The Best Gun Scopes for Hunters

If you’re looking for a scope to help make your much-anticipated hunting trips more successful, knowing what to look for can be the difference between buying a valuable tool to add to your arsenal and doing no more than lightening your wallet and weighing down your rifle.

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In a nutshell, a scope works like a telescope to magnify far away objects and uses a reticle, or crosshair, to help you line up your best shot.  Targets can typically be magnified 1 to 50 times.  Magnification levels can be fixed or adjustable.  If your usual range to target stays roughly the same, you may be able to save money buy going with a fixed magnification model.  Some scopes are sold with mounting kits, but some are not.  Make sure you know what type of mounting kit your scope and your rifle need or will accommodate before making your purchase.  You can usually pay a professional gunsmith to mount your scope for you if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.

If you know you’ll be hunting in snow or rain, be sure to look for a scope that is water resistant.  There are even some waterproof models available.

If you want to take your scope’s abilities up a notch or two, consider buying a model with a built-in rangefinder.  A rangefinder can calculate the distance to your target and help you compensate for ammunition, windage, and angle to target.

Rangefinders generally offer an advertised range of 50 to 1,500 feet.  Again, the type of hunting you do will determine what range is best for you.  Don’t let the advertised range fool you, though.  Some models advertise long ranges, but don’t back up those ranges with good accuracy.  Look for the model that combines the range you need with the highest possible accuracy.  

If you hunt in a variety of light conditions, make sure to consider only those models that adapt well to changing or varied light conditions.  A model with great range and accuracy in full regular daylight won’t be of much use if you like dusk or dawn expeditions or if you find yourself hunting in snowy near-whiteout conditions.

Clarity is another feature to consider carefully.  How clearly outlined is your target at various ranges and in different light settings?  Are you content to be sure there’s a deer there, or would you rather be able to see his features clearly enough to make sure your shot count?

Since it often happens that we are considerably higher or lower than our intended target, some rangefinders offer an angle-compensation feature that allows more accurate shooting based on both distance-to-target and angle-to-target calculations, further insuring a clean hit rather than a grazing shot or, worse still, a warning shot.

There are a few optional features that might interest you, though they will almost certainly drive your cost up to some degree.  More advanced rangefinders offer ballistics settings to help compensate for the ammunition you’re using.  Most do this by offering several settings, with each corresponding to multiple ammo types.  If you expect to hunt in windy weather, you can find models that also compensate for wind speed and direction.  

Quality scopes can be found for under $100.  More advanced models, especially those with the most decked out rangefinders can go up to over $1,000, so be sure to have your budget in mind when shopping and don’t be fooled into thinking that the most expensive model you can buy is necessarily the best.  Don’t feel compelled to spend extra money for features that you don’t need.

In short, if you’re a seasoned hunter looking for a little help, a basic scope might be your answer.  If, on the other hand, you’re a rookie, or maybe a veteran tired of coming home dirty and empty-handed, a scope with a built-in rangefinder could be the leg up you need to bag the big one or hit your limit.  

Remember, though, that basic safety procedures and a constant awareness of surroundings will always be a hunter’s best tools.  The fanciest gear in the world can compensate for wind and ammo, but not for a lapse in judgement.

Keep in mind that it’s best to research on top rifle scope reviews, gun scopes, or sniper scope reviews online — don’t purchase the first scope you see just because it looks great, or because the price tag is on the affordable side.

Great Places to Hunt for Elk

Arizona’s Coconino National Forest has some of the largest elk in the world but the restriction upon motorized vehicles in 6A’s Rattlesnake Quiet Area and Pine Grove discourages many hunters from hunting in this region.

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Colorado’s White River National Forest is well populated with elk but is also heavily hunted. Access is good but hunters venturing into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in search of larger bulls should be aware that they are likely to encounter knee-deep snow and thin air.

Idaho’s St. Joe National Forest is located in the southern Panhandle and provides good odds of a kill for bow hunters, as does nearby Clear-water National Forest. The woods in this region are very deep so use of a GPS unit is advised.

Montana’s Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is located in the southwest of the state and Region 3 is the area for hunters looking for good odds on finding elk. The forest and mountain ranges near Dillon provide many great access points for hunters but also plenty of places for the elk to hide.

