5 Best Spotting Scopes for Hunting (2018 Reviews)
Today these ultimate reviews will show you 5 best spotting scopes for hunting that save your legs and help you to judge a deer or elk from a long distance.
The best part? You’re not only know how to buy a spotting scope, but clearly distinguish straight from angled spotters, and even from binoculars. Sound good? Let’s dive into it...
Best Spotting Scope on the Market:
5 Best Spotting Scopes for Hunting Reviews:
These are my best hunting spotting scopes reviews. In the next section, you'll find out what to look for when buying a spotting scope in case you're wondering. So keep reading:
1. Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 Spotting Scope with 30-60X Eyepiece, Black
Lens (Objective) Size
FOV (per 1000 yards)
99 - 69 ft
Compact And Lightweight
Zeiss, the manufacturer of Conquest Gavia 85 spotting scope, proudly describes their product as “a compact companion for great discoveries”.
You can be sure they are not lying when they say this because this model weighs only 60 oz while having an 85mm lens at the same time.
Once you compare it with other models from this group, you will see that Zeiss spotting scope weighs significantly less than Vortex’s.
Big Objective Lens
However, you shouldn’t judge this product only based on its size and weight. As we mentioned, Conquest Gavia features a big, 85 mm, objective lens, which collects more light and gives you better, brighter images.
This is useful especially in low light conditions because deer usually appear at dawn or dusk. With this lens, you’ll have increased chances of easier spotting.
Such HD lens will provide you with 30-60x magnification and 99-69 ft field of view which will help you notice the distant prey, and make your hunt more successful.
Exceptional optics combined with a dynamic focusing mechanism will make sure you get fast, big and smooth focus while you observe your surroundings.
The close near-focus setting, which is unique for Zeiss Conquest Gavia, makes observing smaller objects much simpler and definitely more memorable.
Unfortunately, this product has its drawbacks. We find its chromatic aberration to be both significant and very disappointing.
You can expect it to show up in nearly all of the images, at least to some level which will reduce their quality by far. This becomes even worse at the edge of the image, and it can really ruin your experience.
Even tough 99-69 ft field of view might be sufficient to some of you, and you will get a chance to tackle those tricky identification tasks even from a great distance due to highly detailed image rendition that Zeiss Conquest Gavia gives, these are still not the best conditions.
You should keep in mind that this model has a lower field of view than both Vortex and Swarovski, so if wide-angle FOV is what you are looking for it is better to consider these models.
- Big objective lens
- Offers quick focus
- Chromatic aberration
- Lower FOV than other models
2. Vortex Optics Razor HD Spotting Scope
Lens (Objective) Size
16.7 - 17mm
FOV (per 1000 yards)
High-end Optical Technologies
Vortex Razor HD and it’s 85 mm optic lens will offer you amazing features. You will get to use the APO System which includes triplet apochromatic lens combined with HD glass and provides excellent color sharpness.
In my opinion, this is my best spotting scope for the money.
Also, you can expect premium HD, extra-low dispersion glass which will get you superior resolution and color fidelity.
XR™Plus Fully Multiple Anti-Reflective Coatings and Dielectric Prism Coatings will make sure you receive the highest level of light transmission for maximum brightness and clear, color-accurate images.
Compact And Durable
Vortex Optics Razor HD might be small in size, but it has a powerful, clear glass and it is incredibly durable. These features make this spotting scope easy to pack and offer a phenomenal glass night and day difference over the Viper HD line.
ArmorTek technology makes sure that your lens is resistant and safe from scratches, oil, and dirt. You can also count on its waterproof and fog proof features. Additionally, this model comes with a VIP warranty, so you don’t have to worry about its safety at all.
Big Objective Lens And Large Focus Wheel
With the objective lens of 85 mm and a large focus wheel, you will get great clarity and bright view for over 500 yards. 27-60x magnification, along with 117-68 ft of the linear field of view and 2.2-1.3 degrees of angular field of you, should satisfy any passionate nature observer.
You’ll see that the large focus wheel causes a focus to be a bit slower than the one we had in Zeiss Conquest Gavia, but you’ll have no problem finding a sweet spot.
Also, the locking eyepiece is a really nice addition, which can be convenient when you are changing the zoom, and you don't want the eyepiece to come off in your hand.
Heavyweight And Short Eyepiece
The main downsides of Vortex Optics Razor HD spotting scope are its weight (65.5 oz) and a short eyepiece. In comparison to Zeiss’ model, this one is significantly heavier. If you are already packing a lot of equipment, and this spotting scope only adds to its weight, heading outto the woods can be tricky.
