Hunting and Outdoors

Gear Up for Deer Season With a New Rifle Scope

Dolbee with Texas Whitetail Buck

Deer season is already (or will soon be) underway, depending on your location. If you have a new rifle or shotgun, or you feel the need to better-outfit an existing gun, a new optic, properly zeroed with your distance and ammunition of choice, is a great way to add enjoyment to the experience.

A quality optic can extend your capabilities for hunting in bad weather or anytime lighting conditions are less than ideal. The advantages of good glass are often the difference between success and tears in the field or stand. With shorter days and winter weather rolling in, and weather-ready optical options being better and more affordable than ever, you have every reason to purchase a new rifle scope to help ensure an enjoyable day afield, an ethical harvest, and hopefully a full freezer.

Mule deer buck in an open field of brush
Deer hunting is a great pastime in North America, with one or more subspecies available in every state. Whether seeking meat, a trophy such as this New Mexico mule deer buck, or both, more hunters go afield for deer than any other game animal.

There are all sorts of terrain and distance choices available to deer hunters, depending on location. But the average shot on a deer is 50–200 yards. So, I’ve chosen five optics that are ideal for those relatively short to mid-range shots on the one game animal for which every state and Canada offers a tag.

Vanguard Endeavor RS IV 1.5–6×42 With 30mm Tube

Vanguard has been making the Endeavor rifle scope for a while. The updated Endeavor RS surely incorporates lessons learned from previous models, not to mention features such as zero-stop turrets, light-gathering ED glass, and an illuminated reticle. The housing is made of monolithic 6061 aluminum with an anodized coating, so the occasional scrape against a rock while navigating the field should never show up as a scratch. This low/mid-priced scope has all the features of bigger, more expensive brands. Weight: 22.2 ounces, $429.99

Vanguard Endeavor rifle scope with 42mm objective lens
Vanguard has several editions of the Endeavor. We like this one for close- to mid-range shots on deer. Its 42mm objective lens offers a wide field of view.

Leupold VX Freedom Scout DPX 5 1–4×28 With 1.0-Inch Tube

From this longstanding name in the optics industry comes this reasonably priced, ideal-for-deer rifle scope. It has everything you need and slim, classic lines. That extends to the plain crosshair reticle on the second focal plane. What a great scope for outfitting your wood-stock lever gun or an inherited hunting rifle for new seasons.

Leupold VX Freedom Scout rifle scope with an illustration of a duplex reticle
Our Leupold choice has no frills but great quality. This classic deer hunting scope offers 0.25-MOA per click, capped turrets, and up to 4x magnification. If you have a classic, wood stock lever or bolt gun, keep the theme going with this tidy scope.

For those wanting tradition, no frills, great quality, and a lifetime warranty, this one should last season after season. The iconic gold ring that’s the Leupold brand calling card will gain a bit of automatic respect for your rifle setup among the old timers in hunting camp. Overall length: 9.3 inches, $367.31

Konus KonusPro Shotgun Scope 1.5–5×32 With 1.0-Inch Tube

Calling all shotgun deer hunters! This scope is made just for you. The KonusPro offers a clean, but not featureless, diamond-over-crosshairs reticle to make easy work of your holdovers. At 75 yards, the desired impact zone of a deer will fill the diamond to help you choose the right moment to press the trigger.

KonusPro 1.5–5x riflescope with illustrated reticle
Deer hunting with a shotgun is made easier with the KonusPro 1.5–5x magnification scope. The diamond-shape reticle lends itself to easy ranging for both deer and turkey. This scope can handle 12-gauge recoil.

This lightweight scope has an engraved reticle to aid toughness for high-recoil loads. Konus is well-known for making shock-tolerant scopes, so for close to mid-range shots with a 12-gauge or large-caliber rifle, this represents a good choice. Overall length: 11.8 inches; weight: 14.8 ounces. At $110.72, this scope makes for a soft landing of both your deer and your credit card statement.

Bushnell AR Optics 1–4×24 With 30mm Tube

Lots of people use a modern sporting rifle for deer. Bushnell’s AR-specialty scope can be worn on any sort of centerfire rifle, of course, but was made with the AR owner in mind. The illuminated BTR reticle, on the second focal plane, can improve confidence for longer shots. The reticle is designed with the .223 Remington bullet in mind but of course, it will work with others.

Bushnell AR rifle scope with BDC reticle for .223 Remington ammunition
Going hunting with your modern sporting rifle? This Bushnell scope specializes in that, with a ballistic drop reticle based on the .223 Remington caliber.

If your preference in adjustments is in milliradians rather than minutes of angle, this one has it. This is one choice on this list that can easily go from home defense to the hunt field. It’s also one of the smaller choices on this list with an overall length of 9.4 inches and weighing in at 17 ounces. $345.81.

Lucid Optics L7 1–6×24 With 30mm Tube

This one is a favorite of this author, as it’s been proven field-tough for several years running. Lucid is the brand that delivers superb glass for a reasonable price. The Lucid L7 is the scope that put the company on the map, and for good reason. Its clean, etched reticle with blue illumination is especially useful when the sun isn’t helping much.

Lucid L7 rifle scope with an illustration of the BDC reticle
The L7 by Lucid Optics is the most compact scope on our list, suitable for medium-game calibers for hunting as well as making a great home defense scope. It’s also the only one with blue illumination.

Remove the throw lever if you want a less tactical look. This is another scope that can pull double duty as a home defense and hunting accessory. Buy one knowing you’re supporting a family-owned, American company. Overall length: 10.75 inches, Weight: 20.4 ounces, $466.75

Sight-In Tips for Success

A great scope is part of deer hunting success. But that’s only possible when some prep time precedes the hunt. Be sure your scope is mounted properly, with the base and rings attached securely and all screws tightened to the manufacturer’s specifications.

harvested Mule deer with a scoped lever-action rifle
Success! A little luck and a lot of preparation make for a successful day afield.

Then, take time to zero it at your preferred distance, and learn your holdovers for various longer ranges. Sight-in with one brand and grain weight of ammunition. Do not vary ammo between the zeroing bench and the hunt in the field. Every barrel affects a particular ammo a bit differently, so once you’ve settled on a brand, weight, bullet, etc., stick with it or go back to the bench and start the sight-in process again.

Regardless of the outcome, enjoy your hunt!

This is a quick list of the author’s favorites. What are your favorite rifle scopes for hunting? Share your answers in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

1 Comment;

  1. I use my old Winchester Mod 94 for deer season… to me it’s just wrong on so many levels to put an optic on a lever action. Years ago Pop got me a Bushnell Banner Dusk and Dawn… I think it was a 3×12-50mm… it was rediculously huge for the .30-30… bell was so large you couldn’t use the irons and it was basically uselss because of the offset of the optic’s centerline versus the bore. Anything inside or beyond a fairly specific range and you had to adjust for “windage”… made the quick handling snapability of the Winchester virtually non-existant. It stayed on for one season and several missed deer that shouldn’t have been. Went back to my Williams fire sights. I installed a 3×9-32 (mid-level priced but can’t recall brand) on my brother’s Marlin 336. It’s not completely offensive and is quite accurate. He loves it and of course the 336 is more suited to optics than the older Winchesters. Not exactly my preferred method as all my shots are within the 100yd or less range so the fiber optic Williams fine for me but it works for him and that’s what counts. Pretty good article with some nice choices if that’s your thing.

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