Though they may be some of the largest game out there, elk are just as skittish as the rest of the deer family, and sometimes this means you’ll need to shoot your shot at range instead of getting up close and personal.
There’s a bustling market of firearm accessories that have many scopes for you to choose from, and fortunately for you, we’ve rounded up five of what we think are the best ones.
We’ve listed their pros and cons so you can see why we think they deserve a place here, but if you need any elaboration we’ve also written small entries detailing how those pros translate into a better elk hunting experience.
Below the list is also a buyers’ guide and an FAQ that the more curious customers can use to get clued up on what makes a good scope, and what makes a good elk-hunting scope specifically.
By learning what to look for in the market, you should be able to zero in on the best deal.
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Why it's our top pick?
If you need to add a telescopic sight to your favorite rifle in a flash, the quickest way would be to consider this option right here.
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II was the scope that topped our list, and so we think the best option for someone who hasn’t the time to read the full list.
Here’s some points for why we chose this scope below:
- Quality construction with aircraft-grade aluminum that makes this scope durable, shockproof, waterproof, and fog-proof.
- Dead-Hold BDC reticle is competent at many ranges, eliminating holdover, and the lenses are multi-coated and are anti-reflective.
- Performs at longer ranges by having an adjustable objective to remove parallax whilst being an affordable scope option in a market full of pricier options.
Elk Hunting Scopes - Comparison Table
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Elk Hunting Scopes - Reviews
The first scope on our list is the Vortex Optics Crossfire II, an affordable scope option from a brand that often delivers very upmarket scopes.
This scope is made from aircraft-grade aluminum to be shockproof and durable, and it’s also o-ring sealed in order to be weatherproofed against water and fog for hunting in inclement weather.
Its multi-coated lenses provide both anti-reflective capability as well as a brighter field of view.
Of the available types, we think the Dead-Hold BDC reticle is the best suited to hunting elk, or just hunting in general since it’s capable at several ranges and makes it easier to estimate holdovers for your longshots.
Speaking of shooting at distances, this scope also has an adjustable objective that allows you to be free of parallax at longer ranges.
This scope does have some problems in low-light conditions, such as the clarity of the reticle when ambient lighting is in short supply.
Our second scope is the Leupold VX-3i Rifle Scope, which retails higher than the number one option but justifies the price with its panoply of zeroing features.
What we’re talking about is the Custom Dial System that this scope has, which is this model’s method of eliminating unreliable shot holdovers by simplifying them.
It also has Diamond Coat ion-assisted lens which allow for more light transmissions, and the Twilight Max Light Management System adds an extra 20 minutes of shooting light to the scope.
This ultra-lightweight scope option is also easy to adjust thanks to its Precision ¼ MOA adjustments that make elevation and windage nonfactors where achieving dependable, long-range aim is concerned.
The product is well-reviewed on all of its product pages, though there is a concern that the thinner turrets on this scope preclude the use of any of your own ballistic labels, though that’s a preference-based criticism.
The third option is the Nikon Black FX1000, one of the pricier products on this list but a look at its features will show you why that is.
The reticle for these scopes is etched into the first focal plane of the scope’s glass. The etchings themselves allow for estimating the range, elevation holdover and the possible wind drift so that your longshots can be as accurate as possible.
On the side of the scope is also a mounted illumination control which has ten settings of increasing intensity to cover a variety of low-light conditions.
We’ve chosen the 4-16x50mm Illuminated Reticle MOA variant, the 6-24x50mm version shares all the same features for if you need a longer-range option but these scopes can get fuzzy at very long ranges.
We prefer the illuminated reticle as it allows for faster target acquisition. The turrets on these scopes are super responsive, being perfect for those swift zeroing adjustments when seconds count to take the perfect shot.
At number four is a scope available in a few sizes, but we settled on the 4-16x44mm version. It’s the Bushnell Engage Riflescope, and it boasts quite a few attractive features in its lenses.
First of all, it has multiple layers of anti-reflective coating that delivers bright imaging through the scope.
The lenses also benefit from the Exclusive EXO Barrier Protection, which is one of Bushnell’s newest lens coatings that repels oil, debris and scratches by molecularly bonding to the glass of the scope.
It also has a trademarked Deploy MOA reticle that is not only compatible with multiple calibers but is thin enough that it doesn’t obscure the elk you’re hunting.
When you’re zeroed in, the turret settings that got you to the shot won’t be disturbed by the recoil thanks to a turret locking feature.
Hunters not used to thinner crosshairs may find the crosshairs to be too thin to be seen in environments with dense vegetation
The last product on the list is the Athlon Optics Argos BTR Riflescope, another affordable option made from durable 6061T6 aircraft-grade aluminum tubing.
The cost of this product isn’t the only thing that’s efficient, as the first focal plane reticle on this model shrinks or grows as you zoom in or out, making sure that it’s never an invalid marking cluttering up the scope.
The lenses of the scope are also multi-coated to brighten your view, which has the effect of enhancing the spectrum of color visible to you.
As you can imagine, this is perfect for not only brightening low-light conditions but also for distinguishing prey from their surroundings.
The namesake of this scope comes from its Argon purging, where inertia gas is used to purge moisture from the tube.
This makes the scope waterproof and able to stand up to harsher temperatures with less complications. Unfortunately, this scope doesn’t hold zero that well hence its position on the list.
