Spotting Scopes

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By Cory Rigby | SCHEELS Precision Shooting Expert

A quality spotting scope is a must have item for any outdoorsman. Whether you’re an avid camper looking at wildlife on the lake, a hunter in the field or a shooter at the range, you will enjoy a spotting scope. It will improve your outdoor experience. Spotting scopes come in many shapes and sizes and there are a few variables to consider when purchasing one.

The first question our customers almost always ask is angled vs. straight. This is a topic that greatly depends on personal preference and a few intended uses. Right now, the slight preference in the industry is for angled spotting scopes. These scopes are now the same price as their straight counterparts and allow you to comfortably sit/stand for extended periods of time while using your optic. The angled objective allows the scope to sit lower on a tripod and is therefore more stable. Also, having the optic sit slightly lower allows you to relax your neck muscles which results in a much more comfortable day of glassing. The are however a few minor downsides to an angled spotter. Due to the angle in the optic they may be tougher to fit in a pack or case. Also, an angled spotter is more difficult to use on a window mount because of the height and angle of the eyepiece. Many manufacturers have built a pivot point into their optic that allows the user to roll the mounting point to the side, thus helping to eliminate this issue. The last and most common complaint is that it can take a few more moments to locate your target in an angled optic. With a little practice this becomes a quick and easy process.

Purchasing a straight spotting scope will allow the user a faster target acquisition and easier use with a window mount. If you are planning on using a straight spotting scope for an extended period of time, you will want to have a taller tripod and may experience more muscle fatigue in your neck.

Once you have decided on an angled or straight spotting scope, the next question is size/magnification. Generally, the larger the spotting scope the more magnification you will have available for use. The larger spotting scopes will generally have larger lenses which lead to a brighter image. However, if you plan on backpacking or traveling with a spotting scope you will want to balance weight/size to performance required. Swarovski released an incredible spotting scope that features their Swarovision coatings and allows you to swap objective lens sizes to fit your needs. This scope can be a packable 60mm objective for backpacking, or you can install the monster 95mm objective and truly have an incredible viewing experience. For the user who must have it all and wants the best glass money can buy, Swarovski’s modular spotting scope is an exceptional system to take a look at. If you are going to spend the majority of your time backpacking/traveling with your spotter, you can look at some of the new ultra compacts offered by Nikon and Vortex.

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Once you have made the decision on which spotting scope is right for you, there are a few must have accessories we recommend. The first and foremost is a tripod that matches the spotting scope. First and foremost is a tripod.  A heavy tripod will offer you a stable platform where ultralight tripods will allow you to have a good packable option for any trip. Investing in a nice tripod will greatly enhance the use of your new spotting scope. The second thing to think about is a window mount. This is a handy device that allows you to use the window of your vehicle as a mount for your spotting scope. Whether you’re driving through Yellowstone or looking for a trophy mule deer, this another essential piece of equipment. The last thing to look at, and maybe the most fun accessory, is some sort of digiscoping adapter. A digiscoping adapter will allow you to take photos or videos using a camera or even your smart phone through the spotting scope! You can purchase universal adapters that do a good job in a pinch with lots of options or a digiscoping system. My favorite digiscoping system is the Phone Skope. This product allows you to mount your smartphone to your spotting scope in quick and easy manner. I have taken some of my best and most memorable photos using this product, paired with a quality spotting scope. Attaching a large screen smartphone allows you to better share the view with children, friends and family. These adapters generally cost less than $75 and are an incredible concept! With these adapters, it’s never been easier to video ducks at the lake, bears in Yellowstone or your favorite trip to the range.

When you purchase your spotting scope, select the right options that fit your needs and pair it with quality accessories. Doing this will ensure you have an optic that enhances your experiences for years to come!