Buying the Right Trail Camera for the Right Situation

A Situational Buying Guide for Trail Cameras

Love it or hate it, technology continues to advance with no signs of slowing down. Even in an industry as primal as hunting, technology continues to seep in. Since as recent as the Y2K it could be argued that trail cameras have been the single largest technological advancement in the entire realm of hunting. Think about it, it wasn’t too long ago when we dropped off a roll of Fuji Film at Walgreens and patiently waited (and paid extra) for the film to be developed at the one hour photo center. Now, we’re getting photos sent in real time from our wireless trail camera that’s stationed four hours away overlooking your favorite food plot! The important takeaway here is that hunter’s use of trail cameras opened up a huge commercial opportunity for camera manufacturers to innovate beyond what was thought possible.

When it comes to choosing a trail camera for scouting or surveillance, most of us are faced with the dilemma of quantity vs. quality. Do I spend more money on fewer, but higher quality trail cameras? Or do I buy more, lesser quality trail cameras? Hopefully you can have the best of both worlds and place 10 Bushnell Wireless Cams out, but for most of us, we have to settle and look to get the most bang for our buck. Lucky for us, the trail camera market is ripe with competition, which has ultimately created higher quality at a better price. Trail cameras with features that used to cost well over $400 are now available for under $200. That’s great, so how do you decide what’s best? This buying guide for trail cameras should help!

Best Trail Cameras and Features for Deer Hunters

Deer hunters rely on ultra-fast trigger speeds and large detection zones to capture deer or other game as they move past the camera. Trail camera placement plays a big role in how the camera will ultimately perform. For instance, you’ll want a faster firing trail camera like the Browning Strike Force HD when placing it over a trail or field edge where animals are typically on the move. Likewise, you can get by with a slower trigger speed if you plan to use them over bait where animals can be expected to hang around for a bit.

Battery life is another important consideration for hunters since we often rely on trail cameras to be our eyes in the woods while we are away. BrowningBushnell, and Minox all have great battery life by today’s standards, but the Browning’s do have a slight edge in this category. Nonetheless, it’s recommended you use lithium ion batteries for best performance. If you’re unable to check trail cameras for long period of time, powering them up with a solar panel or extra external battery will ensure the camera stays functioning far longer than standard batteries would allow.

Wireless and wifi enabled trail cameras like the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD

Wireless and Browning Defender come with an obvious uptick in price and may require a monthly cellular data plan, but who’s to put a price on real-time information delivered straight to your smartphone during the rut? For a hunter, you can’t deny the power of receiving this type of intel as it happens without having to step foot in the woods. Quite plainly, wireless trail cameras are game changers.

Next thing you’ll want to consider is if you plan on running the camera on video mode or just picture mode? Videos are great, especially when you hang a camera over an active scrape. Nothing gets your blood pumping like watching that monster buck you’ve been after rake his antlers and paw the dirt. Video mode will chew through battery life much quicker, but a lot of times it’s worth it.  Also, be sure you have the right type of SD card if you plan to run the trail camera on video mode, as some can’t process HD video.  For pictures, many hunters prefer a camera with burst mode functionality. Burst mode allows you to set the camera to take anywhere from 1-10 pictures every time the camera sensor is triggered, which really helps when trying to identify individual bucks.

Lastly, if you’re a public land hunter or simply don’t want your trail cameras taken by trespassers, spend a little extra to get the steel security boxes for your trail cameras. Both Bushnell and Browning have steel lock boxes designed specifically to fit their trail cameras.  Security boxes are also a smart idea if you hunt in bear country!

Regardless of how high tech your trail cameras are, the initial breakthrough of this device has become a total game changer for hunters when trying to pattern and target mature whitetails.

Key Features to Consider

  • Trigger speed
  • Battery life
  • Flash/illumination type
  • Image Quality
  • Concealment
  • Detection Zone
  • Wifi/Cellular Enabled

Best Trail Cameras for Turkey Hunters

Trail cameras provide all sorts of great information that can help you bag a bird. Typically you’ll want to set them up in strutting locations to determine when and where you need to be sitting with a shotgun in hand.  Strutting zones include open fields, food plots, pastures, ridge tops, and logging roads, to name a few. Since you’ll often be scouting open areas, you’ll want a trail camera that has the time-lapse feature.

This is one of the most underutilized features on trail cameras, and arguably one of the most useful – for deer and turkey.  Set your trail cameras up facing either north or south to prevent sun interference and set them to take a picture every 5-10 minutes during daylight.  Since it’s not deer season you’re not worried about identifying an individual buck, more so just trying to figure if and when turkeys are using a particular area. If they are, hopefully you can coax them in with your calling and decoys.

Pair this feature with a wireless cellular cam and you’ve got yourself a game changer. As we mentioned in the deer hunting portion, there’s nothing more valuable to a hunter than real time information on an elusive a target animal’s whereabouts.

