Besides your gun or your bow and arrow, the optics you bring with you on a hunt are the most critical piece of equipment you can have. It doesn’t matter if you’re hunting deer, elk, pronghorn, bears, or any other species of big game; you’re going to be at a disadvantage if you’re not using some type of optic to enhance your vision in the field.
For example, you can shoot a deer without camouflage and while just leaning up against a tree, but if you never see the deer in the first place, it becomes impossible to get a shot lined up.
While scanning the fields and forests you hunt with your naked eye can certainly work out, using high-quality glass to help scan the horizon will not only help you spy animals you would have otherwise missed, but it will keep you more engaged in the hunt too.
Every hunter should own a good pair of binoculars and a chest strap to keep them handy and in with convenient reach at a moment’s notice. Binoculars are great for spot and stalk hunting or posting up in a tree stand or a ground blind.
The increased zoom and clarity that binoculars provide will help you pick up bits and pieces of animals moving quickly through your field of view. For example, with binoculars, you might be able to pick up the flick of a deer’s tail or part of an elk’s antlers that you would have otherwise missed if simply relying on your natural eyesight. Sometimes shot opportunities happen quickly, and a good pair of binoculars will ensure you’re ready and in position for those fleeting moments the next time you’re out hunting.
If you’re hunting the wide-open spaces of the American west or expansive agriculture fields of the Midwest, then a spotting scope is one of the most critical pieces of gear you can have. A spotting scope will allow you to glass from mountaintop to mountain, between far-off ridge lines, or across an endless piece of flat farmland.
If hunting an expansive space, spotting scopes can help you uncover animals that would be invisible without the intense magnification of the scope. High-powered spotting scopes also allow you to get a more detailed assessment of the animals you do see, which will enable you to make better judgments on the age, size, or trophy quality of the animal before spending the rest of your day hiking into shooting position.
A range finder is also something that every hunter should take outdoors with them. While range finders are especially important for archery and crossbow hunters, every gun hunter should also get in the habit of using them.
Archery hunters are confined by the limited range of their weapon of choice, and in the heat of the moment, distances can play tricks on your mind, so it’s always critical that you size up any potential shot with a range finder or pick out critical indicators like rocks and trees and determine appropriate shooting distances at the beginning of your hunt. Misjudging the distance on a shot can lead to misplaced arrows that wounds the animals or just flat out misses the mark.
While there is more room for error when using a rifle, it’s still helpful to know precisely what distances the shots you are taking measure out to so you can ensure that only the most efficient and ethical shots are taken. You owe it to yourself and the animal.
Optics tend to be one of those things whereby you get what you pay for, and while there are some extremely nice options that double and triple the price-tag of items on this list, advancements in technology have made quality optics more readily available to hunters on tighter budgets now too.
Our friends at Bass Pro Shops have a wide variety of binoculars, spotting scopes, and range finders to help make sure you’re dialed in for your next hunt. Check out some of the best bang for your buck options below.
To get a better understanding of how to use your rangefinder while on a hunt, check out this video from industry acclaimed hunter Randy Newburg.
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