Choosing Hunting Binoculars

Even though hunting is a varied activity and any number of shapes and sizes of binoculars can have a place in the field, there are still some basic guidelines you can use to choose the right binocular for your specific hunting needs.

Magnification-Higher Isn't Always Better

Magnification is probably the most obvious issue, and it is important to remember that bigger is not necessarily better. Many hunters overdo it when it comes to magnification. 7x to 10x is enough magnification in a binocular for any type of hunting. As the magnification goes up, image steadiness goes down and if you need more magnification than 7x or 8x, then maybe you should be looking for a spotting scope instead of hunting binoculars. Zoom binoculars may seem to be a good answer to the magnification question, but there are some serious drawbacks for the hunter. Waterproof hunting binoculars haven't made it on the scene yet and zoom binoculars typically have inferior field of view and image quality when compared to a fixed power binocular at any magnification. Zoom binoculars don't have the sturdiness necessary for hunting; they just don't stand up to hard use. Remember, if you go beyond 10x or 12x, you'll need to use a tripod so you might as well get a good waterproof spotting scope to put on that tripod instead.

Choosing The Appropriate Objective Size

A good binocular with an objective of 40 or 42mm is more than sufficient for any type of hunting during legal shooting hours. If you are hunting or scouting at night, then a larger 50mm or 56mm lens will be more suitable. Remember though, they are not only bigger; they are heavier and more expensive too. If traveling light is your preference, then a 30 or 32mm objective is a good balance of performance and portability. 20mm to 25mm is just a bit too light. You compromise performance in low light situations or long observing sessions by using too small a model. If you really have to reduce the size, don't compromise the quality.

Prisms, Bumpy Or Sleek

There are two different types of prisms used in binoculars. The older, traditional hump shaped body design is the porro prisms and the straight, sleek barrel body design houses the roof prisms. Porro prisms are less expensive to produce optically and if you are worried about price, go with the porro prism rather than an inexpensive roof prism. Get the type made with Bak4 glass for the best image brightness and quality. It also happens to be the easiest design to waterproof and seal. They are durable and will last a good, long time. A phase-corrected roof prism will deliver sharper images than a non PC (phase-corrected) roof prism.

A great choice for medium and long distance viewing is the individual eyepiece focus binocular. They don't require focusing when viewing beyond 30 or 40 yards. However, and individual focus binocular is too slow to focus at distances less than 30 yards, so for close work, choose a center focus binocular.