Every hunter knows how it goes. It seems like you see deer every day except when you actually go looking for them. It’s one thing to accidentally spook a deer or miss a shot, but some of the most frustrating hunts are the ones you spend wet and freezing for twelve hours in a tree stand without seeing so much as a wayward fawn.
To avoid those hunts, up your optical game. There’s a spotting scope on the market for every hunter and every situation. If you don’t know what to look for in a scope, learn about the different specs and features that are out there. Once you know what you need, take a look at our list of top picks.
Our Top Spotting Scope Picks
- Emarth 20-60x60AE– “A great product for the money”
- Celestron Ultima– “It’s a good choice if you hunt in low light”
- Redfield Rampage– “The BAK4 prism system produces an excellent picture”
- Bushnell Trophy Xtreme– “Portability secured this scope a place in our favorites”
- Vortex Optics Razor HD– “High-end optics give it incredible performance”
Budget Hunting Scopes
Mid-Range Hunting Spotters
Long Range/High Quality Spotting Scopes
What scope features does a hunter need?
A long-range stand hunter should look for a more powerful optic. You need greater magnification and a larger objective lens. Fortunately, you should have the space you need for a scope like this. You’ll need additional time to set up the scope, but again, stand hunting allows for that.
If you’re still hunting, your needs are a whole different ball game. You want something lightweight that blends into your surroundings. You don’t need the same magnification as a long-range hunter. An objective lens of 60mm and 15 to 40 times magnification range should be plenty.
Whether you’re on the go or set up somewhere for the long haul, there are some universal things every bowhunter needs. For example, don’t compromise on weatherproofing.
It’s not worth ruining your equipment or your hunt due to unexpected weather.
You also want to go ahead and splurge on appropriate armor, even if you need to buy it separately. If you drop or knock your unprotected scope, you might be looking at an overpriced paperweight.
Lens power, size and glass quality
A look at the scope’s numbers reveals its strengths. These numbers work in an easy formula.
The first figure represents a range of magnification. A scope labeled “15–50 x 60” can magnify 15-50 times. If the scope is not adjustable, this is a single number. The number following the ‘x’ is the size of the objective lens: in this case, 60mm.
If you’re a dusk or dawn hunter, choose a larger lens for better visibility. This is because larger lenses let more light into the scope.
Clarity and brightness of the picture also depends on the quality of glass in your scope.
Glass quality is one place where you don’t want to cut corners.
If it’s not good, it can drag down the performance of the other features.
Coatings can add to the cost of your scope, so it’s important to know what they do—and whether you actually need them.
Glass is transparent, of course, but it still works as a filter, dimming light that passes through it. Coatings help diminish the amount of light lost during the process. Lens coatings vary–we’ve laid out the differences here.
- A coated lens comes with a single-layer coating applied to one or more lenses.
- Fully-coated options have a single layer of coating on every external lens.
- A multi-coatedlens carries several layers of coating on one or more lenses.
- Fully multi-coated lenses have several layers of coatings on all external lens surfaces.
On the move? Then lightweight and compact
Keep this in mind—if you’re a still hunter or like to change stands a lot, you want something that’s going to be light and small. You need to worry about humping your equipment in and out–especially if you’ll be walking a long way back to your truck. You also don’t want something so heavy it’s uncomfortable to use.
Waterproof and armored
Whether you’re stand or still hunting, make sure your scope is weatherproof and armored. You just can’t guarantee you can protect your equipment from unexpected elements.
Remember, weatherproofing isn’t about making your equipment submersible. Advertising a scope as water-resistant, weatherproof or fog proof means the equipment has been sealed so there is no internal air exchange. That air exchange is what can cause clouding and condensation on the inside of your equipment.
So what’s the best way to keep that seal intact so there’s no condensation? You can find that in the armor.
Your scope’s armor is just a protective case. Like a phone case is designed to absorb shock, armor fits snugly to the scope. This gives it an extra layer of protection for potential accidents.
Eye relief – what’s your eyewear?
Eye relief is the amount of distance there needs to be between your eye and the eyepiece for optimal viewing. You should absolutely know the individual eye relief of each scope you’re considering. Minimal eye relief could make the scope difficult to use while wearing glasses—even your shooting glasses.
Generally speaking, lower-power scopes have greater eye relief. Your higher-power scopes have less. It’s possible you’ll have to compromise in one area to find a scope that suits your needs.
Angled or straight?
Scopes come in two styles—angled or straight. A straight scope is in line with your eyepiece. An angled scope has a set angle somewhere between 45 and 90 degrees.
The type of scope you choose to use depends on how you plan to hunt. One is not inherently better than the other, but different situations might make one style advantageous.
It’s hard to hold anything steady with a magnification power greater than 10, and scopes generally magnify 40–60 times. Regardless of whether you use an angled or straight scope, it’s best to use it mounted.