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New Mexico’s Cibola National Forest and Santa Fe National Forest are home to some big bulls but tags are limited. Cibola Mount Taylor and Zuni Mountain areas provide better odds for tags, as does Santa Fe’s Jemez area, than Gila National Forest in which tags are very much coveted and hard to get.

Oregon’s Siuslaw National Forest is located to the west of the state and is home to Roosevelt Elk. During their two hunting seasons over-the-counter tags are readily available. For hunters who are not afraid of some serious hiking and are equipped to handle heavy rainfalls the Alsea and Siuslaw units provide plenty of opportunity to hunt elk.

Utah’s Ashley National Forest, along with Arizona has some of the best elk hunting available on public land. In fact last season saw the world record for elk get beaten and a new record set right on Utah public land. Tags in Utah are all top quality and supply is generally very good, including those for spike bull elk. The forest’s Uinta Mountains provide two units that are good for hunting bull elk.

Washington’s Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness suffered several years when elk numbers were low due to predatory mountain lions, forest fires and a failure to limit the number of tags issued. Bull elk numbers are on the increase in southeast Washington’s Blue Mountain hunting area. Hunters in possession of an over-the-counter tag will find themselves limited to spikes. The rarer and much coveted any-bull tags provide the holder with an opportunity to hunt a trophy in Umatilla National Forest roadless section.

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Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest is located outside close to Jackson and while elk are plentiful so are bears, so hunters venturing into this area need to be prepared for a bear encounter. Bear spray is a necessity, as is a good level of physical fitness. The forest also provides an opportunity to enjoy plenty of great world-class scenery.

Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest, home to the Beartooth Mountains has an abundance of bull elk, particularly in the Sunlight Basin. Hunters venturing along the Shoshone River’s North Fork will also find plenty of opportunity for some classic wilderness elk hunting.

Note: In some regions the elk migrate to safety on private lands before the hunting season begins. Hunters should program GPS units to show property boundaries to avoid wandering into sanctuary areas. If in any doubt hunters should contact game managers for clarification.

Best Hunting Safety Tips

Regardless of whether the hunter choice of weapon is guns or a crossbow there are certain safety precautions that must be taken at all times. For the purpose of this article we will focus on firearms.

The greatest safety precaution any hunter, whether novice or experienced, can take is to assume that a firearm is loaded at all times. Guns are not toys and hunting accidents happen far too often, most often as a result of carelessness or forgetting the number one rule: treat all firearms as if they are loaded, whether they are or not. As long as everyone in the hunting party remembers that the opportunity for someone to get hurt or worse still killed, is greatly reduced.

The Four Main Causes of Hunting Accidents

Errors in Judgment – An error in judgment occurs when the hunter fails to identify his target before firing. This can often happen when the hunter is overly excited by the opportunity to shoot and kill his goal target. Another hunter who may have unknowingly wandered into the sights of the hunter may get shot the shooter mistakes the movement of the hunter as the animal he is targeting.

Forgetting Firearm Safety – Picking up a firearm and treating it as if it is unloaded may cause an accidental shot to be fired, injuring or killing a fellow hunter.

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Lack of Practice – When a hunter is unfamiliar with the firearm they are using or have not practiced enough to fully understand the firearm’s capabilities, there is potential for shots to go astray or the firearm to be discharged accidentally.

Mechanical Failure – Hunting rifles, as with any firearm, need to be properly maintained and kept clean in order to insure proper operation each and every time. Sometimes no matter how well maintained a firearm is there is potential for mechanical failure. A hunter needs to know what to do in the event that something fails on the firearm.

Four Major Rules of Hunting Firearm Safety

The firearm muzzle should be pointed in a safe direction when not ready to be fired. It is extremely important to always be aware of where the muzzle is pointed, whether the firearm is set down or being carried.

Treat every weapon as loaded at all times. Never assume that a firearm is unloaded. When the firearm is being transferred from one hunter to another both parties need to treat the firearm as if it is loaded whether it is or not.

Be aware of the surrounding area when aiming to take a shot. Make sure that the area in front and behind the target is clear. If in doubt do not take the shot.

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Keeping fingers away from the trigger and trigger guard area unless ready to take a shot, to avoid an accidental discharge of the firearm.

Firearms are dangerous when mishandled. Following these rules will insure that the risk of accidents occurring is minimized, and help make the entire hunting experience a great one.