick of the pick of the best scopes available. The Bushnell Legend HD was chosen by Outdoor Life as a Best Buy and I would have to agree. This scope offers great clarity, excellent light gathering capabilities all at a great price. Hunters looking to upgrade this season in new optics would do well to consider the Bushnell Legend HD. Other offerings by Bushnell are also available for hunters in different price points. The Elite Tactical, and Trophy XLT are all great scopes for hunters.

It’s been my experience that when light gathering is a consideration, the larger objective lens is the best option. The 50mm is an excellent choice, coupled with the wide range of adjustability it’s hard to beat. This larger tube adds considerable weight to the outfit and must be considered when purchasing this larger scope. For example, if this were also my elk gun that I had to carry for miles and miles, I might opt for the 40mm lens to reduce the weight a bit. When walking at ten thousand feet, ounces make a big difference.

Range Finders have long been a staple for archers. Since their inception, the ability to accurately and quickly range your target animal has been a game changer. I would offer that nothing has improved and grown the sport more than the range finder. And with the advent of Angle recognition technology it has improved dramatically. Small lightweight range finders are as necessary to archers as the quiver, arrows and good broadheads. Accurate shot placement has increased and wounded game has decreased. However the range finder is not limited to bow hunters only. More and more rifle hunters are relying on the range finder to improve their shooting also. As more manufacturers tailor their offerings to rifle hunter as well, the quality of the optics have improved. Some have even added the feature of calibrating the ballistics of the most popular calibers into their rangefinders giving the hunter instantly the precise hold point at longer ranges. Without question the range finder is one piece of equipment I will turn around and go get if I forgot. It’s so imperative to my hunting success, I will not hunt without one.

The offerings of range finders is growing, most major optic manufactures offer a variety of range finders. Nikon and Bushnell lead the way in offerings and price points. Here again Bushnell leads the way, with their G-Force and Scout range finders being the best of the best. Then there is their Primos brand as well that is just as excellent. The G-Force has a longer range of up to 1,000 yards it is geared more for the rifle hunter and the scout with a range out to a mere 800 yards tends to be more for the archer. Both will offer the patented ARC hat instantly calibrates angels and provides adjusted yardages. Basically this technology will measure the actual distance, calculate the height of the hunter, adjust for the angel of trajectory and provide the actual aiming distance. And it does all of this instantly. For example, if the deer is thirty yards away, and the hunter is sitting at a height of twenty feet, the aim point will be at twenty-eight yards – not thirty. So the old adage of “aim low” is gone, just range, and aim where the optic tells you. This alone has made me a much more confident hunter. No more guess work at the moment of truth. With practice, ranging deer becomes part of the shot routine.

Few hunters will argue that optics play a very important part of our game in today’s world. From spotting scopes, binoculars to scopes and range finders, optics are as necessary as stands, scent control and the weapons themselves. When choosing optics for your next season, choose wisely. There are a lot of great brands out there, and the sky is the limit when it comes to cost of good optics, find  a brand you trust, and get the  best you can afford.