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How to Choose Binoculars for Hunting

Posted by Patrick V on

Certainly, one of the most important piece of equipment you should own when you are practicing any range shooting sports and even more important when you are a hunter. Identifying your game is crucial while hunting to confirm that you are going for the correct species, and to determine more specific information such as a target's size and sex.

Furthermore, you don't want to be this amateur that accidentally mistaken-for-game, a fellow hunter, because he didn't properly identify his target, right? On the top of that, it is forbidden to aim at people with weapons (guns, crossbows, etc...) in many countries, it is criminal to do so. So instead of spending your time in jail, you should equip yourself with the proper equipment to enjoy time outside to hunt and not inside to survive. For that only reason, I couldn't insist more on the necessity of binoculars in a hunting situation. 

That said, how to choose binoculars for hunting is, first of all, an understanding of what is important to know about binoculars specs and which of those specs suit hunting purposes. Specs for bird watching are not the same as spotting your game and this article will explain you why.

 

Choosing binoculars for hunting

I was making a list of what you should look into to choose the best binoculars and here are the specs you should know about;

  • Magnification power
  • Lens diameter
  • Conditions of use
  • Field-of-view
  • Exit pupil and relative brightness index
  • Prism type
  • Eye relief
  • Focus type
  • Optical coating
  • Image quality
  • Size and weight
  • Cost
  • Waterproofing and durability
  • Rubber coating
  • Brand
  • Accessories

All those elements define binoculars. Who would have thought such a simple device could be so complicated? 

So which of these specs are actually of a greater importance for hunting? Honestly, all of them are, but some of them are more important than others. I know, the unfairness of life! 

Hunting introduces specific data to your environment and those data determine which specs are more important than others. For instance, dusk or dawn have an impact on light surrounding the hunter so the lens diameter and the brightness index become really important. Secondly, you are watching at moving animals. The magnification power must support movements to give you the clearest image possible even while moving. Finally, hunting is rarely under this magnificent sun with no wind and no rain or fog. The capacity of binoculars to sustain horrible conditions is crucial to your hunting success. 

Magnification power and objective lens diameter are why you always read on binoculars specs this kind of numbers; 8x42, 10x32, 20x42, etc... These numbers are the most important to pay attention too. The first number is telling you how many times these particular binoculars can magnify the object in front of you and the second number refer to the size of the lens which is capital for light capture and have clearer images. This is why I would put objective lens diameter first, simply because of the purpose of the binoculars. The goal is to identify your target, this means the clearer the image is, the better your identification is. Magnification is second to me because it helps bring the image "closer" to you but a blurred image, close or not, isn't helping you.

 

What size should binocular lenses be for hunting?

As mentioned previously, hunting introduces data to the hunter environment and one of them is having low light conditions. Best times to hunt are often during dawn and dusk when light levels are low, so having binoculars that are good in these conditions is essential. 

Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of lights. That said, it makes sense to say that the larger the objective lens diameter of your binoculars are, the more light that they are able to gather and the clearer your image will look. But, this also means, the larger the lens size, the bigger and heavier your binoculars will be.

Like mentioned above, objective lens diameter refers to the second number used in binoculars identification and are the lenses at the front of the binoculars, furthest away from your eyes, and closest to what you are looking at. For Instance, when you are reading the following; 8x32 binoculars, this means that the binoculars have 32 MM lens with 8 times magnification power.

The diameter determines how much light you can gather into the binocular's channel and this means a brighter view for your eyes, particularly in a low-light condition which is characteristic of dawn or dusk times. Obviously, other factors into the binocular's channel such as the quality of the lenses, the coatings that are applied to them, and the prisms used in the binoculars construction will also affect their light capturing and transmitting ability.

There are four typical sizes of binoculars;

  • Compact with lenses between 25mm - 28mm in diameter,
  • Mid-sized with lenses at around 30mm in diameter,
  • Full sized with lenses in the 40mm - 42mm range,
  • Larger sized with lenses 50mm in diameter and above.  

All sizes answer specific needs so when you are choosing a pair of binoculars it is important to consider how you plan to use them.  

The larger the lens, the heavier it is. If you are looking for portability, there’s always the option of choosing a 32mm objective or anything under 30mm, but it might be counter productive in the end, as you’ll be able to see just a limited amount of detail hunting in low light conditions.

Crawling, stalking, tree standing, night hunting or well hidden in your blind have an impact on your selection of binoculars. If you intend to move a lot and get closer to your target, a more compact model would be a great idea while for other methods, 42 mm is pretty often the best comprise in between good light capturing ability and weight. As for night hunting, night vision capabilities should be considered in your process of selection.

 

What’s the best magnification for hunting binoculars?

As you saw previously, the first set of numbers is the magnification power of the binoculars. Let's take an easy example to explain how magnification works before getting to what is the best magnification for hunting.

Example: 8x32 binoculars specifications

In the example provided, the binocular has a magnification power of 8, meaning that an object that you are looking at will appear 8 times closer than it would to your naked eye. For instance, if you view a buck that stands 40 meters away from you through 8x32 binoculars, it will appear as if it was only 5 meters away (40 divided by 8 = 5). You divide the distance of your target by the magnification power of your binoculars. The result gives you the distance of the closer image. 

It would be logical then to think that binoculars with higher magnification will allow you to see further and in more detail. However, for hunting purposes, It might not be the way of thinking. A common problem with higher magnification is that they are much more sensitive to small movements. Considering that you are looking most of the time to a moving target, highly magnified images can become unstable and hard to see unless you are using a tripod. I would consider 10x and over as too strong for hunting purposes except if you intend to hunt in wide open spaces. In this scenario, 10x or 12x would be more than appropriate.

