A Full Guide to Picking the Best Hunting Spotting Scope

Spotting scope— one of the most important optical instruments for hunting, bird watching, nature study, surveillance, and scenic observation—is a small rugged telescope that’s modified for portability and use by day. Spotting scope can be used anytime when you need more magnification than a regular binocular, in fact, spotting scope comes into action where binoculars quit. Nowadays, spotting scope features ultralight portability and professional optical quality both in the same package. And, hunters who are looking for a reliable optical instrument can never imagine a trip without a spotting scope that is constantly being used to heighten their hunting experience. Although a binocular would give you a wider field of view, a spotting scope can provide you stupendous level of clarity and magnification for hunting. Indeed, no other sporting optics can actually match this level of optical performance. However, as you dive into the world of a spotting scope, it’s confusing enough to drive you crazy with the overwhelmingly enormous number of options, each with different features and specialty. And only a very few products can actually meet the level of a customer’s expectation, delivering as they’ve promised. This inclusive review guide will walk you through the nitty-gritty of selecting the best spotting scope for hunting and provide you with a comprehensive buying guide for everyone. In fact, you will learn how to interpret the accompanying numbers of a spotting scope.

Recommended Product: Leupold Mark 4 12-40x60mm TMR

If you are quite lazy to go through different technical issues of a spotting scope and don’t want to take the hassle of being confused with a lot of choices, just go for a Leupold Mark 4 12-40x60mm TMR. Simply speaking, this is a one-stop solution for all your worries. Given that you have enough money in your wallet and are actually willing to pay for it, never think twice before buying this product. It will never disappoint you. The unmatched optical superiority coupled with premium features from Leupold is enough to awe you. In fact, you won’t get any better spotter in this price range. Most importantly, even if you are a professional hunter or bird watcher, the clarity and color fidelity will never let you down.

Leupold Mark 4 has a generous magnification of 12-40x, enough to meet your professional demand. At the same time, the objective lens is large and oversized, measuring at 60mm. Well, the best thing about this spotting scope is Xtended twilight lens system. This feature allows you to hunt further than you could previously imagine even into the evening. To maximize low-light transmission, this spotter uses index-matched glass with special lens coatings specific to the wavelength of the light, resulting in sharp low-light detail, clarity, and optical performance. Another great feature about Leupold Mark 4 is DiamondCoat 2 ion-assist lens coatings that provide the highest level of abrasion resistance, exceeding the regular military standards for hardness and durability. The built quality is awesome with premium BAK4 prism material, ensuring optical superiority in all conditions. For tactical use, you will get mil-dot reticule, a nice feature to have. Even in higher magnification, you can get very accurate by reading the mils, and it will make range estimation effortless and easier than ever before. In fact, it aide in ranging the target for two people as well. As the overall size and shape of the spotter are concerned, this is a compact and lightweight device and you don’t have to worry about packing and carrying it with you for the whole day. The exterior surface has a matte providing a very nice grip for everyone. Another amazing feature of Leupold spotting scope is fitting protective cover that is intended to stay on your spotting scope. This spotting scope is absolutely waterproof and fog proof maintaining a very high standard and is ready for all weather. Note that you have to order the tripod separately although the spotter is tripod ready. The Leupold tripod is quite adjustable and has multiple features, however, the tripod is a bit high for tactical use. Other than this, the tripod is a great fit for Leupold Mark 4. The color fidelity in this spotting scope is tremendously good, having virtually no color infringement even in low light. And, the optic is sharp and clear to the edges, and the contrast is brilliant in a word. The problem with the most cost-friendly spotting scope is that they drop quality as you increase the magnification range. But with premium optics from Leupold, coupled with the meticulously engineered finish, you can surely beat those worries and is likely to get unmatched performance for the money you spend. Well, you never expect a product to be 100% perfect, but this one is pretty close to it with the only downside of the high price of the spotting scope. But remember you are getting a top-notch performance for your bucks.

