Best Rifle Scopes For Deer Hunting – Top 4 Optics in 2022
There are few traditions as old as wild deer hunting. From ancient times when pygmies and Native Americans ruled forests and plains, America has been obsessed with the thrill, the drama of stalking game animals.
Whitetail deer are the most commonly hunted game animal in most regions of America. They’re known for their astonishing speed, muscular bodies and a keen sense of smell.
They also taste phenomenal when caught, killed and cooked correctly. Venison sourced from a whitetail deer is earthy, smooth and distinctly aromatic due to its varied diet of acorns, mushrooms and wild fruits.
Whitetail deer are the most popular game animals for a reason. They taste magnificent and they’re heaps of fun to hunt.
Plus, they’re widely accessible of course. There are whitetail populations all over the country in national parks and wilder, unmanaged regions.
Over recent decades, much work has been done to protect whitetail deer and prevent declining numbers due to overhunting. These conversation efforts have been a huge success and involved both ‘in field’ work to preserve natural habitats and education for hunters on the importance of population management and control.
In most states, hunters and conservationists now work closely together to ensure whitetail populations don’t shrink or overgrow.
Hunting is recognized as a vital part of this ecosystem as too many deer can be just as catastrophic for natural environments as too few.
The Benefits Of Hunting Whitetail Deer
Whitetail deer make excellent prey animals because they’re fast enough to pose a real challenge. There’s no fun in a chase that’s too easy.
Nor, as a hunter, do you want an impossible pursuit. Deer are a popular choice because they’re quick, agile, clever and guaranteed to make you work for your supper.
They have a phenomenal sense of smell and can detect the scent of a human hunter from miles away. The smallest of movements stand their ears on end and send them careering through the woods.
Let’s not forget those majestic antlers. The bigger the headgear, the older the deer you’re chasing. Obviously, only the males grow antlers and they’re highly prized by hunters who remove them from the carcass and hang them as trophies.
So, you know why it’s fun to hunt whitetail deer. The next question is how. What type of shooting equipment is best suited to taking down game animals?
Choosing a Suitable Scope For Deer Hunting
You can hunt deer with a broad variety of weapons and cartridges provided they have the stopping power to take down a large mammal. This is not the case for all ammunition, so choose something with a devastating impact.
The compromise for powerful bullets, of course, is heavy recoil. You’ll need a rifle and scope with shock resisting qualities to tolerate it. The following cartridges are popular options for wild deer hunting:
- 6.5 Creedmooor
- .30-06 Springfield
- 7mm Remington Magnum
- .308 Winchester
- .30-30 Winchester
Hunting deer requires long distance targeting skills. You can’t get too close because the animal has a much better sense of smell than you. If you try to approach a wild deer, even very slowly, they’ll almost certainly detect you and flee.
So, a powerful rifle with a high performing medium to long-range scope is essential. I recommend using a minimum of 9x magnification power.
Look for a scope with parallax adjustment because it makes images appear more accurate and ensures the scenes you’re seeing through the glass are authentic. The longer the shots, the more robust a scope’s parallax adjustments should be as distortion occurs when hunters zero in faraway targets.
Long distance shooting is best suited to scopes with large objective lenses and powerful magnification. This allows for maximum light transmission and bigger, brighter images.
The trade-off for light transmission is extra weight because bigger lenses are normally heavier. The trick is to look for a scope that provides a balance of power and maneuverability.
Multicoated For Protection
Multi-coatings are similarly important because they further increase a scope’s light transmission capabilities. If you want to hunt deer for long periods, and potentially even transition from day to night shooting, you need multi-coated lenses for glare resistance and optimal light penetration.
The key to hunting with bright, crisp scope views after dark is a high-quality lens. The better your objective lens, the more accurate a rifle scope’s images will be. You’ll benefit from enhanced contrasts and improved color fidelity.
All good rifle scopes come with robust weatherproofing as standard these days. You should have no problem finding a high-quality glass with nitrogen purged lenses and long-lasting dust, fog and moisture resistant coatings.
