Best Scope Magnification For Deer Hunting | Hunting Magnification Explained

What is the best scope magnification for deer hunting? This is a question I get a lot, especially from new hunters. It seems pretty straightforward – hunting at close ranges means a low magnification scope, and hunting at long ranges, the opposite is true. But there is more to it than this rough, one-sentence summary.

When I help people choose a scope magnification, I ask them a series of questions. In this article, we discuss these questions to help you decide what scope magnification is ideal for your hunting environment and physical capabilities. We also give a brief overview of some other relevant concepts. Enjoy the read!

How To Pick The Best Scope Magnification For Deer Hunting

Scope Magnification for hunting

1) Scope Size & Weight

The magnification range plays a major role in the scope size and weight. Typically, a heavier and larger scope has a higher magnification. Finding the balance between size, weight, and performance is pertinent to ensuring you get the best scope for deer hunting.

If you are hunting in densely brushed areas or participate in long hiking trips during your hunting adventures, then that high magnification scope will quickly become a burden.

2) Field of View

The higher the magnification, the narrower the field of view. For deer hunting, you want a quality scope that has a wider field of view, allowing you to easily spot deer and track them when they are moving. Many of the best scope for 6.5 creedmoor have a very wide field of view.

3) Scope Lens Quality

The scope lens quality is extremely important to me. I prefer to pay the extra $50-$100, knowing that the scope I buy has a high-quality optical system. These lenses have smart, fully multi-coated lenses that have optimal light transmission while minimizing light reflection. Many of the AR-15 Best Scopes that I buy have top of the line lens quality.


The better the lens quality, the better the visual image. A crisp image is vital when hunting in low-light conditions or at high scope magnification to ensure you can accurately visualize the target and perform accurate shot placement. I rather opt for a lower magnification scope that has a higher lens quality than opt for a higher magnification scope while compromising on lens quality – trust me on this one.

4) Required Shooting Distance

Another important factor that influences the scope magnification you should use is the average shooting distance you are hunting at. If you are hunting in the mountains or in wide, open areas, then chances are that the majority of your hunts will be long-range shots. Therefore, a long-range scope with more magnification is better. However, as we learned in our post about where to shoot pigs not all animals are hunted from the same distance.

In comparison, if you rely on stealth when hunting and the majority of your hunts are in areas with dense brush, then you will need either low magnification scopes or low variable power scopes (LPVO scopes).

5) Your Specific Use Case

Finally, I ask myself what is my primary use case. Obviously, in this case, it’s deer hunting. But how do I perform the task? Do I walk and stalk, partake in drives, or sit at a waterhole and wait for the deer to come to me? Answering these questions is very important in deciding what magnification in your rifle scopes you should opt for. The Best Hunting Scopes have a wide range of magnification options!

If your primary use case is walk and stalk, you predominantly practice mid-range shooting and sometimes long-range shooting. Therefore, a medium-ranged scope is ideal. For the other two applications, you predominantly practice close-range shooting. Hence you will be looking for a low scope magnification – prioritizing a wider field of view and fast target shooting.

Also, consider your skill level. If you are a beginner, then a lower magnification scope may be more forgiving and will be better for your deer rifle. However, experienced deer hunters prefer higher magnification scopes to ensure more precise shots.

Most Popular Deer Hunting Rifle Scope Magnification

Generally speaking, a good magnification range to go for is between 3x and 12x. This range provides you with a good balance between target acquisition, shot placement, and field of view. Even though you can’t go wrong with the magnification range mentioned above, I like to choose my magnification range based on the environment I am hunting. Therefore, here is a guideline you can use:

  • Low magnification (3x-5x): Walk and Stalk in densely brushed areas or waiting at the watering hole
  • Medium magnification (3x-7x): Drives and walk and stalk in more open brushed areas.
  • High magnification (5x-12x): Walk and stalk in wide open plains and mountains
  • Extremely high magnification (7x-15x): Varminting

Which Reticle Is Best For Deer Hunting?

There is an abundance of reticles out there – you can check our article on scope reticles. I’ve used almost every reticle I can think of on deer hunts – some work exceptionally well, while others…let’s just say I’d rather stick to using them on the range.

Therefore, the best reticle I can think of for deer hunting is:

  • Beginner: Standard duplex reticle or variations thereof, like the V-Plex.
  • Densely brushed areas: An illuminated thin crosshair reticle, ensuring fast shot placement.
  • Mountains and open areas: A BDC reticle, like Vortex’s Dead-Hold.

What Type Of Scope Is Best For Deer Hunting?

We, as hunters, are fortunate enough to have a wide variety of scopes to choose from for hunting deer. However, not every type of scope works as effectively as other types.

For close-range hunting, I prefer an LPVO over red dot scope. For medium and long-range hunting, the best rifle scope is the standard MOA type and has a second focal plane reticle – a prime example of this is the Crossfire II I have mounted on my .300 Winchester Short Mag.

Difference Between Shotgun vs Rifle Deer Hunting Scopes

Although a shotgun and rifle scope may look very similar, they have distinct differences. This is because they serve the same purpose (provide a more accurate aiming platform for hunting deer than a simple iron sight), but they have different methods of achieving this purpose. These distinct differences include the following:

  • Magnification: Shotguns are used for close-range shooting, specifically within 100 yards – if a slug is used. In comparison, a rifle is able to achieve ranges well over 100 yards and still ensures an ethical kill. Therefore, the magnification ranges between 1-4x and 3-12x for the shotgun and rifle scopes, respectively.
  • Reticle: Because shotguns are used at close range, hunters need to rely on fast target shooting to ensure they bag a deer. Therefore, shotgun reticles typically are either a simple dot or crosshairs. In comparison, rifle scope reticles can have bullet drop compensators and even windage compensation.
  • Parallax adjustment and Eye relief: Shotgun scopes usually do not require parallax adjustment, and they also have extended eye relief. Meanwhile, rifle scopes, especially those with higher magnification, have parallax adjustment and have shorter eye relief than shotgun scopes.
  • Durability: Shotgun scopes are built specifically to tolerate the intense and unique recoil produced by the shotgun.

What’s The Best Magnification for Hunting Binoculars?

Again, it depends on where most of your hunts will be. In densely brushed areas, a 6x – 8x magnification is perfect. In open areas and in the mountains, you want a magnification of between 10x and 12x

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a 6 24x50 scope good for hunting?

A 6-24x50 scope is overkill. The odds of utilizing the 24x magnification are very slim. Plus, the extra weight you carry because of that 50mm objective lens and high magnification might become a burden when hiking on your hunts.

What magnification do I need for 300 yards?

I find a 6x magnification perfect for hunting at 300 yards and a 9x-12x magnification ideal for target shooting at 300 yards.

What magnification is needed for 500 yards?

A 10-15x magnification is perfect for shooting at 500 yards. You can even go as far as 20x+ magnification.

How much magnification for 100 yards?

I prefer a 5x magnification for hunting at 100 yards - it's a great in-between magnification, providing a balance between shot placement, target acquisition rate, and field of view.

The Bottom Line

We are fortunate enough to have a wide range of magnification options for our deer hunting scopes. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every magnification is suited for your physical capabilities and hunting environment. When choosing a magnification, always remember to consider what distance you will be hunting – a low magnification is perfect for close-range shots, and a higher magnification is suited for walk and stalks in open areas. In the end, the magnification comes down to your use case and personal preference. Happy hunting!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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