How To Choose The Best Spotting Scope For Hunting

As you get ready to improve your hunting skills, the next choice is to decide on the best spotting scope. With so many choices on the market, picking the one with the best optics will help you achieve your open country hunting goals without breaking a sweat.  

A scope with the best objective lens will allow you to hit your target with ease from further away. It can also save valuable time wasted on guesswork and lower your chances of missing those high-pressure shots as an added bonus. To give your hunting that missing edge, here is more information on how to choose a great spotting scope.

How Do I Choose a Spotting Scope for Hunting?

By understanding optics, taking a closer look at objective lens options, and considering the angle, you will be well on your way to choosing the right hunting scope.

Hunting & Optics

To help you make the right decision, here is more information on optics as it relates to scopes used for spotting: 

  • Most scopes have specs that are similar to the following: 17-35 x 50 mm (or a variation of such). This measurement refers to how close the scope can zoom in and how wide the front of the scope will be. 
  • To figure out the magnification of the scope, simply refer to the numbers that are listed before the “x.” When your scope zooms in or zooms out, this number changes. 
    • Example: 20 x 80mm (The 20 refers to the magnification or zoom.)
  • To figure out the front lens’, also known as the objective lens, diameter, refer to the number listed after the “x.” In short, use this number to determine how big your front lens will be.
    • Example: 20 x 80mm (The 80 refers to the diameter of the objective lens.)
  • If your lens is pointing at your target, the part that rests on your eyeball is known as the “eyepiece,” or “ocular lens.”

Fixed-Power vs Variable-Power

The magnification of your scope will either be fixed-power or variable-power. Here is the difference between them both:

Fixed-Power Scopes:

  • This type of scope is set at a magnification level that cannot be changed.
    • Example 20 x 80 mm (The 20 is a set number, therefore the scope remains at this magnification level.)
  • If you are a beginner, this scope style is simple and easier to operate because it does not require adjustment.
  • Makes scanning for game easier with a lower magnification.
    • High magnification equals a smaller field of view (F.O.V.), which makes target location difficult. You will notice that if you are zoomed in, staying focused on one target is hard. 
    • Some have an external peep sight to help with target finding before using the lens with high magnification.

Variable-Power Scopes:

  • This type of scope has a range of magnification levels that you can adjust.
    • Example: 20-60 x 80mm (The magnification level ranges from 20 to 60mm.)
  • For more experienced hunters, this scope style delivers versatility because you are able to zoom in or pull back as needed. 
  • Gives a closer look at fine details
  • Often seen in 15-45x, 16-48x, and 20-60x 

What is the Best Magnification?

There are two main factors that you need to consider in terms of choosing the right magnification. Atmosphere and optical quality are both very important. When dealing with different aspects of your surroundings like weather changes, you might have difficulty nailing those shots that are normally a breeze. This is why your magnification will vary across different scenarios. You also want to make sure that you can still see clearly as you zoom in.  If not, you might overcompensate and miss your mark.   

  • Glare, humidity, heat waves, dust, and air currents all play a part in how clear your image will appear to be. 
  • A scope with good optical quality will allow you to zoom in and maintain a clear view of the image. 
  • If your scope has bad optical quality, you will not be able to see close details. 
  • A spotting scope with great quality will make the difference less noticeable.

For example, from 100 yards away, because this distance is relatively close, you will not need a larger objective lens or high magnification specs. Instead, the right resolution and the perfect amount of brightness should be your focus to achieve that perfect shot. 

On the contrary, if you are 1,000 yards away, you need top notch clarity, contrast, and resolution for a prize-winning catch every time. You should incorporate fully multi-coated optics and your objective lens should be 60-80mm or better. Consider special glass, like HD, Fluoride, Extra Low Dispersion, and BAK-4 for the best hunting experience. 

Your Spotting Scope & the Objective Lens 

Here is more information to help you better understand the objective lens. This will give you a general idea about how it works:

  • The diameter usually ranges from 50mm to 8mm.
  • Bigger means larger F.O.V. and brighter scope 
    • Depends on the type of coatings used on the internal glass
  • Scopes with high quality gather light. They make it easier for you to see while subjected to conditions with low light.
  • The surface of your lens has special coatings that cut back on glare and light lost as it transmits. 
  • The amount of light transmitted is determined by the coatings’ positing, quality, and number.
  • Different lens types: coated, fully coated, multi-coated, & fully multi-coated
  • Coated: one layer is placed on at least one of the lenses
  • Fully-Coated: one layer is placed on every air-to-glass surface
  • Multi-Coated: many layers are placed on at least one of the lenses
  • Fully Multi-Coated: many layers are placed on every air-to-glass surface 

Spotting Scope Lens Size

  • Remember that the bigger your objective lens is, the more light it will be able to gather.
  • For example, with a 75mm objective lens, you can enjoy bright, vivid images with sharp details. Your field of view will be wider as well. 
  • Scopes with larger objective lenses are usually more costly than smaller models.  

Angled vs Straight 

As you look at different spotting scopes, you will notice that they all are either angled or straight. Choosing which one is best for your needs is a matter of preference since they both work well. Here is more information on what they are both used for. 

Angled Scope 

  • Normally used for daily activities 
  • Great for scenery viewing
  • Best for bird and wildlife watching
  • Works best for long periods of time
  • Best for looking towards the sky 
  • Easier option if sharing with someone else 

Straight Scope

  • Best for professional hunters 
  • Allows you to lie on the ground and spot game with ease 
  • Helps you point and shoot in a straight line 
  • Best for use while keeping your head down 

Do I Need a Tripod for My Scope?