These multi-coatings also protect lenses from scratches, chips and routine wear and tear. Shock resistance is important too. We’ve already established you need pretty powerful cartridges to take down a deer at long-range.
Recoil resistant scopes are effective shock absorbers that are built to tolerate the strain of heavy ammunition.
You can tell a good rifle scope from an exceptional one in the little details. Eye relief, for instance, continues to be an afterthought for many brands. It’s why you still get premium scopes with next to no eye relief.
They’d be near flawless if it weren’t for the fact they’re uncomfortable (and sometimes unsafe) to aim. Your hunting scope could be the most precise and powerful on the market.
If there’s not enough eye relief for safe aiming, it doesn’t matter. Shop for scopes with a minimum of 3.5” eye relief.
Choosing a hunting reticle can be a complex affair because there are so many options available. The best reticle design for you will depend on where you usually hunt, what conditions are like there and whether the terrain requires compensations for things like windage, elevation, holdover and bullet drop.
Bullet compensation (or BDC) is a useful feature for a scope. It automatically adjusts your reticle to account for any height lost as a bullet travels over a long distance. Without BDC, it’s a calculation you’ll need to do independently, on the fly.
There are hundreds of possible reticle illuminations to choose from. Again, it depends on preference and shooting style. Some hunters like to have an array of brightness settings.
Others prefer to keep things simple with a choice of two colors and a handful of variable brightness options. Make sure your scope has target turrets capable of locking and fast resetting to zero.
Top 4 Scopes for Deer Hunting Quick List
Nikon ProStaff 3-9x40 (Black Matte Rifle Scope
Vortex Optics Crossfire II 4-12x44 Dead Hold BDC
Athlon Optics Argos BTR Rifle Scope 6-24x
Leupold VX-R 3-9x40mm Patrol Rifle Scope
In our Opinion this are the
4 Best Deer Hunting Rifle Scopes
1. Nikon ProStaff 3-9x40 (Black Matte Rifle Scope)
Nikon’s ProStaff 3-9x40 rifle scope delivers instant zero-reset turrets, robust multi-coated optics, spring-loaded adjustment wheels and many more useful features. With 9x magnification power and a 40mm objective lens, it’s a scope that’s built for medium to long-range hunting.
With a reported 98% light transmission, there’s little this scope won’t show you. Nikon is celebrated for the quality of its optics and the ProStaff is no exception. This level of light transmission results in phenomenally crisp, clear images even in the dark.
Plus, the BDC reticle further boosts precision by allowing for a standard sight picture when the scope’s crosshair is the aiming point itself. The spring-loaded fast reset adjustment turrets provide as much as 80 MOA in ¼ inch increments.
Combine this with parallax elimination and you’ve got a hunting scope that’s readying itself for the next shot before your previous shot has landed. The scope’s patented Spot On Ballistic Match technology supports stronger and more accurate bullet trajectories over long ranges and hilly terrains.
The Final Verdict
The Nikon ProStaff 3-9x40 rifle scope is a big hitter due to its exceptional optics. The sharpness and clarity of its images, particularly in low light conditions, puts this glass head and shoulders above the rest.
For serious deer hunting in rugged, changeable weather conditions and environments, you can’t go wrong with Nikon.
2. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 4-12x44 Dead Hold BDC
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II scope is another high performing glass with 4x to 12x magnification power and a sizable 44mm lens. It is made for long distance aiming and shooting, so you shouldn’t have a problem taking down whitetails with this scope.
Its characteristic BDC reticle – Vortex has its own distinctive dead hold design – is capable of estimating bullet paths and, therefore, making accommodations for holdover, windage, trajectory drop and more.
As its second focal plane feature means the reticle and crosshair never change their size, regardless of magnification used, users get to enjoy smooth, continuous zooming with no distractions.
Also, this scope delivers a generous amount of eye relief (3.9’’) which demonstrates the manufacturer’s attention to detail. You’d be surprised how many scopes don’t come with enough eye relief despite it being a pretty important safety feature.
