Best Rifle Scope for Deer Hunting: Our Top 7 (Including Low Budget Options)

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Rifle Scopes for Deer Hunting

Deer hunting isn't just a favorite, American pastime, it's also a primal lifestyle for so many who depend on the meat, fur, and hide to provide a living.

So, what's the best scope to fill your tag and put some game meat on the grill?

If you were to ask any of the 15 million hunters in the United States who take to the timber and open fields for their tucker, you might hear a few of the same scopes mentioned over and over again.

We're here to confirm that some scopes really are worth the hype!

QUICK LIST: 7 Best Rifle Scopes For Deer Hunting In 2022

  1. Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42
  2. Trijicon Tenmile 4.5-30x56
  3. Maven CRS.1 3-12x40
  4. NightForce SHV5-20X56mm
  5. Athlon Ares BTR Gen2 4.5-27X50
  6. Vortex Diamondback 4-12X40mm BDC Reticle
  7. Vortex Viper HS Long Range 4-16X50

Best Deer Hunting Rifle Scopes

IMAGEPRODUCTDETAILS
tt-table__imageVortex Razor HD LHT
  • Magnification: 3-15X 42mm
  • Reticle: HSR-5i
  • Price Range: Under $1000
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageTrijicon Tenmile 4.5-30x56
  • Magnification: 4.5-30X 56mm
  • Reticle: FFP Red/Green MOA Precision Tree
  • Price Range: Under $2000
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageMaven CRS.1 3-12x40
  • Magnification: 3-12X 40mm
  • Reticle: CSHR SFP
  • Price Range: Under $500
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageNightForce SHV
  • Magnification: 5-20X 56mm
  • Reticle: MOAR - 20 MOA - Center Illuminated
  • Price Range: Under $1500
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageAthlon Ares BTR Gen2 4.5-27x50
  • Magnification: 4.5-27X 50mm
  • Reticle: APLR3 FFP IR MOA
  • Price Range: Under $1000
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageVortex Diamondback
  • Magnification: 4-12X 40mm
  • Reticle: BDC
  • Price Range: Under $200
CHECK PRICE
tt-table__imageVortex Viper HS LR
  • Magnification: 4-16X 50mm
  • Reticle: Dead-Hold BDC
  • Price Range: Under $600
CHECK PRICE

Top 7 Best Rifle Scopes For Deer Hunting

When you think about what the "best" means, your mind might wander over to exposed turrets, FFP reticles, thick tubes, and long-ranging systems that you may never need in your hunting lifetime.  These scopes kill it out in the field, but it might end up being the death of you if your other half ever sees how much you spent on one.

Not really looking for multiple zeros, parallax correction, or long-range specialty features?  A normal hunting rifle scope is right up your alley too with our diverse lineup.  But, how much is it going to cost you?

Tons of deer have been taken down with mediocre scopes, but there's also plenty more that are described as "the one that got away" because you didn't spend enough.  But, the reality for many hunters is the fact that they don't have two grand, a grand, or even $600 to spend on the best scopes for hunting.

This is where we come in to show you what top dollar can buy you if you can afford it, and what scopes "make-it" more than "break-it" out in the field when your budget is cash-strapped.  Since newbies are typically going to be the ones discovering their own personal standard, brands they want to be loyal to, and how much they want to spend on a scope, we'll impart to you some of the best advice we can offer:

"Buy your rifle to 'suit' your scope.  Spend as much as you can afford plus a little more on your scope."

For you old timers, have fun upgrading with some of the newest scopes the industry has to offer.  You might just fill all your tags this season with hyper-accuracy that's worth bragging about for decades.  The proof is in the rack that's mounted to your wall and not in your story-telling memories.

1. Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15x42 - Best Overall

Razor HD LHT 3-15x42 riflescope review
Image Credit: Vortex Optics

Like the Lord of the Rings’ one ring to rule them all, this is Vortex’s scope to rule them all. After delivering features that shooters and hunters want in a Razor scope, it has been appropriately dubbed the one scope that rules them all.

