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Choosing Great Optics


I have read and I am sure you have too stories from legendary writers who have touted the praises of optics that cost more than our wife’s engagement ring. While it is true that some of these premium brands offer excellent clarity and great performance, many, dare I say most hunters simply cannot afford to spend several thousands of dollars on a pair of binoculars or a rifle scope.  That being said there are cheap (and I do not mean inexpensive) optics, and premium optics but the area between these two is wide and offers many excellent choices.

First we will look at binoculars and spotting scopes, next we will look at scopes, and rangefinders. For my money and opinion by binoculars are some of my most important pieces of equipment. I have heard so many times in the southeast that binoculars are not necessary because of the closeness in which we hunt. However I would argue just the opposite. I have used binoculars in the west and Midwest and they are invaluable at locating game at great distances. But so too are the binoculars excellent at locating game in the brambles of the southeast. Vines become legs, cane switches turn into antlers and leaves into ears. The advantage of the binocular is that it sees ‘through’ a lot of the trash between us and the animals we are hunting. Whether sitting in a clear-cut scanning for movement or an oak ridge my binoculars are indispensable. For most applications 8x is sufficient, some prefer a little less magnification and others a bit more. But for all around the 8x seems to be a good middle point to key in on when looking. As far as brand, here is where the real discussion comes in, Nikon, Zeiss, Bushnell, and Steiner all offer excellent binoculars in modest price range. And for clarity, moderate price for my money is less than $500. However, when it comes right down to it the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD is in my opinion the Best of the Best. Its light weight, weatherproof housing, clear lenses, and is available in either 8x or 10x make it the best choice for an all-around binocular.

While it is true that southern hunters do not use spotting scopes very often, they do have their place in our arsenal. Nothing is better when sighting in a rifle than a good spotting scope so you can see with clarity exactly where the bullet is striking the target. Similarly, when doing long distance scouting across clear-cuts, or bean fields the spotting scope offers excellent vision at extreme ranges. Plus for many photographers, spotting scopes can often be converted into magnifying lenses for your cameras.

Here again Bushnell excels, its Trophy XLT series spotting scope is indeed legendary. Rugged, durable and easy to focus make it the best option and at a price of under $400, the Bushnell Trophy XLT is the best option. I will note that the tripod that comes with the scope isn’t worth throwing away and isn’t good for any application, the scope and carrying case are excellent choices when looking for an affordable all around spotting scope. Plus when you get the chance to chase elk in Colorado or Wyoming, you will already have one of the best spotting scopes available.