It’s hard to track game if you can’t see it. Therefore, one of the most important accessories for hunters is a good pair of binoculars.
While there are literally thousands of different models of binoculars on the market, not all are suitable for hunting. Most are not rugged enough for the woods, marsh or field. Many are not suitable for low-light conditions. Some are too powerful, and others not powerful enough.
Here are some factors you should consider when choosing hunting binoculars.
Hunting is a rugged sport that puts demands on your equipment, including your binoculars.
Hunting binoculars should feature some sort of rubberized exterior armoring to protect them from being damaged if dropped or bumped against trees, brush, rocks and so on.
Because you’ll likely be hunting in extreme weather conditions, you’ll want a pair of binoculars that can withstand such conditions. They should be waterproof, and the lenses should be fog-proof. Another feature to consider are the lens caps. Binoculars with attached caps will protect the lenses, but not require you to fumble in your pockets looking for lens caps if it starts to rain or snow.
Roof prism binoculars are popular with hunters. Light enters the front (objective) lenses, and is then redirected through the roof prism to the rear (ocular) lenses. The roof prism design allows the binoculars to be more compact than binoculars that transmit the light directly from the objective lenses to the ocular lenses.
When it comes to lenses, bigger is indeed better. The larger the objective lens, the more light the lens transmits to your eyes. If you like to hunt at dawn or dusk, you’ll want the largest objective lenses you can get. The objective lens size is the second number in the manufacturer’s description of the binoculars. For example, 10×42 binoculars have 42 millimeter objective lenses. Objective lenses for hunting binoculars range from 40 millimeters to over 60 millimeters in diameter. Again, bigger is usually better.
When choosing hunting binoculars, look for phase corrected lenses. Phase correction is a coating on the lenses that increases the sharpness, contrast and color saturation. When you’re trying to spot game that blends in with its surroundings, you need every edge you can get.
Another feature to look for in hunting binoculars is nitrogen-filled optics. The nitrogen inside the binoculars displaces oxygen, so that moisture cannot form inside the optics, fogging the interior lenses.
The rear (ocular) lenses are another thing to consider when choosing hunting binoculars. If you’re like most people, your eyes aren’t identical when it comes to focus. Therefore, you’ll want to look for binoculars that allow each ocular lens to be adjustable for focus.
Consider, too, the amount of eye relief the binoculars feature. This is the distance from the lens to your eye at which you can still see the view. If you wear prescription glasses or sunglasses while hunting, you’ll need some eye relief. Also, binoculars with good eye relief allow you to bring them up to your eyes quickly, without having to get your eyes perfectly aligned. 15 to 20 millimeters of eye relief is generally considered optimum.
The first number in the manufacturer’s description of binoculars is the magnification. A pair of 8×42 binoculars magnifies the view by eight times.
For long-distance hunting, such as prairie dog hunting, a high magnification may be desirable. But for most types of wood/field/marsh hunting, too much magnification is undesirable. You’ll be viewing too small a portion of the area you’re scouting.
8x or 10x magnification is generally considered ideal for most hunting applications.
Many manufacturers offer zoom binoculars, which allow you to vary the magnification. In practice, though, zoom binoculars aren’t always ideal for hunting. They tend to be more fragile and weigh more than fixed-magnification binoculars. Also, as mentioned previously, high magnifications restrict your view of an area.
The amount of area binoculars allow you to view is called the “field of view.” The field of view (FOV) is referred to in degrees, or in feet at a specified distance. For example, 6 degrees of field of view is common. Expressed in feet, a pair of binoculars with 6 degrees field of view will allow you to see 314 feet of area at 1,000 yards.
Other things to consider when choosing hunting binoculars:
Weight is a consideration for any hunting equipment, including binoculars. 32 ounces may not sound like a lot of weight but, after a full day in the field, it will feel like it. Most binoculars made for hunting weigh around 20 ounces.
When selecting your binoculars, pay attention to the warranty the manufacturer offers. You’re going to be exposing your binoculars to some pretty rough treatment, so you’ll want the best warranty you can get. Many manufacturers offer warranties that last twenty years or more. Some even offer lifetime warrantees.
Properly cared for, a good pair of binoculars will serve you for decades. When you consider the cost of a single hunting trip, quality $300 to $500 binoculars are a great investment.