What magnification would be necessary in a spotting scope for hunting in Alaska? Also what magnification scope would be good for sheep and/or goat hunting?
As high as possible.
If you havent hunted in Alaska much, you'll be amazed the distances often covered compared to other states. Nothing like looking at a moose 1 mile away, across a swamp, and KNOWING that he ISNT legal. I hunt with a friend who has a 60x and he has saved us from countless wild goose chases. The higher the better I say. Just bring a lower power pair of binoculars to find the animals. I have a good pair of 7x binos that paired with the 60x, makes a pretty efficient system.
Quality makes a difference
I had a cheep 60x scope and I had a lot of trouble getting anything clear through it. I liked it because of its compact size but I was at bear camp with a friend and we were comparing side by side with my cheep winchester and he had a leupold gold ring hd in 12x-40x and wow what a difference. Through mine I could only tell it was a bear if it moved but that was about it and through his we could even make out the ears at over 1.5 miles. Needless to say I now own a Leupold gold ring HD 12x-40x it is also small in size and really, really clear I have used it bear, moose, goat, caribou hunting and love the thing.
One thing I have noticed with a really high power scope is that you start to get a lot of distortion off the ground IE heat waves so when it is zoomed all the way in it is blurry and even the most expensive spotting scopes cant get away from that. Some days I still have using the full 40x in mine due to bad heat waves.
A good 40x is way better than a cheep 60x If you are going to use it for sheep/goat hunting I would look into the leupold it is compact in size and is very clear
I'm gonna agree with 0321Tony on his answer.
Between heat mirrage and wind vibration, I seldom zoom up above 40 power. Therefore, 40 or 45 power is all I ever need.
I can remember piling rocks on top of my Leopold spotting scope in order to eliminate wind vibration while glassing rams. And heat shimmer is a factor even in Sept and Oct.
(Archives are full of these threads also.)
Even with TOP end optics it's a rare day when atmospheric conditions allow for you to actually use 60 power. Frequently 40-45x may be all you'll be able to use regardless of what you have. A lot of sheep hunters guides I've spoken with use 15-45s.