- Big objective lens
- Large focus wheel
- Heavy weight
- Short eyepiece
3. Swarovski ATS 80 20-60X Spotting Scope Kit
Lens (Objective) Size
FOV (per 1000 yards)
Clarity And Weight
One thing is sure; no other brand can beat Swarovski when it comes to weight and clarity of their scopes. Swarovski ATS 80 weighs only 45.2 oz which is up to 20 oz less than Vortex Razor HD, Zeiss Conquest Gavia, and Vanguard Endeavor HD.
Its body is made of aluminum, and you can carry it wherever you go, without worrying you'll get tired. Its slender ergonomic design will make your experience much more enjoyable.
The clarity you will get by using this product is incredible. Light transmission is at 86% which is more than you could ask for. It maximizes natural color reproduction and detail precision.
All you have to do to focus is turn a ribbed band around the middle section of the scope. Some of you might have a few doubts considering this mechanism, but trust me, Swarovski did everything to make tolerances on the focus band impeccable, with slack nonexistent.
Fluorite Glass Medium Lens
What I liked so much about Swarovski ATS 80 is a high-quality fluorite glass which eliminates nearly all chromatic aberrations. Its medium lens, which measures 80 mm, will offer you 20-60x magnification and 108-60 ft field of view.
The angled body, with 17mm eye relief, makes it ideal for comfortable hunting or birdwatching. You’ll easily see objects at different heights and in steep terrain. The clarity of the image won’t be compromised even if you use this spotting scope with your glasses on.
Don't forget; this HD lens has a sun shield and a multi lacquered coating, which makes it dustproof, waterproof and fog proof at the same time. You will get an exceptional performance in any weather conditions and environment. The body is fully armored with green rubber, and it also comes with a 10-year warranty.
Most Expensive Spotting Scope
Unfortunately, Swarovski ATS 80 can cost from two to ten times more compared to other models from this group. You have to admit it; this difference is significant.
However, you should take into account the fact that it still costs less than other Swarovski models which are made of magnesium instead of aluminum and it provides unbeatable value for the money.
- Superior clarity and weight
- Fluorite glass
- Highest price compared to other brands
4. Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope with 20-60x Magnification
Lens (Objective) Size
19 ~ 20 mm
FOV (per 1000 yards)
Long Eye Relief Combined With Removable Eyepiece
If you are looking for a high-quality spotting scope that has an affordable price, you should consider Vanguard Endeavor HD 82A Angled Eyepiece Spotting Scope. This model features an 82 mm lens, with 19-20 mm eye relief.
As you can see, the eye relief is quite long which makes it perfectly comfortable for people who wear glasses.
Also, its eyepiece is removable which makes it easy to pack, store and transport.
Solid As A Rock
Vanguard’s spotting scope for intermediate to long-range observation is durable and solid as a rock. It has a nitrogen-filled housing which is both fog proof and waterproof.
It also comes with a built-in sun shield and magnesium body that has a textured armor. With all of these protective features, you don't have to worry about any potential damage to your new spotting scope.
Vanguard made sure you get the best possible picture by providing their spotting scope with a fully multi-coated lens, which offers you more light.
Their barium-crown BaK-4 glass (which had proven its superiority over BK-7 borosilicate glass) reduces light scattering, which results in high edge sharpness, rich contrast, and brighter images.
They have paired the inside lenses with a big 82mm objective lens, which makes sure you get 110-52 ft field of vision (FOV) and impeccable 20-60x magnification. The dual focus knobs are present for focus manipulation and enhancement - this system provides fine focus tuning.
Heavyweight And Coarse Focus
Unfortunately, you’ll notice that this is the heaviest model in this group, weighing 66.7 oz. This can be inconvenient if you want to spot and hunt, especially if you are packing a lot of equipment.
Also, its focus is a bit coarse, and the fine finish adjustment is disappointing as it does nothing to sharpen the image.
The glass will be useful for spotting a deer or elk in open country, but if you want to find animals bedded in shaded areas, considering other models is a better idea.
Even though the dual focus knobs are convenient and easy to use, the focus is hard to crisp, even at reasonable zooms of around 40x. At last, you can expect some dust getting caught inside of the unit.
This spotter is also considered a best bang for your buck spotting scope.
- Long eye relief for comfort
- Solid and durable
- Removable eyepiece
- Dual focus knobs
- Coarse focus
- Heaviest weight
5. Vortex Optics Diamondback Spotting Scope
Lens (Objective) Size
FOV (per 1000 yards)
Entry Level Spotting Scope
If you are just a beginner in hunting, bird watching or nature observing, you should consider purchasing Vortex Optics Diamondback spotting scope.
It is a high-quality entry-level piece of equipment with an affordable price that has a potential to serve you right for many years.
