If you wish to succeed in hunting, having a good pair of binoculars can significantly change your game. They heighten your sense of sight, which is vital as you hunt and in surviving all the challenges in the field. Many even consider binoculars an utmost hunting necessity next to a quality shooting rifle. It’s little wonder, as without good vision, expect that you’re going to miss every single shot.
The catch is that choosing the right type of binoculars for hunting can be a daunting task. With the seemingly endless list of products flooding the market and without knowledge of the basics and the considerations to take, it’s an understandable feeling to get overwhelmed when opting to buy one.
To help out, we’ve listed everything you need about hunting binoculars, ultimately leading you to nail down the best type of hunting binoculars for your adventures and to get the best and most fun hunting experience.
Why are Binoculars Important for Hunting?
Before anything else, let’s first delve deeper into why you should carry a pair of binoculars on every hunting trip. Most hunters pay much attention to essential hunting equipment, such as a rifle, bow, arrow, etc. Yet, more experienced hunters know that having binoculars is also a must for successful hunting. Look at the various reasons below why binoculars are important in hunting:
1. Long-Range Scouting
One of the primary reasons why you should bring binoculars is that it gives you the privilege to look out for prey even from far distances – something that you won’t be able to accomplish with your naked eye. If you have little experience and hunt without using binoculars, chances are you’ll be missing out on lots of opportunities. Aside from tracking prey, note that you can also check trails or animal footprints, making it easier to plan your approach and rendering it smarter and faster to reach them.
2. Hunting Large Areas
As you can see prey from afar, you eliminate the need to walk miles and miles to scout for prey in large expanses of land. Walking such areas can take long hours and be taxing, especially for new hunters. With binoculars, all you need to do is search for a safe perch with the best vision of the wide expanse below and you’ll have an easier time checking out the prospective game. There’s no need to walk, as your binocs will do it for you.
3. Better Clarity than Rifle Scopes
Some people are wondering what’s the need for binoculars when they already have a rifle scope. Though rifle scopes offer decent magnification, binoculars clearly overtop them. Binoculars do better in low-light conditions. Since they are larger in size, they have bigger objective lenses that let more light in, resulting in better clarity and making it easier to spot prey.
4. Identifying Game
Be mindful that you’re not free to shoot any animal you see on the field. Strict restrictions are set for conservation purposes. There are certain qualifications, like body type, antler shape, size, etc. that you need to determine prior to blasting any prey. Distinguishing such characteristics can be challenging from afar, often infeasible with bare eyes. Remember that shooting the wrong prey can cause you severe penalties as a hunter and require you to pay hefty fees. You can avoid that scenario with a good pair of binoculars as it improves your chances of identifying game even from a distance.
5. Shooting the Correct Prey
Accidents happen even on the field. Search online you’ll find many tragic reports where hunters shot humans after mistaking them for animals. Often, they get caught up in the excitement, deeming they’ve already spotted their prospective prey. Such situations can be very dangerous and fatal, but can easily be avoided if a hunter just spends quick time checking potential prey first using binoculars.
6. Avoiding Dangerous Prey
Hunters can be casualties themselves. Each year, many hunters are gravely injured or die for failing to identify their potential target and stumbling on dangerous prey like bears and wild boars. As binoculars allow you to see animals from afar, you’ll have time to escape and avoid them should they be coming your way, keeping you safe from any harm.
7. Proper Planning
Hunting prey is no easy task. These animals are always alert, and even slight movements can scare them away. Thus, hurting your chances of a successful venture. By using binoculars, you give yourself an opportunity to properly scour the terrain, calculate distance, and plan a strategy before making a move. That way, it’s possible to be stealthy and ultimately secure a good shot.
8. Easy to Use
What’s even great about binoculars is that they’re to use, making it a breeze to reap all the above-mentioned benefits. Though the rifle scope may not require complex settings, you may need to mount, align and level them for you to track objects with accuracy, which sometimes can be challenging to learn. With binoculars, you can make adjustments in seconds and you need to mount anything. All you need is to point to your desired location and begin your observation.
Types of Hunting Binoculars
Various types of binoculars are designed to help you in different forms of hunting. Learn more about the types of hunting binoculars below:
1. Roof Prism Binoculars
Most people assume that binoculars are all about lenses. Yet, binoculars actually have a set of prisms that’s responsible for inverting the image gathered in the objective lenses. Thus, allowing you to see upright images. There are two primary types of prisms common in hunting binoculars. Let’s first take a look at roof prism binoculars.