The hunting scope’s side adjustment turrets provide 50 MOA in increments of one quarter MOA per click. You don’t even need to reverse count when using this glass as the turrets automatically return to true zero.
Add to this tough, anti-glare lenses with weatherproof coatings and, according to some user reviews, near HD-like image clarity.
The Final Verdict
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II 4-12x44 Dead Hold BDC scope gives Nikon’s scope optics a run for their money. It’s no mean feat.
The contrast and color fidelity of its images are remarkable and the dead hold reticle takes most of the work out of targeting. For a hunting scope that’s enjoyable to use but also low maintenance, consider the Crossfire II.
3. Athlon Optics Argos BTR Rifle Scope 6-24x
Athlon Optics’ Argos BTR Scope is an amalgam of ergonomic, user-friendly design and precision technology. This has made it a popular choice among veteran deer hunters and rookie learning the ropes of tracking and shooting.
It’s a first focal plane scope with a first plane reticle so it is primarily designed for long distance targeting. You can tell it’s a long distance scope right away from its massive 50mm objective lens.
Imagine the light transmission you can get from such a big, broad glass. Expect very clear, bright images with lots of detail and authentic contrasts. To further enhance accuracy, the scope has an illuminated MIL-dot reticle with stylish glass etched markings.
This Athlon Optics scope includes adjustment turrets with 60 MOA in clickable increments of ¼ per click. These turrets return to zero fast and enable smoother, more efficient target acquisition.
It’s also one of the more durable scopes on the market as its seamless waterproofing and argon purged lenses protect it from a host of environmental stresses.
The Final Verdict
The Athlon Optics Argos BTR Rifle Scope 6-24x delivers crystal clear images across the entirety of its magnification range.
Its optics are terrific and, when combined with its magnificent build integrity, the end product is a glass that performs as consistently for the fortieth time as it does on the first.
4. Leupold VX-R 3-9x40mm Patrol Rifle Scope
Leupold is another top brand that’s long been associated with high-quality optics and all-weather hunting equipment. The Leupold VX-R 3-9x40mm Patrol Rifle Scope has variable magnification (3x to 9x) and a large, tough 40mm objective lens.
It is certainly capable of shooting over long distances if its owner has enough skill. However, it performs best when used for close to medium-range deer hunting.
The illuminated reticle comes with a variety of brightness settings spanning the gamut from glaring sunshine to minimal light conditions after dark. Whether your problem is an overabundance of light (and glare) or a lack of it, this scope can adjust its views to fit the environment.
The outcome is clear, authentic views of every prey animal you encounter. It’s worth mentioning the Leupold VX-R rifle scope comes with a unique Twilight Light Management System.
It’s not a common feature, so it stands out. The function automatically balances contrasts, resolutions and light transmission to generate additional efficiency and store ten ‘emergency’ minutes of operation.
In other words, it’s a handy buffer system. Your hunting scope won’t instantly blink out of power because it has run out of juice. Instead, it will wind down slowly using ten minutes of stored power.
The feature is invaluable in many situations. The last thing you want after tracking a deer for miles is to carefully line up your shot then lose your scope.
The Final Verdict
Expect superb light transmission and a variety of practical features from Leupold’s VX-R 3-9x40mm Patrol Rifle Scope. It’s a particularly good choice for night-time hunting because many of its standout functions are designed to brighten and sharpen images in low light conditions.
Finding The Right Deer Hunting Scope For You
Hunting deer is a serious business that requires seriously good shooting apparatus and equipment. Not only is it important to have a good rifle scope for accuracy – and ability to make successful shots – it also allows you to make clean kills.
This should be a top priority. Regardless of how and where you hunt, your targets must be taken down quickly where possible to minimize suffering.
With the right scope, targeting is fast even in crowded or obstructed environments and cartridges travel evenly and always penetrate where intended. Skill is a big part of this, of course.
No amount of MOA adjustments or glare-resistant coatings can make you a good hunter. However, with the right rifle scope, you can bring finesse and elegance to every shot.
For other rifle and scope types check: