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Was Santa good to you?  Did you get some nice, new shiny optic to help you on your next hunt?  Well, let’s talk about getting off to a good start with it this month.


When you opened the box, there were a bunch of things in there besides your new scope or bino.  The first thing you tossed aside was the warranty card.  Pick it back up and read it – it’ll only take a minute, but it will tell you what they will and won’t do if your new toy fails.  Almost everything these days comes with a lifetime warranty, but not if you try to repair it yourself first, abuse it, disassemble it, or sometimes with scopes, just mount it wrong.  Read the card, then you’ll know.


The next thing in the box was, as the French call it, the “mode d’emploi jumelles” or instruction manual (I love instructions in four languages).  Ok, how hard can it be to use a binocular, right?  We’ve all got the basics down, but if you’ll take a few minutes to actually read the manual, you’ll learn about all the features you had no clue existed in your new toy.  This is particularly true with riflescopes.  Manufacturers are incorporating lots of new features in their products to stay up with, or ahead of the competition.  Other than the four basic adjustments, you may find that your binocular has locking eyecups and diopters, a built-in tripod mount, and accessories such as doublers may be available.  Scopes have increasingly complex, and functional, reticles, parallax adjustments, and focusing rings, along with windage and elevation adjustments.  It’s even possible you may have to download trajectory data from the manufacturer to use your scope properly.  If you read the manual, I promise you will learn something about your new glass you didn’t know before.


One last item in the box that is as important as anything is the lens cleaning cloth.  Use it, not your shirt tail!  If you don’t have one, use a soft cotton cloth or microfiber cloth.  For a lens cleaning solution, never use anything with ammonia in it.  It can eat away those wonderful lens coatings you (or Santa) paid so much for.  Almost every optics company sells a cleaning solution which works great with every other brand too, or use rubbing alcohol.  I’m leery of cleaning solutions sold at gun shows, state fairs, and such (“Clean your glasses for free?!”).  They never list their ingredients – which may include ammonia.  Our goal here is to clean the lens surfaces without damaging the lens or those beautiful coatings.


Lens caps and scope covers – either you love ‘em or hate ‘em.  I’m in the hate ‘em group.  They’re always in the way.  In my experience, there is no need for them if the weather is dry.  How dusty can your lenses get?  Besides, you have your lens cleaning cloth in your pocket, don’t you.  If it’s wet, I’ve found that binos stay pretty dry tucked inside of my jacket, or I’ll use the eyepiece caps if needed.  The objective lenses tend to stay dry since they are pointing down.  I do use the caps every time I store my binos for protection. 


I can’t remember the last time I used a scope cover.  I don’t hunt in downpours, unless I, and my scope, are in a blind.  If it’s misting, a small cotton towel is quick and quiet.  The push-button flip-up covers can be noisy, as well as the bungee corded caps that can rocket off if they slip out of your grip.  The scope coats and such just seem to be a hassle to me.  Keep in mind you don’t need a crisp, clear, spotless view through your scope. You’ve already done your judging of the critter with your bino.   All you need to see through your scope is the critter and the reticle, then superimpose one over the other. 


If you care for your optics properly, weather won’t damage them – just clean and dry them when you’re done.  With reasonable care, good optics will last decades.  In fact, they will last longer than you ought to keep them.  Do yourself a favor and upgrade all your optics after 15 or 20 years.  The new products offered today are noticeably better than even state of the art optics from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and usually at a better price.  And, even with excellent care, lens coatings degrade and wear away with time and use.


Take good care of that bright, new toy Santa brought you, and if you’re a good little hunter, then in a decade or two, maybe Santa will bring you something even newer and brighter!