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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
Wolfe Publishing Group
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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
reloading tech tips

Spotting Scopes for Hunting

Author: Stan Trzoniec / Wolfe Publishing Co.
Date: Apr 10 2019

Next to a hunter’s journal and a camera, a good spotting scope should have a prominent place in your backpack. However, considering the investment in a premium scope there are a few things you should know before purchasing of one of these fine optical instruments.

So how do you begin looking for a good spotting scope?  Important factors to consider include the quality of the glass, eye relief, field of view, resolution, overall size, weatherproofing and of course price.  Still another point not often considered is that you should physically go to the retailer and look, hold and inspect the spotting scope.  If you can help it, don’t buy it online unless you are totally familiar with the product, and don’t — while at the retailer — judge the scope by looking through the shop window.  Even the best plate glass will distort the image seen through even the most expensive spotting scope.

With that aside, the first items to consider are size and price, and both go hand in hand.  Scopes with large objective lenses usually gather more light but are heavier to carry around, especially when attached to a tripod.  They take up more space in your backpack, so spotting scopes with a 60 to 65mm objective lens are more practical and less costly.  Additionally, some extra features to look for are coated glass and image brightness, especially on a variable-power scope when cranked up to the maximum magnification.

Check the specifications to make sure the exit pupil diameter on the scope is at least 5.0mm or larger.  This equates to the human eye handling bright sunlight, and around 7mm, as the light is fading through the scope, you may have to turn down the magnification a bit to get the full advantage of your scope as dusk arrives.  A scope with an 80mm objective lens at 15, for example, will provide an exit pupil around 5.3mm; at 40 it diminishes to around 2mm at this end of its range.

Eye relief is important, especially if you wear glasses, and the best way to test this is with the spotting scope mounted on a tripod. Check each magnification setting to be sure you can see the entire image, especially when turned up to the maximum setting. Weather and waterproofing is important, as is a lens shade that can be collapsed when not in use or packed away. Check to see if the manufacturer offers both a straight or angled ocular lens. Depending on your preference, an angled ocular lens would be handy when scouting for game in the prone position.

Finally, along with the scope, a good, durable tripod is necessary in the field to ensure a sharp and steady image. There is no way a hunter can hold a 60 spotting scope in his hands for to get a sharp image of a distant elk.

When looking for a spotting scope, price is naturally a factor, but I choose quality optics made by a manufacturer that stands behind its product.