It really depends on what/where you're hunting but you can get away with a quality pair of 10x binoculars and no spotting scope most of the time. Especially if you're not concerned about trophy quality.
You will save yourself miles of walking to get a better look if you have a good spotting scope though. If you're wanting to build your optics bag start with the binoculars and buy a spotter next year.
A friend of mine bought a pair of the 12x50 Swarovski EL's this year. I would have thought they would be a bit much to carry and hold steady off a tripod but he swears by them. I haven't personally tested out the Vortex line but they get good reviews.
There is nothing like a good pair of binoculars. Like I once read on AT, only a rich guy can afford cheap binoculars. The Zeiss FL's, The Swarovski EL's with Swarovision and the Leica Ultravid HD's are top of the line. You can get the Vortex Razor HD's for half of the Euro models and they are almost as good. The Vortex Viper HD and the ZenRay Ed3 are very good for the money. You get what you pay for when it comes to glass, you do not have to have the expensive Euro models to have a good pair, but skip the cheap ones.
I would go with bino's as well.
Take a look at the latest (first) issue of Extreme Elk Magazine. Aron (Elk Reaper) just did a pretty good head to head comparison of bino's in all different price ranges. The Vortex Razor HD's did well in the upper mid range.
Binos for sure but go one step further and get either the Zeiss or Leicas with the bino and rangefinder combo. I had a pair of the leicas and they were really good. This past year i sold them and bought the zeiss and they are even better. A little pricey but worth every penny. the main reason i went from the leicas to the zeiss is the button for the rangefinder is on the right on the zeiss where it is on the left for the leicas which for me was a little awakward. both are great optics though
I guess I'm the only weirdo that would take my spotter over binos... Where I hunt it's purdy darn open n I could live without my binos... Where I hunt. Then again my young legs don't seem to notice the extra weight just yet so I haven't had to really decide between the two so I just take em both!
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