In this episode of Buckin’ Out, we’re talking about how to choose the right optic for going deer hunting. Good optics are getting more affordable these days and we’re here to help you figure out what makes a good optic for deer hunting. While finding the right optic often involves putting your eye behind the glass, there are a few rules that will help you find the best optic possible.

How Much Should You Pay?

Optics can range from the very affordable, brands like Bushnell and Simmons make them for under $100, to the very expensive with brands like Swarovski ranging into the thousands of dollars. This leaves many wondering how much they should pay for a quality optic. The general rule of thumb is that you should spend as much as you can afford but aim for about half the price of the rifle. If the rifle was $500, try to get some glass that is at least $250.

Brands like Bushnell pair quality glass with affordable pricing. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

That isn’t to say that some of these more affordable brands can’t get deer on the ground but the more you pay the better-quality components you’ll get. Typically, this means that you’ll get a clearer sight picture, more often than not that is brighter than the more affordable optics. Again, a budget optic can get the job done but the clearer sight picture, you have a better chance of bagging that deer.

Can I Mount My Own Optic?

Many seasoned hunters can reliably mount their own optics, but for a beginner, like myself, the best thing to do is take it to the local gun store. This will ensure success and often small gun shops will run deals where they will mount the optic if you buy the scope or base mounts from the shop. If you already have the scope and rifle, then it's often an affordable service, with most quality gun shops charging between $15-$40 to get you set up.

What is the Minimum Magnification Needed to Hunt Deer?


You don't need a sniper scope to hunt deer. (Photo: Don Summers/

One of the biggest misconceptions about deer hunting is that you need a super-powerful magnification to take a deer. Veteran hunters may indeed wish for higher magnification, but they also have the experience needed to take those shots. As a beginner, I don’t imagine I would ever take a shot over 200 yards in the next few years, so I’m not anticipating needing a high magnification scope atop my rifle.

In Wisconsin, where I’ll be doing my deer hunting, the most common scope is a 3-9 x 40. This will give us more than enough magnification to reach out a couple of hundred yards for deer. 

What’s the Deal with Illuminated Reticles?

Often, in more expensive optics you’ll start seeing things like illuminated reticles. If you have failing eyes or just poor eyesight, then illuminated reticles might help you. Optics like the Leupold Firedot have an illuminated center dot which should give the shooter greater confidence that their shot is going to be placed exactly where they want. Illuminated reticles really shine best during the hours of dusk and dawn where it may be tougher to spot deer let alone get sights on them. These reticles bring in more light, giving you a better chance of lining up those cross hairs right where you want them.  

Of course, a standard reticle, or even iron sights, has been slaying deer for years. The illuminated reticle offers one more advantage for getting a deer on the ground. 

How Do BDC and MOA Reticles Help?

A Ballistic Drop Compensator, or BDC for short, is a reticle that will give you stadia-lines in your field of view that will make it easier to do holdovers and assist you in long-range shots. Another popular option is a Minute of Angle or MOA reticle. It is similar to a BDC but will give you stadia lines to calculate the drop in your bullet. Both a BDC and an MOA reticle are only helpful if you know about your ballistics and understand how much the bullet will drop at certain distances.

Leupold Duplex on the left and the Windplex on the right. (Photo: Leupold)

For this reason, some hunters will keep a small ballistics chart with them for reference. A rangefinder is another helpful tool that will be able to give you a precise measurement of where your game is. In the end, the standard crosshairs were good enough for the hunters in the 1950’s, and they’re still good enough today. Like illuminated reticles, a BDC or MOA reticle is one more advantage to make sure you make an ethical kill.


Whether you choose a more affordable option like a Bushnell, or you opt to go all out on a Schmidt & Bender, is all dependent on your wallet. Typically, the more expensive the glass, the clearer and better sight picture you’re going to get. Another consideration to look for when choosing an optic is the warranty. More and more companies these days are offering lifetime warranties. This is a huge advantage for hunters who take their gear into adverse conditions or don’t handle it with that delicate touch. 

Looking for a new optic but don’t have the scratch to pay for it? Sell that old gun you never use at We Buy Guns, the easiest and most convenient place to sell a gun online.


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