Roof prism binoculars are a simpler type of prism binoculars. Prisms within the binoculars are drawn in a straight line, allowing the objective lenses and the eyepieces to lie in a linear fashion. There’s no complexity, so they can be made with a smaller, narrower, lighter build that’s easy to hold and can endure water intrusion and usage abuse. As such, they are pretty popular in the hunting industry, as they are easier to carry. For more information on roof prism binoculars and if it is a suitable type of binoculars for you, please check out our Guide to Choosing Binoculars.
2. Porro prism binoculars
Deriving its name after its Italian inventor Ignazio Porro, Porro prism binoculars have two sets of prisms set in a zig-zag manner that allows a wider hinge between the oculars. Such a design results in less light loss. Thus, enabling Porro prism binoculars to clearer, brighter images with better depth of perception and a wider, sharper field of view. The catch is Porro prism binoculars tend to be bulkier and more cumbersome due to their prism design, making their counterparts a preferred choice when it comes to hunting.
3. Compact Binoculars
As its name suggests, compact binoculars are small, lightweight binoculars, usually enough to fit in a purse or a large pocket. They are great for hunters as they don’t take up much space and weight in your pack, and won’t feel heavy to wear on the neck. However, a trade-off would be settling for small objective lenses, usually at around the 25mm range.
While they are still functional, expect that images are going to be less bright and vivid, given that the objective lenses collect less light due to their size. Still, they are great for daytime hunting as they can help you scout for prey at discrete distances sans any need to move too close. People who are beginning their hunting journey will benefit from using compact binoculars.
4. Long-range Binoculars
Long-range binoculars are the opposite of compact ones. Longer ranges typically need larger objective lenses at around 50mm diameter and higher magnification of up to 12x, making them bulkier. These binoculars are great for long-distance viewings, such as birdwatching or when scanning over a valley from a high perch. As they can be heavy, they usually come with a tripod attachment, allowing you to comfortably await and track game even for extended periods.
5. Full-size Binoculars
Another option is full-size hunting binoculars. These are universal binoculars, which are highly recommended as they work great even in poor light conditions. They bring the best performance to the field, but they are a bit larger and heavier than compact binoculars, usually at around a 20% difference in both length and size. That’s attributable to the lens size as they normally have a lens diameter of around 40mm with 42mm being the most common value.
6. Rangefinder Binoculars
Various innovations have dawned on the binocular industry recently and one of which is integrating rangefinders and binoculars. Today, you can find rangefinder binoculars. They possess the same features as standard binoculars but are added with the capability to calculate the distance of the target you’re looking at. It used laser technology that travels at the speed of light, enabling it to compute the distance of the prospective game almost instantly. Thus, also making it incredibly easier to hunt.
7. Low-light Binoculars
Low-light binoculars are designed to provide the best viewing performance in twilight conditions. It’s the time when some animals come out, making it a great opportunity for hunting. These types of binoculars have different subtypes, given that they use various methods for light transmission. For example, many kinds of Porro prism binoculars are considered low-light binos as they are built to optimize the transmission of light. Meanwhile, some binoculars are also considered low-light binos because of the objective lenses’ size, exit pupil size, and sometimes intricate lens coatings that are specially designed for maximum light transmission.
How to Find the Best Type of Binoculars for Hunting
While it may seem to be an easy task to choose a binocular for hunting, it can actually be a daunting one as there are many nuances and details that you need to know prior to purchasing this equipment. Like how you have to take a look at the type, size, quality, and sex of your potential game, there are lots of factors to consider when buying the type of binoculars that you will use when hunting in the field. But worry not! We’ve listed all the important things that you need to look out for in hunting binoculars to ensure that you enjoy your hobby without any difficulties.
First things first: you should check the magnifying power of the hunting binoculars before finalizing your purchase. Most buyers tend to take this factor for granted, despite being one of the most important aspects to consider. Of course, magnification refers to the value at how large objects will appear when looking through the equipment.
Check the binoculars’ description to see their magnification power. Otherwise, you can look at the binos themselves. You’ll notice two numbers separated by an “x” (8×30, 8×42, or 10×42, etc.) besides the unit’s brand name and model name. The first number refers to the magnification amount. For instance, if it’s 8x, the object will appear as if it’s like 8x closer. If it’s 10x, it’ll appear like the object is 10x closer, and so on and so forth.