Pros:

  • Excellent glass
  • 80 MOA
  • Locking turret
  • Zero stop
  • Capped windage

Cons:

  • Push button illumination

To get the curiosity out of the way, the push-button illumination is not a flaw. Straying from the norm of a turret dial for illumination, Vortex helps to keep weight down with a push-button design. It’s different, but it works.

The scope couldn’t be more perfect: made in Japan with APO and indexed lenses, ED glass and glass-etched reticle, and the HSR-5i reticle with a center illuminated dot. The 30mm tube body allows for 80 MOA elevation and windage travel. Better yet, the windage is capped and the exposed elevation turret is lockable and comes with the RevStop Zero System – essentially a zero stop ring.

If things couldn’t get better than this, the scope also comes with the fixings such as lens caps and a sunshade, but it also comes with a coupon to Kenton Industries for a customizable turret. High-end enough for ya?

Vortex pulls out all the stops for this scope. It’s not just a Razor HD scope, it’s a scope that rules over all.

2. Trijicon Tenmile 4.5-30x56 – Best Long Range

Trijicon Tenmile 4.5-30x56
Image Credit - Trijicon

For hunting mulies out West, the new Tenmile scope provides extreme long-range performance that only Trijicon can do in Trijicon style. This 4.5-30x56 configuration is available with FFP MOA and MRAD Precision Tree reticles and SFP MOA and MRAD Long Range reticles.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Dual illumination
  • 34mm tube
  • Extreme adjustment travel
  • Zero stop

Cons:

  • Not the best warranty

Pricewise, the Tenmile falls in the mid-range, somewhat affordable market for its specs and is consumer designated to be competition for the Meopta Optika6, Leupold Mark 5HD, and Zeiss Victory V8. As a result, the Tenmile offers excellent value given its price point.

It has a large 56mm lens with ED glass for more light, brightness, and color fidelity with more power than 25x scopes. The FFP reticle is ideal for long-range work and competition and is extremely precise for milling targets and holding over.

With dual illumination in red and green, it has five intensity settings and is adjusted via the third turret that doubles as the parallax correction (side focus). The SF is adjustable from 20 yards to infinity. The tube is 34mm wide and allows for extreme 100 MOA (29.1 MRAD) and 50 MOA (14.5 MRAD) in E/W adjustment. The windage turret is capped. You can also install the zero stop on the elevation turret for that hard return to zero.

The Tenmile comes with a sunshade, Tenebraex flip caps, scopecoat, throw lever, battery, tools, and a vinyl logo sticker. Unfortunately, Trijicon’s warranty is not as good as the no-questions-asked, no-receipt-needed warranties of other manufacturers. It’s covered for a lifetime but only to the original owner and the electronics are warrantied for five years from date of manufacture.

The Trijicon scope is big but not unlike comparable scopes of the same configuration. At 14.33” in length and 36 oz in weight, it deserves to be put on a rifle that can handle it and is made for distance. For mid-range to long-range muley and elk needs out West, the made-in-Japan Tenmile is a worthy choice.

3. Maven CRS.1 3-12x40 – Best Lightweight Scope

Maven CRS.1 Hands on Review

The 3-9x40 was a favorite deer hunting configuration but then hunters wanted a little more than 9x power. Maven just released their new CRS hunting scopes and the CRS.1 3-12x40 meets the demand and new standard for deer hunting - we should know, we tested it!

Pros:

  • Price
  • SFP reticle
  • C-series glass
  • Compact/lightweight
  • Made in Japan

Cons:

  • No illumination

Not every hunter wants illumination, but it would be nice to have a red dot as an aiming point in lowlight conditions as an option. Nevertheless, things are simple to streamline your deer hunt.

