Not all hunters know how to choose hunting binoculars, but hunting, especially in the mountains for deer, elk, mountain goats or more exotic creatures like cougars, bears or coyotes, requires the masterful use of a trusty pair of binoculars. With so many companies producing hunting binoculars at so many price points, from just a couple hundred dollars to a thousand or more, the opportunities to make a great buy or to end up cursing the wrong decision are many. Stick around and learn the foundations of choosing hunting binoculars that will accompany you and see you on successful hunts season after season.
- Learn the basics of binocular optics. Binoculars come in many magnifications, from tiny 3x opera glasses to massive 25×100 binoculars best for astronomy or hunting fleas on your cat. The first number indicates the magnification and the second, the diameter of the objective lens, the lens at the front of the binoculars. The larger the objective lens, the more light the binoculars will capture, but the larger the binoculars the heavier they will be to carry through the wild. If most of your hunts will be conducted at dawn or dusk, you may wish to choose hunting binoculars with a large objective lens for clear, bright images, but if your hunts are conducted mostly in daylight, more compact binoculars will do.
- Choose waterproof or standard. If you know you'll be hunting in high moisture environments like the Pacific northwest and the south, or areas like the midwest or east where sudden thunderstorms might drench you and your gear, waterproof hunting binoculars can be a safe bet. For the desert hunter who won't see rain unless his binoculars have the strength of the Hubble telescope, standard binoculars can be a safe bet.
- Decide on camo. In many states where hunter orange is required, camouflage could simply be a style choice. Hunting binoculars come in all the latest camo styles, or you can get them in black or green. So far we've never seen a hunter orange binocular, but never say never. Who knows what trends next season will bring?
- Research brands and hunt for good buys. Many scope makers also make hunting binoculars. Some even make range-finding binoculars, so you can gage distance and stalk your prey at the same time. Brands include Swarovski, Leupold, Nikon, Steiner, Vortex, Bushnel, Pentax, Zeiss and others.
- Choose your hunting binoculars. You are now ready to make an informed decision. Nothing helps more in this stage than visiting your local sports stores and looking through some binoculars to see for yourself. Most hunters research brands, then decide on magnification, often choosing 8x or 10x magnification. Weight becomes a factor in selecting the objective lens, and often hunters choose a mid size, such as an 8×42, 10×32 or 10×42.
Note that a magnification higher than 8x or 10x will result in a frustrating hunt as your ability to keep your hunting binoculars still enough to get a good picture of your hunting grounds will become increasingly difficult as you select successively higher levels of magnification.