Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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Spotting Alaskan Game
Game animals are most commonly active in the low light of early morning and late evening. Quality optics in the form of binoculars and spotting scopes are essential for the hunter to see into the shadows and pick out a deer or a moose from alder or willow branches. In more open country such as tundra and mountain meadows, optics are useful to find game before it sees you.
Binoculars and spotting scopes help you determine whether you are looking at a legal animal and to examine the landscape between you and game. You have a better chance of planning a successful stalk if you can see the ridges, depressions, and brush between you and your quarry.
One of the most important decisions you will make as a hunter is the selection of binoculars. Binoculars are described by two numbers such as 8x32, 7x20, or 10x50. The first number is the magnification. An 8-power binocular will magnify an animal or object 8 times the size you see with the unaided eye. The second number is the size of the front (objective) lens in millimeters.
The more light a binocular allows to reach the eye, the easier it is for you to see well in low light conditions. You can estimate the amount of light a binocular allows to reach the eye by dividing the size of the front lens by the magnification. The higher the number, the more light that will reach the eye. For example, a pair of 7x21 binoculars has a brightness factor of 3 (21 divided by 7); for a pair of 8x32’s the brightness factor is 4 and for a pair of 10x50’s, it is 5. If all the binoculars in this example are of the same quality, the 10x50 pair will be "brighter." You don’t need a "brightness" number greater than 5, because the human eye cannot use any more light.
Spotting scopes are specialized optics for finding game at extremely long ranges or for looking at a specific animal in great detail. Quality spotting scopes are large, heavy, and expensive. They are most useful for sheep, mountain goat or brown bear hunting. They can help you determine the sex of mountain goats, estimate the size of the horns on rams, and the sex and size of brown bears.
Spotting scopes are described in the same way as binoculars; i.e., with two numbers. The first number is the magnification, and the second number is the size of the front lens in millimeters. An example would be a 20x60 or a 15x45 scope. Many spotting scopes are made with variable power lens. As an example, these are described as 15-45x60, which means the magnification is from 15 power to 45 power, and the front lens is 60 millimeters in diameter.
Use of Riflescopes
A responsible hunter never uses a riflescope like a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. If you use riflescopes as binoculars, you are violating one of the essential rules of firearm safety by pointing a loaded firearm at objects or people.
Never use a riflescope for spotting animals. The riflescope is used to help a hunter precisely place the shot in the vital zone and assist the hunter to determine if objects are between the hunter and their quarry. Always carry a variable riflescope on the lowest power setting. If the animal is near, you will be able to make a quick and precise shot.
Riflescopes are described like binoculars, with the magnification first and the front lens size second.