The hunting of wild deer has been a great American pastime for countless generations. In fact, venison meat has occupied a place at the dinner table from the time of Native Americans and pygmies.
Whitetail deer are the most popular game animal in America. They can be found all over and have thriving populations both in the wilderness and national parks from coast to coast.
Although whitetail deer populations once saw a very sharp decline due to overhunting, extensive conservation efforts have since, more than made up for it, and the deer population is now at an all-time high. That is the best example of a hunter-driven conservation effort, which has yielded excellent results.
Conservation efforts funded by hunters have made it so that most states now actually have a surplus of deer, and hunting is required to keep the population in check and ensure harmony in the biological ecosystem.
Most experienced hunters prefer deer hunts because they make for a challenging target. Always wary, undeniably intelligent, and astonishingly fast, Whitetails deers can easily pick up the scent of a human, and the smallest of mistakes will send them sprinting out of your crosshairs at breakneck speed.
Deer often grow huge antlers. The size of the antlers is a sign of a deer’s maturity and of the degree of difficulty in taking it down. But if you do manage to take it down, who wouldn’t want to decorate a living room with those antlers.
Lean whitetail Venison meat is renowned for its mild, tasty flavor and its host of health benefits. Deer meat has graced our plates since time infinity, and it will continue to do so in the near future.
See our article on where to hunt white-tailed deer.
What to Look for in a Scope for Deer Hunting
Because deer is a not a small animal, deer hunting requires cartridges that pack some punch. You need to get a scope based on the stopping power of your bullet and the amount of recoil you can expect. Just a small list of the cartridges used for deer hunting:
- 6.5 Creedmoor
- .308 Winchester
- .30-30 Winchester
- .30-06 Springfield
- 7mm Remington Magnum
You need to get the best scope for deer hunting, which will suit these caliber rounds and also suit the prey you will be hunting. Here’s a guide about what to look for in a scope.
The magnification range is probably the most critical feature in a scope. Deers tend to get spooked if you creep up too close. So your best bet is to hunker down and hit them long-range. As a result, magnification is of primary importance. Don’t settle for anything with less than 9X max magnification.
If you’re shooting long distance, it’s also helpful to have a parallax adjuster which takes out the parallax at long distances.
The larger the objective lens, the more light will come in through your lens, making for better and bigger pictures. If you’re shooting long distances with very high zoom, you would want as much light as possible to come in.
However, if the objective lens gets too big, it’ll become heavy, and it would be a problem carrying that around.
You need your scope to produce bright, clear, crisp images with perfect contrast from dawn to dusk. Depending on whether you’re a morning person or a night person, or if you want to hunt all day, you’ll need a scope that produces perfect images even in low-light conditions.
Multicoated lenses are a must because they allow maximum light transmission, which is an absolute necessity.
If you’re spending the big bucks on a scope, you would want it to last you a long time. The cheaper models are going to give way after only a few shots, let alone a year.
Scopes made out of aluminum alloy are the best when it comes to avoiding scratches and wear and tear. You also need lenses that can hold the fort. Nitrogen purged lenses are usually waterproof, dust and fog proof, and even shock-resistant to a high degree.
A scope with a lifetime warranty would also be a very wise investment.
With the amount of recoil from the bullets usually used in deer hunting, if you want to keep your eyes protected from injury, you need generous eye relief of at least 3.5 inches.
Especially if you’re shooting from an unorthodox position, you stand a chance of the scope hitting your eyes if you don’t have sufficient eye relief.
A buffer space of 3 to 4 inches is crucial in selecting a scope.
You might also see which is the best scope for 17 WSM.
If you’re shooting long range with this rifle, you need your scope to compensate for the bullet drop over long distances. Having holdover positions and bullet trajectory prediction systems help a lot.
Target turrets should be lockable and resettable to zero. You need to be able to hold zero perfectly. An illuminated reticle also helps a lot in the dark.
The 4 Best Scopes for Deer Hunting
Now that you know what to look for in a scope, here are our top 4 picks for the best deer hunting optics in the market today.
1. Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Riflescope, 3-9X 40mm
Bushnell is one of the best rifle scope manufacturers in the business, so it’s no surprise that they offer this high-quality but exceptionally affordable model that deer hunters everywhere should at least consider before buying a scope.
What Makes This Scope Worth Your Time?
There’s a lot to like aside from the really reasonable asking price. For instance, the scope only weighs 0.81 pounds but is still made with extremely durable materials that ensure it’ll work even in inclement weather where waterproofing and fogproofing are essential.
Furthermore, it comes built with a fast focus eyepiece that will allow you to sight-in to your target and acquire it quickly, even if it’s moving rapidly from your perspective. This is especially true since the scope comes with proprietary DDB or Dusk & Dawn Brightness lenses that afford fantastic clarity, particularly during the dusk and dawn hours of the day (when many animals like deer are most active, as hunters will attest).