Additionally, it comes with a VIP warranty, so you don’t have to worry about any damages or breaks.
This model is easy to use with single focus adjustment. It features proprietary coatings which increase light transmission, multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces and dielectric prism coatings which make sure your image is bright and clear enough, and color-accurate.
It will offer you 20-60x magnification and 114-51 ft wide FOV.
Weight And Durability
If you think there is no lighter spotting scope than Swarovski ATS 80, Vortex Diamondback will change your mind.
It weighs only 33.8 oz while featuring 60 mm lens and 14-17 mm eye relief.This means you can carry it wherever you want, and you won't even feel it on your back.
Diamondback has built-in O-ring seals which prevent moisture, debris, and dust frompenetrating. Also, nitrogen gas purging makes sure your lens is waterproof and fog proof at the same time.
Angled body design is here to allow an overall lower mounting height, maximizing the stability of your device in the wind.
Unfortunately, you get what you pay for is an accurate saying in this case. This spotting scope will offer you a clear and sharp image only under 100 yards.
If you try to reach an object that is located on the longer distance, you'll have difficulty getting a clear focus on specific objects at maximum zoom.
As you’ve seen in the specifications, eye relief measures only 14-17 mm, which is quite short and it won’t suit people who wear glasses. In this case, you should invest in a spotting scope that has a bigger eye relief.
At last, you will notice the glass is not EDHD, and the lens is pretty small, which can impair the quality of the image you’ll get.
- Single focus adjustment
- Easy to use
- Only one focus knob
- Short eye relief
- Small lens
- Difficulty to focus
How to Choose A Spotting Scope for Hunting:
In this section, I'll share with you how to pick a spotting scope for hunting. Check it out:
The rule is following - higher price, better scope, but that is not always applicable. You have to read the specifications and reviews to find the top rated spotting scopes for hunting out there.
Don’t fall for affordable models too quickly. I have many friends that have bought $300-500 scopes, and they have ended up buying them more than once because they were not satisfied. Invest more money and get a high-quality product from reputable manufacturers.
Eye relief is the distance allowed from the eyepiece, that will still give you a full view through the objective lens, or a full circle of magnification.
- If you wear eyeglasses, this feature is critical. In this case, it is best to choose 17-20 mm eye relief.
- If you don’t wear glasses, you should go for lower options, such as 15-18mm.
If you choose the wrong eye relief, your image will have "blackouts" or "kidney beaning." Such conditions are very straining for your eyes, and they can lead to fatigue and lack of performance.
High-quality spotting scopes have multiple eyepieces that allow you different magnification and field of view options. In general, the rule is following: the larger the Eye relief, the brighter the view.
Spotting scopes that allow high magnification, often suffer from loss of clarity and light transmission. If you have a chance, always go for a model that has a lens made of the fluorite glass, which nearly eliminates all chromatic aberrations.
The clarity of vision is very important in intensive hunting sessions when the eye fatigue can occur quite often, especially after hours of waiting.
In these situations, the hunter’s sight gets worse at spotting small objects, and the vision gets smudged enough for a potential catch to escape your field of view. A high-quality lens with high clarity will help in these situations significantly.
Furthermore, high clarity enhances the precision spotting on far distance, enabling you to be a highly effective hunter; you’ll be able to cover more ground without moving and spending precious energy & resources.
You might think to yourself: "what size spotting scope for hunting?".
Choose a spotting scope that has a large objective lens - above 60mm is recommended. You’ll get brighter nighttime images because more light can enter the lens. This is particularly necessary when you’re hunting in a deep forest, where lots of shades and bushes can be big obstacles to your goal.
Having a lens which lets more light in can make a difference between the successful spotting and failure at spotting anything.
Zoom and focus
You might be wondering: "What power spotting scope for elk hunting?". Go with 60x at min.
If your spotting scope has a magnification power of 20-60x, this means that the object being viewed will appear to be 20-60 times closer than you would see it with the unaided eye. The higher the magnification, the more detail you’ll be able to see.
Look for a model that allows simple and quick focus.
Field of View (FOV)
Keep in mind that, the larger lens also means a wider field of view. Depending on the focal range, you’ll be able to zoom from very wide to very narrow FOV, allowing for a precise observation of terrain.
A large field of view allows you to sweep the wide area effectively and zooming it in the particular area of interest will increase the chance of a successful spotting.
Furthermore, with the eye fatigue situation mentioned above, a wide FOV will keep your attention on a wider area, allowing for an uninterrupted, effective spotting.
If you choose a lightweight spotting scope, you’ll be able to pack it and hike with it. Every scope that weighs under 5 oz is considered to be lightweight.
My scope is under 2 lbs and very small in size to fit in my backpack. This is great for the hunt for elk or deer and hard to draw species.
