High Magnification Binos vs a Spotting Scope

Scoon

Member
Messages
8
Currently trying to decide whether to purchase some 15 power binoculars or a spotting scope for an upcoming deer archery hunt. Could use some outside opinions.
To preface, I already have a pair of Vortex Diamondback 10x42s that are my go-tos.
I'll be hunting mule deer (with some pockets of Coues deer) in the southwest. I'm not concerned about trophy quality bucks, I'm only looking to determine if a deer is a buck or not. Budget is relatively low. I would prefer not to spend over $800 for optic+tripod. I'm leaning towards purchasing a pair of Vortex Diamondback 15x56s with a high quality tripod. Reason for this is the greater versatility of high power Binos (in my opinion), lower cost, and lower weight (mostly planning to backpack hunt).
I do plan to eventually get a spotting scope, but would prefer a larger budget for one. Right now, my budget for a spotting scope would put me around the Vortex Diamondback 16-48x65. I feel like a spotting scope would complement my 10x42s well.

I personally can see the merits to both options and could sway either way. I would appreciate any opinions on the subject.
I would ask that you please refrain from commenting on my choice in brand. I can tell there is general disdain on this site for Vortex. I understand the argument on both sides. For myself, it is primarily a matter of budget.
Thanks!
 
Messages
45
I bought some Cabelas Euro HD 15x56 binos a few years back which are just rebranded Meoptas. I find them to be excellent for hunting the Southwest. I get significantly less eye fatigue than when using a spotter. They are my go to for glassing large chunks of landscape when attached to a tripod. I only use my spotter if I want to take a closer look at an animal I have already found.

Also, take a look at the bino bandits. They are neoprene shields that fit around the sides of the eye cups to block ambient light. They are quite inexpensive and I have found them to be very helpful.
 

copple2

Active Member
Messages
665
I have been using some 18x56 binos on a tripod and it's been working great! I still pack the spotter as well, for when I want a zoomed in inspection.
 

ridgetops

Very Active Member
Messages
1,863
Yes, whatever you decide 15's on a good tripod are a game changer!
There must be a learning curve to using 15s on a tripod. After using 10x42s and a spotting scope for the past 20+ years, I bought some 15x56 but really struggled trying to use them efficiently. I'll give them another go this summer.
 

copple2

Active Member
Messages
665
There must be a learning curve to using 15s on a tripod. After using 10x42s and a spotting scope for the past 20+ years, I bought some 15x56 but really struggled trying to use them efficiently. I'll give them another go this summer.
I found that a super smooth tripod head helped me a lot. When I switched to the sirui va-5 fluid head, it made things really easy vs my old school style tripod head.
 
Messages
72
No comparison, go with 15's for sure. I guide both mule deer and coues deer hunts in AZ and if I had to choose between 15's and a spotter I would choose the 15's every time.
 
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Messages
72
There must be a learning curve to using 15s on a tripod. After using 10x42s and a spotting scope for the past 20+ years, I bought some 15x56 but really struggled trying to use them efficiently. I'll give them another go this summer.
You have to be very regimented and have a system when using 15's. Everyone has their own way of glassing. Some glass side to side in a grid pattern and some do vertical grids. My personal system is to bounce around from hotspot to hotspot until I figure they're bedded and then I go to a vertical grid. You will miss fewer deer if you do a vertical grid pattern. I see a lot of guys that miss deer right in front of them 200 yards out because they glass side to side and don't bother looking close. A vertical grid helps prevent that.
 
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BrianID

Very Active Member
Messages
1,600
If I could only pick one, it would be the 15X binoculars without question. The spotting scope is nice if you want to get a better look at the antlers but in all honesty, I can evaluated the antlers of any buck that is one mile or less well enough with my 15X binoculars. If I'm in an area that I may be glassing bucks 2 miles or more, then the spotting scope becomes more helpful than the 15X.

For the last 5 years I rarely use my spotting scope for glassing less than a mile unless I just want a detailed view of the antlers or to take pictures. I'll still use my 10X binoculars when I sit down to glass for several hours but normally just use them for 1/2 mile or less now. I've found the 15X very useful for glassing coues deer. Even when glassing brushing hillsides that are 400-800 yards away, the 15X on a tripod are significantly better for coues deer than the 10X on my chest.