What the CRS.1 does have is a wire SFP CSHR reticle. The design is based off the RS.1 SHR style with thin, center crosshairs, simple BDC points, and thicker posts. In the SFP, you’ll need to move to max magnification for accurate holdovers, but we found that the reticle remains highly visible in the low power and does not change size.

YouTube video

Based off the C-series of binoculars, the CRS.1 has award-winning optical quality. Maven has built a reputation of having extremely clear and sharp glass, and with the 34–8.5 ft of FOV, you’ll come to appreciate the crisp optics. I only experienced a minor degree of field curvature at the very edges at max power.

The scope itself is designed to be lightweight to mount to your favorite muley or whitetail hunting rifle. Weighing in at 14.18 oz, you’ll give yourself a break as you hike the mountains or stalk the lowlands.

The turrets are capped and kept from unintentional changes while in the brush or in the truck cab. They move in ¼ MOA and offer 50 MOA in both elevation and windage travel to dial in for those longer shots just in case. Adjustments are audible and I was able to feel them even with gloves on.

In true Maven style, it’s nitrogen-purged for fogproof protection, submersible to 3m for waterproofness, and it’s covered under Maven’s Unconditional Lifetime Warranty. With user simplicity and rugged rigidity in a whitetail scope configuration, get out and track the elusive buck that you’ve so cutely nicknamed over past seasons. Maybe with Maven, this season will finally be it.

4. NightForce Optics SHV 5-20X56 - Best Lowlight

NightForce SHV 5-20x56 rifle scope
Image Credit: Nightforce

Hunters who buy NightForce know how important it is to spend more on your scope or at least equal to what you spent on your rifle.  They know that a quality scope is what will land you your trophy rack at the end of the day.

The SHV is made for the shooter, hunter, and varminter, and there is nothing shy about this scope.  With a huge 56 mm objective lens, 30 mm tube, and a serious illuminated MOA reticle, no deer can hide, strut, or leap away from you ever again.

If you're serious about long range shooting, the SHV is a NightForce.  NightForce is the definition of putting those "beyond" distances into reach.  Deer too far?  Not anymore!

5. Athlon Ares BTR Gen2 4.5-27x50 – Best Value

Ares BTR GEN2 HD 4.5-27x50
Image Credit - Athlon Optics

The BTR Gen2 scopes with FFP reticles are the best scopes Athlon offers for street prices under $1000. For the money, the BTR Gen2 4.5-27x50 is one of the best long-ranging hunting scopes for chasing whitetails.

Pros:

  • Price
  • FFP illuminated reticle
  • HD glass
  • Zero Stop
  • 3.9” eye relief

Cons:

  • No locking turrets

The 4.5-27x50 configuration has two MOA reticles and a MIL reticle. All FFP reticles are illuminated with intermittent ‘off’ positions on the third turret. Eye relief is 3.9” at its longest, and you do need to be perfectly within the eyebox at max power.

Impressively, the optics remains clear at max magnification without milky clouding or loss in resolution. The BTR scopes have Wide Band FMC coatings, and the objective lens has an exterior Xtra Protecting (XPL) coating, but there is no mention ED glass, only ‘HD glass.’ They are not equal, and you’ll need to upgrade to the Ares ETR series for ED glass.

The oversized, exposed elevation turret has the Precision Zero Stop System and is a highly desired feature in high-end scopes. The only thing that it lacks that hunters wish it had are locking turrets.

The erector system is CNC-machined aluminum and turrets are made with stainless steel - tracking is expected to be flawless. Clicks are a tad on the light side but still reasonably tactile. Adjustments are in ¼ MOA and turrets have 80 MOA of total travel.

It’s not bad at all in the size/weight department with a 13.8” length and 27.3oz weight. It’s waterproof and fogproof with argon gas – another indication of top-tier quality. For long-range performance on a budget, the Ares BTR Gen2 is one of the best scopes for the money.