Maybe the solution would be to buy binoculars with Magnification variability, meaning that their magnification can be adjusted from one magnification power to another. For example, binoculars with the specification of 8-12x32 can magnify images between 8 and 12 times depending on the user needs. However, zoom binoculars come with a number of disadvantages that you have to consider and unfortunately most of the time, the manufacturer doesn't commit as much with those models toward durability. I would recommend taking more time to analyze which suit more your needs than taking adjustable magnification binoculars for hunting purposes.

Therefore using lower magnification power for hunting purposes is probably your best option for hunting binoculars. I would suggest lower magnification of 7x to 10x. for the following reasons: 

  • They provide a clearer and a more stable image. They are less affected by hand movements or shaking which can blur and distort images.
  • They provide a wide field of view which makes it easier to scope out targets that you wish magnify and view more closely.
  • They provide a brighter image which is crucial when hunting at dawn or dusk.
  • They provide an optimal amount of eye relief, meaning that there is a large enough distance between your eye and the eyepiece to wear glasses if needed.

Selecting the right magnification power is clearly depending on how you will use them. Like the objective lens diameter, the method used for hunting will influence greatly how you should select your binoculars. One more aspect should be considered before choosing any binoculars.

 

What kind of weather will you throw at them?

Everybody knows how weather conditions influence all hunting experiences. Therefore, hunting binoculars are no exception. They need to be durable and be able to withstand the harsh weather conditions that may be thrown at them out in the field.

Without hesitation, make sure that they are waterproof and fog proof. There is no point having the best lens or the best magnification power binoculars if they get damage from downpours and internal fogging by humid conditions. In fact, it’s probably one of the crucial details to consider if you want your model to be resistant to dirt, grime, dust, and the elements to enjoy your hunting experiences. 

Tip: Choosing binoculars with a rubber coating to protect them from bumps and scrapes if you drop them could be another interesting aspect to consider. In the meantime, it would increase the grip.

 

Additional features for hunting binoculars

 After taking these three main elements into account, there are more aspects you could cover to select your hunting binoculars. Some of them are the result of combining magnification and lens diameter and some are personal preferences.

Field of view

  • Magnification is responsible for determining the field of view. The FOV represent the area in feet that you’ll be able to visualize using your binoculars at a distance of 1000 yards. The higher the magnification, the smaller the picture become. So if you intend to target fast-moving game, a lower magnification power would be recommended while would be good in open wide spaces. 

     

Exit pupil and relative brightness index

  • The explanation behind why the objective lens diameter and the magnification power are so important. These two elements determine the size of the exit pupil, of which the role is to allow light through to the eye. By dividing the objective size by the magnification factor, you obtain the exit pupil in millimeters (ex: 42 by 8 = 5.25mm). Normally, the higher the exit pupil, the larger the amount of light that you’ll be able to visualize. This means clearer images to human eyes. 

Tip: To simplify your selection, you could simply measure your eye dilatation to know which size of lens and magnification power you should choose. Knowing your own eye dilatation pupil could lead you to a shorter spec of models. You should select a pair of binoculars that exceed your dilatation for maximum brightness. For instance, young adult dilates in average about 7mm, this means that a 7x42 binoculars would be a perfect fit for them or an 8x50 (but might be too heavy though). Elderlies dilate in average about 4mm which create a wider selection of binoculars. Adults are in between and it is more than common to see 10x42 as the best pick for most hunters. However, your hunting method prime over your pupil dilatation.

 

Prism type

  • Roof prisms:  considered by some more usable than Porro prisms but are usually considerably more expensive, as they are more lightweight and has a slimmer dimension since it is in direct line with the eyepiece. It reflects the light five times. 

  • Porro prisms: need a larger body in order to reflect the light four times. They are more affordable but the light line is not direct with the eyepiece. 

How to Choose Binoculars for Hunting

 

    Eye relief

    • If you are wearing eyeglasses, eye relief is an important consideration to take into account. Eye relief is the distance that you can hold the binoculars between the eyepiece and your own eye and being able to see correctly the image. The main effect of poor eye relief reduces your field of view. This means you will have a hard time to see the entire image in front of you if you are wearing glasses.

     

    Optical coating

    • Brighter and clearer images often come from the quality of the optical coating which is added to the glass surface of the objective to reduce or eliminate light reflection and avoid light loss and glare.

      Different models offer coated optics, fully coated, multi-coated, and fully multi-coated. 

      The better the coating, the higher the amount of light you will be getting, This detail differentiates a good pair of hunting binoculars from the best binoculars for hunting. You may then want to invest a little more in that section.

     

    Image quality

    • Excellent image quality is a must to avoid eye fatigue. The combination of quality images and waterproofness are unfortunately the expensive ones. However, some brands offer affordable binoculars that combined both.

     

    Cost
    • When it comes to the right value offered for the right cost, we suggest you analyze your expectations and budget and then consider the characteristics we have mentioned above. Always think it that way, binoculars are often a lifetime investment but there is no need to spend a fortune if you can identify properly your needs.

       

    Brand

    • It can be reassuring to know that the brand you’ve chosen has a subsidiary in your state or country. Not a deal-breaker but clearly a plus value. 

       

    Your ideal binoculars  

    In conclusion, the best things to consider when you want to choose binoculars for hunting are where you will be using them most of the time, what method of hunting will you prefer, when are you most susceptible to use them (dawn or dusk) and ask yourself which kind of weather conditions will you brave.

    Each answer to these questions if you take into account all the previous factors and your personal preference will lead you to the best hunting binoculars for you. 

    Tip: You might have to check out some hunting binoculars reviews to trust the products description. Other users go through the effort of putting detailed reviews to let you know what you should really expect from a product to another.

    Thank you for reading us! Do not hesitate to leave any comments or ask questions about the subject of this article. Have a nice Hunt!

     

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