Best Rifle Scope for Deer Hunting: Our Top 8 (Including Low Budget Options)

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Deer hunting a primary lifestyle for so many who depend on the meat, fur, and hide to provide a living.

So, what are the best deer hunting rifle scopes to fill your tag and put some game meat on the grill?

If you were to ask any of the 15 million hunters in the United States who take to the timber and open fields for their tucker, you might hear a few of the same scopes mentioned over and over again.

I’m here to confirm that some scopes really are worth the hype by highlighting price points, configuration, reticles, and more. I set a criteria to pick a handful of the best, and I compare them all.

QUICK LIST: 8 Best Rifle Scopes For Deer Hunting In 2024

  1. Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15×42 – Best Overall
  2. Trijicon Tenmile 4.5-30×56 – Best Long Range
  3. Maven CRS.1 3-12×40 – Best Lightweight
  4. NightForce SHV5-20X56mm – Best Low-light
  5. Athlon Ares BTR Gen2 4.5-27X50 – Best Value
  6. Sierra6 BDX 2-4×40 – Best Smart Rife Scope
  7. Vortex Diamondback 4-12X40mm BDC Reticle – Best Budget
  8. Vortex Viper HS Long Range 4-16X50 – Best SFP

Best Deer Hunting Rifle Scopes

Top 8 Best Rifle Scopes For Deer Hunting

What do you think about exposed turrets, FFP reticles, thick tubes, and long-ranging systems that you may never need in a hunting lifetime? These scopes kill it out in the long-range field and competition, but a handful of them can serve for the hunt.

Not really looking for ballistic turrets, parallax correction, or long-range specialty features? Don’t worry, I have SFP and simple holdover reticle scopes in this lot too. But, how much is it going to cost you?

The reality for many hunters is the fact that they don’t have two grand, a grand, or even $600 to spend on the best scopes for hunting.

This is where I come in to show you what top dollar can buy you if you can afford it, and what scopes “make-it” more than “break-it” out in the field when you’re strapped for cash.

You might just fill all your tags this season with hyper-accuracy that’s worth bragging about for decades. The proof is in the rack that’s mounted to the wall.

1. Vortex Razor HD LHT 3-15×42 – Best Overall

Like the Lord of the Rings’ one ring to rule them all, this is Vortex’s scope to rule them all. After delivering features that shooters and hunters want in a Razor scope, it has been appropriately dubbed the one scope that rules them all.

Pros:

  • Excellent glass
  • 80 MOA
  • Locking turret
  • Zero stop
  • Capped windage

Cons:

  • Push button illumination

To get the curiosity out of the way, the push-button illumination is not a flaw. Straying from the norm of a turret dial for illumination, Vortex helps to keep weight down with a push-button design. It’s different, but it works.

The scope couldn’t be more perfect: made in Japan with APO and indexed lenses, ED glass and glass-etched reticle, and the HSR-5i reticle with a center illuminated dot. The 30mm tube body allows for 80 MOA elevation and windage travel. Better yet, the windage is capped and the exposed elevation turret is lockable and comes with the RevStop Zero System – essentially a zero stop ring.

If things couldn’t get better than this, the scope also comes with the fixings such as lens caps and a sunshade, but it also comes with a coupon to Kenton Industries for a customizable turret. High-end enough for ya?

Vortex pulls out all the stops for this scope. It’s not just a Razor HD scope, it’s a scope that rules over all.

2. Trijicon Tenmile 4.5-30×56 – Best Long Range

For hunting mulies out West, the new Tenmile scope provides extreme long-range performance that only Trijicon can do in Trijicon style. This 4.5-30×56 configuration is available with FFP MOA and MRAD Precision Tree reticles and SFP MOA and MRAD Long Range reticles.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Dual illumination
  • 34mm tube
  • Extreme adjustment travel
  • Zero stop

Cons:

  • Not the best warranty

Pricewise, the Tenmile falls in the mid-range, somewhat affordable market for its specs and is consumer designated to be competition for the Meopta Optika6, Leupold Mark 5HD, and Zeiss Victory V8. As a result, the Tenmile offers excellent value given its price point.

It has a large 56mm lens with ED glass for more light, brightness, and color fidelity with more power than 25x scopes. The FFP reticle is ideal for long-range work and competition and is extremely precise for milling targets and holding over.

