How to choose a rifle scope for deer hunting
With a myriad of rifle scope options out there, it can seem a daunting task trying to determine which rifle scope is best for you - but it doesn’t have to be. By first identifying your priorities, then your wants, you can ultimately determine which deer hunting rifle scope fits the bill for that trusty deer hunting rifle.
Identifying what is absolutely needed should be your first consideration. Above all, clarity and resolution are an absolute necessity. This should be the top priority. Since not all rifle scopes are created equal, choose your deer hunting scope based on quality first.
To determine these needs, here are a series of questions to ask yourself:
- How do I hunt (e.g., tree stand, spot and stalk, or both)?
- What type of habitat are you primarily hunting (e.g., dense forest, clear cuts, agriculture, subalpine, desert scrub, etc.)?
- What species of deer do you hunt (mule deer or white-tailed deer)?
If you’re a tree stand white-tail deer hunter, you’re likely hunting dense/semi-dense forest, clear cuts, and/or agriculture habitats. In these scenarios, a greater field of view is likely more important than high magnification, making the tried and true RS.2 2-10x38 SFP a solid choice. The 2x magnification allows for a wider field of view for close range shots and the 10x gives added zoom for placing farther 200-300 yard shots with ease.
If you’re a western mule deer hunter, you’re likely hunting both forest and open terrain where farther distance shooting is an important consideration. For these dynamic scenarios, look for broad magnification ranges. The RS.1 2.5-15x44mm FFP and RS.3 5-30x50mm FFP are excellent options for all-encompassing, short and long-range, deer hunting situations.
Once you’ve determined your requirements, next think about your wants. Though these aren’t deal breakers, your wants will help make a great deer hunting rifle scope, the perfect rifle scope. These wants may include, but are not limited to, size and weight, dialable turrets, customizable turrets, first focal plane (FFP), second focal plane (SFP), and reticle type.
For eastern white-tail hunters, size isn’t necessarily a major factor when compared to western hunters that require long hikes into the high country. The plus side to a larger objective rifle scope is that they thrive in low light conditions, so placing shots in dense timber at dawn or dusk will be that much more comfortable. The plus side for smaller objective scopes is that they are easier to carry so you can focus on getting to your backcountry honey hole.
For long-range deer hunters (300+ yards), dialable and/or custom turrets allow for more precision. The option to dial, though maybe not a necessity can add more confidence when taking shots over 300 yards. And, when paired with a first focal plane, the option to dial elevation and windage can be a deadly combination.
Lastly, and perhaps most personal, is choosing a reticle. For white-tail hunters hunting in dense/semi-dense forest, a simple duplex will always be a solid choice. For those that want to cover 300+ yard shots, a holdover-type reticle is a simple, yet very effective way to place longer shots. For longer range hunters, more detailed reticles are often more favorable. These not only allow for standard holdovers, but also allow for more precise holdovers and for windage adjustments.
There are a lot of deer hunting rifle scopes options out there. But, by separating your priorities from your wants, you can narrow down which rifle scope suits your style of hunting for your neck of the woods.