Key Features to Consider

  • Time Lapse/Field Scan Mode
  • Trigger speed
  • Battery life
  • Image Quality
  • Detection Zone

Best Trail Cameras and Features for Property Surveillance

Since trail cameras found their niche in the hunting industry, they often find themselves hanging in the middle of the woods or along a field edge surveilling for deer and other wildlife. It’s important to remember, the same features that make trail cameras valuable to the hunter also make them perfect for the everyday homeowner or cabin owner. For the price and versatility, trail cameras offer tremendous value to homeowners and absentee property owners as surveillance devices. Nowadays, between cellular and Wi-Fi enabled trail cameras like the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Wireless or Browning Defender 850 it’s easy to keep a real-time watchful eye on your property when you’re not around.

When it comes to selecting a game camera for outdoor surveillance, image quality and trigger speed are two features that should be at the top of your list.  Trigger speed is simply the amount of time it takes for the sensor to detect movement and the shutter going off.  Nothing is more irritating than going through the work to buy and setup a trail camera only to get blurry or missed pictures of unwanted trespassers. This is where a trail camera that has lightning fast trigger speeds and detection circuits like the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor excels (0.2s trigger speed, 0.5s recovery time).  Of course, a fast trail camera is only as good as the pictures or video it captures and in order to identify a license plate or a face, you’ll want to employ the help of a trail camera that boasts great picture and video quality like the aforementioned Bushnell or the Browning Strike Force HD PRO. Both options record in HD as well, which is a popular choice for those keeping an eye on property.

Be sure to lock your surveillance trail cameras in metal security boxes and opt for a camera that doesn’t emit light when triggered like the No Glow Bushnell Trophy Cam. The No-Glow models feature black LEDs that are invisible to both game and humans.

Key Features to Consider

  • Image/Video Quality
  • No Glow/Hidden Flash
  • Wifi/Cellular Enabled
  • Trigger speed
  • Battery life
  • Concealment
  • Detection Zone
  • Security Lock Box

In the end, today’s trail cameras are loaded with features – from wireless game cameras that text you HD video and solar powered trail cameras. Whether you’re simply looking for a quality trail camera at a good price point or perhaps something a little more advanced, hopefully this buying guide helped you decide which trail camera is right for the job, whether it’s chasing big bucks or property surveillance.

Pairing a Riflescope with a Rangefinder for Big Game Hunting

Pairing Up a Riflescope and Rangefinder

In modern shooting, the pairing of a quality rangefinder with a scoped rifle makes up the foundation of a big game hunting rifle. The technological advances and value pricing of rangefinders in the last decade has made them as common in the hunting field as binoculars. Couple the advances and popularity of rangefinders with the amazing strides in riflescopes, and increased ballistic performance of modern bullets, and shooters find themselves able to stretch their effective ranges.
Using a rangefinder is no excuse for taking unethical shots, or not practicing with your rifle, but rangefinders are tools that can lead to increased accuracy and longer ranges when shooting. Whether you’re adding a rangefinder to your rifle hunting setup for the first time, or you’re a seasoned veteran utilizing a rangefinder for many seasons, there are some things to consider when it comes to your big game hunting rifle, riflescope, and rangefinder setup.

Running a Setup Through its Paces

Adding a piece of gear to your equipment list and pack is not enough to make it reliable. Make sure you put in time with your rangefinder, scope, and rifle to test your setup before the hunt. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your rangefinder, and plan on hunting with the same rangefinder you practice with before the hunt.

Check out this great deal on the Bushnell Elite 1 Mile Conx Rangefinder

Putting in range time with your complete hunting setup, both off of a shooting bench and practicing realistic field shooting positions will build your comfort and confidence in your system. Put your setup through its paces by practicing in all kinds of weather, at varying distances, and at known distances. Utilizing known distances to check and test your rangefinder and rifle zero is the first critical step in testing your rifle, scope, and rangefinder setup. Knowing that you can trust your rangefinder, and that your rifles zero is based on your rangefinder’s trusted data goes a long way when it’s time to start testing at greater distances and varying situations.

Accounting for Steep Angle Shooting

Shooting up or down steep angles in mountain country and around canyons is tricky. The practice of shooting upward or downward at drastic angles has often had a type of confusion involved in most hunting circles. As gravity only acts on a bullet on its path along the horizontal access, shooters for decades have developed strategies and rules to compensate. Thankfully modern rangefinders are built to calculate the True Ballistic Range (TBR) of a shot. It doesn’t matter if the shot angle is abruptly up or down, the use of a rangefinder with TBR technology reveals the correct range every time. It may seem too simple, but utilizing TBR in a quality rangefinder takes all the guesswork out of shooting steep angles. Know your rifles zero and bullet drop paired with your scopes reticle, and shooting angles will no longer be an issue.

Leupold’s RX-1600i with TBR is an excellent choice when shooting steep angles.