What about binoculars?
Not willing to let go of your trusty pair of binoculars? You don’t have to. Scopes are a great piece of equipment to have when you’re hunting. So are binoculars. Scopes aren’t made to be a replacement for them. They’re made to use in addition to them.
Binoculars are usually handheld with lower magnification. They are ideal for sweeping the landscape and looking for game. Once you’ve found something, pull out your scope and use that to zoom in.
Remember, your scope’s magnification capabilities are much greater than your binoculars. You certainly wouldn’t want to be sweeping and searching with your scope. You’d never find anything.
Budget Hunting Scope Reviews
Our top budget scope is a great option for hunting trips in deep woods. The Emarth 20-60x60AE comes with the scope, a carrying bag, lens cap and a tabletop tripod.
It’s angled and features adjustable magnification. The 45-degree angle is comfortable to use and works well for different stand positions. All lenses are fully multi-coated to increase light intake and allow for bright, clear viewing. The lenses are smaller, so keep that in mind.
Waterproof, fogproof and durable, this scope is ready for rugged terrain and extended trips. Convenient, portable—even coming with its own sunshade—you can use this scope wherever. If you want to spend your money on the hunting lodge and not the scope, this could be a great choice.
- Great accessories
- Comfortable angle
- Adjustable magnification
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- Small lenses
Celestron is well known for manufacturing quality telescopes. The Ultima brings that industry experience to your tree stand.
It has a 45-degree viewing angle and 100mm, multi-coated lenses. It’s a great option for people who are using their scope in low light. The adjustable eyepiece means you can tailor the magnification to suit your immediate needs.
The 100mm lens lets in 50 percent more light than the next size down (80mm) in the Ultima line. Larger than some other options, the Celestron Ultima 100mm pairs well with a tripod. Unfortunately, the tripod is not included even though that’s the best way to go. It does come with a limited lifetime warranty, however, so you know it’s sturdy. If you have a large stand or a permanent blind, you might benefit from a tough scope like this.
Finally, the eyepiece is designed with extra give—perfect if you wear glasses and have had difficulty with other scopes. This scope is waterproof and designed to blend in with its surroundings which also enhances its ability to be left on a tripod for long hunts.
- Great for low light
- Works well with tripods
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Tough and sturdy
- Blends in with surroundings
- No tripod included
Mid-Range Hunting Scope Reviews
The Redfield Rampage might be in a higher price range, but you get what you pay for: high-quality design.
The adjustable, rotatable eyepiece means you can better customize the scope to both you and your individual situation. The rubberized exterior protects the scope and offers protection from the elements.
One place this model lacks is the eye relief. At 17-14mm it may be difficult to use if you wear glasses. It does have an adjustable magnification of 20–60, though, and the 80mm lens lets in an adequate amount of light for performance in all weather conditions. The advanced BAK4 prism system improves picture quality and clarity.
We can’t forget to mention the limited lifetime warranty, either. Some hunters like the challenge of hunting in extreme conditions. If you land in that camp, you might need some of the tough features that you find the Rampage.
- Adjustable eyepiece
- Tough rubberized exterior
- Adjustable magnification
- BAK4 prism system
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Made in the USA
- Limited eye relief
Bushnell Trophy Xtreme
This scope takes portability to the next level. It’s compact, comes with a tripod and features two carrying cases, one hard and one soft. If that weren’t enough, it even has a car window mount and a scope glove.
The Trophy Xtreme is more than just accessories, though. It’s reliable and durable, too. Like other Bushnell products, this one has a money-back guarantee that not only puts your mind at ease, it highlights the quality of the scope’s design.
As for the scope itself, it has adjustable magnification, from 12 to 36 times, and a 50mm, fully-coated lens. Combined with weatherproof, shock-absorbing armor, this Bushnell is perfect for the field. The picture is clear and bright, especially when using at the lower end of the magnification range.
- Compact and portable
- Wide range of accessories
- Money-back guarantee
- Adjustable magnification
- Shock-absorbing armor
- Better performance at lower magnification
Long Range / High Quality
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If spotting scopes are a big part of your hunting strategy, the Vortex Optics Razor HD makes a fantastic addition to your equipment.
You can get it in both angled and straight styles. It also comes with either a 65 or 85mm lens. This scope can accommodate your specific needs, whatever they may be. It’s also sleek, and you can see the quality of the craftsmanship immediately.
If you’re looking for a scope that performs just as well at greater magnification and over longer distances, this is it. It has an easy-to-use focus dial, so you have both the performance and the function.
The Razor HD comes with a sunshade and is weather proof. This is a scope you can bring with you all year round, in any kind of weather.
- Angled and straight options available
- High quality
- Fully multi-coated lens
- Focus dial
- Higher price range