Most hunters generally have a choice of three optic devices to consider when preparing for their next big game hunt:
- A good set of binoculars to help locate their game,
- A rifle telescope that has been zeroed for a specific distance, and
- A quality spotting scope to definitively identify that distant game.
While binoculars and a rifle telescope often all that is necessary for close in and woodland shooting, a spotting scope becomes a necessity in vast open terrain and in mountain hunting.
Game animals such as antelope, sheep, goats, elk, caribou, and bear use wide-open spaces and distance as a protective shield against predators and hunters.
The nature of hunts against these animals require that you locate them, identify their characteristics, decide if it meets your desired specifications, and, if it does, then stalk in for a possible shot.
Because binoculars have a wider field of view than do spotting scopes, many hunters begin scanning the distant terrain with their binoculars to locate the game. But the magnification of binoculars generally is not great enough to fully identify distant game as being the quality you are seeking. The power of binoculars typically stops at the 8X, 10X, or 12X magnification range. This is where the spotting scope with its 15X to 60X magnification power comes into use. The higher magnification of these scopes is used to definitively identify the characteristics of your game. Spotting an animal on the distance mountain side is an accomplishment, but the greater magnification of the spotting scope will help you decide if that animal is worthy of stalking as a possible trophy. Know that you have a prize animal in sight before you start your stalk. The scope will assist in eliminating the guesswork. No wasted time and effort stalking over rugged and difficult terrain only to find out that the game is no more than a regular herd animal.
Glassing with binoculars for extended periods is tiring work, on both your body and your eyesight. Holding binoculars to your eyes for an extended time tends to lead to shakes and hand movement. Lying prone and using your arms and elbows to steady the binoculars may help for a few moments, but rocks and hard ground soon become uncomfortable.
Spotting scopes and tripods are the solution.
With the 15X to 60X magnification it is extremely difficult to hand hold a spotting scope for steady, quality viewing. For that reason a tripod is almost always used with a spotting scope. The tripod is placed securely in a solid location and affords a stable and steady viewing platform for the scope. No physical holding is required. Position the scope to a particular distant point, and it remains fixed on that point. The image being viewed remains stable, steady, and clear. Your hands are free – to possibly switch back to your binoculars if a wider field of view is desired. And when you come back to the scope again you still have that previous view and image.
Spotting scopes also play a big role in zeroing your rifle to a particular target and distance. Using the scope from your shooting bench saves time and energy in evaluating your rifles hit pattern. Instead of walking down to the target after each series of shots, analysis can be made in place by viewing the bullet hole hits from the shooting bench. Fire off a series of shots, view the hit placement through the scope, and make the necessary sight adjustments.