Gear We Use: The Best Binoculars for Hunting

Gear We Use: The Best Binoculars for Hunting

Earlier this spring, I had the opportunity to take a few aspiring turkey hunters into the woods. While they were green as can be, the thing that struck me as most odd was that none of them showed up with binoculars. For seasoned hunters, heading into the field without glass is almost as appealing as heading out without a weapon.

This is independent of the pursuit. The ability to scan the mountains for bedded mule deer or search the depths of the big woods for a last-minute whitetail is simply made easier (and often, possible) with binos. Without decent glass, the disadvantage is real. It’s also less enjoyable. Suffice it to say, every member of the MeatEater crew is obsessed with carrying the right binos for the job.

What We Look For In Binoculars

The 12x50s that cost as much as a few credits at a state university might be ideal for Coues deer in Arizona but would be overkill for Pennsylvania whitetails. For the latter, a pair of 10x40s will suffice as long as they’re built for low-light viewing. The thing with binos is, there are tons of options on the market. This means it doesn’t really matter where or what you hunt because there is a good fit for you somewhere. Even better, you might not have to tap into a HELOC to buy them.

But, before you bust out the credit card to throw down on a new pair, there are a few bino features that are ubiquitous across all options that you should understand. They are:

  1. Magnification
  2. Objective Lens Diameter
  3. Exit Pupil
  4. Field Of View

The Binoculars We Use

What Makes A Good Pair Of Binoculars

These are the things you need to understand about binoculars.

1. Magnification

The first number in the description of binoculars is its magnification. For example, a pair of 10x40s offers 10 times magnification. While you can opt for lower magnification, which will cut down on weight and size, you’ll also limit your ability to pick out distant details as easily. An increase in magnification, which allows you to see farther objects better, also comes with a potential issue-shakiness. A good rule for whitetail hunters is to consider either 8x or 10x binos, while Western hunters should opt for the most magnification (think weight and size) they can afford to carry.

2. Objective Lens Diameter

The second number in the description of binoculars is the objective lens diameter (in millimeters). In the earlier example, that means the “40” in 10x40 stands for a 40mm objective lens. The bigger the objective lens, the bigger the binos-but also the more light that is allowed in. For high-noon glassing antelope in the sage, this isn’t much of a concern. When it comes to low-light and timber whitetails, it is.

3. Exit Pupil

If you take the objective lens diameter and divide it by the magnification, you end up at the exit pupil measurement. This number is correlated to the amount of light that is allowed to pass through the binoculars and reach your eye. For big country glassing throughout the middle of the day, exit pupil might not be a huge concern. If you’re a diehard whitetail hunter, however, you might want to consider any advantage you can get in the lowest of light. Instead of 10x40s, you might look for 10x42s or 10x50s. Although the edge might be slight, any chance you have to see better in the gloaming is a good thing when it comes to whitetails.

4. Field Of View

Life is full of trade-offs, and binoculars aren’t immune. This is evidenced by their field of view, which is directly related to magnification. Field of view—the area you can view with a specific model at 1,000 yards, expands with lower magnification and contracts with higher magnification. The narrower field of view that high magnification binos offer allows you to really pick apart specific terrain, but isn’t ideal for quick scanning or looking for moving objects. Lower magnification binos offer a wider field of view, but you’ll sacrifice the ability to pick apart truly distant landscapes as well.

Field notes from the MeatEater Crew

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Razor UHD 10x50 Binos
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Vortex Optics

These binos will keep you covered for 99% of your binocular needs

Razor UHD 12X50 Binos
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Vortex Optics

When you want to take the best-of-the-best to the next level... Enter the Razor UHD.

Viper HD 10x42 Binos
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Vortex Optics

These are one of the lightest, most compact, full-size binos on the market.

Diamondback HD 10X42 Binos
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Vortex Optics

Rock-solid optic that optically punches high above its class.

Zulu9 11x45MM HDX Binos
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Sig Sauer

The ZULU9 combines superior optical performance with in-the-field utility

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