Spotting scopes are vital for open country hunting where they serve several important functions.
When I look at large spaces with my 10x binoculars, I make a mental note of the areas I couldn’t see to my satisfaction. These can include thick patches of cover, shaded areas under rock ledges or downed trees, or just interesting shapes that are hard to make out with my binoculars.
When I’m done with my initial scan, I’ll bring out my spotter and examine these areas carefully and closely. The second great benefit of having a spyglass is that you can analyze critters that you have already located. This is especially important when it comes to legal size and gender restrictions.
When I’m hunting bucks, whether it’s at the request of a landowner who doesn’t want to kill his young bucks or because I have an antlerless deer tag, I use my spotting scopes to make sure I’m not making a mistake. a small deer with barbed antlers for a doe. When it comes to hunting mountain sheep and elk, a spotter is ideal for determining whether or not an animal is legal size.
In much of the West, bighorn sheep need to reach ¾ curl size to be legal. In Alaska, moose generally need to have 3 or 4 brow teeth, or a total span of 50 inches to be legal. In these situations, you want all the visual power you can get. The difference between having or not having a spyglass can be the difference between having a dead animal or going home empty handed.
When selecting a spotting scope, you need to weigh your concerns about image quality against your concerns about portability. If you’re strictly a long-range backpack hunter getting into the Brooks Range, get a spotting scope that weighs around two or three pounds with an objective lens no larger than 60mm and about 10x-30x variable magnification.
If you’re a truck hunter prowling the wide expanses of the Texas Panhandle, an 85mm scope weighing seven pounds with variable magnification from 20x to 60x will fit the bill. If you’re looking for a single scope that can do it all, it’s hard to beat a 65mm scope with variable magnification of around 15x – 45x. In truth, most spotting scopes, even the highest quality ones, have a distorted image at their highest magnification setting.