Heavier spotting scopes require you to buy a suitcase or tripod as well. Larger objectives might be great for the image, but they make scopes significantly larger and heavier.
This is a serious investment, and a piece of equipment you don’t buy every day, so it is a good idea to look for a warranty.
Straight or Angled Spotting Scope for Hunting - Which One is Better?
In this part, I'll compare: angled vs straight spotting scope for hunting. Here's the deal:
Straight Spotting Scope
Angled Spotting Scope
Spot the heel
Get on target
Straight spotting scope allows you to look straight ahead. They are ideal for hunters who prefer to do the spotting while lying on the ground. Such a position allows straight pointing and shooting, which can be beneficial.
In all of the other cases, I’d tell you to pick the angled scope. Of course, they are a little slower to get on target at first but well worth it, as you can keep them lower or even set them on your pack really quick for a look and keep it much steadier than the straight since it has to be at eye level.
In case you need to look up the heel or work a really good look from the car window, the angled scope should be your choice because you can rotate the objective toward you.
Great for Western Hunting
For Western hunting, an angled eyepiece is the best (unless you only glass from a pickup truck).
- First of all, you'll often sit on one mountainside and glass to the opposite side of the valley, which can be hard on the neck if you have a straight tube unless you have a tall tripod.
- With an angled eyepiece, on the other hand, you can dig in your heels and glass from a sitting position on a pack or short tripod between your knees without having to crank your neck/head up and backward.
Some people even prefer angled scopes for lying positions as well, because they find it easier to look down instead of forward.
Angled scopes minimize neck fatigue and allow a lower, more stable tripod mount for long sessions.
Spotting Scope vs. Binoculars - What's the Difference?
Both of them can help you to spot and stalk in a long distance without effort. Well, is it true? Let's find out:
The discussion of whether you should hunt with a spotting scope or binoculars is still open among hunters.
Many people go for one option or another, but both of them have their benefits, and I don't see why would you limit yourself to using exclusively spotting scopes or binoculars if the goal is to maximize your optical strengths. The best advice I can give you is to combine the best of both optics and use it wisely.
If you want to decide what is the best option for you, you have to determine what is your hunting style and what are you looking for once you get out on the hunting ground.
Tree Stand Or In The Woods
If you are a hunter who likes thick, wooded grounds or on a treestand, you’re probably looking for optics that offer low power – perhaps just red dot sights or something similar. In this case, I would recommend you to go with binoculars instead of spotting scopes.
However, if your goal is to see above tree canopies and reach various areas of the woods or you enjoy open glades where you can spot deer or elk in bed space that are not in your immediate range, you could benefit from a spotting scope.
This is one of the rare cases, where I would recommend you a straight design spotting scope because it would be more convenient when looking at angles which are below your level.
Hiking, Climbing and Trailing In Mountain Terrains
In this scenario, you can use both binoculars and a spotting scope.
Scope, compared to binoculars, can reach extremely long distances and save you time, so you know not to climb, and trail in areas that would prove to be fruitless. This way you will have a chance to head in the right direction immediately.
However, these conditions require lightweight equipment, so you should look for a compact spotting scope that can be used free-handedly or a one that is robust and well-balanced. In this case, make sure you have high quality, adjustable tripod as well.
Hunting In Plain, Open Fields
If you are playing it safe, knowing where the animals are going to be during feeding time, you have a chance to use a large, high-quality spotting scope and a heavyweight tripod.
However, our recommendation is to combine binoculars and spotting scope. Binoculars will offer you a much wider field of view, to help you scan for movement.
Once you’re sure where your pray is located, you can use the spotter to get more details regarding antler size, sex, and points. Also, you’ll be able to determine if a long shot can be made efficiently.
Binoculars are better for hunters who prefer a lot of movement. They allow you to use both eyes at the same time, providing you with a wider field of view.
On the other hand, scopes function like incredibly powerful mini telescopes, offering a clear, color-accurate, detailed image.
It is up to you to decide.
What's the Bottom Line?
As you see, finding the good spotting scope for hunting is not a simple task.
To help you with this mission, we tested the best models on the market, that hunters all around the globe are raving about.
Our to-go spotter for hunting is Vortex Optics Razor HD Spotting Scope.
- It is angled and features high-end optical technology, that offers 27-60x magnification, and 117-68 ft field of view.
- It is scratch resistant because of the strong ArmoTek armor.
- It has a big 85 mm objective lens, which offers clarity and bright view for over 500 yards.
These impressive features, combined with reasonable price make it best budget spotting scope for hunting. Let us know what you think in the comments!
We hope this article will help you find out the best spotting scopes for hunting! I hope to see your comments below.