Consider Bullet Drop Compensation Scope Reticles

Ballistics study the impact of a projectile as it travels through the air. Bullets fired either at the range or in a hunting situation are affected by gravity, wind, elevation, temperature, distance, and velocity just to name a few impacts. By measuring as many factors as possible and knowing the circumstances before a shot is fired, the shooter has the ability to compensate for many of the known factors.
One of the largest factors in rifle shooting and accuracy is distance. Knowing the true distance to a target is invaluable when firing a rifle. Rangefinders provide that critical variable data of the distance to target in an efficient and reliable manner.
With reliable ballistic information known, such as the true distance to the target, you’re able to repeat shots at known distances and improve accuracy. One of the latest trends that is made possible by quality rangefinders and quality scopes is Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) reticles.
Whether you choose a Nikon BDC, Vortex Deadhold reticle system, or another brands compensation reticle; shooters have found that the ability to quickly compensate for bullet drop at a known distance is paramount at the range and when hunting. Utilizing a series of cross hatch elevation marks, circles, or dots on the vertical reticle mark to allow for holdover points for known distances, shooters can quickly hold for a true zero when knowing the exact distance to the target is no longer an issue.

The Nikon Monarch 5 with BDC reticle is an easy choice when you are utilizing Ballistic Drop Compensation.

Custom Dial Systems

Having the ability to accurately and consistently measure the exact distance to a target has changed the face of optical scopes more than any other factor in recent years. Optics manufacturers have hit the ground running with reliable range data to develop custom turret dials for most quality scopes at reasonable prices.
In order to achieve effectiveness with a custom dial turret on a scope, a few items must be known. These items include bullet weight, muzzle velocity, and accurate distance to the target. With a rangefinder in a shooters toolkit, they can quickly and effectively measure the distance to the target at the range or in the field. With the use of a chronograph and bullet load information from the handload or manufacturer, all the information needed to create a custom turret is available to most shooters.
Many riflescope manufacturers make the process for getting a custom dial made for their scopes simple and cost-effective. Some optics companies even offer a free turret coupon in the box with a new scope purchase. With a custom dial on your hunting rifle, there is no need for hold over or distance compensation. Simply range the distance to the target, adjust the turret to the known distance, hold right on the desired point of impact and squeeze the trigger.
Custom Dial Systems available on rifle scopes today are the perfect example of using a quality rangefinder coupled with a scope in synergy to create an amazing rifle platform. Pairing a rangefinder with a rifle scoped with a custom turret offers shooters a world that past hunters and riflemen only dreamed of.

Leupold offers a free coupon for a custom turret on man of their VX3 series rifle scopes!

Increased Accuracy and Customization

Combining a quality rifle with ammunition, a riflescope, and a rangefinder allows shooters to perform an optimal level of precision. With products on the market like custom scope dials and true ballistic ranging, little is left to chance when it comes to equipment. Hunters are more now than ever equipped to make those tricky shots when big game hunting.

Great All Around Binoculars on a Budget

Best Binoculars for the Money

All around binoculars are an important piece of gear you should have along for all kinds of occasions. If you don’t have binoculars in your vacationing or sporting bag, you don’t know what you’re missing. From the outdoors to the football stadium, binoculars make the experience more enjoyable. Binoculars are fantastic tools for enjoying sporting or entertainment events, but they are equally important at providing enjoyment during outdoor activities and family outings.
Making room for exceptional optics on your vacation to a national park, wildlife park, or just a weekend at the lake is essential for wildlife watching, bird watching, and taking in the beauty of distant landscapes. Packing binoculars in your daypack on a family outing, or in the glove box on a road trip, or even on the boat for the weekend provides an additional aspect to your adventuring and travel. The right pair of binoculars can act as an all-purpose tool for many situations. The right binocular for you may not have a specific situation in mind, so it’s in your best interest to find a great binocular for an even better deal. So what are the best binoculars for the money? What do you need to know about binoculars before the buy? This article should help you out!

Binocular Basics

Binoculars come in two different technical types, Porro Prism and Roof Prism designs. Both types of binoculars effectively accomplish the same goal, however there are pros and cons to both types.
Porro Prism Binoculars – With porro prism construction, the eyepiece is offset from the lens. This design generally allows for better depth perception and a wider field of view than roof prism binoculars. Porro prism binoculars are worth a look if your primary purpose is viewing sporting events or landscapes.
Roof Prism Binoculars – Roof prism binoculars are designed with the objective lens and eyepiece in line. This design allows for more compact and lightweight binoculars. The sleek and slim form factor of roof prism binoculars makes them ideal for slipping into a daypack, glove box, or even hanging around your neck.

Best Porro Prism Binoculars on a Budget

Leupold Yosemite – Leupold optics are legendary. Built with the utmost quality and guaranteed for your lifetime. The Leupold Yosemite line of binoculars are the perfect fit for an all around binocular option, and they are easy on your budget! The Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 8X30 porro prism binoculars are an amazing deal on quality optics. With 8 power magnification and a 30mm light gathering objective lens, these binoculars are as all purpose as duct tape!

