A Western-Worthy Scope That’s Actually Affordable?

When the elk hunting was easier than expected, an affordable new riflescope from EOTECH offered all the light transmission and clarity needed at the moment of truth.

A Western-Worthy Scope That’s Actually Affordable?

I’ve been around long enough to know that when fate hands you an easy hunt, you take it gratefully and savor it, because that kind of luck is rare. But still, I can’t help feeling a little bit like I cheated at elk hunting.

My guide, Jeff Klein, and I did some scouting the night before the hunt to make sure the herd was still in the general area we thought they were. Feeding in the meadows during the day, retreating to the mountains at night—right on schedule. We made a simple plan for the next day: There was a grizzly in the area, so we’d wait until we could see a little bit without flashlights, then hike horizontally across the face of the hills and find a good spot to set up and try to ambush the elk as they moved from the flats to the mountains.

And that’s what we did. Half an hour before legal shooting light, Jeff and I along with a buddy, Dave, climbed out of the truck and gained very little elevation before we began hiking parallel to the meadow. We didn’t have to go far—I bet we walked less than half a mile, checking the flats with our binos periodically to try to make out elk in the pre-dawn darkness. Jeff kept laying out his hopes for the morning with “If we’re lucky” statements: “If we’re lucky, they’ll be down there and that bull will still be in the herd.” “If we’re lucky, they’ll wait until after legal shooting light to head up.” “If we’re lucky, they’ll go this way and not that way.”

We set up in front of a small brushy tree and I settled my Seekins Precision Havak PH2 on the shooting sticks, got comfortable, and chambered a round. “If we’re lucky,” Jeff said, “they’ll come up in front of us, not behind us. And if we’re lucky, they’ll walk up somewhere around that bush out there, which is about 175 yards.”

We were lucky, and they did. As if following Jeff’s script, not 10 minutes after legal shooting light, the herd headed up the mountain in front of us, ambling single-file just past that bush. I got comfortable behind the gun, one hand on the magnification lever in case the animals moved and I had to zoom out quickly. “Four more cows will pass the big bush and then it’ll be the bull,” Jeff whispered.

After the trigger squeeze, I looked up while jacking another round into the chamber, and the bull was gone. I had a split second of panic until Dave whisper-hollered “He’s down!” It was the first morning of my first elk hunt ever, and it was only 15 minutes into legal shooting light. And it was over before I had really even experienced what elk hunting was like! As I said, I’ve learned to take the easy ones when I can get them, and later that week, I shot a mule deer that didn’t make the task nearly so easy. Another hunter in our party killed his bull that first morning, too, but Dave and the fourth hunter in camp spent the next three days huffing and puffing up and down mountains, taping blisters and chasing bulls. You know — elk hunting.

The author shot her elk just a few minutes into legal shooting light.
The author shot her elk just a few minutes into legal shooting light.

I’ll almost certainly never experience such lucky elk “hunting” again, and the circumstances are what made it seem so easy. However, I’ve learned the hard way over the years that even the simplest hunting excursions can be sabotaged by faulty equipment, and the trust I had in the gear I was using made a 200-yard shot in dim light a slam-dunk.

The hunt was sponsored by EOTECH to promote their brand-new Vudu X scope, which officially debuted to the world on January 1, 2024 and should be shipping out any day now. I chose a 2-12x40 with an illuminated BD1 reticle, sitting on that Seekins Havak PH2 chambered in 7mm PRC, shooting Hornady Precision Hunter ammo (175 grains). The Vudu X is EOTECH’s answer to a common problem they’d noticed with their popular Vudu line.

“We launched our standard Vudu line in 2016 and really grew it into a great product line,” EOTECH’s John Bailey told me in camp. “It has a pretty broad magnification range and first-focal-plane and second-focal-plane options. That line is doing extremely well tactically but not hunting-wise or recreationally. We discovered it’s just overpriced for that market. It’s really kind of high-quality, high-performance, Japanese glass, all that. Your tactical shooters will buy that, but your hunters just aren’t buying it.

“Then we looked at our competitors and what they are selling,” he continued. “We talked to dealers about what price point is the bigger seller. So we decided to make Vudu X, and our initial push is second-focal-plane scopes with magnification options that really work for hunting, 3-gun and recreational use. It still carries a lot of features and benefits of the Vudu, but at a more reasonable price.”

While I shot the 2-12x40, the Vudu X also debuted in a 1-6x24 “because LVPOs are just ridiculously hot,” John said. “You have to make one. We investigated, and still the most popular magnification sold is a 3-9x40 — but most of them sell under $199 MSRP or thereabouts. It tells us that that magnification range is what people are looking for. So we did what we think is a little bit better — we gave you a little less magnification on the low end, more on the other, so you still have your 3-9 but you have more capability either way. We think it’s a good all-purpose optic. You can hunt it in the East in brush and heavy forests on low power, or you can do what we did this week out West, where you’re going 300 to 400, 500 yards, and you have the magnification to do it.”

Indeed, while my elk was shot at around 200 yards, I killed a mule deer buck later in the week at a bit over 300, and had more than enough magnification to watch that buck work his way in from much farther out. But more importantly, the Vudu X didn’t let me down in low light. When that bull elk emerged from behind the bush just a few minutes into legal shooting light, there was absolutely no question what I was looking at and no problem seeing clearly to make a clean shot. Those first few minutes and last few minutes of legal light are where a scope either fails or rises to the occasion, and the Vudu X didn’t let me down.

Jeff, who has been guiding for elk for many years, agreed, and shared his thoughts on hunting scopes for the wide-open spaces of Montana: “If you’re going to be looking at stuff in low light, as we do all the time in hunting, I like a good quality scope so you can still see. I like a variable scope so you can have it at a low power then be able to crank the power up once you’re on a target and still retain clarity. We never push the time as far as shooting light, but with a variable scope, low power gives you a little more light in the first and last five minutes of legal shooting light. That said, there’s no reason to have more than 12 power in my opinion.”

With high-quality AR-coated glass, the Vudu X scopes are crystal clear, even on the highest magnification setting. They’re built on a 30mm tube and have capped turrets (MOA based) with a simple zero reset feature, and the magnification throw lever is removable if it doesn’t suit your purposes. You can get it in a simple crosshair reticle or the BD1 reticle with circular ballistic holds at 2MOA intervals — this reticle is my personal preference. Both reticles are illuminated and run off a CR2032 battery. Front and back flip-up scope caps are included, which is a nice touch that every optics company ought to be offering standard, in my opinion.

EOTECH’s regular Vudu line starts off at an MSRP of about $1,400, but the Vudu X I used retails for $859 — a considerable savings without a big trade-off in features or glass quality. The 1-6X retails for $799.

The bottom line? You don’t need the highest-tier scope money can buy in order to make reliable shots on game at moderate distances in low light. High-end optics are great and absolutely have their place, but you don’t HAVE to have top-tier glass to successfully hunt out West. You don’t even need to drop a grand on a mid-range scope from one of the classic big-name brands for your big-game hunt of a lifetime. Do clarity and light transmission matter at those critical moments at dawn and dusk? Absolutely they do, but they can be had affordably from a brand you might have previously associated with tactical optics. The EOTECH Vudu X line, which will be expanded beyond the two initial offerings, brings EOTECH’s military-tough testing and production quality to the hunting world at a price that will leave you room for the taxidermy bill.


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