The Binocular Site
How To Choose Hunting Binoculars
While hunting, your binoculars can be invaluable. They allow you to track game more easily and alter your movements to ensure the best position for good shooting. Whether you’re on the hunt or setting up camp, binoculars can help you plan ahead and work strategically.
When out hunting you need tools that are tough enough to stand up to the environment and to the odd bump or scrape. Exterior armor is a must along with choosing binoculars listed as waterproof.
Weatherproof, water-resistant, rainproof or other claims are not good enough. Only waterproof binoculars are guaranteed not to fog inside or leak. This will also indicate that all parts are sealed to prevent damage from dust and dirt as well.
You will want to look for lens caps that are attached so they can protect the lenses without being lost mid-hunt. Finally, there’s a wide range of harnesses, straps, and cases that provide an extra layer of protection and keep your hands free. They can also make a big difference in comfort and usability during long hikes or when carrying a lot of equipment.
Lens size is another important consideration to the hunter for two reasons – field of view, and light. Larger lens are heavier and more expensive, but offer a wider field of view when game is moving, along with allowing more light to move through the binoculars.
This ensures your set will be useful if you hunt at dawn or dusk or in poor weather conditions. Since game is moving at these times, you don’t want binoculars that only offer a dim image because of the low light. With the wider field of view, you will be able to scout more area at once.
If you are hunting during legal shooting hours, 40 to 42mm will do well. For scouting at night a 50 to 56mm lens will be worth the added investment. That said, 30 to 32mm can work relatively well while remaining fairly compact.
Finally, some lenses provide aiming references known as scaled reticles. These reticles appear as crosswires or other shapes, allowing you to zero in on your target, and when a scale is shown alongside them it’s much easier to estimate distances. This added feature may be well worth a look when you plan to track game over distances.
Hunting is one time binoculars can be better at lower magnifications. A 7x or 8x magnification is often best since it provides a wider field of view with less adjustment to focusing. In short, this allows you to see more terrain quickly and easily without fumbling with focusing adjustment. It also means when game are moving, you need not adjust focus constantly to keep them sharply in sight.
Larger magnifications are more prone to problems with movement – in other words, the slightest trembling of the hands or body make getting a clear image impossible. This is another reason why lower magnifications can be an advantage, since they’ll better adapt to a little unsteadiness when you stop for a moment mid-hike.
That said, in open country and when hunting small game, you might find a slightly higher magnification hits the mark. If you’re hunting prairie dogs it can be worthwhile to have that higher magnification and spot them at a longer distance, whereas such strong magnification is of no benefit in close quarters like the bush or for big game.
Zooming is a feature of some binoculars, yet these type are never waterproof and are often more delicate, meaning they don’t stand up as well in hunting conditions. Finally again this may add weight, and you don’t want to be stuck using a tripod to use the zoom effectively.
Roof prism binoculars are more compact and easier to waterproof well. They are also more durable and less likely to get damaged. For best results also look for phase-corrected coatings on your roof prism. Alternatively, Porro prisms can be higher quality at a lower price, so the trade-off may be worth it for you.
There are two main focusing options – center-focused, which focuses both eyepieces at once, and individual eyepiece focus, which requires independent focus for each eyepiece.
Center focus is more common and quicker to work with. Independent eyepiece focus is more easily waterproofed but not effective at close ranges. Again you will need to make this choice by considering your preferred hunting strategy.
When hunting, binoculars can be as sturdy and useful as your rifle. They can offer you a competitive advantage, allowing you to spot and track game more effectively. Investing the time and money in a strong, durable set of binoculars allows you that extra bit of strategy to get the job done.