Top-rate scopes improve whitetail success

11 years ago

By Bill Graves
    Over the last 50 to 75 years, the changes in Maine’s whitetail population seems like a never-ending roller coaster ride. Aroostook County in particular has bounced around on this journey governed in part by lumbering practices but much more by uncontrollable weather patterns. After several seasons of very low deer populations and tough hunting conditions and results, an uptrend began and it looks like this season might be the best in a decade.

    Another series of changes have occurred over these decades, and for sportsmen who spend the entire year waiting, dreaming and planning for November, these changes are troubling. Old-time deer hunters swear that not only have whitetails become fewer, they have gotten smarter. To compound this problem it seems more forest and farmland becomes partially or completely restricted to access each year, and the number of hunters vying to explore this Aroostook deer habitat increases.
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SP-gravesscopes-dcx2-all-46SCOPE — Without a variable power Leupold scope and its very clear optics, outdoor writer Bill Graves would have never bagged this unique black ram while hunting in dense fog high on the side of a Hawaiian volcano. A rifle with open sights would have proved useless.

    Thankfully, technology and hunting options and tactics have greatly improved over time as well. So to stay on this up and down, bouncing roller coaster ride to enjoyable outings and increased chances of tagging a buck, upgrade your gear and your thinking this fall.
    Our fathers and grandfathers brought home the venison year after year using .30-30s, .32 specials and .30-40 Krags with open sights or sometimes a peep sight. Most of their deer hunting took place in thick woods where 75 yards was an unusually long shot. Clear cutting and much more open farmland with huge crop fields has led to big game being spotted at long range and the need for a dependable two and three hundred yard gun, ammo, and sights. Now we have long-range, flat shooting calibers and far more effective ammunition — all advantages. Perhaps the best advances in technology for firearms pertain to optics. Every deer hunting rifle or handgun becomes more effective with a great scope. For many of us, it’s time for an upgrade. Considering how quickly developments occur, five- to 10-year old scopes, rangefinders and binoculars may already be outdated and subpar.
    Four main criteria must enter into the choice; magnification, reticule type, aiming calibrations, and price. Just like color, manufacturer, scope length and scope shape, cost limits must be determined by each individual purchasing a new scope. Some folks think you pay more for certain name brands, perhaps, but like a Rolls Royce or a Cadillac, quality costs more and usually is better built and lasts longer!
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SP-gravesscopes-dcx3-all-46NEW EQUIPMENT  —    Peter Brown of Hampden used a deer call along with a new rifle and scope combo to make a tough shot on this monster buck as it snuck through heavy brush and corn stalks.

    For the purposes of this article laser sights, red dot style sights and quick point holographic scopes aren’t relevant and will be excluded. While these prove useful in some hunting situations, deer hunters who plan to spend their time in only heavy forest and thick brush would do just as well to use a wide field, single-power scope with top rate light collecting glass. A 4X model should fit the bill.
    Over the years, the most popular power scope for whitetail enthusiasts was and still is a 3 x 9 variable, with a 2 x 7 range scope a close second. Recently, however, a lot of experienced big game gunners use the same rifle for bear, moose, coyote, and other big game in other states, and the 4 x 12 magnification models are fast gaining in popularity.
    I grew up using a Bausch and Lomb scope with a post and crosshair reticule on a Husqvarna .270, it was deadly and easy to see and sight in low-light conditions. Few companies build scopes with posts anymore, so my second choice has become the Duplex, but I find it somewhat lacking in heavy cover, low light, and even overcast, rainy conditions. I may have found a top rate alternative however, more on that later.
    Our third consideration is a feature called aiming prompts or sighting aids. These used to be controlled manually using knobs on the scope once the shooting distance to an animal was determined using a rangefinder. Now it’s come full circle and several manufacturers offer scopes with integrated technology to check range to target and indicate from a ladder of horizontal slashes which offers the correct point of aim. A few even use a pyramid of dots inside the reticule to account for direction and speed of crosswinds and magically calculate point of aim for the particular bullet weight and style being fired.
    Were I shooting mountain goat or Dall ram at 500 yards or Kodiak bear at 300 yards on a severe incline, these features would be of value, but not my cup of tea for our majestic whitetail. With true sportsmen out there using bows and arrows I even feel a bit guilty with a regular scope. On the other hand, I like venison and deer generally prove to be more wily than myself, so I’ll settle for a good standard reticule scope.
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SP-gravesscopes-dcx4-all-46GOOD SIGHT — Tom Tardiff rescoped his deer rifle a couple of years ago and put it to good use within the first week of deer season. Without a clear powerful scope, he could never have picked out this deer’s spikes in the brush. What he couldn’t tell until later was that it was a unique antlered doe.

    Brands to consider include Bushnell, Nikon, BSA, Redfield, Leupold and Burris for moderate pricing. Zeiss, Swarovski, and Trijicon boast the best glass components in the world and charge accordingly. Local sporting goods shops or gun stores may have other brands they recommend so ask opinions and look over available products. I’m going to stick with either Leupold or Burris for now; matte black in color, flip up lens covers, 30mm main tube, extended eye relief and fog proof and waterproof of course.
    Earlier in the article, I mentioned a new reticule choice I’m looking into. It’s actually a small illuminated center dot or ring in a duplex crosshair that can be switched on and off to accommodate ambient light conditions. Every whitetail hunter sets their own wish list for gear, and scopes are no different. Whether you own an old rifle and shoot basic ammo or have a new top of the line long gun and this season’s newest shells, a scope ties the set all together. There’s still time this month to upgrade your current scope, chances at trophy deer are limited so make sure that first shot is on target.