Spotting scopes are now becoming an important bit of kit for many hunters and shooters – they’re more popular than ever before due to us needing good quality optics to assist in taking those long-range shots. Now, with the aid of technology, it’s way easier to capture good quality images or video footage by simply using your phone and an adaptor fitted to your spotter.
An Important Piece of Kit
I purchased my first spotter about 15 years ago – when I started doing a lot more range work with my customers’ hunting rifles. While the cheaper model that I had worked okay at closer ranges, it’d started to lose its performance and clarity at longer distances; more so when I tried to use it in the field to count the number of points on a stag that was constantly moving around at a distance. After that experience, I purchased a top quality one and all my problems were solved.
A spotting scope is a seriously important piece of kit for guiding hunters. I can remember a time, while hunting in some tough weather conditions, when my spotting scope saved me the embarrassment of making a bad call while guiding a hunter on a big trophy stag that was missing a trez tine. I was saved at the last minute when the stag turned to reveal a missing tine – had I not been using a spotting scope, it could’ve been pretty embarrassing for me.
Leupold is America’s oldest optics manufacturer and they’ve been making quality products for many years; they’d be one of the most popular brands Kiwi hunters trust and also offer a lifetime warranty on their spotters, scopes and binoculars.
I’ve been told many a story by hunters who’ve accidentally damaged their optics while out hunting through different incidents which were in no way manufacturer warranty claims or product faults. They were sent back to Leupold USA anyway – to see what they had to say about the damaged products. To my surprise, Leupold – without question – replaced their items free of charge; with this type of excellent back-up service, it’s no wonder Leupold is a successful brand.
What’s New from Leupold on the Spotting Scope Scene?
Leupold have made changes to their spotting scope line-up, adding a few more models recently, and from what I’m told, there could be more changes coming.
The Leupold agent/distributors in NZ sent me the new Pro Guide HD model to test – which would fit in the middle of the current Leupold line-up. The Pro Guide is available in two magnification sizes – 15-45 x 65mm and 20-60 x 85mm – and is available in an angled or straight eyepiece option.
I tested the 15-45 x 65mm model which would be by far the most popular size due to its weight and dimensions.
The Pro Guide spotter has a rubber armour finish which is helpful, as being a heavier and bulkier instrument, they can be vulnerable to taking a knock. In the box, Leupold also supply rubber lens covers for both ends and an extra neoprene custom-fit sock that fits snug to the unit for even more protection is a real bonus.
The focus ring is on the main body tube – the best place for it. I like the focus ring being positioned here on a spotting scope as it’s not confusing – you can find it quickly which can be crucial while hunting when you need to focus the optic without delay.
The glass on the new Pro Guide is Leupold’s proprietary Twilight Max HD light management system. In my research of the product online, Leupold state the SX-4 Pro Guide HD is capable of adding up to 30 extra minutes of glassing light, and I was keen to test this out in the field.
Pro Gear Tripod
I was also sent a Leupold Pro Gear aluminium tripod which I was very impressed with. A tripod is often overlooked when purchasing a spotting scope, and it is, without a doubt, such an important item. As part of my job, I’ve been using a spotter for many years and I’ve found the cheaper entry-level tripods will just simply not do the job, especially if you’re after a spotter for serious hunting or photography purposes.
The Pro Gear tripod, from a hunting point of view, is ideal; it’s very fast to extend and retract the legs, and it’s also very quiet. Additionally, it has just the one lever on a ball head which is again very fast and easy to use.
In the Field
The first outing for the Pro Guide spotter was at the rifle range where we test and set up my store’s customers’ rifles and shoot them out to 400 yards.
I found the Pro Guide very easy to look through and could easily find the projectile holes in the targets from the 400-yard bench – and without getting any eye fatigue which was great. I also found the extendable sunshade handy as it cut down the glare for me; this is easily extended and tucked away when not required.
Now it was time to take it out hunting. The first trip was to the fringe of the Kaweka Ranges where I hunt from time to time; it’s one main ridge running adjacent to the park and a great spot to set up from. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a deer that evening, and the Leupold got a big workout as we looked further and further in the hope of capturing one in the distance. The Twilight Max HD light management system was certainly put to the test, and I found the glass very capable during the critical twilight time with minimum glare and good, sharp imagery. I managed to rig my spotting scope adaptor to fit the Leupold so I could take images and record footage using my iPhone.
TIP: if you’re interested in the photography side while using a spotter, use the timer or countdown function on your smartphone as opposed to tapping the capture button on the screen.
On the second outing, my wife, Janine, joined me for another quick evening hunt at a property I guide on. We made our way to an open ridgetop which is perfect for glassing; we set up the spotter and it soon paid dividends as it found its first deer for the hunt – a red hind was sitting in a shaded area under the trees a long way away. I managed to get an okay image through my phone using my adaptor; we decided to leave her be as the wind wasn’t in our favour.
We then spied what I initially thought was another hind group only to check with the spotter to see a couple of bulbing velvet coronets on the deer – so he was definitely safe from us, too. We decided to change our tactics a little and made our way through a scrubby ridge to look into another face where we spotted a nice red hind to fill my freezer up again – a quick shot from my rifle, and she was down.
My Final Thoughts
As I said earlier, spotting scopes are becoming more and more popular, and the need for good quality optics is essential – especially if you’re regularly taking long-range shots. Leupold offer a few models in the spotting scope range that’d suit different budgets – they’ve produced a bloody good value-for-money spotter with this model which should retail on the shelves for around $1599. If that’s in your budget, then the Pro Guide would definitely be worth checking out.
One of the things I love best about my own spotter is how easily I can capture good images and video footage using my iPhone adaptor, and I was pretty lucky as mine managed to fit the eyepiece of the Pro Guide. After reviewing the Pro Guide, I was advised there is, in fact, a genuine Leupold phone adaptor retailing at $199 that’ll fit easily to the new Pro Guide – awesome!