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Every fall, more than 10 million Americans take to the woods and fields to hunt whitetail deer. Whitetails are by far the most popular and plentiful game animal in the United States. However, just because they are popular and plentiful, doesn't mean they aren't difficult to hunt. Having the right gear can help swing the odds in your favor.
Most hunters understand the benefits of hunting with a quality optic. However, choosing a rifle scope can be complicated. Since not everyone has the same hunting requirements, the best rifle scope for deer hunting largely depends on where you hunt, the conditions you face, and the weapon you use.
With so many scopes to choose from, picking one can be a pretty tough task. Here are our top picks to get you started.
Our Best Choice
Swarovski Z8i 1-8x24mm
Top Rifle Scope for Deer Hunting Today
Top 6 Best Rifle Scopes for Hunting
1. Swarovski Z8i 1-8x24mm - Best for Whitetail Deer Hunting
The view through Swarovskis new Z8i scope couldn’t be more clear. Swarovski uses state-of-the-art coatings to create their incredible glass quality with 93 percent light transmission. The image you view through this optic is actually better than anything you’ll ever see with the naked eye.
The Z8i also has an astonishing BRX-1 reticle. This glowing orange illuminated reticle can be easily adjusted for different light conditions.
When illuminated, it stands out like a neon sign, making twilight shots a breeze.
We were also seriously impressed with the Z8i’s ingenious snap-on, snap-off ballistic turret. This handy feature allows you to preset the scope for multiple distances. Then, once you are in the field, you can switch between settings with a simple turn of the throw lever. These controls are easy to use, even if you're wearing camo gloves.
This high-quality scope is as near perfect as they come. Although the price tag is hefty, you definitely get what you pay for with the Swarovski Z8i. Consider this the Lamborghini of deer hunting scopes, and as such, the performance definitely matches the price tag.
2. Nightforce ATACR 7-35x56mm F1 - Best Scope for Long-Range Deer Hunting
The ATACR F1 is Nightforce’s latest contribution to long-range hunting. The image is bright and sharp thanks to an ED glass package. Plus the reticle is bright, easy-to-see, and comes in several practical style options like MOA or mil graduations, allowing you to customize your scope for your hunting preferences.
This thing is packed with features, including an extensive magnification range (7-35x), an illuminated first focal plane reticle, and an integrated Power Throw Lever (PTL). Shooters will also appreciate the side-focus parallax control that adjusts for distances from infinity to as close as 10 meters.
While the Nightforce ATACR F1 impresses us hugely, it is also a pretty huge scope. The 56mm objective lens is rather large. The scope also measures a full 16 inches and weighs almost 2 ½ pounds! If you plan to hunt remote locations, this scope will feel large and impractical. However, if you shoot whitetails across vast bean fields, this scope will make the distance seem like nothing.
3. Bushnell Engage 2.5–10x44mm - Best Budget Rifle Scope for Deer Hunting
Priced for deer hunters on a budget, the Bushnell Engage offers plenty of high-quality features. Waterproof and fogproof, this nitrogen-purged scope performs perfectly even in cold, wet weather. The glass quality is also surprisingly clear, especially for a scope in this price range. These features ensure a crisp, clear image no matter the weather.
Its lightweight construction makes it ideal for topping your deer hunting rifle, whether you’re hunting farmland, woods, or remote mountains.
The Engage’s MOA reticle features 1-MOA windage and elevation marks, and achieves short-range and long-range precision. The Tooless Zero Reset Locking Turret makes dialing in quick and easy.
The reticle is a little thin for some hunting applications, and some hunters may find this problematic.
4. Zeiss Conquest V6 3–18x50mm - Best Scope for Low-Light Hunting
When you are deer hunting, most of your shot opportunities occur in the half-light of early morning or just before nightfall. The Zeiss Conquest performs flawlessly in lowlight, making it ideal for hunting whitetails, which are most active in early morning and late evening.
With high-quality Fluoride glass, enhanced lens coatings, and Zeiss’s special Louted protective coating, this optic delivers crisp, clear low-light resolution that will blow you away.
The Conquest is nitrogen purged, making it completely fogproof, even when the weather turns cold.
Lenses feature a LotuTec coating that ensure water rolls right off the surface, guaranteeing a clear picture even in pouring rain.
Built for rugged hunting conditions, the Zeiss Conquest is constructed of aircraft grade aluminum. It is lightweight, compact, and features a low profile, making it perfect for hunting in thick woods or hiking long distances over rough terrain.
5. Leupold VX-3i 2.5-8x36mm - Best Scope for Hunting Whitetail Deer and Elk
Whitetails aren’t the only game some hunters pursue. Rocky Mountain elk are on plenty of hunting bucket lists, so finding equipment suitable for both species is important for many hunters.
The Leupold VX-3i sits right in the magnification sweet spot for both types of hunting. Plus it has a lightweight ruggedness that make it a welcome hunting partner in eastern pine forests or the western backcountry.
Leupold’s Twilight Max Light Management System allows you to see vivid target images in a wide range of light conditions, from twilight to mid-afternoon.
Built for rough hunting conditions, the VX-3i is impact tested and guaranteed to perform from -40ºF to 160ºF. Waterproof and fogproof, the proprietary gas blend and seals stand up to even extreme pressure changes.
The only thing we would change about this versatile hunting optic is the turrets. They have no zero stop and are not zero resettable. Plus, it can be difficult to keep track of the revolutions.
6. Vortex Optics Viper HS 4-16x44mm - Best Rifle Scope for Beginners
Perfect for inexperienced deer hunters, the Viper HS from Vortex Optics features 4-16x magnification, a 44mm objective lens, sturdy aircraft grade aluminum construction, and cutting-edge lens coatings for maximum light transmission. Not only is this scope built for rugged hunting conditions, but it also produces a nice clear image.
Although this scope has plenty of features seasoned hunters will appreciate, there are some that are particularly beneficial for beginners. For example, the Viper has a forgiving eye box with increased eye relief. This one feature allows you to get on target quickly and easily, so you won’t miss that once in a lifetime shot.
If we were going to change anything on this affordable, easy-to-use optic, we would make the reticle a little heavier. It is pretty think, which can be a problem for low-light shooting or for hunters with less-than-perfect vision.
Summing It Up
Picking the right rifle scope can mean the difference between filling your deer tags or going home empty-handed. While there is no single scope perfect for every hunting situation, the Swarovski Z8i 1-8x24mm comes pretty close. Not only does this scope provide bright, clear, crisp images, it is also chock-full of other high-end features.
Swarovski Z8i 1-8x24mm
This is a high-performance, top-of-the-line scope, and it definitely comes with a top-of-the-line price tag. We know the cost will put this scope out of the reach of the average hunter. However, if you can fit this in your budget, you’ll be glad you did.
If not, any of the other scopes on our list will help you line crosshairs with whitetails to gain hunting success.