Seeing red keeps veteran hunters right on target
Accuracy, efficiency are obtained



Roger Shaw (foreground) tries out a Trijicon RedDot sight on his fatherís old .300 Savage deer rifle while Bruce Hussey checks out an Aimpoint H-1 red-dot sight on his new Benelli Super Black Eagle II shotgun.


By Bill Graves
Special to the NEWS
I received a phone call from a close crony last Saturday evening, the first day of deer season was history and he had a sad tale to tell. My buddy, who shall remain nameless to reduce the torment and razzing by so-called friends, had his chance at a nice buck just before dusk, on opening day no less, and wasnít able to seal the deal. Fouling up the opportunity to fill your whitetail tag on any outing is tough, but on day one after a winter that decimated the Aroostook County deer herd, itís downright disheartening.
Events unfolded like this: The seasoned hunter had done his homework, and one particular cut grain field on a secluded section of a rural farm proved attractive to deer on a regular basis. Several does, a spike-horn, a 6-pointer and a hefty 8-point buck kept showing up randomly but regularly enough to be worth a predawn stakeout. Two does appeared just after sunrise, but nothing with antlers visited in the morning.
That evening, after sitting patiently for more than two hours, the sportsman watched the 6-point whitetail make a stealthy appearance with about 20 minutes of legal shooting time remaining. Since the field spanned nearly 500 yards, the wily hunter had selected a shooting spot near the center to eliminate chances for too long a shot. Nonetheless he had his 3X9-power variable scope set to its highest magnification and even carried a shooting stick for added stability.
To his complete surprise the buck stepped out at roughly 50 yards, and before my buddy could alter his scope to a lower setting with a wider field of view, the deer spooked. Perhaps it was a noise, a motion or more likely a scent on the breeze, but in the blink of an eye the whitetail was on the move. Not a flatout sprint, but more of a hopping, bounding dash. Try as he might my pal couldnít get his narrow field optics on the up-close bouncing flash of brown and white hair in the few seconds allowed before his quarry melted into the brush and trees.
Seeing red
Hindsight is always 20-20, so the saying goes, and perhaps if the scope had been set to a lower power to start with, a shootable sight picture could have been obtained. Thereís no doubt a wider field of view would have helped immensely. If the deer had shown up at a greater range, it might not have startled so quickly and there would have been plenty of time to dial up the scopeís magnification. If, if, if.Ö If frogs had wings they wouldnít bump their butts so much! Past problems canít be changed, itís the future situations that need addressing, and thatís where alternative optic options need to be explored.
Since no shots were fired, my friend feels that buck or maybe even the 8-point will return to the remote pasture, and along with a bit of commiseration and sympathy, the main purpose of his phone call was to elicit my thoughts and opinions of red dot sights. What gave the situation a deja vu effect was another similar chat that took place just the previous week with a fellow waterfowl hunter. After an early morning field trip for Canada geese during which this group member missed what he felt were a couple of easy shots, contemplation of a red dot sight for his scattergun became a topic of discussion.
Iím a firm believer in dot sights on turkey guns, slug guns for deer and even shotguns used to pot a few partridge from the roadside banks and stumps. For flushed upland birds or pass shooting waterfowl, my feelings are ambivalent. For young to middle-age shooters with quick reaction time and excellent vision, Iím not sure dot sights are an advantage, but for gunners with health, vision or agility problems, these special optics can make a world of difference in success.
Improper mounting technique, poor shoulder seating or cheek to stock position are operator error conditions that even the best dot sight wonít remedy, but failing eyesight, one-eye sighting and dominant-eye control problems can be corrected to a great extent with a red dot optical sight. For sportsmen unfamiliar with dot sights itís important to differentiate these miniscopes with enclosed illuminated point-of-aim dots from laser sights.
Laser sights actually emit a light-source produced dot through the air over varied distances to illuminate a sighting spot on the target. This type of sight is used most frequently for military, law enforcement, and home self-defense weapons, most often handguns. Dot sights, on the other hand, are most beneficial for target shooting or hunting situations.
From personal experience I can vouch that dot sights are accurate, offer quick target acquisition and are particularly efficient in dawn and dusk low-light conditions, a time when big game is often spotted.
Currently I have three revolvers and a shotgun mounted with dot sights from Aimpoint and Trijicon, and they have performed admirably on birds, bear, deer and small game in an open field setting and particularly well in dense cover. While Iíve yet to try a red-dot sight on a rifle, other hunters have touted their advantages. It should be noted that ó as with any gun sight: open, peep, fiber optics or scope ó accuracy at longer distances is greatly shooter dependent. Itís my opinion that 150 yards is extreme for red-dot sights, with ranges out to 100 yards being optimal, but some practiced riflemen boast 200-yard accuracy.