These lenses work in conjunction with the “Multi X” reticle that’s easy to use and enjoy, plus the 40 mm objective lens that ensures the scope can always collect enough light for your needs. The scope can magnify between 3x and 9x power, so it’s good for tracking or sighting in to deer both at closer and longer ranges.
The only real downside is the lack of notations on the windage and elevation turrets. While these offer good feedback and the opportunity to control the scope even more precisely, you’ll have to remember what you set them to since there aren’t any markings on the sides.
- Very affordable overall
- Made with high-quality materials
- Offers really great lenses that provide good light collection
- Can work in inclement weather
- Relatively lightweight and easy to mount
- Windage and elevation turrets are not marked
The Bottom Line
All in all, this is a great deer hunting scope, particularly for hunters on a budget who want something reliable without having to break the bank.
2. Vortex Optics Diamondback Second Focal Plane Riflescopes
Taking down deer will be quick and simple if you use the Vortex Optics Diamondback SFP Riflescope. It’s made with excellent materials, is lightweight by default, and has phenomenal controls and features to make it worth your while. Let’s take a closer look at this optic in detail.
What Makes This Optic Worth Your Time?
For starters, the Diamondback’s scopes are multicoated to provide a clear and bright sight picture for all users. These lenses can swap between magnification settings of 3-9x by default, although there are other sizing options available depending on your needs. All scopes come with a 40 mm objective lens, providing you with enough light to accurately hit your target from afar.
The lenses are improved further thanks to the dead hold BDC (or bullet drop compensating) reticle. This is perfect for estimating the bullet drop of your shot when hunting deer at longer distances.
But the most important feature of this optic is the precision glide erector system. This erector system will ensure very accurate tracking for the metal-on-metal precision turrets situated on either side of the optic’s body. Compensating for windage and elevation will, therefore, be extremely consistent.
Aside from these aspects, the Diamondback optic is quite durable and lightweight, weighing less than 10 ounces in total. But it’s sturdy to the finish, using a single quality piece of aircraft-grade aluminum with a hard-anodized finish to reduce corrosive damage and shock disruption.
You can even take this scope into the field whenever you like since it’s designed for weatherproof functionality. Neither water nor fog will affect this scope’s performance in the least.
- Comes with precision glide erector system for the magnification ring and windage and elevation turrets
- Made of high quality but lightweight materials
- Lenses have multiple coatings to improve light transmission and durability
- Features BDC reticle to estimate bullet drop at a distance
- Eye relief is a bit lackluster at maximum magnification
The Bottom Line
All in all, the Diamondback is a quality deer hunting scope from start to finish and a perfect optic if you want something versatile and usable in the field for years to come.
This Vortex scope would also be a good .450 Bushmaster scope.
3. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 4-12×44 Dead-Hold BDC
The Crossfire II line of scopes has a lot of variety and has optics that suit every taste. It’s made for professionals and is guaranteed to be a worthy investment.
What Makes This Product A Good Choice?
An extensive zoom range of 4X to 12X and an equally large 44mm objective lens make for a large bright picture. That makes the rifle ideal for medium to long-range shooting.
Vortex’s trademark dead-hold BDC reticle does a great job of predicting bullet trajectories and is ideal for situations where you have to estimate holdover. The second focal plane reticle maintains the same size of the reticle across varying powers, allowing for seamless zooming in and out experience.
Very generous eye relief of 3.9 inches keeps your eyes out of harm’s way. Rest assured, your eyebrows are safe with this riflescope.
Multicoated, anti-reflective lenses provide a very vivid picture with true contrast, which seems almost HD quality. The contrast and color clarity means you will have no trouble spotting your prey no matter how much forest cover is blocking your vision
The side adjustment turrets have a maximum internal adjustment of 50 MOA with a gradation of one-quarter MOA per click. They can also quickly be reset to zero, which saves you the hassle of reverse counting clicks.
We also particularly admire the construction. Single-piece aluminum alloy ensures the scope can deal with whatever you throw at it. O-ring seals and nitrogen purges keep the scope waterproof, fog proof, and dustproof.
This scope is also outfitted with a fast-focus eyepiece and a vast field of view. The field of view extends from 8.4 feet to 24.7 feet at 100 yards.
Another feature we like about the reticle is the red dot. The red dot cuts through all the dust and fog and focuses on your prey. Rest assured that deer isn’t going anywhere once it’s in your crosshairs.
- Generous eye relief
- Large objective lens
- Dead-Hold Reticle
- Slight parallax
- Distortion at high zoom
The Bottom Line
The huge 12X zoom range and 44mm objective lens is perfect for long-range deer shooting. No matter how big it is, if it’s stationary or on the move, you’ll get a clear image of it on the anti-reflective, multicoated lens. Moreover, the dead hold reticle with all it’s estimated trajectories eliminates all guesswork. See how far to practice shooting before deer season.