 

Pros:

  • Better accuracy with mil readings.
  • Smooth focusing.
  • Xtended Twilight lens system and DiamondCoat 2 lens coatings.
  • Exceptional clarity and color fidelity.
  • Armor-coated.
  • BAK4 prism.
  • Digital camera compatible.
  • Edge-to-edge optical performance.

Cons:

  • Expensive. 

 

A Definitive Buying Guide for Spotting Scopes

First off, every spotting scope label comes with different features and each has their very own purposes. But hunters demand a bit more on the optical quality and technical specifications as they don’t want to ruin their valuable time without bringing home their desired catch. So, having the right tool for your hunting will only make your experience more vivid and increase your effectiveness. To avoid inaccurate shots in a make-or-break situation, consider adding a professional spotting scope instead of a binocular to your arsenal, and this will make you confident in your every trip by making you aware of your improved vision. However, before you make a well-informed buying decision, there are a few aspects that you need to take care of.

 

Generally, most of the binoculars are accompanied by three numbers: the first two number indicates the magnification range while the last one will always indicate the size of the front lens. For a 12-40×60 model, your magnification range would be 12-40x and the diameter of your objective lens would be 60 millimeters.

 

What is the ideal magnification?

For a hunting spotting scope, magnification can be a make-or-break issue but remember that it’s one of the important criteria and not the most important one. Generally, a spotting scope will have a variable zoom, so you can zoom in and out according to your necessity. However, there are two critical factors that determine how much magnification range will be useful for you. One of them is the atmosphere—dust, humidity, heat wave, glare, air currents during daytime can reduce the image quality greatly, especially at a higher magnification. Another thing is the optical quality of the spotting scope—the optical system is the single most important aspect to consider. Regardless of the brand and model you use, you will notice a performance drop off as the magnification goes up. If you go for an inexpensive spotting scope, the optical quality will go down drastically with higher magnification.

 

What is the best lens size?

As a rule of thumb, a spotting scope with the bigger objective lens will have more light gathering capacity. If you choose an 80mm objective lens, definitely you will get a brighter image in vivid detail and you can enjoy a wider field of view. But as you go for a large objective lens, you will add extra weight to your spotting scope and they’ll be costlier than the usual smaller sized spotting scopes.

 

Do I need an Angled or a Straight Spotting Scope?

Everyone has his specific gear preferences, mostly with different brands. But there is a certain time when you have to choose between specific features of a single product. Spotting scopes generally offer two variations: angled and straight. For most day to day applications such as looking at scenery, wildlife, bird watching the angled spotting scope will be more suitable for you. Though angled spotting scope is better for using extended time, aiming skyward, and sharing with others, straight spotting scope also has some great advantages. If you are a professional hunter and often in a spotting game that requires lying on the ground, a straight spotting scope is a far better choice for you. In fact, straight spotters allow you to point and shoot straight while you can keep your head down during stalking animals.

 

What about a tripod for my spotting scope?

In short, you do need a tripod for your spotting scope. Since the spotters magnify your sight greatly, a slight shake of your hand will also be multiplied and it can annoy you severely during critical moments. Although the smaller models don’t specifically call for a tripod, using one will increase your flexibility only. In fact, even if you can mount your spotting scope on the table, stand, or any other platform, only a tripod will empower you to enjoy the full potential of your spotting scope. So, consider having one.

 

How to consider weight, size, and portability?

Since hunting is mostly outdoor activities and you have to carry your spotters a lot, consider buying a compact spotting scope that allows you to effortlessly carry your gear. Generally, larger objective and greater magnification are a precursor of the heavy optical instrument. So, consider carefully what you actually need, and don’t forget the portability issue. A bulky spotting scope will cause only more trouble for you.

 

Hunters, check this out!

