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.
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.
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. Nikon ProStaff 3-9X 40 Black Matte Riflescope
Fully multicoated optics, spring-loaded Instant-zero reset turrets and Nikon’s Ballistic Match technology – what’s not to like? Made by a company that prides itself on making quality products, this one lives up to everything that Nikon stands for.
What Makes This A Very Nice Choice?
A maximum of 9X of magnification and a 40mm objective lens makes this a handy medium range scope. The black matte finish makes it look very sleek and sophisticated.
What we find to be the best feature of Nikon’s optics is its light transmission (a whopping 98%). This degree of light transmission ensures that no matter how dark your conditions are, you’ll still get perfect visibility.
What we like most is the BDC reticle. The see-through ballistic circles are great for long-range shooting and also allow for a standard sight picture when the crosshair is the aiming point itself.
Add to that Nikon’s Spot On Ballistic Match technology, and you eliminate all guesswork on your bullet trajectories. The quick focus eyepiece is fast and sharp and guarantees that nothing is going to get past you.
Spring-loaded zero-reset turrets have positive-click, 1/4 inch adjustments, with a maximum internal adjustment of 80 MOA. The parallax adjuster removes parallax from 100 yards to infinity.
This scope also scores top marks on durability. Nitrogen purged and O-ring seals make the scope fog proof, waterproof and also, shock resistant to a large degree.
- Multicoated optics
- Spot On Ballistic Match Technology
- Instant Zero-Reset
- Lifetime warranty
- Field of view is a little narrow
The Bottom Line
What makes this an excellent scope for deer hunting is the picture quality and Nikon’s attention to detail in the reticle. Basic, yet highly useful, this is another top-notch scope for deer hunting in our book.
2. Leupold VX-R 3-9x40mm Patrol Riflescope
As master scope-smiths, Leupold has been crafting quality optics for many decades. This scope is another in a long line of quality products.
What Makes This Product a Great Choice?
This Leupold riflescope can switch between 3x and 9x magnification levels with a 40 mm lens. It’s an excellent choice for short to medium-range shooting and has an illuminated reticle that’s perfect for low light conditions.
The reticle’s illumination can be switched between different settings so you can continue to operate even in harsh daylight. The reticle is particularly accurate and crisp and perfect for landing precise shots on a buck’s vital organs.
Furthermore, the scope is equipped with Motion Sensor Technology. This passive tech helps preserve the battery life of the scope by turning off the reticle illumination after five minutes of inactivity. Since it’s so easy to forget to turn the reticle off when it’s not in use, most hunters will make good use of this feature.
There’s also the Twilight Light Management System. This system balances image contrast, resolution, and light transmission to promote even greater light collection and efficient use of the available rays. The result? Up to 10 extra minutes of shooting time during the dusk or dawn hours.
The scope is also made of aircraft-grade aluminum and tested to ensure that it will continue to perform even under super harsh recoil. It’s totally waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof.
- Great light transmission
- Illuminated reticle with eight settings
- Durable and efficient
- Adjustment knobs bump and shift easily
The Bottom Line
This scope is excellent for hunting deer at the usual ranges. Its illuminated reticle and excellent light transmission make it perfect for shooting at all times of the day.
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.
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.
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.