6. Vortex Diamondback 4-12X40 - Best Budget

Vortex Diamondback 4-12x40 riflescope
Image Credit: Vortex Optics

This is the perfect example of what a deer hunter will want in a rifle scope.  You have a little more reach for flexible shots over a 3-9x40 and an uncomplicated BDC reticle.  With quality optics, fast focus eyepiece, light weight, and full weatherproof housing, you won't be left wanting.

The Diamondback is about as simple as you can get without compromising on overall quality.  That's why we love Vortex and many other buyers do too.

To take down deer within comfortable ranges that don't require advanced, long range ballistics and state-of-the-art tech, this scope will get 'er done.

Vortex knows how to deliver value.  Do you know how to jump on it?

7. Vortex Viper HS Long Range 4-16X50 - Best SFP

Vortex Viper HS Long Range 4-16X50
Image Credit: Vortex Optics

It might seem like overkill to put this on your rifle for sub-200-yard deer hunting, and it is.  But, if you're taking longer shots than this, or you hope to be, the Viper HS may be your ticket into actually making those long shots count and not as an unintentional warning sign to deer to get the heck out of there.

The Viper HS is a favorite for deer hunters who appreciate the robustness of the 30 mm tube, its zero reset and tactical turrets, and Vortex's iconic optical clarity.  The attractive element of the Viper is the quality, features, and magnification offered in this price range.  For these reasons, the Viper HS Long Range scope should be on your wish list if you want value in your scope buy!

What to Look For in a Rifle Scope For Deer Hunting

While we've mentioned a few top-end brands, we've also tried to keep the lineup relevant with alternatives for those on a budget.  However, whether it's a $200 scope or a $2000 one, you always want to look for a scope's ability to retain zero and provide repeatability.  They should also provide better than average optical quality and be somewhat waterproof and dustproof.  More expensive and long-range units should provide turret accuracy.

Opting for a cheaper scope may be the best decision if you are searching for deer hunting gift ideas.  They'll be good for hunting terrains where there's a lot of light like during the day.  More expensive scopes may be better suited for low light hours where you need that extra quality.  As you can see, your hunting style also plays a role in how much you think you need to spend versus how much you want to spend.

Here's where we give you an idea of what features you'll need to confidently depend on your scope day-in and day-out for many hunting seasons to come.

  • Quality glass - To have the best, it will cost you. But, if you're restricted to a tight budget, try to be brand-specific.
  • Quality coatings - This should be the same as how you shop for glass. The higher quality glass, the higher quality coatings it will have.  Be brand-specific if you're buying a cheaper scope.
  • Magnification - Clarity and sharpness is always going to be better at lower power. Try to stay under 10x when shopping for scopes under $300.
  • Repeatability - It doesn't matter how much your scope costs, if it holds zero even after eons, it's an excellent scope. However, spending more doesn't always mean you're being guaranteed repeatability.  Review scopes to get an idea of their track record.  This also might mean being brand-specific.
  • Turret/reticle accuracy - Pay attention to accuracy, clicking quality, and reticle movement when you sight-in to ensure windage and bullet drop corrections will be right where you need them to be. This is a must for higher-end scopes and not recommended on budget scopes.
  • Low light quality - If you know deer are more active around dusk and dawn, you're going to want a scope with high quality glass, coatings, and large aperture.
  • Cost - Those hunting further distances in strenuous conditions like low light will want to invest more in their scope. Those hunting during daylight hours for sub-200 yards can get away with more affordable options.
  • Warranty - Most scopes come with a limited lifetime warranty these days. If you're putting in quite the investment into your scope, you might want to be brand-specific to ensure you get the customer service and repair/replacement coverage you deserve and expect.

Many Prey, One Scope

Hunting deer has been done for eons.  It's primitive, fulfilling, and it provides.  While you don't specifically need a scope for deer, one for bears, and one for coyotes, a good deer scope should be able to cater to many hunting applications.

The trick in finding the right one that's going to be versatile enough is to pay attention to magnification ranges to determine how far your hunting yardage is, and to always spend on quality where it matters most - with the glass.

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