Nikon Action – The Nikon Action series of binoculars is known for quality lenses and prisms at an affordable price. Utilizing BaK4 high index prisms and Nikon’s Eco-Glass these binoculars offer amazing clarity for the money. Consider the Nikon Action Extreme 12X50 binoculars for that extra reach in magnification. The 12 power magnification is optimal to pull in distant action at the racetrack, football stadium, or baseball park. A perfect choice for sporting events and a great deal makes for a team win!

Vortex Raptor – Vortex Optic’s Raptor line offers great optics at an amazing price point to fit any budget. Built rugged, waterproof, and fogproof; this binocular line offers versatility for all around use. The Vortex Raptor 8.5X32 binoculars are a terrific choice for an all around binocular on a budget. These porro prism binoculars have a compact design that rivals roof prism binoculars. An excellent choice for bird watching, the zoo, or a vacation to a wildlife park, the binoculars are easy to hold and not too heavy while still offering clarity, magnification, and a wide field of view.

Best Roof Prism Binoculars on a Budget

Bushnell H2O – The H2O line of optics by Bushnell is designed with ruggedness and dependability at the forefront. Designed with a ruggedized soft texture grip, these binoculars offer a steady grip in wet and challenging conditions. O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged, the H2O binoculars offer reliability and ruggedness paired with economy. The Bushnell H2O 10X42 model is the perfect choice for a weekend at the lake, a canoe trip, or your fishing boat. With multi coated lenses for optimal clarity, 100% waterproof construction, and non-slip rubberized grip; these binoculars are a match for any aquatic sporting activity.

Redfield Rebel – Redfield is a long time trusted name in optics, offering a quality line of budget minded options that are both reliable and ergonomic in the Rebel offering. Designed to be compact and lightweight, the Rebel binoculars design reduces weight and bulk making them more comfortable to use and pack along on your adventures. The 8X32 Redfield Rebel Binoculars are just the ticket for adventuring. Sporting a limited lifetime guarantee, lightweight yet durable aluminum construction, and an advanced compact design; the binoculars won’t get left behind because of bulk or weight.
Minox BF– Check out the Minox BF line of quality binoculars. Designed for universal application, the binoculars are a jack of all trades and fit a variety of uses and needs. Engineered with phase corrected coated lenses, these binoculars provide amazing clarity and contrast even in low light conditions. The Minox BF 10X42 binoculars are an ideal choice for wildlife viewing at 10 power magnification. Take in all the detail of deer, elk, or moose in a remote meadow from behind these exceptional optics. The higher power magnification brings the farthest objects into focus for an optimal viewing experience at an amazing price point.

Other Considerations When Buying Budget Friendly Binoculars

Have More Than One Pair of Binoculars
Unless you’re traveling solo on your adventures, having at least one spare set of binoculars is a must. Sharing the action in between your turns with the binoculars is no way to spend your leisure time. Consider a set of binoculars for everyone in your group and make sure you all get to see the sporting action or wildlife without compromise.
Caring for Your Investment
Quality optics are a long term investment and will last a lifetime if cared for properly. Shirt tails and Kleenex are not the appropriate tools to clean your binoculars lenses. A small investment in the right tools to clean your binoculars can ensure their usefulness for years to come. Read the detailed Optic Field Care Guide to take care of your investment.

Leupold Lens Pen – A lens pen is a small investment that will pay big dividends when caring for your binoculars. Compact and easy to use, the microfiber coupled with the dust and lint free brush in one tool is ideal for cleaning your optics on the go.

Include a Pair of All Purpose Binoculars in Your Next Outing

Whether you are an outdoor adventurer out discovering new places, a bird watcher hoping to get a glimpse of a rare feathered friend, or an avid sports fan not wanting to miss any of the action; consider an exceptional pair of binoculars for your kit. Quality optics can be had at budget prices, and the investment will last for years to come.

Best .22 Long Rifle Scopes for Your Situation

.22 Long Rifle Scopes | Best Scopes for Each Situation

The .22 long rifle, or .22 LR, is arguably the most common and popular rifle cartridge in the world. The .22 long rifle is a versatile round offering accuracy, light recoil, and economical shooting.  Developed in 1887 by J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. the beloved cartridge is estimated to be in production of 2-2.5 billion rounds per year. .22 LR lends itself to all kinds of shooting disciplines including target shooting, plinking, small game hunting, and shooting education. Odds are the first rifle you ever put to your shoulder was a .22 LR. Due to its immense popularity and vast versatility, the .22 LR is offered in just about every rifle type and action imaginable. From bolt action to semi-auto, break open and rolling block, and even lever action; there is a .22 rifle for every day of the week. Many shooters grow up plinking with a .22 LR and iron sights, learning to shoot and developing a love of the .22 rimfire rifle. Mounting a riflescope atop of a rifle chambered in .22 long rifle opens up a world of new shooting opportunities and better equips it for activities such as hunting small game, target shooting, and preparation for big game season.

