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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!