Some call me crazy, others just call me a backpack hunter. This past fall I harvested a 6×6 bull six miles into the backcountry where it turned out my partner and I were the only ones hunting the area on foot. All of the other hunters we ran into were riding horses, allowing them the amenities of wall tents and camps that had more luxuries than we could carry on our backs.
Weight was a commodity that we couldn’t afford, so picking the right spotting scope for the season was an absolute must. Several years ago I was shopping for a spotting scope and ended up choosing an 80mm model that was quite a bit heavier than I would have liked but I thought I needed that much glass. Truth be told, I did need that much glass, but only some of the time.
A spotting scope like the Zeiss DiaScope 85 FL has it’s place and that is on hunts where weight isn’t a premium. Here is the kicker, mornings and evenings when the gray light glassing sessions are longer, this scope will outperform its smaller counterparts. From October 15th on, these conditions last longer during the day as well. Picking out a bull elk across the canyon with the big glass in the waning hours of daylight won’t be a problem with this model.
Because weight was a premium for me this season on my elk hunt, I needed something a bit lighter than the 85 FL so I chose the 2lb.-15.3 oz 18-45×65 Zeiss Dialyt. Weighing a full pound and a half less than it’s bigger cousin, the choice was made easier. Cutting weight for a backpack hunt happens in every area of necessary gear and a spotting scope that cut more than a pound off of my pack was incredibly important for this season.
The Dialyt did well in the low light conditions, but the 85’s ability to draw in light from the bigger piece of high-quality glass would have been nice for the long distance low light conditions in some of the basins I got to know very well this past fall. The DiaScope 85 can reach out to great distances with it’s 75 power zoom which would have been nice judging inches on elk antlers in low light conditions.
In the early season bow hunt and late September’s Wyoming mule deer hunt, the Dialyt performed perfectly. However, if I needed a middle of the road, between distance, lighter weight and of course a clear spotting scope that could give me clarity at longer distances than the Dialyt, I would reach for the 3 lb. 8.6oz 65 FL. Because it can zoom out to 56x this scope would meet my needs for longer distances without paying the bigger weight penalty of the 85 mm scopes. This scope would be a great option to bridge early season and late due to it’s ability to meet the needs of hunts across many light conditions
All in all though, most of us will only be able to buy one high-end spotting scope in our lifetime. “Buy once, cry once”, as the old adage goes. Take a hard look at the season dates that you will be hunting and evaluate how much glass you need. Also, look at your objectives for overall pack weight if backpack hunting is what you prefer. After a critical look at your needs and light conditions, it won’t be hard to pick out the right spotting scope.