Deer hunting season is over, and we’ve got some time to consider improving our tools. Telescopic sights are today’s topic.

A majority of Arkansas deer hunters use rifles with scopes on them and for good reason. They improve your chances of making an accurate shot at a deer – if you use them correctly. This means (1) fitting your rifle or shotgun or even handgun with the proper scope and (2) practice shooting with it enough so you acquire competency.

There is no "best" scope or multiple-use scope, shooting experts tell us. You fit the scope to your firearm. That means not trying to use one scope for more than one gun. Your centerfire deer rifle, whether .243, .30-06 or using some other caliber, requires a different scope from your .22 rimfire rifle. Shotguns with scopes can be good deer weapons, but they need a different type scope form a rifle. So do pistols.

Another bit of advice from a shooting expert: Scope sights are like shoes. You are better off in the long run to spend a little more for quality.

OK, first step is to consider what kind of deer hunting you are likely to do with a scope on your rifle or shotgun or pistol. With the latter two categories, it’s safe to assume the shooting will be at comparatively short ranges. Some folks will argue, but 75 yards is about tops with a slug-load shotgun and probably the same with a handgun outside of some specialties like Thompson Contenders with long barrels.

Arkansas deer hunters typically have shots at deer from 50 to 150 yards in woods settings and much longer than that in "bean field" hunting.

Yeah, bean field deer shooting is with us, something of a development of fairly recent times. Deer feed on soy beans and other crops, and they usually do this on the edges. Two hundred-yard bean field shots are common. Some hunters go for longer tries – "if I can see the deer, I shoot the deer." Or shoot at the deer.

We’re talking about rifles here. For Arkansas hunting, a variable-powered scope sight is popular and a good choice. These are designated 2X6, 3X9, 4X12 and such. Adjustments go from the low magnification to the high one and in between. The hunter can find the deer at a low-power, say 3X, then quickly change the scope to 9X for a better look at the deer’s target area.

All this works better when the hunter is in a stable position like sitting in a tree stand with a rifle rest in front of him or her.

Most hunters will want scopes that don’t fog over with cold weather and the user’s heavy breathing in excitement. The cheaper scopes may not be fog-proof.

A trend today in rifle scopes is away from the old see-through or flip-over types that give the shooter the option to use the rifle’s open sights. Many sporting rifles now come without any sights and are meant to be outfitted with a scope.

Hunters have a choice of what they see when they look through the scope. This is the reticle, the pattern that you put on the spot you want to hit. Crosshairs have long been popular. So are post reticles – horizontal line with a vertical post. Some reticles today have tapered lines and posts.

And choosing a scope means checking your wallet. A really good scope can cost as much as your rifle. Most hunters will want to use some money to have the scope installed by a competent gunsmith.

Lastly, plan to invest in some practice time and some practice ammunition — the same loads you plan to use next deer season.