I feel like my 15X binoculars make me more effective at finding/killing deer than any other piece of hunting equipment I own (guns, reloading equipment, 10X binoculars, spotting scope, clothing, top end bow, etc). Buy the best that you can afford. Top end glass is expensive but I would rather hunt with $2000 binoculars and a $200 gun with open sights than with $4000 rifle/scope and $400 binoculars.
 

BrianID

Very Active Member
Messages
1,600
You have to be very regimented and have a system when using 15's. Everyone has their own way of glassing. Some glass side to side in a grid pattern and some do vertical grids. My personal system is to bounce around from hotspot to hotspot until I figure they're bedded and then I go to a vertical grid. You will miss fewer deer if you do a vertical grid pattern. I see a lot of guys that miss deer right in front of them 200 yards out because they glass side to side and don't bother looking close. A vertical grid helps prevent that.
Ridgetops needs all the help he can get finding big old bucks because he isn't able to find them on his own. LOL

Whatever he has been doing (I'm guessing lots of time and effort in scouting) has been working very well for him.

It has also taken me time to get use to using the 15X binoculars. I use to pick apart hillsides with my spotting scope 2 of the 4 hours during a morning glassing session. I'll still use the spotter to pick apart distant hillsides or brushy areas but I probably only use the spotter 10% of the time now when in the past it could be 50% of the time. It really just depends on the spot I'm glassing from that will dictate which optics I use most. The wide field of view in 15X is tough to beat for a hillside that is 1200 yards away.
 
Messages
72
Ridgetops needs all the help he can get finding big old bucks because he isn't able to find them on his own. LOL

Whatever he has been doing (I'm guessing lots of time and effort in scouting) has been working very well for him.

It has also taken me time to get use to using the 15X binoculars. I use to pick apart hillsides with my spotting scope 2 of the 4 hours during a morning glassing session. I'll still use the spotter to pick apart distant hillsides or brushy areas but I probably only use the spotter 10% of the time now when in the past it could be 50% of the time. It really just depends on the spot I'm glassing from that will dictate which optics I use most. The wide field of view in 15X is tough to beat for a hillside that is 1200 yards away.
When I first got into optics I glassed with 10's on a tripod. That tripod changed my world. Then I finally got 15's... that changed my world again. I didn't get a spotter until after I had 15's so I've never used it for scanning. The only time it comes out is if I need to pick a buck apart or if I think I see part of a buck. I'm switching to a BTX this year. Between scouting and hunts I'll probably do 1000 hours of glassing between Aug and Jan... I'd really like to do all of that with two eyes... 😂😂😂.
 

BrianID

Very Active Member
Messages
1,600
I picked up the BTX when it first came out 3?? years ago. It is a very useful tool. I still like the 15X for mule deer a mile or less as a general rule. The BTX is really nice for coues. Coues can be so much more difficult to spot than mule deer, especially in brushy areas. My only complaint about the BTX is that the clarity isn't as good, especially in low light when compared to my 15X SLCs.
I'm really thinking about getting the 115mm objective lens this year.
 

jims

Very Active Member
Messages
2,427
There is no comparison between 15x and a spotter for field judging game! Spotter all the way with no looking back! If you aren't interested in inches go for 15x but if you plan on trophy hunting sheep, mtn goat, antelope deer, etc go for 10x binos plus a spotter! 15x may be just the ticket in country similar to Arizona where coues deer are hunting and all the brushy country looks similar but in most country throughout the west where it's possible to glass large areas with 10x there definitely is an advantage to 10x plus a spotter for sizing up antlers/horns.

You will be hiking a lot more miles to size of animals with 15x vs a spotter. When you are talking inches differences between an ok pronghorn, sheep, goats, deer, etc and a trophy there is no doubt I'd grab my spotter. I also can zoom in my spotter and find an ear, rump patch, leg, etc at long distance while a 15x I'll see nothing.

Anyway, I'd love to have a competition between someone using 15x binos and me using my `10x spotter in most Western settings. I'm confident I would find more and bigger game in a shorter amount of time when situated at the same glassing location.

The coues guys that use 15x and are searching for a trophy buck likely have a spotter next to them to size up bucks! It's impossible to do at long range with 15x!
 

BrianID

Very Active Member
Messages
1,600
Anyway, I'd love to have a competition between someone using 15x binos and me using my `10x spotter in most Western settings. I'm confident I would find more and bigger game in a shorter amount of time when situated at the same glassing location.

