Perhaps more than other types of hunting, a rifle scope is critical to success in going after deer. Choosing the best scope for deer hunting is subject to a range of variables. Your ultimate decision will depend on how you’ll be hunting, the species you’re after, and the distance over which you’ll be firing.
Read on for a look at our recommendations of the best scope for deer hunting for a variety of hunting scenarios and budget considerations.
Our Top Picks
Vortex Optics Crossfire II
Best Budget Option
CVLIFE Hunting Rifle Scope 6-24×50
Best Premium Option
NIGHTFORCE SHV 5-20x56mm Zeroset
Choosing the best overall option among deer hunting scopes is an exercise in balancing features with cost. The Vortex Optics Crossfire II excels in both categories and was an easy choice as our recommendation for overall best scope for deer hunting.
Among the reasons the Vortex scope was an easy choice is the fact that it works equally well for beginners and experienced hunters. Thus, with routine care, the Crossfire II can be used for years by anyone just now learning the excitement of deer hunting.
For those new to deer scopes, the “2-7” designation of this scope means it can be adjusted so images appear 2 to 7 times closer than reality. With that range, the Vortex is valuable for both close- and long-range shots.
The Crossfire II is also a durable scope. Its tube is constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum, and its O-ring seal ensures that its lenses and inner mechanisms are both waterproof and shockproof.
- Exceptional sight picture
- Excellent eye relief
- Great value
- Focal adjustments are difficult to make
- Shows some edge distortion at high magnification
- Blurs at high zoom levels
Best Budget Option
CVLIFE Hunting Rifle Scope 6-24×50
Spend $50 on a scope for your deer rifle, and you expect to get what you pay for, right? Happily, that’s not the case with the CVLIFE Hunting Rifle Scope. As our choice for the budget-conscious search for the best scope for deer hunting, the CVLIFE scope delivers exceptional quality and performance.
For example, the CVLIFE scope offers a 6-24x magnification range, delivering a 28-foot field of view at 100 yards. Particularly suited for long-range hunting, the CVLIFE scope’s 50mm objective lens admits a lot of light to ensure targeting accuracy.
In addition, the crosshairs in the CVLIFE scope include illuminated range finder markings for yet more accurate targeting. And the scope gives you the choice to increase or decrease the brightness of its rangefinder illumination to ensure comfortable use.
- Quick and consistent target acquisition
- Quick process to ‘zero in’ for accuracy
- Excellent eye relief
- Some distortion on outer edges of lens
- Lens glass may be too reflective for some hunters
- Cumbersome to use in relation to magnification provided
Best Premium Option
NIGHTFORCE SHV 5-20×56 Zeroset
If you want a deer hunting scope that can do it all, the NIGHTFORCE SHV is exactly what you need to have atop your rifle. It works equally well at both short and long range, and is packed with features that let you customize its sighting adjustments.
But don’t worry, the NIGHTFORCE scope includes technology to quickly return to your initial settings, no matter how much you adjust it while tracking deer. And no matter where you set its magnification in its 5-20x magnification range, the NIGHTFORCE scope delivers unmatched clarity and contract.
Beyond that, NIGHTFORCE scopes are the choice of US military special operations units, as well as competition shooters. There could be no better recommendations for the NIGHTFORCE scope. That’s a big part of why it’s our recommendation as the top premium choice as a best scope for deer hunting.
- Performs well at maximum magnification and illumination
- Easy to adjust while hunting
- Excellent image resolution even at edges of lens
- Turret design is lacking for such an expensive scope
- May be priced too high for some deer hunters
Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x50mm Riflescope
If you’re looking for a best scope for deer hunting for low-light situations, you don’t need to look any further than this Leupold VX-Freedom scope. Whether you’re hunting in the early morning or the late evening, the Leupold VX-Freedom can get you sighted in on your deer or other game.
Designed and built in the US, the Leupold VX-Freedom scope is fully waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof. As such, it is a perfect choice for mounting to a rifle that will be hauled into and out of tree stands for deer hunting.
Also, the Leupold VX-Freedom scope offers one of the best warranties in the business, so you can use it with confidence. Finally, our recommendation of the VX-Freedom as a best scope for deer hunting is based on the fact that it can be mounted on most deer rifles.
- Easy to ‘zero in’ for most effective use
- Audible clicks signal adjustments clearly
- Illuminated dot sighting is great feature
- No accessories included with scope purchase
- Best suited for short- and mid-range shooting
- Sighting aids aren’t illuminated
Hunting deer from a tree stand demands a rugged and high-performing rifle scope. That’s exactly what the Burris Fullfield II Hunting Scope delivers. And that’s why it’s our recommendation for tree-stand users as a best scope for deer hunting.
The Burris Fullfield II is waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof, all prerequisites for hauling a rifle and scope into and out of a tree stand. The scope’s single-piece outer tube also contributes to its durability and helps it withstand even heavy recoil action.
Finally, the Burris Fullfield features lenses larger than those available on comparable scopes for superior light-gathering capabilities. Introduced nearly a quarter-century ago, the Burris Fullfield II remains a popular choice as a best scope for deer hunting.
