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Are modern variable scopes a good idea for deer stalking?

George Wallace
For most amateur stalkers, the answer is that you really don’t need to spend all that money, any more than you need an E-Type Jaguar to get yourself to work.

On the other hand, if you can afford it, let us look first at what the scope is for.

In rifle shooting terms, deer are very large targets at relatively short range, so we don’t really need any magnification at all.

The scope is there to provide a clear sight picture, NOT to enable us to shoot harmless and beautiful animals half way across the next county.

Professionals with a cull to achieve and few daylight hours to do it, are another matter altogether but very few of us fall into that category, so I’ll stick to the needs of the recreational stalker.

Two hundred yards is a pretty long shot and most woodland deer are killed at nearer 50 yards than 100.

You can see them clearly with the naked eye, so magnification isn’t any kind of a problem.

Clarity, in a damp, gloomy wood can be a problem – but that’s only if you are one of those daft buggers who goes out in the rain!

For almost twenty years I have used a little Nikko Sterling shotgun scope in 2.5 x 20 and it has been perfectly good for shots on Fallow deer out to 170 yards.

I say 170 because that is the furthest I have ever needed to shoot with that rifle.

One shot; smack! The only time that little scope has failed was in a gloomy, rain-filled, gale-lashed Hungarian forest last Summer, when black boar in black shadows were just too much for it; but that’s another story.

I have just bought a new Leupold 2.5×28 with long (9in) eye-relief for my .450/.400 because even at the age of 70 I find I don’t need any greater magnification.

Incidentally, a scope with long eye relief can be mounted further forward so the rifle’s action is more accessible and the scope doesn’t mash your eyebrow when you take an uphill shot.

Just a thought, especially if you’re firing something that kicks a bit.

Red deer on the hill are often shot at much longer ranges but even then 350 yards is a long way.

You can see that far with a 2.5x or with a 4x or 6x if you prefer; but now the problem is not just getting a clear sight picture because you also need to know the range and your bullet’s trajectory.

Out beyond about 225 yards, that is what causes the problem and if you don’t know how much to hold over, a £1,500 high magnification scope isn’t going to help a damn bit.

Those are just my personal thoughts.

We are all different and you must choose what pleases you; because you and your new rifle and scope might be together for the rest of your lives.

Scopes with variable magnification generally cost a lot more than one of fixed power.