I would be happy to take you up on that competition sometime but I will need you to take me to your very best hunting spot and you need to prescout it so you know there are some big bucks to look at.

I'll also be bringing my bow if it is during the archery hunt. If you prefer to do it during the rifle hunt, you just need to let me know what unit to apply for and share your points in a group application with me, because I only have 1/3 the points you do and we need to draw it this year.
 
Messages
72
I would be happy to take you up on that competition sometime but I will need you to take me to your very best hunting spot and you need to prescout it so you know there are some big bucks to look at.

I'll also be bringing my bow if it is during the archery hunt. If you prefer to do it during the rifle hunt, you just need to let me know what unit to apply for and share your points in a group application with me, because I only have 1/3 the points you do and we need to draw it this year.
Beat me to it... lol.
 
Messages
72
There is no comparison between 15x and a spotter for field judging game! Spotter all the way with no looking back! If you aren't interested in inches go for 15x but if you plan on trophy hunting sheep, mtn goat, antelope deer, etc go for 10x binos plus a spotter! 15x may be just the ticket in country similar to Arizona where coues deer are hunting and all the brushy country looks similar but in most country throughout the west where it's possible to glass large areas with 10x there definitely is an advantage to 10x plus a spotter for sizing up antlers/horns.

You will be hiking a lot more miles to size of animals with 15x vs a spotter. When you are talking inches differences between an ok pronghorn, sheep, goats, deer, etc and a trophy there is no doubt I'd grab my spotter. I also can zoom in my spotter and find an ear, rump patch, leg, etc at long distance while a 15x I'll see nothing.

Anyway, I'd love to have a competition between someone using 15x binos and me using my `10x spotter in most Western settings. I'm confident I would find more and bigger game in a shorter amount of time when situated at the same glassing location.

The coues guys that use 15x and are searching for a trophy buck likely have a spotter next to them to size up bucks! It's impossible to do at long range with 15x!
Sorry man, 10's and a spotter aren't the best combination for down here in coues/muley country. In the desert where I hunt muleys, there's 1 deer per square mile on average. 10's will not cut it.. The 10/spotter combo might be a great elsewhere but not here. You are correct that a spotter is invaluable for field judging at distance, no doubt there, but the OP stated he isn't concerned with size or score. It makes much more sense to get behind a pair of 15's he can spend the day behind and more consistently extend his glassing range. I have clients bring 10's and a spotter for their first hunt with us all the time. When they come back the following year for another hunt... they come back with 15's and leave the spotters home.
 

BrianID

Very Active Member
Messages
1,600
The other option is to be a fool like me that loads his pack multiple different optic (10X binoculars, 15X binoculars, BTX, spotting scope) and two different tripods. It works well for scouting but it isn’t always practical while hunting far from the truck.
 
Messages
72
The other option is to be a fool like me that loads his pack multiple different optic (10X binoculars, 15X binoculars, BTX, spotting scope) and two different tripods. It works well for scouting but it isn’t always practical while hunting far from the truck.
Man... thats a load.
 

BrianID

Very Active Member
Messages
1,600
Anyway, I'd love to have a competition between someone using 15x binos and me using my `10x spotter in most Western settings. I'm confident I would find more and bigger game in a shorter amount of time when situated at the same glassing location.

I would seriously take you up on this competition sometime but it would probably be difficult to arrange. If you ever come to southern NM to hunt or plan on archery OTC deer in AZ, send me a PM. I also will likely hunt Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada and Montana in the next 2-3 years but most of those trips I’ll probably not have the spare time to have a glassing competition.

A guy that is skilled at glassing with $200 10x binoculars will out glass a guy that is mediocre at glassing with 15x Swarovski binoculars every time. For me 15x on a tripod makes me so much more efficient than than my 10x. Everyone’s eyes are different and skill levels vary but as a general rule, 15x on a tripod will be superior to 10x on a tripod.

Skilled glassers will spot 10 deer for every one deer that most other hunters see. A guy that has glassed the same hillside dozens of times will outglass the guy that has never glassed that hillside.
 
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BrianID

Very Active Member
Messages
1,600
Man... thats a load.
I had that load with me a couple years ago when my brother in law and I doubled up on coues bucks. We put all the optics and other gear in his pack and I put all the meat , antlers and capes from both bucks in my pack. We both had heavy packs coming out.

