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Need Help choosing a Spotting Scope!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/10/2011 at 00:13
BrushyHillGuide View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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Joined: March/09/2011
Location: Sabinal, TX
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I need help picking a spotting scope for work- I am the ranch manager for a large South Texas hunting ranch and I'm the head guide. The ranch is primarily thick brush and we don't have a LOT of elevated places to spot from, so the maximum range I will be spotting from is about 600 yards; and 75% of it will be inside of 400 yards.  Most of my spotting will be from a vehicle and where I will be carrying it, I won't have to tote it over long distances on foot. So, weight is less of a concern than it might be in other situations. Primarily I'm looking for whitetail deer and trying to judge their age, antler score and overall health. However, we do offer year-round hunting so I am also out at times looking for exotics, predators and hogs; which means I do a fair amount of glassing at night when the moon is full.

I am only considering Leupold because I am in an outfitter program that will enable me to buy a Leupold spotting scope (my choice of model) for significantly less than a retailer can sell it. Here are the questions I have:

1.  Are the Gold Ring models really that much better than the Kenai models?  Even with my discount there's a LOT of savings if I get a Kenai over the comparable Gold Ring models. I don't make a lot of money so price is always a concern if there's not that much to gain by buying one over the other!

2.  Is the 'HD' really better than the non-HD model?  Would the Kenai HD model be pretty equivalent to the non-HD Gold Ring Model, in terms of optical quality?

3.  What is "HD" when it comes to spotting scopes - what does it mean (technically) and what, if any, are the practical benefits of the feature?

4. How useful/comfortable is the "Angled Eye piece?"  It looks like a much more comfortable/ergonomic setup for glassing in the field and from a truck. I'm pretty tall and it's sometimes hard to use a spotting scope from window mount on a truck, because I have to slouch to look through the eye piece. I would love to hear from some folks that have tried both- to hear their impressions of which setup is more comfortable/useful!

I'm sure their are better spotting scopes out there but these are the one's I'm able to afford. So, please stick to commenting on these two Leupold product lines.

Thanks to everyone that posts!

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/10/2011 at 11:56
Klamath View Drop Down
Optics Master
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You might have some difficulty in finding many comparisons between the two Leupold scopes.  Here is a link to one Kenai review which may shed some light on the subject.
 
One thing that strikes me is the relatively short distances you need the spotter from.  It seems binoculars might be a better tool out to 600 yards, but I can see where a spotter would certainly have its uses.  The next thing that caught my attention is the majority use from the vehicle.  IF that means window mount, a big scope like the Kenai is NOT real pleasant to use as the space is sort of cramped.  If you plan to use the window mount the Leupold GR is a shorter much more compact design and would probably be easier to use from a window mount.  I can't comment on the optical comparisons, but your distances are likely not great enough to separate any difference. 
 
The angled vs straight scope really boils down to personal preference.  You will get a split response base with each having it proponents.  From a window mount, I would use the straight EP.  Even from the truck, I would get a good tripod and fluid head and just set up beside the truck when you stop.  For that use I MUCH prefer the angled EP.
 
HD usually refers to "High Density" in reference to high density low dispersion glass used in the objective.  Certain high density glass types can be used in eye pieces as field flatteners.  I'd advise you call Leupold and put that question to them.  What the HD glass will do in use is correct chromatic aberrations and color fringing.  The HD glass will usually improve color balance and contrast, which may well prove important picking apart a brush filled field of view.  It depends largely on whether or not you and your eyes are sensitive to the fringing or not.  If you are then it should help.  The usefulness of the HD increases with increased magnification too.  If you can swing the HD price, I would.  That will remove one less obstacle in use.  
 
Personally I would get the Kenai with the angled eye piece and a good tripod and fluid head.  The tripod and head are more important, IMO, that what brand of scope.  When picking apart a brushy hillside for deer, ease of scope movement and steadiness of the mount are pretty important.  I see no reason why that would not work in your circumstances.  I would also suggest you try both straight and angled if there is any way possible.  For example if you can order from SWFA or some dealer with a 30 day return for refund try to get both the straight and angled and keep the one that suits you.
 
For window mount use, I'd think you would be better off with the smaller Leupold GR 10-20x50.  When I use a window mount I use a Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 50mm glass.  The smaller size is a lot easier to use than the larger 82 mm scope I have.  In fact I almost refuse to even try to use the large scope off the window mount, which is why I recommend a tripod. Also the 50mm Gold Ring should have plenty of optics to 600 yards.  However a 30x WA fixed EP from the Kenai will show a lot more territory in the field of view.  It will also likely show a more relaxed view as well.  Also the 82 mm objective will have more light and be better in darker situations.


