Hunting Optics

H. DeLong

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Hey y’all. This time I am going to be writing about optics. There is nothing better to startan argument with than optics. But before we start the arguing; I have a couple of items. They deal with the trip to sporting goods store and the possible nightmare that awaits.

It was always the practice that quality sporting goods store employed personnel that were trained or at least had experience in the items that they were in care of. Then came big box mentality and a new meaning for customer service. I am sure many of you have agonized, trying to get a simple question answered about a product you were interested in, only to have the clerk tell you they were filling in at the Sporting Goods counter, usually they were in the golf shoe department…aahhhhhhh!

I guess I would not be a good marketing person, because if a person did not know anything about Sporting Goods…they would not be in there. Just last week I was in a large chain Sporting Goods store looking through the rifles, for a steal. I do find them every once in a while. I wanted to see a particular weapon and asked the clerk for assistance. His name tag indicated he was the Hunting Lodge Manager…ok…so could I see the 799 Remington that was advertised? Well, his response was “Ah, is that a rifle or shotgun?” Friends that is your clue to leave immediately and look for a local mom and pop shop to spend your hard earned money at. I cannot fathom a store or chain of stores so ignorant to have a totally unqualified person in charge of selling lethal weapons. How can they answer an inexperienced person's questions if they do not know the answer themselves? All too often, they simply fabricate a plausible and believeable answer, even if it is out of left field.

I have observed this a number of times. It reminds me of a used car lot in the late 1960's. All the clerk needs is the yellow and green plaid sports coat.

“Do we have deer rifles? Of course we do! We have some of the best deer rifles in the county. This is a Winchester…(he looks down)…I’m sorry, Remington. It's the long hours, I swear sometimes I don't even know my own name. That's why I wear a name tag…hahahaha…This rifle is in 338 Winchester Magnum, perfect for whitetail deer and it's on sale! Why yes, your 12 year-old will be to handle this little beauty. I sold one of these to a lady at my church just last week and she loves it!”

No sir, I will be happy to pay a few dollars more to get the service I expect when hunting items are concerned. No one wants to spend less on anything than I do. But there are times that spending less actually costs more. If you know exactly what you are looking for and how to properly use it, then the big box store can, sometimes, save you money. What many people do not realize is that quite a bit of the “sale” merchandise can very well be last year's stock from some other store or warehouse. Buying left-over merchandise only makes sense if the priced cut is dramatic. I am not objectionable to buying certain outdated items, as long as that item is not scents, attractants or other items that lose there potency with time, which is why many scent manufacturers tell you to discard the scents at the end of your hunting season. Come next season, they have lost their punch. You have to ask the clerk if they are fresh for this year. If you are lucky, some manufacturers, that they carry, date their products.

I am about 5 Maine miles off my topic for this column. A Maine mile can be anywhere from a mile to 15 miles, depending on who gave you the directions! “It's abow ta mile, ayuh”

Now folks are thinking about new optics for hunting season, instead of last January when those optics were collecting dust on the store shelves. That's okay, optics are necessary for many folks, me among them. Where the arguing comes in is over which optics are “best”. Good grief, how I despise that word. Best for who? The only person who can say what optics are best for you is…you. Do not listen to some guy on a hunting channel that says his scope is the “best”…he is paid to say that. Do not listen to some friend who tells you what you should buy. And especially do not listen to the kid from the golf shoe department telling you which one is the “best” buy.

I am asked that very question all the time. My answer is always the same. I can only give you an idea of the optics, in your price range, that I find are good quality and will do the job. I would do that if I worked for the big box store. Tell me a range for your optic budget and I will suggest some for you to physically look through. See which one suits you best, as far as clarity and brightness. That's what it boils down to folks. Forget the ads and hype. Yes Zeiss scopes, generally, are superior in optic quality to a low end scope from anyone. Does that mean you should run out and buy a Zeiss…not at all. Optics, more than many items, are priced according to the quality of the process that produced the lenses (the optic in optics). But if you have $50, $150, $350, whatever your budget says you can spend, to buy a scope or binoculars, it is imperative to find items in that range, pick them up and look through them. Then you can make an intelligent decision. “These will work,” I am attempting to put together some optics in the various price ranges and let you know what I feel about them. All this will be is a guide. How they look to me may not be how they look to you. Here is a quick case and point: Back in the late 80's, a gunshop owner friend of mine convinced me to order a Leupold 3-9X40 Vari-x II for $349. He said it is the “best” scope going. Ok, I ordered it and he mounted it for me. I sighted in on an overcast day, but I felt the scope was a little dark and had a brownish tinge to it. I mentioned this to my friend who told me it was a design feature, great in snowy conditions. I have not purchased anything there since and the Leupold went down the road. Those scopes and the models that followed enjoy a large fan base. But, my eyesight does not match up with them.

A couple of years ago, I needed a cheap scope for my son's muzzleloader. He could only hunt a couple of days (he is in the Army and was in Afghanistan at the time). I went on EBay and won a BSA Catseye 3.5-10X44 and installed it on Tyler's smokepole. I was shocked! It is extremely bright, extremely clear, adjusts perfectly and was $35!! The scope works so well, Tyler wants it left on his gun. Sure, I might have gotten lucky. But I would have still felt better if it were not as good than I felt with a $350 scope I could not use!

That is what prompted me to put together a “guide”. That and listening to a clerk at the big box store tell a customer he should buy the Nikon 4-12, that was on special (it was over-priced to begin with and now they were scrambling to sell it). He looked the customer in the eyes and said “You are new to hunting, then yes sir, THIS is the perfect scope. Sight it in at a 100 yards and, look here, see where it is marked 4, 5, 6, right up to 12? Well, there you go. You see a deer up to 400 yards just hold right on him. Further than that, just match how far you think he is with the number on this ring, right up tom 1200 yards.” You cannot make up something like that. 1968 Used Car Salesman, alright. “Yes sir, this little beauty will do everything you want a car to do, and at the best price in town, my word on it. I will even throw in a hat, breeze and tunes at no charge. Whadda ya say?” In case you were not around then, hat, breeze and tunes translates vinyl top, air conditioning and radio.

When you head outdoors, take a youngster with you. Remember, enjoy the outdoors, just do it cheaply. God Bless.

Posted by H. DeLong under Hunting on August 17, 08 08:09 AM | Permalink

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