There are places where you need a spotting scope for hunting. It may not be absolutely a must but can help in many ways, which will be discussed below. As soon as you say there are places where spotting scopes help, you can quickly say there are places where there is little value in them. Let’s discuss where they can be instrumental and if a need is a valid word in this case.

Short answer:

Every trophy or big game hunter needs a spotting scope for hunting. With a spotting scope, you can set up for a long-distance shot in. However, if your game requires more movement and you don’t usually shoot farther than a couple of hundred yards, having a pair of professional binoculars will suit your need more.

However, need is an interesting word.

Let’s think about the following

When do you need a spotting scope for hunting?

  • To tell if your quarry is legal.
  • If a trophy hunter to see if it is a trophy?
  • When the landscape is huge
  • To save on hiking.
  • To prepare your long range game.

When do you not need a spotting scope?

  • When your trail camera gets the data for you.
  • When you can never see more than 80 yards
  • When it is so flat, you cannot see far, and you have no raised platform to see from.
  • When your game requires movement

So the answer really depends in what kind of hunting you want to do, because in some cases having a scope is precious.

So do you need actually need a spotting scope for hunting?

I always have a spotting scope with me. I carry one in my truck. When hiking, I carry it in my backpack. When on horses, I carry it in my saddlebags. I think it is needed a lot of the time. This is especially true because I hunt mostly in the west, where large mountain ranges reach the skies. These places consist of lots of public lands. Much of this public land is hunted hard, and animals go into places where many hunters do not want to go. Or they go into deep timber, which is hard to see into. Having a spotting scope to look either very long distances or to look into the timber and pick out even slight parts of the game is key to finding them. For these reasons, I use a spotting scope. The vast landscape in the west holds animals. But not like the farmlands of the mid-west and east. There are many miles of country with very little game. To find a game, I use my spotting.

One year I drew an excellent elk tag in Idaho. We knew some really good local guys who would take us to places they knew elk frequented. Sometimes we found the elk, and sometimes we would not. We were taken up on a mountain that was thought to hold good numbers of elk. We found no elk and no sign. While taking a break from riding and looking, I took out my spotting scope. I looked across a farm filled beautiful valley to the mountains on the other side. The friend I was with asked my brother what I thought I was doing. My brother said somehow he finds stuff far away. I found the elk on the faraway mountain. I am pretty sure I even saw antlers. I saw where they were bedded in a cedar canyon. With this information, we rode off that mountain. Grabbed lunch in a small town and went up that other mountain and hiked down to the canyon the elk were in. I was able to sneak right into the bedding area at dusk and found a great bull. That was totally done because I was able to find the elk from many miles away. My friend had hunted his whole life and never used a spotting scope to scout with, especially at that kind of range. He said today I learned a lot. This was the very last day of the hunt that we were able to harvest this bull. Without a scope, we would not have gotten an elk. On that day, a spotting scope was a need.

When is a spotting scope needed?

Using a spotting scope can save you miles and miles of hiking or riding. Also watching game is quite fun. So the use of a spotting scope in the west is often an essential tool.

There are many times even bow hunting I use a spotting scope to plan stalks and see if an animal is one I want to go after.

For my kids, I often need to know if an animal is legal to shoot before I talk them into hiking or riding miles to hunt the game. Seeing if a spike is legal is hard from far away. Or if hunting antelope if the bucks are of legal size. Sometimes it is even important to make sure that an animal has no horns if you have a cow or doe tag—nothing like a spotting scope to help you prove this.

There are many places where a spotting scope is not needed. If you are in timber, you cannot even see into. Why carry a spotting scope. Or if hunting small farms or woodlots, there is very little value to a spotting scope. Often using game cameras and binoculars is all you need.

Sometimes lands are so flat, and there are no elevated hunting stands that looking far away is not possible. Carrying a spotting scope and a tripod is of very little value when hunting flatland’s with no place to gain an elevation advantage.

Do you need a spotting scope for elk hunting?

Spotting scope is good for elk hunting in areas such as Colorado. As the elk gets pushed into very remote places, there are mountain tops that you can go to and look over many miles of area. Having the view from above will let you spot elks, and plan your game to hunt them.

We hunt elk in Colorado, as there are lots of elk’s and lots of hunters. The elk gets pushed into very remote places. There are mountains and tops of cliffs that we go to that lets us look over many miles of country. We have been very successful hunting like this. Spotting elk one morning and then going there that night or the next morning to hunt them. They may be many miles away and lots more miles to get there. Canyons that you cannot even get through, so you have to go around or know your way around to get to where the elk are. You can only find these elk at these distances using a spotting scope.

Using a spotting scope

To use a spotting scope, you need a few other pieces to make it valuable. Either a window mount to hold the scope or a tripod to hold the scope. I use both. I have a very large tripod to hold my scope steady in the wind. I even carry it on my horse and in my backpack to make the scope of much more value. A scope that is not held steady is of very little use and no use when looking for long distances. Most small tripods just do not cut it when holding the large spotting scopes we use. Since we ride horses a lot and sometimes we are rough on gear. I carry my scope in a padded case so that it does not get broken. This is not needed in a backpack because you can take much better care of your scope when it is on your back and not on a horse’s back. A scope that is broken is not of much value either. Yes, I have broken a few of them over the years.

For most of the hunting, I like to go with a spotting scope, which is a valuable tool. I would even go so far as to say a spotting scope is a need for many types of hunting.