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How to Use a Spotting Scope

by Staff Writer

Hunter using a spotting scope

Things You Need:

  • Spotting scope
  • Tripod or similar support mount
  • Camera adapter (if using spotting scope for photography)

A spotting scope is a good alternative to binoculars and telescopes. Spotting scopes have more range of magnification than binoculars and are easier to carry and more compact than telescopes.

Using a Spotting Scope:

  1. Position yourself so that you will be comfortable, as you may be there for a long time. It is also important that you are able to get an unobstructed view of your target area.

  2. Position your tripod or mount (with the spotting scope attached) so that it is stable. Even small movements can greatly interfere with your viewing at high magnifications with the spotting scope.

  3. Adjust your magnification according to the instructions on your spotting scope. There will be different methods among scopes because different models will use different prism layouts and lens sizes. Also, be aware that some scopes have variable magnification and others have fixed magnification. You may want to use binoculars to locate the general area you want to view before setting up your scope.

  4. View your target area and adjust your magnification and focus accordingly. Remember that the eye relief will vary from scope to scope, but the average is 14mm; however, if you are wearing thick glasses or goggles, you will want to get a model with even more than this. Make smaller adjustments as necessary and remember to rest your eyes if you start to feel the effects of eye strain.


  1. Remember to pay attention to the atmospheric conditions in your target area and viewing area to get the best image quality and use a good stable position for yourself and your tripod. Gradually adjust your magnification to reach the best image quality for your target area and be careful about eye strain during prolonged use. As always, follow the instructions from the manufacturer.

  2. Humid climates tend to have atmospheric effects that will reduce image quality at greater distances. High winds and heat waves can also have a negative impact on viewing.

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