Edited by Klamath - March/10/2011 at 18:22
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/10/2011 at 17:15
BrushyHillGuide View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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Joined: March/09/2011
Location: Sabinal, TX
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Thanks for all the input- it really helps! I'm heading into "the big city" this weekend and there's a Cabelas there. So, I'm going to try to make time to go actually handle and look through the Kanai and GR models.

I was thinking about it and there are actually some big fields where it's probably more like 1200 yards to glass across, so that 600 yards was too low an estimate on my part. I definitely need a pretty high power anyway because I need to see as much antler detail as possible to determine whether or not we want to harvest a particular buck- in which case there's not really any such thing as too much magnification. If they're close, I can just use binos.

Your comment about the window mounts and tripods made a lot of sense. I'm thinking I may just glass from the bed of the truck with a tripod- it'll give me more elevation anyway. Although, I won't be able to enjoy the heater/AC or the radio, lol!

Despite the size, I'm leaning towards the Kenai for it's ability to switch eyepieces, large OL and lower price!

Thanks again!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/11/2011 at 10:38
silver View Drop Down
Optics Master
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I'd skip over Leupold and go Nikon.  You want resolution, not just magnfication.  Magnification alone does not mean you can see things clearly.  If you are trying for 1200 yards, and want to say count points, then you want at least a Nikon, Vortex, Minox, Metopa or the the big three. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/11/2011 at 11:40
FireEMT5 View Drop Down
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While it is more money, give the Vortex Razor a look.  While it will set you back around $1500, it's one of the best for it's price range.  To get better than the Razor you'll most likely be looking in the upper $2000's or $3000 plus range.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/12/2011 at 16:32
Sako7STW View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

 
 In fact I almost refuse to even try to use the large scope off the window mount, which is why I recommend a tripod.


I have to respectfully disagree here.  I use my big Kowa 884 on a window mount all of the time.  I have a Bushnell window mount that has served me flawlessly for over 10 years now.  It is more than stout enough to handle the big scope.  I tried a Burris mount, and like their optics was piece of junk.  A few problems with spotting from a vehicle is you need to shut the truck off if your turned up at all.  If the wind is blowing it will shake the vehicle as well.  I have spent countless hours spotting from my truck with the radio on or listening to audio books and the heater keeping me nice and warm!  Shaky diesels really suck for this, thats why I bought the new Ford V-10, smooth as silk!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/12/2011 at 16:34
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Originally posted by Sako7STW Sako7STW wrote:


 I tried a Burris mount, and like their optics was piece of junk.


Uh, oh ...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/12/2011 at 20:15
Klamath View Drop Down
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Originally posted by Sako7STW Sako7STW wrote:

Originally posted by Klamath Klamath wrote:

 
 In fact I almost refuse to even try to use the large scope off the window mount, which is why I recommend a tripod.


I have to respectfully disagree here.  I use my big Kowa 884 on a window mount all of the time.  I have a Bushnell window mount that has served me flawlessly for over 10 years now.  It is more than stout enough to handle the big scope.  I tried a Burris mount, and like their optics was piece of junk.  A few problems with spotting from a vehicle is you need to shut the truck off if your turned up at all.  If the wind is blowing it will shake the vehicle as well.  I have spent countless hours spotting from my truck with the radio on or listening to audio books and the heater keeping me nice and warm!  Shaky diesels really suck for this, thats why I bought the new Ford V-10, smooth as silk!
Hey, it's a lot about personal choice.  Smile  It is not a bad thing with a window mount, but unless you have a good fluid head on the window mount, I think the window method more or less sucks.  It certainly works better with a straight eye piece (I think anyway).  I've never seen a window mount to match the steadiness of a good tripod.  I have Bushnell and Nikon.  It just works so much better with a good tripod, I only use the window mount for the smaller 50mm scope I have.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/12/2011 at 23:34
Sako7STW View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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Steve, Check out the Vanguard PH-242 window mount.  Fluid head!  I think I am going to order me one of these next month as it has a shoe that is also used on a few of the tripod's they make and i would like to have them interchangeable.  The shoe size itself is pretty big for the big scopes.  Could be a good option??

My apologies if this is approaching a thread poach.
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