With dual illumination in red and green, it has five intensity settings and is adjusted via the third turret that doubles as the parallax correction (side focus). The SF is adjustable from 20 yards to infinity. The tube is 34mm wide and allows for extreme 100 MOA (29.1 MRAD) and 50 MOA (14.5 MRAD) in E/W adjustment. The windage turret is capped. You can also install the zero stop on the elevation turret for that hard return to zero.

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The Tenmile comes with a sunshade, Tenebraex flip caps, scopecoat, throw lever, battery, tools, and a vinyl logo sticker. Unfortunately, Trijicon’s warranty is not as good as the no-questions-asked, no-receipt-needed warranties of other manufacturers. It’s covered for a lifetime but only to the original owner and the electronics are warrantied for five years from date of manufacture.

The Trijicon scope is big but not unlike comparable scopes of the same configuration. At 14.33” in length and 36 oz in weight, it deserves to be put on a rifle that can handle it and is made for distance. For mid-range to long-range muley and elk needs out West, the made-in-Japan Tenmile is a worthy choice.

3. Maven CRS.1 3-12×40 – Best Lightweight Scope

The 3-9×40 was a favorite deer hunting configuration but then hunters wanted a little more than 9x power. Maven just released their new CRS hunting scopes and the CRS.1 3-12×40 meets the demand and new standard for deer hunting – we should know, we tested it!

Pros:

  • Price
  • SFP reticle
  • C-series glass
  • Compact/lightweight
  • Made in Japan

Cons:

  • No illumination

Not every hunter wants illumination, but it would be nice to have a red dot as an aiming point in lowlight conditions as an option. Nevertheless, things are simple to streamline your deer hunt.

What the CRS.1 does have is a wire SFP CSHR reticle. The design is based off the RS.1 SHR style with thin, center crosshairs, simple BDC points, and thicker posts. In the SFP, you’ll need to move to max magnification for accurate holdovers, but we found that the reticle remains highly visible in the low power and does not change size.

Based off the C-series of binoculars, the CRS.1 has award-winning optical quality. Maven has built a reputation of having extremely clear and sharp glass, and with the 34-8.5 ft of FOV, you’ll come to appreciate the crisp optics. I only experienced a minor degree of field curvature at the very edges at max power.

The scope itself is designed to be lightweight to mount to your favorite muley or whitetail hunting rifle. Weighing in at 14.18 oz, you’ll give yourself a break as you hike the mountains or stalk the lowlands.

The turrets are capped and kept from unintentional changes while in the brush or in the truck cab. They move in ¼ MOA and offer 50 MOA in both elevation and windage travel to dial in for those longer shots just in case. Adjustments are audible and I was able to feel them even with gloves on.

In true Maven style, it’s nitrogen-purged for fogproof protection, submersible to 3m for waterproofness, and it’s covered under Maven’s Unconditional Lifetime Warranty. With user simplicity and rugged rigidity in a whitetail scope configuration, get out and track the elusive buck that you’ve so cutely nicknamed over past seasons. Maybe with Maven, this season will finally be it.

4. NightForce Optics SHV 5-20X56 – Best Lowlight

Hunters who buy NightForce know how important it is to spend more on your scope or at least equal to what you spent on your rifle. They know that a quality scope is what will land you your trophy rack at the end of the day.

The SHV is made for the shooter, hunter, and varminter, and there is nothing shy about this scope. With a huge 56 mm objective lens, 30 mm tube, and a serious illuminated MOA reticle, no deer can hide, strut, or leap away from you ever again.

If you’re serious about long range shooting, the SHV is a NightForce. NightForce is the definition of putting those “beyond” distances into reach. Deer too far? Not anymore!

5. Athlon Ares BTR Gen2 4.5-27×50 – Best Value

The BTR Gen2 scopes with FFP reticles are the best scopes Athlon offers for street prices under $1000. For the money, the BTR Gen2 4.5-27×50 is one of the best long-ranging hunting scopes for chasing whitetails.

Pros:

  • Price
  • FFP illuminated reticle
  • HD glass
  • Zero Stop
  • 3.9” eye relief

Cons:

  • No locking turrets

The 4.5-27×50 configuration has two MOA reticles and a MIL reticle. All FFP reticles are illuminated with intermittent ‘off’ positions on the third turret. Eye relief is 3.9” at its longest, and you do need to be perfectly within the eyebox at max power.