- Suitable for use by young hunters
- Excellent clarity and light-gathering ability
- Lifetime warranty
- Field of view may not be as wide as some deer hunters would like
- Crosshairs may be too wide for some users
- May be somewhat blurry at full magnification
The Best Scope for Deer Hunting in 2023 Buyer’s Guide
Now that you’ve had a chance to review our recommendations for the best scope for deer hunting, you’re somewhat prepared to make your own choice. But before you make any final decision, review the information in this buyer’s guide covering two often-misunderstood aspects of deer scopes.
As you look at the wide variety of deer scopes available on the market today, you’ll see manufacturers noting the “eye relief” offered by their scopes.
Simply put, eye relief is the distance from the scope’s rear eyepiece from which you can optimally see the full image in your scope. At a minimum, your scope should have 3 inches of eye relief. Be wary, though, of manufacturers that claim to offer a “range” of eye relief distance.
They may, in fact, be able to deliver a range of eye relief distance, but that won’t necessarily do anything for your shooting accuracy. Viewing your target from the same eye relief distance with every shot will, over time, make you a more consistent deer hunter.
On deer scopes, lens coatings are primarily designed to reduce glare and other image problems to ensure accurate shooting. There are coatings that help protect lenses against scratches, but those aren’t absolutely necessary components of a deer scope.
However, the rule for lens coatings is not to skimp on them. All other things being equal, be sure that the lens coatings on your deer scope are the best you can afford. You’ll understand that it’s money well spent on a best scope for deer hunting the first time you sight a deer standing directly in the sun.
Frequently Asked Questions
Even with the background you now have on choosing the best scope for deer hunting, you may have more questions before making your decision. Keep reading for answers to a few of the more frequently asked questions about choosing and using the best scope for deer hunting.
What is the most important feature of a deer scope?
There are a lot of factors to weigh when considering the purchase of a best scope for deer hunting. That should tell you that there is no single most important feature of a deer scope. Instead, when you’re looking for a deer scope, you should consider a range of factors.
For instance, you’ll certainly want a scope that is durable. You’ll be using your scope in an environment where it will be subjected to dirt, moisture, and other hazards. It should be able to handle all of those circumstances.
And, if you’re going to be targeting deer from a long distance, you’ll need a scope with a robust range of zoom capabilities.
As a final note, one interesting thing you may want to try when evaluating a rifle scope is finding out where it’s made. Generally speaking, Japanese manufacturers offer top-level deer scopes. So, all other things being equal, the place where a scope is manufactured can be an important factor to consider.
Is it possible to find a single deer scope suitable for multiple hunting scenarios?
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced deer hunter, you either have or will find yourself hunting deer in a variety of situations. For one hunt, you may be sitting in a friend’s tree stand. For another, you may be on the ground in deep woods. Or you may find yourself sighting deer across an open field.
It would be tempting to suggest that there is a single type of deer scope that can handle a variety of deer-hunting scenarios. But that may simply not be the case.
As just one example, it’s likely that any hunter could drop a deer at a reasonable distance with a single-magnification scope, say a 3X or 4X model. But as any hunter knows, deer may not simply walk into a convenient range. So, a variable-magnification scope might be a perfectly fine choice.
As another example, let’s consider the issue of the size of the objective lens, through which light is gathered to help sight in your deer. Many hunters will prefer an objective lens with a wide field of view, but that adds bulk that other hunters might find difficult to manage.
Finally, there’s the issue of reticles, the various crosshair configurations available for deer rifles. For some deer hunting, simple crosshairs may be enough to accurately target a deer. But for many scenarios, a reticle that helps compensate for wind drift and bullet drop over long distances is needed.
In the end, your best strategy for choosing your own best scope for deer hunting will be to be honest about your skill level. Also, you should honestly consider the type of deer hunting you’ll do most often.
What are some tips for maintaining a deer scope?
When you’re in the market for a best scope for deer hunting, you’re obviously going to want the most for your money. And once it’s mounted on your rifle, you’re going to want to take steps to make sure your scope will be a lasting investment. Read on for some tips on maintaining your deer rifle scope.
Part of maintaining your deer scope is keeping the lenses clean, ensuring that bits of dust and grime they pick up don’t result in scratches. To keep your scope lenses clean, invest in a lens pen. Its soft bristles and gentle cleaning surfaces will safely remove potentially damaging grime.
As another aspect of maintaining your deer rifle scope, you’ll need to take care of the body of the mechanism. To do that, remove the scope from your rifle and detach the scope’s turrets. Then, use a cotton swab to remove dirt and grime from the nooks and crannies of the scope body.
With some scopes, you can go as far as removing the outer casing for maintenance purposes. However, you shouldn’t do that. If the inner workings of your scope require attention, take it to a gun shop and let trained personnel handle the job.
Choosing a best scope for deer hunting can be a tricky decision, complete with the possibility of making an expensive mistake. This post should help you make an informed decision. As a reminder, our choice for best overall scope is the Vortex Optics Crossfire II.
If you’d like to learn more, check out other posts at Life in Minnesota, covering the wealth of hunting opportunities in the state.
- About the Author
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.