Select a sight
Itís important to remember that red-dot sights actually project a dot or target reticle onto the front lens of a 1X scope, not the target. The dot appears to be floating in air, allowing single-eye or two-eye shooting as well as offering a full view of the target. Since dot sights boast unlimited eye relief, they can be mounted on any hunting weapon, even a bow, and as long as the shooter can see the dot and place it on target, the shooterís head position is immaterial.
Aimpoint created the original red-dot sight in Sweden in 1975 and it became an instant hit, so to speak, when it became standard optics on rifles for the countryís myriad moose hunters. Aimpointís durability is legendary and these well-recognized sights operate for thousands of hours on a single battery. More than a dozen options comprise the Aimpoint inventory of sights, but the Micro H-1 built especially for hunters is my current favorite.
Weighing in at only 3.7 ounces including the mount, and measuring 1.6 by 1.6 by 2.8 inches, this black, nonglare dot sight fits easily on any hunting firearm or bow without yielding notable change of balance or weight. There are 13 brightness setting for the 4 MOA size dot, lenses feature Anti Reflex and multilayer reflection coatings, and the 3X lithium battery yields more than five years of continuous use regardless of brightness setting.
Rubber-shrouded removable nonglare lens covers protect the unitís glass optics, and the entire sight is not only highly temperature resistant but also submersible to 15 feet. Windage and elevation are easily adjustable to plus or minus one yard at 100 yards with no tools required. Check the Micro H-1 out, as well as the rest of the dot sight options online at www.aimpoint.com or call toll free 1-877-AIMPOINT for more info.
Trijicon, a revered scope and sight manufacturer heavily involved in night vision and military optics, has jumped into the deep end of the dot-sight pool and made a big splash. The Trijicon RedDot sight is currently the smallest, lightest model available. A hardened composite housing shelters the bright LED illumination dot that auto-adjusts for brightness using ambient light conditions as a guide. The sighting lens is a rectangular, hard coated, ultra-clear acrylic that resists scratches and nullifies glare. A form-fitting snap-on cover further protects the optics and prolongs battery life by shutting down the light source when in place.
Weighing in at only half an ounce, the Trijicon RedDot allows 260 inches of elevation and 195 inches of windage adjustment at 100 yards. The single lithium battery offers a minimum of 17,000 hours of life at full power, twice that time when the cover is replaced when not in use. Quick, clean target acquisition is the greatest trait of this mini dot sight and best of all, every Red Dot carries a full lifetime warranty. Visit www.trijicon.com on your computer or call 1-800-338-0563 to get questions answered.
Option three is the Ultradot Four aiming system, a 30 mm tube thatís 5 inches in length and of similar appearance to a miniaturized rifle scope. Weighing in at 4 ounces, this dot sight has external click dials for windage, elevation and brightness so each sight can be individualized to the shooter and even specific targets. Ultradotís most unique feature is the ability to select either a 4, 8, 12 or 16 MOA-size dot with the turn of a dial. This allows the shooter to quickly match a reticle size to an intended quarry at variable distances.
Ultradot Fours come matte black or silver satin finish, and a battery, rubber eyepiece, polarizing filter, tube extension, mounting rings and hex wrenches are included with each sight. A full lifetime warranty also accompanies every unit, so go to www.ultradotusa.com to see this dot sight and several other models, or phone 352-447-2255 to order or ask questions.
My final recommendation isnít a true dot sight in the normal sense, it is in fact a sight that projects a holographic reticle in the form of an illuminated crosshair 50 yards in front of your gun without projecting any light. In my experience itís the fastest of all dot sights to aim and therefore more accurate on running or flying game animals. Bushnellís Holosight is an amazing creation.
Holosights boast unlimited eye relief, from one-half inch to 10 feet, as well as unlimited field-of-view. New XLP versions offer Rainguard lens coating protection, low-profile shape and they operate on two triple-A batteries for at least 100 hours. Screen size is 1.25 by .75 inches and the illuminated reticle is visible in even the lowest light conditions.
Besides being 100 percent waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof, the Holosight has a low battery warning, automatic shutoff, light intensity memory and a dedicated on/off button. Weaver-style mounts fit Holo-sights to most long guns and handguns. Check out this great dot sight at www.bushnell.com. Or call 1-800 423-3537 for information not available on the Web site.
Red-dot sights range in price between $200 and $500, depending on manufacturer, model, and extras, but thatís no different than the cost of any quality optical scope. These hybrid sights may not fit every shooterís needs, but Iíve used them for years on a variety of game and they certainly have their own special niche. Both my deer hunting and water-fowling friends mentioned earlier swear they will be using a red-dot sight before the week is over. Perhaps itís time some of you began seeing red, too.