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You are here: Home > Published Articles > Selecting a Spotting Scope III

Recently, I received the following email from a DSC member.  I thought his question was very well thought out and it, along with my reply, may be of interest to you.


Iíve been reading your articles in the DSC monthly. Iím confused on what direction to go with respect to a spotting scope. Iíve always been told to but the best optics you can afford and Iíve done that. I use Swarovski EL binos 8.5x42 and Schmidt and Bender rifle scopes. And Iíve been looking at spotting scopes in the 60-65 mm range with a 15-45 or 20-60 eyepiece. What would you suggest knowing the scope will be used in the western US?


I must commend you on the optics you have - they're the best! 


Hopefully, I'm not the source of your confusion from my articles, but regardless, let me offer some opinions that may help you make the best decision on a scope.


Here are a few questions to ponder that will affect your decision.


-Will the scope be used from the truck or deer stand, or carried on the hunt each day (possibly on you back)?

-Will you be "spotting" game or doing some serious judging?

-Will you occasionally be using it all day to "pick apart" a mountain, glass for Coues deer, etc?


A lot of scope use is from vantage points often just feet from the truck while locating game, with several vantage points visited in the course of the day.  Out West, you may be viewing up to 3 miles away.  This scenario begs the use of 20-60x.  And if this is the main use, I would also ponder going with an 80mm objective lens.  The downside to 80mm however is size and weight.  If you're going to tote the scope up the mountains you were scouting, then the 60-65mm size is definitely required - you'll save about half in both size and weight - which is massive once you're halfway up that mountain!  


Spotting or Judging.  If picking out the difference between a 7/8 and full curl sheep, or scoring a B&C Coues deer is the job at hand, 20-60x and the 80mm comes into play, If, however, using the scope to determine whether it's a 5 or 6 point bull elk at 1,000 yards is the job at hand, then 20-60x 60 will do quite well (even 15-45x is just fine).   I know you didn't mention the 80mm size, but in some situations, it just gives you a better view.  Those situations mainly being when dealing with great distances, when the greatest detail is needed, or low light conditions.


For all-day use, any spotting scope will become a burden.  I mention this to throw a new topic in the mix.  If you'll be glassing all day, consider a tripod-mountable, high magnification binocular - something in the 15x to 20x range.  Using one eye to glass all day long will throw one eye out of sync with the other causing vertigo and headaches after some time, even with the best gear.  That statement may not stand up to scientific scrutiny, but you'll darned sure experience it.  Glass all day with a bino, then switch to the scope for greater magnification and detail on specific critters.


I've danced all around your question, but wanted to get you thinking about all the options.  I would go with the 20-60x 60 or 65 for general use out West, or consider a combination of a big 20-60x80 for viewing and a 15-45x60 to go in the pack up the mountain if binos wouldn't cut it from there.


A question you didn't ask is whether a straight or angled eyepiece.  For general use or a pack scope, definitely go with the straight eyepiece.  The angled eyepiece can be nice if you're glassing up the mountains for sheep or goats from the truck, but they are too slow and hard to "aim" for general use.


In other NewsÖ


This Spring, I plan to test two different aiming systems on big bore rifles.  One is a Red Dot scope, the other is a 1-4x 30mm tube top-end scope from one of my manufacturers that promises to be ideal for dangerous game rifles (it is currently offered in a tactical model with the hunting version to come).  Iíll put them on a .458 Lott and maybe a .375 H&H for testing.  Yes, there are bigger guns that kick harder, but I donít own one, and I donít believe Iíve ever seen a scope on anything bigger other than a .50 BMG, and how many of you hunt with one of those?.  Iíll let you know how they do.