4. Athlon Optics, Argos BTR, Riflescope, 6-24 X 50 First Focal Plane (FFP)
Excellent scope for long-range deer hunting, this one from Athlon has everything you want in scope and a lot more. It’s advanced yet simple at the same time, making this an ideal scope for beginners and veterans to the game alike.
What Makes This Product So Great?
First things first, this is a First Focal Plane reticle, which is ideal for shooting long range. The reticle seems to shrink or grow in size as you zoom in or out of your prey. That makes for a very clear picture on the huge 50mm objective lens.
The glass-etched reticle is an illuminated Mil-dot reticle, which is excellent for long-range accuracy. Most FFP and mil-dot reticle scopes in the market today are at least twice the price.
Moving on to the adjustment turrets, the total elevation and wind adjustments possible are 18 Mil with the graduation of 0.1 MIl and 5 MIl adjustment per rotation. The turrets are resettable and hold zero entirely accurately.
Multicoated lenses provide a very clear and high-contrast picture, as is required when shooting deer long range. The picture quality is excellent and stays consistent throughout the entire zoom range.
The scope’s tube is made out of aircraft-grade aluminum, which has exceptional mechanical and structural integrity and will hold up to all manners of battering. The argon purged lenses give top class waterproofing and thermal stability.
- First Focal Plane Reticle
- Accurate turret adjustments
- Multicoated lenses
- Superior structural integrity
- Eye Relief is a bit on the shorter side
The Bottom Line
When it comes to marksmanship, what you need in a scope is accuracy, precision, and reliability that every shot is just as good as the last one. This scope from Athlon does all of that and provides it at a fraction of the cost of every other long-range deer hunting scope in the market.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are requirements for a good deer hunting scope?
The greatest deer hunting scope may differ depending on where you hunt, the conditions you’ll encounter, and whether you’ll be hunting deer or elk. For whitetails, mule deer, and elk at closer ranges and during daylight hours, a basic 3-940 scope should suffice. In fact, for deer shooting, this is arguably the most popular and optimal scope magnification.
However, if you plan on hunting in remote areas where you won’t be able to obtain any easy shots under 100 or even 200 yards away, you’ll need one of the best long range rifle scopes available. A 6-1850 deer hunting scope helps you to zoom in considerably further and view much clearer images than previously, allowing you to fill your tag on difficult-to-hunt animals.
In addition, the best rifle scopes and best rifle scope manufacturers will almost certainly have lens coatings and protection. Coatings minimize glare, boost light transmission for sharper photos, and protect the lens from dirt, debris, and water, among other things. Bushnell’s new EXO barrier has revolutionized the game, and it’s extremely cool and works great! This is what Michael has on his Remington this year.
What are rifle scope numbers?
There are two numbers in a rifle scope standard. The first number indicates the magnification, while the second indicates the objective lens diameter. As an example, an 8.550 specification denotes a scope with 8.5 magnification and a 50 mm objective lens.
Is a 50mm deer hunting rifle scope better than a 40mm?
The difference between 40mm and 50mm scope objective lenses is minimal. In addition, contrary to popular belief, a 50mm lens does not always imply a brighter target image. A 40mm scope with a high-quality lens and coating can perform the job equally as well, if not better.
What is eye relief on a scope?
The distance between the outer surface of the eyepiece lens and the region where the exit pupil is created is known as eye relief (eyepoint). You can see the entire field of vision without vignetting when looking through binoculars from the eyepoint.
What is better: 2 MOA or 4 MOA?
A 4 MOA dot is best for close ranges, while a 2 MOA dot is best for longer ranges.
How far can you shoot with a 3x magnifier?
As a rule of thumb, every additional magnification factor gets you about 100 yards of engagement distance. So 3x gets you about 300 yards, which is about as far as most people are effective with a rifle in any event.
What is an example of a parallax?
The term “parallax” refers to the apparent movement of objects when viewed from different positions. The everyday example of this is seen driving on the highway: when you look out the window, electrical poles near the road seem to zoom past, while trees in the distance appear to slowly drift by.
At what distance does parallax matter?
If shooting out to only about 300 yards or so, you do not really need to be concerned about parallax. However, if you commonly shoot beyond 300 yards, then your scope should truly have parallax adjustment to clear up your target focus.
Well, that ends our review of the best scopes for deer hunting. Since no “one size fits all,” we suggest you read the buyer’s guide once again and then decide.
Or just pick one of the four scopes we’ve reviewed here. Optics can make any rifle more accurate…and of course, more fun to use.
So go ahead, let’s get hunting. For more success in your hunt check our scent control tips to help you see more deer.