For the most part, predator hunting doesn’t require a fancy scope. My favorite predator rifle wears a 2x7 scope with a plex type reticle. It works, but it doesn’t cover every situation, namely night hunting or picking off long range coyotes that won’t come in closer.
Like whitetail deer, I have shot far more coyotes at ranges less than 100 yards than over 200. Shooting big game at 300 yards is generally not difficult; the game is usually unaware and you can take your time getting the range. Coyotes are a different story: the reason they are hanging up is they suspect something isn’t quite right and their patience is already being tested. By the time you range and dial up, they are often gone, even if all that extra movement didn’t catch their eye. Many new predator scopes offer holdover reticles that allow you to adjust your point of aim without dialing up.
The other predator challenge not faced by big game hunters is night hunting: where legal to hunt at night, you simply need an illuminated reticle if you are going to connect, unless you are using a night vision scope.
Let’s look at four new scopes that address these shortcomings.
Leupold VX-R 1.5-5x33 Scout FireDot New to the VX-R line of rifle scopes is the 1.5-5x33 with FireDot reticle. Leupold keeps upgrading its scopes with improvements that are not always obvious, such as the Quantum Optical System, which results in better resolution in low light conditions. When it gets too dark, you can turn on the illuminated dot by twisting the turret on the left side. I used two illuminated reticles on a 21 day hunt in Africa in 2009 and can say Leupold has put a lot of effort into improving their offering. The VX-R 1.5-5X33 weighs 14.2 ounces and is 12 inches long. Suggested retail is $749.99.
Nightforce SHV 3-10x42 I have three 5.5-22X Nightforce NXS riflescopes and I love them dearly. But these scopes are expensive, heavy and bulky to boot. This year Nightforce Optics introduced a new scope meant to cover target shooting, big game hunting and predator/varmint hunting. The scope is a 30mm tube and overall length is only 11.6 inches. At 20.8 ounces, it is 1/3 lighter than the 5.5-22x50 NXS. Retail price is $900, which isn’t cheap, but is still more affordable than the NXS line. The SHV line has a perfect five star rating on Cabela’s website. If you opt for this one, get the MOAR reticle—I love this design. Keith Wood did an in-depth story on the 5-20x50 SHV; you can read it by clicking here.
Nikon M-223 1.5-6x24 BDC 600 IL The Nikon M-223 1.5-6x24 with an illuminated BDC reticle might just be the perfect scope for calling predators and pigs at night. This scope has a 30 mm tube, weighs 18.2 ounces and has a length of 10.5 inches. The turrets can be rotated by hand and the zero reset by lifting the turret to disengage it, rotating to zero and then dropping it into place. The BDC reticle allows you to engage long range targets without dialing turrets. Incidentally, if you use a ballistic type reticle, I highly recommend you zero it at the longest holdover line. For example, if you expect your longest shot to be 400 yards, zero at 400 yards using the 400 yard holdover line. Suggested retail is $799.95.
Burris Predator Quest 4.5-14X There might be better predator hunters than Les Johnson, but I sure haven't met any of them. Les teamed up with Burris to create the Predator Quest line of riflescopes. The Ballistic Plex E1 reticle allows for holdover as well as an estimate for wind drift; it is similar to the Leupold Varmint Hunter Reticle, which has been out for many years now. Like other ballistic reticles, this system is not perfect—what if that coyote is 350 yards away, the wind is blowing from behind at 8 mph? There isn’t a specific aiming point to use. Dialing up and holding for the wind using a reticle like the Nightforce MOAR reticle works better, but it is slower. But if you practice at unknown ranges under varying wind conditions, you will become a lot better at knowing where to hold, especially if you shoot at metal gongs or rocks that provide shot to shot feedback. Rather than holding into space, note where your crosshairs are aiming once you are holding for both range and wind, then focus on that spot—even if it isn’t the coyote. The scope weighs 15.3 ounces and is 13.4 inches. The Predator Quest also comes in 2-7 and 3-9 models. Suggested retail price is about $400.