D8F1F20E-659F-47BF-8E10-6DA1225BFFF6.jpeg
 

Gator

Long Time Member
Messages
17,288
looking at a huge hillside I first hit the top of the trail's that I can see right off and glass down them going side to side of those trail's 20 yards or so. I do a tier search pattern left to right then top to bottom after the trail look.
 

CatfishKev

Active Member
Messages
140
If $800 is your budget for tripod and glass id look at the vanguard 264ao, imo it's the best bang for your buck @ $170 ish. Then when finances allow down the road you could upgrade the head (benro s2 is a good option) but for now the one it comes with is decent. That leaves $630 ish for a pair of 15s. Don't buy new. In that price range I would look for a used pair of vortex kaibabs, luepold santiams, or some older doctors. If you can swing the extra cash next best bang for your $ would be a used pair of meopta 15s, they are really amazing for the price, used $1000-1200.

Another option is renting some glass.

Where you gonna be hunting?
 

Scoon

Member
Messages
8
Thanks everyone for the awesome input. I'll problem stick with the plans to go for the 15s with high quality tripod, and get a nice spotting scope down the road when finances allow for higher quality. I appreciate the outside opinions and confirmation bias!
 

Scoon

Member
Messages
8
If $800 is your budget for tripod and glass id look at the vanguard 264ao, imo it's the best bang for your buck @ $170 ish. Then when finances allow down the road you could upgrade the head (benro s2 is a good option) but for now the one it comes with is decent. That leaves $630 ish for a pair of 15s. Don't buy new. In that price range I would look for a used pair of vortex kaibabs, luepold santiams, or some older doctors. If you can swing the extra cash next best bang for your $ would be a used pair of meopta 15s, they are really amazing for the price, used $1000-1200.

Another option is renting some glass.

Where you gonna be hunting?
Hunting Southwest NM
 

Scoon

Member
Messages
8
Sorry man, 10's and a spotter aren't the best combination for down here in coues/muley country. In the desert where I hunt muleys, there's 1 deer per square mile on average. 10's will not cut it.. The 10/spotter combo might be a great elsewhere but not here. You are correct that a spotter is invaluable for field judging at distance, no doubt there, but the OP stated he isn't concerned with size or score. It makes much more sense to get behind a pair of 15's he can spend the day behind and more consistently extend his glassing range. I have clients bring 10's and a spotter for their first hunt with us all the time. When they come back the following year for another hunt... they come back with 15's and leave the spotters home.
I appreciate this comment. I'm hunting SW NM Miley/Coues country and consider my hunt a success if i even get to see a doe. I'm not concerned about trophies at this point in my hunting career. Just meat on the table. I'm not expecting to see many deer so I imagine a pair of 15s will be more comfortable to use than a spotter for glassing all day
 

Gator

Long Time Member
Messages
17,288
Don't settle for a cheaper pair I wish I had all the money I spent on cheaper glass all those years ago. Make payments is easier in the long run.
That being said if you aren't a guy that can set for hours glassing, the high dollar stuff is not worth the coin if you hunt for one season here and there.
 
Messages
72
Don't settle for a cheaper pair I wish I had all the money I spent on cheaper glass all those years ago. Make payments is easier in the long run.
That being said if you aren't a guy that can set for hours glassing, the high dollar stuff is not worth the coin if you hunt for one season here and there.
I agree 100% with this. It doesn't make much sense to spend $1700-$2300 on glass you use 2 weeks per year. Knowing how to glass is more important than what you glass with.
 
Messages
72
I appreciate this comment. I'm hunting SW NM Miley/Coues country and consider my hunt a success if i even get to see a doe. I'm not concerned about trophies at this point in my hunting career. Just meat on the table. I'm not expecting to see many deer so I imagine a pair of 15s will be more comfortable to use than a spotter for glassing all day
Wise choice. You'll be able to tell if a deer is a buck or a doe from a mile out pretty easily with 15's.
 

Drnaln

Active Member
Messages
362
Glassing thru a spotter is tough. Binos on a tripod are the way to go. If you already have 10's putting them on a tripod will really help. If you can afford & can deal with the extra weight, definitely buy some 15's. If you need to really judge a deer, elk or sheep for size a spotter is necessary for that. Find critters with Binos & size em up with a Spotter. Simple
 

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