There are many options on the market today by trusted manufacturers in scopes made just for rimfire cartridges. Setting up a .22 rifle with a riflescope creates a versatile tool that is practical in so many applications. Deciding which scope is the best fit as a .22 long rifle scope for you and your rifle takes some consideration. Putting the versatile .22 rimfire cartridge to work in a special use case scenario, means topping it with the .22 rimfire scope that is best suited for the job at hand. Take a look at some of these scope options, how they fit your shooting needs and style.

Small Game / Varmint .22 Riflescope

There is no other rifle caliber more suited to hunting and taking small game than the.22 long rifle. The pursuit of squirrels, cottontails, and jackrabbits for sport and table fare can find no better fit than the classic .22 rifle. In the north and west, many states allow the taking of grouse with a .22. Sneaking through heavy conifer forests, creek bottoms, or hardwoods with a rifle combined with a rimfire scope makes for an efficient and practical tool. Taking advantage of small game seasons in between big game hunts keeps hunters sharp, and extends time in the field.

The .22 LR is also a formidable tool for varmint control. Small, quiet, and accurate; a. 22 rifle is an excellent choice for taking care of critters like pack rats and possums, all the way up to crows and raccoons. Having a handy rifle on hand chambered in .22 LR for varmint control is a tool for every farm, ranch, and camp.

Outfitting your .22 rifle with a fixed 4X scope like the Weaver Rimfire 4X28 Dual X is a great option for a small-bore rimfire hunting rifle. The simple fixed magnification and instant focus on a fixed power scope is ideal for the .22 rifle and its effective range.

Big Game Clone Rifle in .22 LR

Spending time behind the stock of a big game rifle is an excellent way to develop accuracy and consistency. However, continued recoil can take its toll, and the repeated pounding from most centerfire hunting rifles can cause a shooter to develop a flinch in anticipation of the shot. The cost of shooting large caliber rifles is also a concern when you’re putting in time behind a riflescope in preparation of hunting season. If you run a hundred rounds through your centerfire big game rifle on a Saturday afternoon, both your wallet and your shoulder will take a pounding.

One fantastic solution to the recoil and expense dilemma is to build a copy of your big game rifle chambered in .22 LR. With so many .22 rifle options on the market, chances are you can find one extremely similar to your hunting rifle. Look for features like a quality trigger that is similar to the one on your hunting rifle, comparable weight, fit, and feel, and of course top the new rifle with a similar scope that you run on your hunting rifle.

The Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9X40 Rimfire on a .22 LR bolt gun is an amazing choice for a clone rifle replicating the ever popular bolt action rifle with a variable scope. This waterproof and fog proof optic offers unbeatable optical performance at a price that is easy on your paycheck.

Target Shooting and Plinking .22 Rimfire Riflescope

Cost savings and reduced recoil not only come into consideration for big game hunters, but for target shooting enthusiasts, new shooters, and plinkers as well. Twenty-two caliber rifles are practically perfect for learning the basics of shooting, for plinking at tin cans, and can be accurized for dead on precision as well. Another aspect of shooting a .22 long rifle is the advantage of utilizing indoor shooting ranges. Spending time at an indoor range during extreme weather opens a door to a new block of time behind the trigger.

A basic variable scope that is lightweight with adjustable zoom and focus makes for a practical all-around optic for a practical all around rifle. The Nikon ProStaff Rimfire II 4-12X40 with BDC reticle is the perfect match for an all around .22 rimfire scope and rifle matchup. With adjustable magnification from 4 power all the way up to 12, and the light gathering capability of a 40mm objective lens, the Nikon Prostaff Rimfire is as versatile as the .22 caliber cartridge.

Tactical and AR-Style Riflescopes for .22 Long Rifle

Tactical shooting, drills, and practice are not immune to the same woes of shooting big game rifles when it comes to cost and recoil. Many shooters cherish going the range to work on tactical drills and training and experience a need for something cheaper and more forgiving to shoot. With either a bolt gun in hand, a repeating rifle such as the ever popular 10-22, or one of the many available AR-style rifles chambered in .22LR; the advantages that come with shooting the .22 rimfire cartridge come into play.

Optics manufacturers have taken notice of the emerging trend of tactical shooters investing practice time with rifles chambered in .22 long rifle in hand. There are options on the market for tactical style scopes designed specifically as .22 rimfire tactical scopes that will fit your tactical rifle and shooting style like a glove.

Nikon’s AR P-Rimfire 2-7X32 with Nikoplex reticle is a perfect example of tactical glass made just for tactical style shooting. Designed with large easy to adjust tactical style turrets and engineered just for the .22 long rifle cartridge, the Nikon AR P-Rimfire is an excellent choice.