Be wary that hunting doesn’t always necessarily require having the highest magnification. Truth to be told, large amounts of magnifying power can even cause an issue as the animal’s movement is also magnified. That’s why you must choose magnification depending on what you need and how you use your binoculars.
For instance, if you’re planning to utilize your binos free hand, the best option will be 8x and 10x models. Pick higher magnification and expect the images to be sensitive and shaky. If you’re hunting in wooded areas with few things that can obstruct your view, it’s best to settle for 8x binoculars. However, if you’re hunting the wide-open expanses, you’d be better off going for the power 10x binoculars (or more) to be able to spot elks even from two to three valleys over.
Just remember again that high magnification power can be harder to manage. So, 8x and 10x magnification are recommended for new hunters and for normal hunting conditions.
2. Objective Size
The second number after the magnification refers to the size of the objective lens, the large lenses situated at the front of the binoculars, typically measured in millimeters. For instance, if it shows 8×30, then the size of the objective lens is 30mm. If it’s 10×42, it’s 42mm, and so on and so forth. In general, compact binos have objective lenses between 25-28mm, mid-size models have 30mm, full-sized units have 40-42mm, and long-range ones have 50mm or more.
The bigger the objective lens, the more light can enter the binoculars. Thus, the brighter, sharper, and more vivid the produced image will be. For example, while both an 8×30 and 8×40 binoculars will make objects appear 8x closer, the latter will offer a better image.
That’s why if you’re hunting in low-light conditions, you need binos with a higher objective lens size to maximize light. After all, low-light situations are usually the best time to hunt animals anyway.
But, you shouldn’t be purchasing 50mm out of the blue. Be mindful that objective lens size is relative to the equipment’s weight. The bigger the diameter of the objective lens is, the heavier it will be. In general, a good set of binoculars with a 40mm objective lens diameter is already hard to beat.
3. Field of View
By now, you must have already realized that binoculars are more complex than what seemingly they are. With that, let’s talk about another vital facet of this equipment – the field of view.
Field of view pertains to the wideness of vision of a unit, usually expressed in feet in relation to yards. For example, if the FOV is listed as 317 feet per 1,000 yards, then you’ll be able to see a swath of area measuring 317 at a distance of 1,000 yards.
To make it simple, it refers to the region you can observe without moving. Having a wider field of view is ideal if you’re hunting game in large expanses of land. If not, binoculars with anything above 300 feet will usually suffice and help get a great hunting experience.
4. Focus Type
Next on the list is the focus, which can be categorized into three types: central focus with diopter adjustment, individual focus, and fixed focus. The most common type you’ll see are binoculars with a central focusing wheel with a diopter adjustment. It allows you to focus both of the binoculars’ sides simultaneously with a quick turn of the wheel.
Meanwhile, individual focus binoculars enable you to fix each of the sides separately. It works great if you wish to focus on different distances at once. However, many find it quite difficult to use this type of focus, making it more suitable for experienced hunters. Lastly, there are fixed-focus binoculars. As these binoculars have permanent focus, usually at mid distances, they’re a big no-no in hunting.
5. Exit Pupil Size
Exit pupil size determines the darkness or brightness of the image in view. Of course, excellent quality binoculars always show brighter images for better hunting. To get the exit pupil size, you just simply need to divide the objective lens diameter by the magnification power. For example, if it’s an 8×40 binoculars, then the exit pupil size is 5mm.
Note that the average human pupil size is only 3mm. That means having a binocular with an exit pupil size of 5mm will make the image appear brighter. Never get a pair of binos going below 3mm and just stick to the recommended 4-5mm exit pupil size.
6. Glass Coating
Another imperative aspect to look out for is the glass coating on the binocular lenses. Without coating, light transmission falls below 70%. If the lenses are coated, it jumps up to 95%, given that glass coating helps improve the quality of the image by reducing glare. You’ll find different coating categories in binocular descriptions, such as coated, fully-coated, multi-coated, and fully multi-coated.
“Coated” means the binoculars have one optical element that’s coated on at least one of its surfaces, while “fully coated” means that all lenses and glass surfaces are coated entirely. On the other hand, “multi-coated” means that one optical element has multiple coatings, while “fully multi-coated” means that all lenses and glass surfaces have several layers of coating.
The better the coating, the sharper the images will be. So, if you can afford fully multi-coated binos, go for them as they offer the best viewing experience even in inclement weather conditions.
