To most hunters, optics are magic black tubes. Binoculars conjure deer. Riflescopes place bullets across great distances. But how do you tell a good optic from a lousy one without relying on price or brand? You measure its performance with scientific repeatability, then you give it to a group of hardcore hunters and shooters and ask for their practiced assessment of details like focus knobs (precise or mushy?), eyecups (do they stay or stray?), and image quality (are the edges of the picture crisp or blurry?). Judgments are made. Scores are recorded. Then we argue over which we think are the best optics of the year.