Consider a .22 Long Rifle Scoped Rifle for Your Shooting

No other rifle cartridge is as easy to shoot, cost-effective, and commonly available than the .22 long rifle cartridge. Building a rifle chambered in such a versatile and flexible round obviously calls for a quality rifle scope to match. Whether you’re planning on taking small game, plinking at the range, working on tactical drills, or developing accuracy; a .22 rimfire rifle topped with a .22 rimfire riflescope is just the ticket.

How to Budget Your Optics Purchase for Western Hunts

Make a Budget Strategy for Western Hunting Optics

Hunting the west is the dream of sportsmen and women all across the nation. The west is a place full of promise, full of big game, and full of the potential of trophies. For many hunters, a trip out west is a huge investment, requiring multiple resources. Whether you’re pursuing Elk, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Antelope, or Moose; putting together a hunt in a western state takes planning and resources. For most of us, one of the limiting factors to hunting the west is budget. Hunting trips in general are not cheap. So many resources come into account: time away from family and work, the cost of tags and travel, and the endless amount of gear and accessories for hunting, not to mention the time it takes to draw a tag and plan the hunt. One of the most critical components of a hunter’s gear are optics. Western hunting optics in particular can make or break a hunt, and investing in quality optics takes strategy.


With your rangefinder and riflescope, or bow sight aside; let’s consider investing $1,000.00 in optics for the hunt. What are your options? What and where do you invest? What are the deciding factors for selecting optics for your hunt?

Trying to put your $1,000.00 to work effectively, let’s consider the factors that dictate your investment plan for the right optics. Many elements come into play and should be examined when you’re deciding on how to invest your optic budget: hunting style, terrain, vegetation, and animal behavior. Western hunting is full of scenarios from huge Rocky Mountains full of dark timber and aspens, to massive juniper flats and rolling oak brush. The species you’re in pursuit of, the terrain, and the time of season will dictate your hunting style and how you can best use your optic arsenal. Overall this debate comes down to whether or not you should invest in a quality pair of binoculars or a high-end spotting scope, or balance the budget for mid-quality for both.

Hunting Style

The west is a vast land full of hunting opportunity. With all that land and game many styles of hunting have developed. Each style has its place and is a result of many other factors on your hunt. Being proficient at each of the hunting styles will help make you a better hunter and increase your odds of filling a western big game tag. The key optics on a western hunt aside from a rangefinder and riflescope or bow sight are binoculars and a spotting scope. Both binoculars and spotting scopes are useful tools on most any hunt, but noticeable differences on quality as it relates to price require hunters to consider an investment strategy that matches their hunting style, terrain of the hunt, and budget.

Spot and Stalk Optics

Much of the topography in the west is scattered with mountains, canyons, and vistas allowing for extensive searching and scouting with long range optics. Spending time behind quality optics, glassing distant ridges and bowls in order to plan a stalk on located game is a style of hunting the west is famous for: Spot and stalk hunting works well for late season bull elk, antelope on the plains, bedded mule deer, and high country sheep.

Optic Strategy – A quality spotting scope on a tripod with high power magnification is the key to this type of hunting. A good pair of compact binoculars in a lower power for the stalk is the perfect pairing for spot and stalk hunting. In this scenario, the bulk of your $1,000.00 investment is put to work toward your spotting scope, and the remainder is devoted to binoculars.

Nikon Prostaff 5 20-60X82 Spotter Outfit with a packable tripod and included lens cloth is a perfect choice for spot and stalk hunting. Pair the Nikon Prostaff spotting scope with a compact pair of Nikon Monarch 8X42 binoculars for the stalk and complete the system and come in under budget!

Elk Hunting Optics

Fast and furious action during the elk rut can’t be beat. Hunting bugling bulls with a rifle, bow, or muzzleloader makes for an exciting hunt with plenty of running and gunning. Listening for bugles in elk country and putting on miles to intercept a hot bull is a proven way to close the deal.

Optic Strategy – Hunting rutting bulls in the fall typically involves a run and gun scenario using timber and terrain for cover to move into position. Elk must be kept upwind and out of sight when you make your move. In this scenario quality elk hunting binoculars are your best bet. A lot of hunters leave the spotting scope at home during the rutting season, if you choose to bring one along it can be setup and used to glass dark timber edges during slow afternoons.

Zeiss Conquest HD 10X42 binoculars are premium lightweight and compact optics ideally suited to moving in and out of timber and through meadows hunting rutting elk. These hunting binoculars will tap out your budget, but will be a cornerstone investment for years to come. The 10X power magnification of the binoculars is a good compromise for higher power magnification while keeping mobility and simplicity for run and gun style hunting in mind.

Ambush Hunting

Hunting ambush style can be an effective way to bring home a western trophy if you do your homework and put in some scouting. Using a blind or tree stand, or just waiting in the shadows in an area the animals are using is a proven tactic. Setting up over a watering hole, wallow, or natural feed source and waiting for the game to come to you is a passive style of hunting that helps keep nearby game from spooking and leaving the area. Keep in mind prevailing wind direction, thermal changes, and sunlight throughout the day, and consider that some ambush points may be better than others depending on wind and time of day.

