Tips for Scope Care in the Field

Ron Spomer |

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  1. Be Instantly Ready: You might have an hour to make a shot on some animals, but only seconds on others. High magnification scopes are useful for those careful long shots, but a hindrance when action happens quickly right in front of you. So… Get in the habit of carrying your scope on a low setting such as 4X, 3X or 2X. If a shot presents itself inside of 100 yards, you’ll be prepared to aim and fire. There will usually be no time nor need to turn the power dial, parallax dials, turrets or anything else. Don’t slow yourself down and complicate your shooting by carrying your scope on high power.
  2. Cover the Decks: You can’t see through a scope if the objective lens or eyepiece lens is covered with fog, rain, snow or leaves. Keep some kind of cover over the lenses. See-through lens covers are great because you can see through them well enough to get off a quick shot at close game. You can also reach up and wipe them without worrying about scratching those expensive lenses. Flip up covers are okay, but it takes time to flip off both a front and rear cover. These also have a tendency to break, and in big winds they flap and vibrate. Rubber band/innertube-style covers that snap off under tension can be removed quickly, but their flinging, sling-shot-like action might disturb you or your quarry. Not likely, but possible. Loose fitting neoprene covers come off nearly as fast and also protect scopes from dings and scratches.
  3. Clear the Decks: To eliminate the need to remove any cover from a scope before shooting, be prepared to clear the lenses in a hurry. Keeping a special lens towel instantly handy in a special pocket can do the trick, but you have to remain alert to conditions at all times. You can’t ignore a light rain with the rifle slung from your shoulder. Carry it horizontally to minimize rain drops on the lenses. If it’s damp but cool, be aware that fog and even frost can build up on scope lenses. You can wipe off fog quickly, but frost is tough. I’d rather carry a covered scope than wrestle with scraping frost from it. Carrying it under your arm to keep it warm can keep frost at bay, but then it will surely fog. Be prepared.
  4. Parallax Free: Parallax rarely costs a deer hunter a hit. This poorly understood phenomenon matters for precision shooting at extreme range, but inside 300 yards it isn’t likely to put any shot off the vitals of a whitetail. If your scope has a parallax adjustment turret or objective bell, set it for 100 to 150 yards and forget it unless called upon to thread a bullet onto a 6-inch target beyond 300 yards. More deer have been lost by hunters fiddling with parallax dials than by shooting without this adjustment.
  5. Turn Out the Lights: But only when you leave. If you’re using an illuminated reticle, be sure your battery is fresh and the light is on. One has the tendency to sit on stand as dusk descends and forget all about turning on illuminated reticles.
  6. Be Prepared to Clean: Regardless how you carry or cover your scope, always be prepared to clean the lenses in an emergency. Perhaps a wet leaf fell on the objective. Maybe you kicked mud onto the eyepiece. Disaster can strike at any moment, so always keep cleaning cloths, microfiber cloths and plain paper towels on your person and close at hand for such emergencies. See # 2 and # 3 above.
  7. You Must Dust: Too many scope owners fail to dust their lenses. Store a scopes rifle on its heel in a closet and a blanket of dust will form on the objective lens. You won’t see this as you aim, but it will decrease light transmission and increase flare. Get in the habit of brushing dust from lenses before each hunt.
  8. Remove Spots: Finger prints and water spots can also go undetected when peering through a scope, but they can damage lens coatings over time. Even raindrops can etch into lenses if not dried quickly. Again, get in the habit of examining and cleaning external lenses after each hunt.
  9. Be Gentle: today’s scopes are remarkably rugged and durable, but this doesn’t mean you should slam them around like a sand shovel. Avoid bumps and falls. Don’t use your scope as a carry handle for the rifle. Treat them with respect and a modicum of caution and they should remain zeroed and ready for that big shot.