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River Valley Outdoors
Every deer hunter knows that exhilarating sound; dry leaves crunching on the forest floor on a chilly and crisp November morning.
As I sat listening to the approaching deer, my mind raced. Would a big-racked buck suddenly break through the veil of thick vegetation that surrounded my position?
As often happens, I only got a quick glimpse of the buck. I quickly looked through my 3x9 scope and could only see a brown patch of hair filling the lens. I couldn’t pick out an exact spot on the deer, even though the scope was turned down to its lowest setting.
I didn’t expect the deer to come so close and couldn’t fire because I didn’t know if I was aiming at the hair on a foot, a hind quarter, or ear. The big buck vanished back into the heavy cover and left me sitting there completely frustrated. I never expected a deer to come in so close that it would render my powerful scope useless.
If the deer had presented a fifty-yard shot, even a thirty-yard shot – I could have easily dropped the animal. Or, if I would have had open sights on my rifle, the shot would have been an easy one.
When I got home, I immediately started to search for a solution to this dilemma.
At first, I thought I could just fix the problem by always hunting with open sights. I outfitted my lever rifle, a Marlin CB .45/70, with tritium-painted XS peep sights (xssights.com) – a ghost-ring in the rear and blade up front.
I also mounted the same type of XS peep sights on a Marlin 39 .22 caliber rifle for small game hunting, replacing the factory open sights. Shooting this .22 gave me plenty of cheap practice and helped me become a better shot with the big .45/70 lever-action rifle I used for deer hunting.
This sighting system worked fine for a few years, until my aging eyes forced me to go back to the magnifying ability of a scope. I also worried that the buck of a lifetime might appear at two-hundred yards – way beyond the distance that an open-sighted lever-action rifle could be used.
So…back to the drawing board.
My next solution came as a result of reading several books by highly-published outdoor writer, the late Col. Jeff Cooper. Cooper’s scout rifle system was designed to give soldiers the best of both worlds – the quick acquisition abilities of open sights for close-quarter-combat, and, at the same time, the option of magnification for long range shooting.
The Leupold Company (leupold.com) Scout scope, a 2.5X28mm with 9 inches of eye relief, was made for just this type of system designed by Col. Cooper. I purchased one and mounted it on Ruger’s Frontier Rifle, a light-weight .308 caliber designed with Cooper’s scout concept in mind.
The longer eye relief allows the shooter to keep both eyes open when aiming, and see a full view of everything in front of them. This system allows the shooter to place the crosshairs exactly where they want at any distance, and at the same time have a complete view of whatever it is they might be aiming at and the surrounding terrain.
Running deer shots are easier, because the hunter keeps both eyes open and the hunter won’t lose the deer if it moves too fast or jumps out of the narrow view of a conventional scope.
Modern scopes that now have an electronic dot for aiming can also be mounted so that both eyes can be kept open, and used in the same way as the original scout scope. The glowing dot, used as an aiming point, presents a halo-graphic image that lets the hunter point with both eyes open.
At the same time, these newer scopes still utilize crosshairs for accurate shooting at longer distances if necessary – truly the best of both worlds.
I’ve just ordered a new 3x9x40 scope from Leupold with their FireDot G illuminated dot. I can’t wait to try it out this season on some of the huge bucks that roam the mountains around the Androscoggin River Valley. It should work fine on my hunting rifle as the perfect solution for these aging eyes.