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Impressively, the optics remains clear at max magnification without milky clouding or loss in resolution. The BTR scopes have Wide Band FMC coatings, and the objective lens has an exterior Xtra Protecting (XPL) coating, but there is no mention ED glass, only ‘HD glass.’ They are not equal, and you’ll need to upgrade to the Ares ETR series for ED glass.

The oversized, exposed elevation turret has the Precision Zero Stop System and is a highly desired feature in high-end scopes. The only thing that it lacks that hunters wish it had are locking turrets.

The erector system is CNC-machined aluminum and turrets are made with stainless steel – tracking is expected to be flawless. Clicks are a tad on the light side but still reasonably tactile. Adjustments are in ¼ MOA and turrets have 80 MOA of total travel.

It’s not bad at all in the size/weight department with a 13.8” length and 27.3oz weight. It’s waterproof and fogproof with argon gas – another indication of top-tier quality. For long-range performance on a budget, the Ares BTR Gen2 is one of the best scopes for the money.

6. Sig Sauer Sierra6 BDX 2-12×40 – Best Smart Riflescope

Overall, the Sierra6 BDX scope is as smart as it gets. To make those long-distance shots on deer, the BDX feature is a must-have. It provides ballistic solutions out to 800 yards, has a digital SFP reticle, and has been field-tested with a Sig Sauer BDX rangefinder to make the most of its potential.

Pros:

  • BDX tech
  • Illumination
  • Digital reticle
  • Waterproof
  • Feature-loaded

Cons:

  • Price

The Sierra6 is not a cheap scope copping in just under $1000. But what can put you over the limit is adding a BDX rangefinder to the buy. I highly recommend it since you’re ranging deer to begin with, it’s worth it if you want to streamline the process for those long shots.

BDX (Ballistic Data Exchange). What is it? Basically, range the deer and get an instant aiming point on the reticle that has been computed for the distance and the conditions. It’s that easy. When paired with a BDX rangefinder, like the KILO1600BDX that I field tested, it was a piece of cake to bond the two optics and get immediate ballistic solutions in real-time.

However, getting that data exchange is only good for up to 800 yards. Of course, you’ll also want to confirm actual drop for the distances you’ll be shooting prior to any hunt.

Wondering if it’s legal? The Sierra6 is no different to any illuminated reticle scope as far as electronics go with the exception of the BDX feature. And there’s no lasers in it – that would be the job of the rangefinder.

I really liked the MOTAC and LevelPlex features. It also has the KinETHIC feature which I don’t think I’d use, but it’s certainly there to provide feedback about the energy of your shot for the distance ranged.

During my hands-on testing, I mounted the Sierra6 to various rifles, used it with the BDX LRF, and manually configured it to a predetermined ballistic group. It’s easy to use even though it’s a souped-up smart scope. For its streamlining potential, especially when paired with a BDX LRF, it’s a convenient and valuable tool in the hunt.

7. Vortex Diamondback 4-12X40 – Best Budget

This is the perfect example of what a deer hunter will want in a rifle scope. You have a little more reach for flexible shots over a 3-9×40 and an uncomplicated BDC reticle. With quality optics, fast focus eyepiece, light weight, and full weatherproof housing, you won’t be left wanting.

The Diamondback is about as simple as you can get without compromising on overall quality. That’s why we love Vortex and many other buyers do too.

To take down deer within comfortable ranges that don’t require advanced, long range ballistics and state-of-the-art tech, this scope will get ‘er done.

Vortex knows how to deliver value. Do you know how to jump on it?

8. Vortex Viper HS Long Range 4-16X50 – Best SFP

It might seem like overkill to put this on your rifle for sub-200-yard deer hunting, and it is. But, if you’re taking longer shots than this, or you hope to be, the Viper HS may be your ticket into actually making those long shots count and not as an unintentional warning sign to deer to get the heck out of there.

The Viper HS is a favorite for deer hunters who appreciate the robustness of the 30 mm tube, its zero reset and tactical turrets, and Vortex’s iconic optical clarity. The attractive element of the Viper is the quality, features, and magnification offered in this price range. For these reasons, the Viper HS Long Range scope should be on your wish list if you want value in your scope buy!

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What to Look For in a Rifle Scope For Deer Hunting

On average, deer hunting scopes should have mid-range magnification, a good size lens, and perhaps illumination to see those crosshairs on that hide come first or last legal light.

Here’s where I give you an idea of what features and specifications to compare to confidently depend on your scope day-in and day-out for many hunting seasons to come.