Elk Hunting Scopes - Buyers Guide
What makes the best elk hunting scopes
Finding the right scope for you and your rifle can be a chore, but thankfully we have this buyers’ guide handy to explain which features make the best elk hunting scopes.
This buyers’ guide will cover the types of scopes you’ll see being sold, and then the individual components and features of scopes that are desirable for hunting elk.
Types of Scopes
There are a variety of scopes manufactured with different purposes in mind out there on the market. This can make choosing the best type of scope for you difficult, especially if you have a specific use in mind like elk hunting.
Fixed scopes are scopes which have a set magnification power that cannot be changed. The greater this magnification, the closer objects viewed through the scope will appear. You must be sure to be satisfied with the magnification power of your fixed scope as it can’t be adjusted.
The power of the fixed scope you need will depend on your proficiency as a hunter and how close you can or need to get to an elk before taking the shot. Shorter range scopes will be better if you prefer to get closer whereas longer-range scopes are ideal for those who can’t get closer without alerting the elk.
Variable scopes are exactly what they sound like, scopes that have variable settings to their zooming magnitude so that they can tackle closer and longer-range shots. This usually makes them a more desirable choice than fixed scopes since they can change to hunt on different occasions.
There are also night vision scopes, which can be fixed and variable, which use technology that allows for targeting animals in the dark.
Lens Coating and Protection
The lenses are the stars of the show when buying new scopes, so you’ll want quality lenses that are treated to be more durable and deliver a crisp visual on your target. These are achieved via anti-scratch protection and anti-reflective coatings.
Coating can also protect the lenses from dirt and debris, whilst the anti-reflective coatings can also brighten the visual through the scope and enhance the spectrum of color visible so that distinguishing targets from their environment can be easier.
Magnification is purely subjective and dependent on the nature of your hunt. The only way to know which magnification is best for you is to test out the different zooms at various distances.
As for the ideal magnification, the correct option is generally the least powered one that delivers a clear target, so if you plan on shorter to medium range hunting getting a powerful, long-range scope won’t only be unnecessary but will actually sabotage your hunt.
This is because the natural quivers that your reticle suffers at shorter ranges like in a 2½x scope become violent jerks in higher-powered scopes like 20x, making the scope almost impossible to control without a steady hand used to using long-range scopes.
Reticle and Focal Planes
Reticles and the focal plane are the most important parts for targeting with your scope. You may want to have a specific reticle style, but otherwise a duplex style should suffice. Our number one scope above has a BDC style reticle which makes it ideal for longer-range shooting, so definitely seek one of those out if you need more space between you and whatever you’re shooting.
The thickness of your crosshairs also needs to be considered, as some are finer than others. This will largely be a personal preference based on your eyesight and whether you prefer your scopes to be as unobstructed as possible.
The reticle is etched into the focal plane, which themselves are not made equal. For example, reticles are often either situated on the first or second focal planes, and preference changes for each one.
Reticles on the first focal plane are able to shrink or grow along with your magnification, whereas reticles on the second focal plane won’t do this and need to be adjusted manually for wind drift and elevation.
Turrets are the dials that are either placed on the side or the top of the scopes to adjust the windage, magnification, and elevation. There are all kinds of turrets, though for hunting we’d suggest tactical style ones that allow for quick adjustments, perfect for tracking and making follow-up shots at elk whilst hunting.
There are also the more complicated mil-dot turrets and classic quarter-inch adjustment turrets which will get the job done. With these turrets, making sure they have a zero-stop function is handy. This ensures that the zeroed in turrets won’t move when recoil or other slight external forces are acted upon them.
The parallax of a scope is how the reticle shifts depending on how you move your head or eyes. The problems that can arise with parallax get more pronounced the longer the range of the scope you’re using. If you’re after one such longer-range scope, it’d be preferable to have a precision parallax dial so that you don’t have to contend with that.
Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the scope’s lens. Like with parallax, the problems that eye relief can mitigate get worse with the range of your scope, particularly if you’re using a high-profile rifle which tends to go hand in hand with needing longer-ranged scopes.
This is because you’ll require more space so that the recoil of the rifle doesn’t force the scope back into your eye, which can at best cause pain to your eye and at worst leave you with an embarrassing black eye.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the term MOA mean?
The term MOA used in the above list means Minute of Angle, and is a phrase taken from the old use of artillery. Now, we’re assuming you aren’t packing that much power, so we’ll focus on how MOA is used for rifle scopes.
One MOA is one sixtieth of a degree, or one inch at one hundred yards. MOA is needed for adjusting shots, and the product above that mentions MOA has a precision ¼ clicking functionality which means that if you’re firing at one hundred yards away, and your shot falls two inches short, you’ll need to recalibrate your aim upwards till you hear eight clicks, handy for counting your adjustments by ear instead of having to count on your fingers and toes.
What are fiber optic sights?
If you’re considering fiber-optic sights, you should know that they are brightly colored inserts of material into the sight to make them more visible. They’re oftentimes referred to as illuminated sights, particularly with scopes.
They’re handy for ensuring that the reticle is as visible as possible, especially in low-light conditions. BTR in the name of the product, as is the case with the number five scope on this list, stands for Bright Reticle and means that they have the same illumination effects applied to them.