Binoculars are an underrated and underutilized part of the hunter’s arsenal. Any successful hunter knows that being able to spot the animals that you’re hunting for, track their movements and stalk them without being undetected is vital to getting the kill.
Even for those who hunt exclusively from blinds, having a pair of binoculars to grab and look out into the woods is critical to spotting prey that you would otherwise miss. While seeing a large buck in the middle of the field is simple, even at hundreds of yards, seeing the same deer at eighty yards in the dense brush can be nearly impossible without binoculars.
Types of Binoculars
Traditional pairs are made with a Porro prism technique which is obvious to see because they bend halfway through to redirect the light inwards to the lens where you look into them. Most modern pairs use a different technique called a roof prism, which allows for an easier to hold casing and lighter weight.
However, Porro prism binoculars are more light efficient, and therefore for the same price point, you can sometimes find better pairs than in the roof prism category, despite roof prism binoculars being much more popular.
For the average hunter who is looking for a relatively large animal to hunt and at a distance that they could reasonably shoot with a 4 to 8 times scope, a good pair of roof prism binoculars are ideal.
If you take a look at the different products available in any good hunting store you’ll find that they have different numbers marked on them. For example, you might find a pair marked as 8×42 and another at 12×46.
The first number is the magnification level, whereby an 8×42 pair has eight-time magnification, meaning that an object will look eight times larger than with the naked eye. The second number refers to the width in millimeters of the objective lens.
The objective lens is the final lens which is closest to the object that you are looking at. Light enters here and the larger the diameter of this lens the more light that can enter into the binoculars, with more light allowing for better performance in low light and dark brush and forests.
On the lens, there is also a lens coating, which helps to create a clear image. When it’s raining or misting up, high-quality lenses will cause the water to spread so fine that you won’t see it at all through the eyepiece, allowing for perfect sight even during a storm.
Seeing a Stable Image
Using them is often more challenging than you might imagine and having proper technique is critical to getting a clear image and following the animal. Similar to when you are shooting a rifle, you must keep your elbows locked into your sides to create stability.
Otherwise, resting them on a tripod, a truck, fence or a tree will allow you to stabilize and get a good look at the animal.
Choosing the Right Pair
When you are looking to pick a pair specifically for hunting some of the other factors go out of the window. Magnification matters far less because you are typically looking at large animals at a few hundred yards or less, rather than a tiny creature at much further as might be the case for bird watchers or soldiers.
Unless you are a professional hunter, the cost is going to matter. Binoculars can cost thousands of dollars, but some of the best pairs can be had for around $500, with great options to be had about $150, especially for hunters who value durability over massive magnification.
The main difference maker in the quality is the precision of the lenses that are used. The best manufacturers spend a considerable amount of time creating handmade lenses, while cheaper mass produced products have rougher and less precise glass.
While it’s acceptable to order online if you’re confident in your purchase, heading to your local hunting store and testing them out before you spend your hard-earned cash is ideal. Until you pick them up in your hand and try them outside, it’s impossible to decide which pair is best for you and your needs.