Cost

Overall, I’ve mentioned a few top-end brands, but I’ve also tried to keep the deer hunting scopes relevant with affordable options. You can get a lot of ‘scope’ with $300 but you can always get more when you spend more.

Regardless of cost, a hunting scope must retain zero and repeatability.

ProductPrice RangeFeatures
Deer Hunting Riflescope Price & Features Comparisons

Glass & Coatings

In total, the best hunting riflescopes will have crisp, clear glass made with calcium fluoride elements that constitutes it as a scope with ED glass. The extra elements in the glass provide edge to edge resolution and minimizes chromatic aberrations. Not all scopes with HD glass will have ED.

Almost all riflescopes now will have FMC (fully multi-coated) lenses save for the very budget scopes usually under $150. Additional coatings such as an exterior protectant will add to scope performance and durability.

ProductGlass TypeCoatings
Deer Hunting Riflescope Glass Type & Coatings Comparisons

Configuration (Magnification & Objective Lens)

There was a day when 4x fixed power scopes and the 3-9x configuration were the end-all be-all for hunting. It’s not that way anymore as we’re seeing 3-12x and 4-16x as the new standard for deer hunting configurations.

Typically, the larger the objective lens, there is the potential for more light transmission and thus a brighter, clearer sight picture. This is vital in various hunting conditions, but along with high magnification, it also adds weight.

Inherently related to glass quality, almost all scopes will optically perform at their best in the lower power ranges. Due to the degradation of resolution at max power, especially noticeable in lowlight conditions, it’s essential to consider glass quality, lens size, and where what magnification ranges you see yourself using most of the time.

ProductMagnificationObjective Lens
Deer Hunting Riflescope Magnification & Objective Lens Comparisons

Specifications

Whether it’s knowing how much of a field of view you’ll have or if a scope has enough eye relief, there are some specs that you must know about before you buy.

I’ve compiled the eye relief, FOV, and parallax setting as must-have specs that may have a drastic effect on your decision.

ProductEye ReliefField of View (@ 100 yards)Parallax TypeParallax Setting
Deer Hunting Riflescope Eye Relief, FOV, Parallax Type & Parallax Setting Comparisons

Reticles

On average, what you’re hunting and how far you shoot will often determine the type of reticle that is needed for the hunt. For deer hunting and inside 500 yards, even the most simplified BDC reticles will more than suffice.

However, as hunters become proficient in the long-range field, or backcountry hunting is the terrain, a scope with more power, larger reticle, and illumination can make all the difference.

ProductReticleReticle Focal PlaneIlluminationAdjustment Value
Deer Hunting Riflescope Reticle, Reticle Focal Plane, Illumination & Adjustment Value Comparisons

Build Quality

Overall, zero retention is the first quality feature where a hunting scope must prove itself. If it can’t hold zero, you cannot depend on it in the field. This is hard to measure without buying and testing it yourself. Look to tube erector systems and recoil-resistance ratings can give you an idea.

Measurable specs that can provide a good idea related to mounting and durability include its size and resistance to the elements.

ProductLengthWeightTubeFog/Waterproof
Deer Hunting Riflescope Length, Weight, Tube & Fog/Waterproof Comparisons

Warranty

On average, most warranties are becoming very competitive with transferable, unconditional, lifetime guarantees. However, some warranties may require registration, proof of purchase, or may limit coverage if a scope has electronics, i.e., illumination.

Check out the warranty to see if it adds value to the scope or if there’s too many limitations that deter you from the buy.

ProductWarranty
Deer Hunting Riflescope Warranty Comparison

Many Prey, One Scope

Hunting deer has been done for eons. It’s primitive, fulfilling, and it provides. While you don’t specifically need a scope for deer, one for bears, and one for coyotes, a good deer scope should be able to cater to many hunting applications.

The trick in finding the right one that’s going to be versatile enough is to pay attention to magnification ranges to determine how far your hunting yardage is. Always spend on quality where it matters most – glass and zero retention.

Further Reading
  • How to Measure Scope Ring Height (With Pics & Calculations)
  • How to Adjust a Rifle Scope: 6 Scope Adjustments Explained!
  • How to Level a Scope on a Rifle [Step-by-Step With Pics]
  • What is a Rifle Scope Ruler (Mildot Master) & How to Use It?
  • How to Lap Scope Rings (& Is Lapping Really Necessary?)
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>