Size is more of a personal preference. From small binoculars to mid-sized and large ones, select which you think you can carry with ease on the hunting field. Yet, there are cases when you have to sacrifice some image quality when you wish to get small, lightweight pairs, given that the objective lens size is also relative to the size of the binoculars. Often, compact binoculars work for many hunters as a bulky pair means having to juggle it with all the other essential equipment you need for hunting.
8. Eye Relief
Eye relief is another measurement that you need to check when choosing a hunting binocular. Typically measured in millimeters, it is the distance between your eye position and the binocular’s eyepiece lens where you can get the entire field of view. If the eye relief is too small and your eyes are too far away, you’ll not be able to see the full picture. The farther you move away, the smaller the visible region will be.
As such, it’s recommended to purchase a binocular with longer eye relief, and it allows you to utilize your binos without difficulty and fatigue. It is far more important if you’re wearing glasses as it adds additional distance between your eyes and the binoculars. After all, you’d want to always get the best vision without losing any edge of the image.
With all the elements outside, it should be apparent that you should be getting a pair of highly durable binoculars. For the basics, they should be waterproof and fog-proof. That ensures that water or moisture won’t enter and damage the optics of your binoculars. Plus, it also helps keep away other foreign bodies like sand, dust, or tiny debris from plants or trees. As binoculars are usually prone to be bumped or dropped, you should also opt for rubber-armored ones as they can absorb impacts. Thus, protecting your unit. Never miss checking out these durability features when buying your binoculars.
Like with any purchase, the price will never be out of consideration. You’ll see a wide range of binocular products at various prices, but a good way to go around is by first listing all the features that suit your hunting need and checking the best offers or options with the budget that you have.
Budget hunting binoculars that are priced under $150 are functional but may not provide exceptional performance. In most cases, the cost of the unit depends on the quality of the lens inside, so anticipate that it will be lower. Moreover, glass coatings are usually only on one lens surface and the set doesn’t have as many features. Still, they are still a practical choice for those who are on a tighter budget or are still starting their hunting journey.
On the other hand, mid-range binoculars cost between $150 to $600. You can find many good binoculars under these price tags. However, it’s still best to practice extra caution and do lots of research before purchasing. It’s easy to be enticed by binoculars with sophisticated designs and flashy descriptions, only to find out later on that you’ve paid a hefty price tag for a low-quality set. Reading reviews and opting for more reliable brands can help you avoid such a scenario.
Lastly, there are premium binoculars that cost more than $600 for a single pair. These units use the best of the best quality lenses and glass coatings. Yet, it’s only intended for the most serious hunters who have extra money to spend.
What’s the Best Type of Binoculars for Hunting?
So, what’s the best type of binoculars for hunting? The answer actually boils down to you. You can make things easier by asking a few questions to yourself.
Where are you hunting? Is it in dense forests like coniferous timber ones or hardwood flats? Or, do you hunt in wide-open expanses instead? How do you hunt? Do you do still-hunting and spot-stalk or treestand hunting, or use ground blinds? Are you hunting during broad daylight or in low-light conditions? What type of hunter are you? Are you a backpack hunter, a beginner, or a more experienced one?
If you’re hunting in dense forests, you’ll do better with binoculars with less magnifying power but a greater field of view. As hunting in these habits is usually done by walking slowly or through treestands, you’ll benefit a lot from a wide field of view and low magnification, as images won’t be too sensitive and you’ll be able to spot game with ease.
On the other hand, hunting in wide open areas will require binoculars with greater magnifying power but a smaller field of view. Long-range binoculars and full-sized ones are suitable for this, allowing you to have a greater vantage point, which a compact bino can’t offer.
If you’re hunting in low-light conditions, low-light binoculars are obviously your best choice as they will allow you to effectively glass even during low-light hours of the day. If you’re a backpack hunter, you should be prioritizing binoculars that have minimal weight, but the weight shouldn’t be an issue if you hunt on horseback or on wheels.
If you’re a beginner, you should stick to compact binoculars first. They’re very durable and will help you geist on using the equipment. Once you get more experience and adopt hunting on a more serious note, you can opt for more expensive and high-end binoculars.
Whatever form of hunting you do, there’s an ideal type of hunting binoculars for you. Just simply assess all your needs and you can get the perfect equipment for any of your hunting pursuits, leading you to a safe and successful one!