Usually, spotting scopes for hunting are specifically made for the purpose, and if you need an instrument for hunting, always consider the products that are specific for hunting. There are some general guidelines to remember while considering hunting spotting scope:

  • For hunting, stick with scopes that are rubberized armor. It’s inevitable that your scope will tumble often, so go for the scopes that are made with durable materials.
  • Long range is one of the most important features of a hunting spotting scope because you don’t want the animals to notice you while you have a clear sight of them. If you can afford, go for the scopes that have the range all the way up to 750 yards which might sound overkill for some hunting jobs. But you never want a blurry vision that can cause you a perfect shot.
  • Only consider spotters that are absolutely waterproof and fog proof. Make sure that you don’t have to wipe your scope and get to the indoor when it’s raining.
  • Consider having your objective lens at 60mm or above. Don’t go below this range. And the magnification is quite variable with 12-40x or anywhere in between would do fine.
  • If you can afford, always go for ED (extra-low dispersion) glass as they tend to produce the most accurate color without any fringing.
  • Since hunting demands a certain level of professionalism, always prioritize quality over any other issue for an immersive hunting experience.

 

Additional Recommended Products to Consider:

Athlon Optics 15-45×65:

This angled spotting scope comes with a magnification range of 15-45x and the objective size is 65mm. Apochromatic lenses will give you the images with greater contrast, sharpness, and amazing color definition. In this spotting scope, ED glass is used with dielectric multi-layer prism coatings, and the end result is a clear, bright image that reproduces accurate color. Moreover, the scopes are absolutely waterproof with argon purging, so you don’t have to worry about the rough weather. Though the scope is made by Chinese manufacturer, it showcases absolutely top-notch optical quality for the price, producing an amazing image in all conditions including low-light. 

Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A 20-60×82 Angled

This spotting scope features a large oversized front lens of 82mm for your ultimate convenience. The best thing about this scope is that it comes with a waterproof hard casing and tabletop tripod. It also combines a nitrogen filled magnesium body and fully multicoated optical path for a great optical experience. Since Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A offers extra-low dispersion (ED) glass along with phase corrected BAK4 prism, the color fidelity is exceptionally reliable for all sorts of users. The eye relief of 19mm is generous with rubber eyecups. However, as you magnify more than 20x, you will notice the degraded optical quality and also this instrument is quite heavy for daily use.

Vortex Optics Diamondback 20-60×60

This scope is a mid-tier optical instrument with some decent features. If you need a heavyweight spotter in a compact and affordable package, you can go with Diamondback 20-60×60. The fully multicoated lens allows excellent light transmission and you will get a clear and bright image. This instrument is absolutely waterproof and fog proof and it features adjustable twisted eyecups. Also, the rubber armor is likely to aid you in gripping and increasing durability. However, don’t expect features like ED glass and best in class optical performance. Certainly, you will see dropped off performance in low light and higher magnification.

Bushnell Trophy Xtreme 20-60x 65

Indeed, it’s a budget-friendly spotting scope for the hunters. You will get all the standard features of a regular spotting scope, but you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank. Though the magnification is ranged from 20-60x, this is a budget-friendly model and you cannot expect any performance drop off with the changing atmosphere and greater magnification. However, fully multi-coated optics can produce a clear and sharp image. This scope has a waterproof construction and Porro prism design. So, if you are on a tight budget and still looking for a decent product, go for this one. However, keep your expectation in line with what you are willing to spend for the spotter.

Final Thoughts

Hunting is a very professional job which demands higher attention for the right tools to accompany you. And a spotting scope is often a life-saving item for hunters. Indeed, a premium spotting scope can change the way you see hunting, and hunting will be more inclusive and immersive experience for you. However, once you opt to buy a spotting scope, please take your time to decide wisely. Consider all your necessities and remember to go through this article. There are many options for optical gears in the market to confuse you. But now you know what to look for, right? So, don’t fall into the traps of misleading promotion rather when it comes to optical instruments, always value quality over other things. Although for a high-performance product you have to spend more, you will get exactly what you look for. Always remember that there is no shortcut to spending extra bucks for a decent spotting scope for hunting, and this extra expense will often go a long way for you.

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