Most of us have a single binocular that will take us from September archery deer hunts through December late-season goose shoots and will still be the optic we reach for come April’s turkey seasons.
While your fidelity to that single binocular is admirable, if you open your expectation—and your wallet—just a bit, you’ll find that you can capably enlarge your collection of optics while building a library of gear that is purpose-built for each of your seasonal pursuits. Happily, Vortex has the line of optics and accessories that can transport a hunter or shooter through every season, boosting your success and enjoyment without breaking your budget.
Here are the best combinations of Vortex gear for each of our favorite pursuits.
BEST STARTER WHITETAIL KIT
Let’s start with the set-up that has the widest appeal to the greatest number of North American hunters: affordable gear for deer hunting. Here’s each element of this essential collection, and why each should be part of your kit:
- BINOCULAR: Go with the Crossfire HD in either 8×42 or 10×42. This is Vortex’s entry-level roof-prism binocular, but its high-definition glass, precise controls, and included GlassPak harness give it performance and value well above its appealing price. For a little more optical horsepower at first and last light, when deer hunters need it most, consider moving up to the Diamondback HD line. I like the 8×42 for the best combination of portability and optical brightness.
- RANGEFINDER: The Crossfire HD1400 is all a deer hunter needs. The basic rangefinder has a whopping 1,400-yard range, though it’s closer to 750 yards on deer-sized targets. Among its attributes: both line-of-sight and angle-adjusted functions, three target modes, and a whisper-light 4.8 ounces.
- RED DOT: Not every deer hunter uses a rifle. For hunters with crossbows, pistols, slug guns, and straight-wall lever guns, a fast-pointing red-dot sight beats a low-power variable scope in close quarters like dark timber, woodlots, and even tight stands. I like the Crossfire Red Dot for simplicity, high visibility 2MOA dot, and included co-witness mounts that allow shooters to use iron sights when they want.
ESSENTIAL MOUNTAIN HUNTING GEAR
Backcountry hunts will test the mettle and the weight of all your gear, and the elevation, distance, and rugged terrain you’ll cross put a premium on durable, lightweight optics. But they also have to function, because you won’t have the luxury of a backup or quick repair if things go sideways (or straight down) in the high country. Here are some essential components that can be mixed and matched to arrive at the perfect combination for your hunt, whether it’s public-land elk or the bighorn sheep hunt of your dreams.
- SPOTTING SCOPE: Go with the Razor HD. A suitable alternative is Vortex’s Viper HD, but the Razor—I like the 22-48×65 angled eyepiece model—has the best combination of excellent optics, a hunter-friendly magnification range, durability, and portability. Tipping the scales at 3.7 pounds, it’s not light, but that weight comes from high-end glass and durable armor, features you’ll rely on to resolve antlers across a plunging canyon.
- TRIPOD: Pair your spotter with Vortex’s best-in-class carbon tripod. I’d opt for the Summit Carbon II with panning head. The package weighs just 2.5 pounds but supports 22 pounds and packs into an 18-inch pocket, thanks to its four telescoping leg sections. It includes an Arca-Swiss head that mounts directly to your spotter, and the control is a light but precise 2-way panning head that enables full mobility and locks tight. The tripod does double-duty as a platform for binoculars, too.
- BINOCULAR: Keeping with the weight-saving theme here, combine a best-in-class rangefinder with your binocular for extreme portability and quick deployment. The Fury HD 5000 packs a 5,000-yard (more like 1,600 yards on deer) rangefinder into a trim and right 10×42 binocular. Mountain hunters will appreciate the Horizontal Component Distance (angle-adjusted) feature, but for those who might need to make a long shot, the angle-corrected shoot-to-range feature is priceless.
- ACCESSORY: Add one of Vortex’s binocular adapter studs to the threaded receiver on the front of your binocular hinge. That simple accessory will accept Vortex’s Pro Binocular Adapter, a handy device that easily mates with the Arca-Swiss mounting hardware of tripods, allowing you to stabilize your bino for easy both-eyes-open glassing.
- MONOCULAR: For the minimalist hunter, Vortex’s monocular series brings high-quality magnification in an extremely small package. Leave both your binocular and spotter at the trailhead and pack the 8×25 SOLO. It weighs less than half a pound but delivers 8-times magnification and its textured body enables tons of stabilization options, from the crook of a tree to your pack frame.
PRECISION SHOOTING KIT
Not all our pursuits are in search of game. Some of the most challenging experiences you can have outdoors are with a precision rifle, testing your accuracy at targets more than a mile away. To consistently ring steel plates, you must not only have unsurpassed experience with your rifle, but you must rely on precision optics to guide your bullet. Here’s an assembly of gear that will make you a better shot at the firing line, but also at any hunting pursuit.
- RIFLESCOPE: For the most serious competition shooters, there’s no substitute for the Razor HD Gen III precision scope. With a monster magnification range of 6- to 36-power behind a 56mm objective lens and built on a 34mm tube, this is one of the most advanced precision optics on the planet. With tactical-style turrets tuned to either MOA or MIL click values and an extremely precise first-plane reticle, this is a professional-grade riflescope. For those who might not want to sink $4,000 into a riflescope with a singular purpose, consider Vortex’s extremely affordable Venom, a 5-26×56 precision scope with all the attributes of the Razor but at a price that enables anyone to get into the long-range shooting game.
- ACCESSORY: Add a 34mm Lo Pro Bubblevel to your scope to eliminate accuracy-robbing cant. This simple aftermarket accessory ensures, with a quick glance at the leveling bubble, that your reticle is square to your target.
- TRIPOD: Your big chassis rifle and 3-pound scope require plenty of support, and the Radian tripod and ball head will allow you to shoot from a variety of positions with the rock-solid rest you need for long shots. The 4-section legs support 55 pounds and accept either a ball head or a leveling head.
- RANGEFINDER: Connecting on targets at ranges in excess of a mile requires a rangefinder that does a lot more than tell you the distance. You want a unit that also computes trajectories, can offer an aiming solution for various wind velocities and directions, and factors humidity, elevation, and temperature. You need Vortex’s Fury HD 5000 AB, one of the most sophisticated precision shooting aids on the market. The guts of the unit are the same 5,000-yard ranging engine we talked about above, but the AB designation refers to Applied Ballistics Elite trajectory solver that’s built into the unit, providing the ability to create custom ballistic profiles and to borrow from an extensive library of bullets and their ballistic coefficients. The unit also pairs with both Kestrel and Garmin devices to get real-time wind and atmospheric readings. The Fury HD 5000 AB’s display provides drop and wind solutions in the display, so you can keep the unit deployed, receiving range, and aiming prescriptions without lowering the binocular.
Sponsored by Scheels.