Optic Strategy – Ambush hunting might very well be the oldest form of hunting. With such a long history and tradition comes multiple options and viewpoints on technique. Waiting out antelope at a waterhole on a vast prairie is much different than sitting in a tree stand over an elk wallow surrounded by timber. Terrain is the biggest factor to consider when it comes to optics and ambush hunting. Let’s break down ambushing game into two categories: open terrain and closed terrain.

Open Terrain – Sitting a watering hole for antelope on the prairie, or over an open travel corridor for mule deer often lends itself to an open type terrain where a game animal is predicted to travel to or from a certain area. In this type situation, pairing a spotting scope and binoculars from your hide is a fantastic option. Utilizing a spotter to scan distant terrain and get an up-close view of potential game animals can help you select one or two animals you would like to target from a group. Pairing the spotting scope with binoculars for up close and fast action targets gets you the best of both worlds. This type of hunting calls for a balance between your two optics on both price and quality.

The Diamondback 20-60X80 spotting scope by Vortex brings distant objects up close and allows you to scout open country from your ambush location. Using ½ of your budget, you’ve still got money left over to invest in a quality pair of binoculars. Vortex Viper HD 8X42 binoculars are a foolproof fit to pair with the Diamondback spotter. These 8 power binoculars are easy to use, compact, and right on budget.

Closed Terrain – The west in known for its grand spaces and vast landscape, but the fact is, many times the best hunting is in closed in areas of cover. Ambush hunting little bits of cover or water holes that animals frequent can be absolutely effective. Tucking a pop up style blind next to an elk wallow in a timbered draw, or hanging a tree stand over a stock tank surrounded by cover is a proven technique for almost every game animal in the west. This type of closed in hunting really lends itself to a pair of high quality 8 power binoculars. Knowing that a spotting scope loses its effectiveness in tight quarters, packing the best binoculars your budget allows makes perfect sense.

Leica’s Trinovid HD 8X42 binoculars are the ideal match for hunting closed terrain. Compact with a 42mm objective lens for gathering light these optics come in right on budget and are the quality binoculars that will last a lifetime.

Final Considerations

Quality western hunting optics are tools that will last a lifetime if cared for. Making the most of your budget, and putting your money to work is critical when you’re planning for a hunt. For many hunters, venturing to the west for a big game hunt only happens once or twice in a lifetime. Take the time to examine your hunting strategy to determine the best fit for optics on your hunt. Consider terrain, target animal species, and seasonal animal behavior when you’re planning your hunt and the type of hunting you will be doing. Most importantly, invest in the highest quality optics your budget will allow.

Carl Zeiss introduces the new Conquest V4 Riflescope

The Zeiss Conquest V4 riflescopes are for hunters and shooters whose lifestyle and adventures involve traditional and long-range hunting, as well as shooting and long-range shooting. These riflescopes were designed as a lightweight, high-performance product line for various demanding hunting and shooting applications. They are by any standard best-in-class.

The Conquest V4 family is based on a 4x zoom ratio, incorporates a 30 mm main tube, and consists of the 1-4×24, 3-12×56, 4-16×44 and 6-24×50 models. Each model delivers 90% to-the-eye light transmission, offers .25 MOA click values, capped windage adjustment, second focal plane reticle designs, and a large range of total elevation and windage travel adjustment.  The 1-4×24 model is available with either capped or external elevation turrets, while the 3-12×56 version comes standard with capped elevation and windage turrets. The 4-16×44 and 6-24×50 models have external elevation turrets. Within the Conquest V4 product line, all external elevation turrets also include ZEISS’ Ballistic Stop feature to ensure an absolute and positive return to zero under any conditions.

 Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24×50 Turret

There are several reticle options available. These include traditional plex-style reticles, as well as ZEISS’ newest ZMOA and ZBR MOA-based smart reticles. The ZQAR reticle, available with the 1-4×24 model, represents an intelligent reticle design, based upon certain .223 Remington and .308 Winchester ammunition ballistics. Illuminated reticles are standard for the 1-4×24 model and optional for the 3-12×56 and 6-24×50 models. A magnification power throw lever is available as an optional accessory.
The Conquest V4 models are backed by ZEISS’ Limited Lifetime Transferable Warranty and Five-Year No-Fault Policy. These riflescopes serve a wide range of hunting and shooting applications, are packed with unique features, perform beyond expectations in their price range and provide exceptional value.

Why is Pre-Ranging Your Turkey Hunting Setup so Important?

Pre-Ranging Your Turkey Hunting Setup

Turkey hunting success often comes down to whether or not you can get a turkey into range. Whether using a shotgun or a bow, knowing the exact range at which you can effectively shoot a bird is vital. While you might be limited to no more than 40 yards, it’s important that you know where that is in the heat of the moment in the field. Pre-ranging your turkey hunting setup is easy enough but it needs to be ranged with confidence that only comes with the other tips mentioned below!

