If I could only have one set of binoculars for the rest of my life, I would carry 10x50s. This size has an excellent field of view, with enough magnification to get the detail needed to find an antler tip in the sage brush.
The range of binocular choices and manufactures are wide and the decision making process can appear complicated. But if you can be honest with yourself, picking your binoculars is damn simple. What do you do the most, how often do you do it, how picky are you?
What is your most practical application? I know you’ve been watching Jim Shockey climb mountains in Uzbekistan, but you’re spending the bulk of your time on your butt for turkeys.
If most of your hunting situations are under 100 yards, you want a wide field of view and low magnification. Six-power binoculars are typically lighter, less expensive, and provide a surprising advantage over your normal vision. You will be able to immediately place what you are looking at into your magnified field of view and keep it steady.
How picky are you? Is an elk an elk, a turkey a turkey, a shed antler a shed antler? Or, are you the type that won’t leave the vehicle if that tom’s beard isn’t dragging?
If you’re the latter, you need to step up your binocular game, which means an investment and, likely, a higher magnification. If you’re out beyond 100 yards for small game and shed antlers, or 300 yards for big game, we are now in the 10-power zone. If you’re the former, stay light and inexpensive, and remember that all you are doing is confirming the target is what you think it is. I have many elk hunting friends that hunt with no binoculars during either-sex archery season and carry a max of a 10×42 for rifle elk. A 10×42 binocular should be enough reach to see that brow tine on the possible fork-by spike bull at 300 to 500 yards.
Now, just how much binocular time are you getting in? Good glass, really good glass, can actually have a calming effect on your eyeballs. Don’t try that high-end stuff if you don’t want to spend the money. Unless, of course, you are spending serious days in the field.
If you’re picking up shed antlers in the spring as you look for bears or watch rifle season bulls in their wintering grounds as you search hard for the first migratory songbirds, invest in good glass. Be you a short-range or long-range glasser, it will save you a trip to the eye doc or migraine specialist. All manner of things can be done with less—don’t think you can’t go without. Big binoculars, like my 10x50s, will save you some walking here and there, but a little extra boot leather can make things look sharp through 8x40s, too.