In order to get the most out of your investment, you will need a tripod. As mentioned earlier, the scope will magnify the object in view. Because of this, the slightest movement will greatly throw off your scope’s focus. With a tripod, you will not have to worry about inaccuracy due to a shaky scope. Many scopes come equipped with their own tripod. Here is a little more info to keep in mind:

  • Smaller scopes don’t necessarily need a tripod, but you can benefit from increased flexibility.
  • Using a tripod is more effective than using other platforms like a table or stand.
  • You will be able to see small details easier, reducing the overall stress on your eyes. 
  • Hunting for long periods of time becomes easier as well.
  • Many pro hunters agree that setting up a tripod makes you more committed to the task at hand. 
    • This allows you to glass for a longer time period, increasing your chance of spotting the perfect catch. 
  • Many agree that the extra weight added on by the tripod, as well as the time and patience it takes to glass, is worth the end result. You will certainly catch more game. 

What Size Spotting Scope Do I Need for Hunting?

Now that you are better versed in the optics of your scope, it’s time to decide on the size you need. Here is a little more insight on both large and small scopes so that you can make an educated decision:

Large Scopes   

  • Large spotters fall within the 80mm range.
  • They are perfect when you are searching for animals from a distance. 
  • If you want to hone in and map out terrain, the larger scope is for you.
  • When hunting bears, elk, or mule deer, you can easily see between sage or rocks. This also helps you pick up on their slight, nearly unnoticeable movements. 
  • If hunting moose, bighorn sheep, or mountain goats, larger spotters allow you to zoom in and count annuli to help you figure out the age of your game.
  • Most hunters use a scope that lies in the range of 20-60x85.
  • The main disadvantage of the larger scope is its weight. They are heavier and take up more space in your backpack.

Small Scopes     

  • The realm of small spotters provides less magnification options to choose from. 
  • These scopes are best if you need to carry a light load.
  • If you prefer a minimalistic approach to hunting, this is the better option for you. 
  • When using this option, some hunters use a tripod/binocular combination to see the animal. They switch to the small scope once the animal is spotted. 
    • You can double - and even triple - the distance that you see with this combo without the extra weight of a larger model.
  • You will not see intricate details as well, but you will be able to identify whether the game is a prize catch or not.  
  • The biggest problem you will have with a small scope is less light transmission. 

In short, the large spotter is amazing for glassing from a distance. They are also best for determining the age of the animals, long-range shooting, and mountainside observation. On the contrary, the small spotter helps double the distance of your binoculars without weighing your load down. Since they both function optimally, your decision will be a matter of preference. 

Best Spotting Scope for Your Budget

You want to find the best budget spotting scope without having to deal with low-quality optics. 

Alpen Shasta Ridge 20-60x80 Waterproof Spotting Scope

Alpen Shasta Ridge 20-60x8 is a professional choice that will not break the bank. This scope has up to 60x magnification, which is great for helping you zoom in and nail those tough shots. The objective lens is 80mm in diameter as well, which will gather lots of light for clear, vibrant images. Overall, it is a great choice for optics. Here is more information on its wonderful features:

  • Waterproof shell protects the scope from bad weather conditions
  • Rubber seals protect the scope from wear and tear
  • Nitrogen filling prevents foggy optics during quick temperature changes. Has fully multi-coated lenses
  • Provides sharp, clear, and undistorted images in the entire f.o.v.  
  • Comes with a tripod ready for use
  • Includes carry case for your convenience

KONUSPOT-100 20-60x100 Spotting Scope

Another example is the KONUSPOT-100 20-60x100, which also has up to 60x magnification. The objective lens is 100mm in diameter with multi-coated optics, allowing tons of natural light to pass through for ensured accuracy. This particular scope also includes camera and smartphone adapters, making it highly versatile. The oversized objective lens and zoom eyepiece are designed to present you with the best visual image despite tough outdoor elements and poor lighting. 

Sightmark Latitude 20-60x80 XD Tactical Spotting Scope

The Sightmark Latitude 20-60x80 XD Tactical Spotting Scope has a unique perk - its first-focal-plane mil-radian reticle is specifically designed to make sure that your objective stays in focus. It also features a dielectric-coated mirror for optics that ensure precision with an eyecup that twists up for your convenience. The central focus system also provides amazing clarity with no distortion.

Extra Tips

Remember that you should stick to spotting scopes that are made for hunting purposes. Here are a few extra tips and guidelines to help you make the right selection:

  • Try to use scopes that are made from sturdy, durable materials, rubberized armor for example. This helps protect your equipment from wear and tear as it will fall from time to time. 
  • Being able to see from long distances is one of the greatest advantages you can have as a hunter. You will be able to take your time and study your target without being noticed. This is why you should choose a scope that will allow you to be up to 750 yards away from your target. 
  • Stick with spotters that have water and fog proof capabilities. This is especially beneficial in rainy weather. 
  • If possible, choose a spotter with an objective lens that is at least 60mm or even higher. Between 12-40x, the magnification varies greatly. 
  • If you do not mind the extra cost, ED glass is the way to go. Extra-low dispersion lenses provide you with accurate color and no fringing. 
  • Be sure to never sacrifice the quality of your scope for any other feature for the best experience possible. 

Summary

Choosing the best spotting scope for hunting does not have to be a difficult task. First, decide on the right optics. The right magnification and objective lens size will allow you to enjoy the luxury of pure accuracy at any distance. Whether angled or straight, pair your scope with a tripod for a steady shot. You will also enjoy clarity as you search for the perfect catch. Whether a large or small scope, rest assured that your hunting will reach the next level. Use the information to guide your decision as you choose the spotter that is best for your needs.