Know Effective Distance

Almost everybody has heard the phrase “know your effective range”. This phrase applies to every weapon you use regardless of the quarry and is no different for turkey hunting. Finding out what your effective range is for turkey hunting is as simple as patterning your shotgun. Your goal should be to place at least 10 pellets in the head and neck region of a gobbler. When patterning, a better goal to shoot for is around 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle.

Mounting a scope on your shotgun will also help you with adjusting your pattern. Having moving reticles allows you to adjust your scope if your pattern is off in any direction. Similar to deer hunting, just move your reticle to the densest portion of your pattern, shoot, and repeat until you’re confident with where your pattern is hitting on the target. This will help maximize the number of bb’s you’re able to place in the head and neck region of a turkey. Turkey hunting scopes are becoming more popular with most companies having some type of product for easy target acquisition and easy aiming for patterned shotguns. Regardless of whether you use a scope or not, patterning your shotgun will give you confidence knowing your effective range before entering the turkey woods which will also increase your efficiency and success.

Setting Up Turkey Decoys

After you know what your effective range is you can immediately improve your turkey hunting setup and it’s as simple as using this information to help you decide how far away from your blind you should set your decoys. It might be tempting to set your decoys out at your maximum effective range, but you should resist that temptation. Instead, set your decoys up even closer than what you’ve established as your maximum effective range. This will help you to still be able to make a lethal shot even if a gobbler hangs up beyond your decoys. So, for example, if your effective range is 30-yards, try setting your decoy up at 20-yards. That way if a gobbler hangs up at 30-yards, you’ll still be able to take an ethical shot and if that gobbler comes strutting into your decoys at 20-yards, then you should have a chip shot.

Remember that sometimes it doesn’t take much for a tom to hang-up just beyond your decoys so be sure to set yourself up for success. This is when having a rangefinder becomes useful. Having a rangefinder is an easy way to decide whether you should take the shot on a tom or whether he’s just out of range. Be sure to also range natural markers such as easily identifiable trees, shrubs, rocks, patches of grass, etc. to help you quickly determine how far the gobbler is once he becomes visible. Having these natural markers ranged before you have a gobbler in sight will also help you reduce the amount of movement needed to range the gobbler itself. Sometimes, even the best hunting plans can get flipped upside down so be sure to do everything you can to increase your chances of success.

Know the Terrain

Knowing terrain features of the property you’re hunting can greatly improve your turkey hunt. A little bit of scouting can go a long way, particularly if you’re hunting out of a field in a ground blind. First of all, establishing where toms tend to strut in the field before setting up will obviously help determine your blind placement and can be easily accomplished using a trail camera or by doing some scouting from a nearby road. But things may become a little more complicated if you decide to get out of your blind to pursue a bird on foot. Most people have experienced a situation where a tom was gobbling and seemingly coming into their calls, only to have the bird go silent and never show up. Knowing where property lines are and whether there are any creeks that run through the property can increase your chances of success. When chasing a tom, make sure to set up in a way so that property lines and creeks aren’t in between you and the tom. That way, there is no chance for those features to be the cause if a tom hangs up. Also, identify potential strutting areas where there is short vegetation that allows for a gobbler to be seen while strutting. Setting up in strutting areas will also increase your chances of intercepting the tom and closing the deal.

Injuring a Bird

It’s your responsibility as a hunter to make a clean and ethical kill and knowing your effective range will help you to do that. Taking shots that are outside of your effective range, or are taken with brush or tall grass in between the turkey and the hunter will often times lead to a miss or even worse, an injured bird. It can be easy to fall into the mindset that you’re sending several bb’s down range and all it takes is one to kill the bird, but don’t fall into that kind of thinking. Letting a tom walk away uninjured is far better than taking a questionable shot and injuring a bird.

Rangefinders for Turkey Hunting

There are many rangefinders to choose from that can work great for turkey hunting. Here are some good options but feel free to look around for several discount rangefinders and deals!

Vortex Impact 850 Rangefinder 

  • Range Reflective: 10-850 yards
  • Range Deer: 10-400 yards
  • Accuracy: + / – 1 yards @ 100 yards
  • Magnification: 6 x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 20 mm
  • Eye Relief: 15 mm
  • Length: 3.7 inches
  • Width: 2.95 inches
  • Weight: 5.5 ounces

Nikon Aculon Rangefinder 

  • Finish: Dark Green
  • Magnification: 6x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 20mm
  • Viewfinder Display: M/YDS
  • Measurement Range (yds): 8-550
  • Accuracy: +/- 1m/yd. (shorter than 100m/yds.), +/- 2m/yds. (100m/yds.+)
  • Eye Relief: 18.3
  • Power Source: 1 CR2 Lithium
  • Size (L&W&H): 4.4×2.8×1.4
  • Weight (oz): 5.6

Following these steps by patterning your shotgun and being confident with your effective range along with carrying a rangefinder while hunting will help to decrease the chances of wounding a bird and increase your chances of success.