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Gear Guide: Best Binoculars for Hunting 2017

The choices made when buying binoculars is a weighty decision for every hunter and outdoorsman. As we develop into more advanced hunters, we learn that high quality optics become more important. So, will we take the easy path with a pair of cheap hunting binoculars that may or may not even survive through the next season?

Or instead, do some basic research and choose something with more quality that will not only last, but will vastly outperform the cheap off the shelf binoculars. Buying high quality optics should be viewed as a long term investment. Today’s best binoculars for hunting re highly engineered to provide us with brighter and clearer vision while in the field. Making a wise investment in binoculars today will benefit you with more successful hunting trips for years to come.

Getting the Best Hunting Binoculars for the Money

Like most pieces of outdoors gear, there is a broad range of binoculars with varying features and quality. The best binoculars for hunting will have distinctive features compared to birding or stargazing binoculars. It’s your task now to understand these features and how you will be using the binoculars to get the best value for your money.

The primary features to compare between binoculars are prism design, magnification, field of view, lens coatings, exit pupil, total weight, and more. I won’t use too much space here covering these features; instead you can read this in-depth explanation of binoculars specifications.

Does the adage “you get what you pay for”, apply to hunting optics? Yes it does, to an extent. While I don’t ever recommend buying anything under $100, it is not required to spend $2,000 either. Some of the best binoculars for hunting that I have ever owned have cost less than $600. To get the best optics for your money, I would look to the mid to middle-upper range of binoculars for the best blend of performance and value.

In general, you want to pick binoculars within your budget that have the best magnification for you, the widest field of view, coated lenses, waterproof, fog proof, and light weight. That’s a lot to ask for but the rest of this article should help you narrow down your choices.

Hunting Binoculars Compared by Price

If you have a specific price range you’re shopping for, we have separate articles comparing the best hunting binoculars in several price ranges.

Important Binocular Features

Anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors should invest in a good pair of binoculars; however, shopping for them can be a confusing experience to the uninformed. To understand how to buy binoculars for hunting, you need to understand the basics of how to read binocular specs.

Quality Components, Quality Build
Magnification
Objective Lens
Field of View
Prisms
Lens Coatings and Their Function
Collimation
Exit Pupil
Relative Brightness Index (RBI)
Twilight Factor

 

1. Vortex Viper HD

  • Size: 10 x 42
  • Weight: 24.6 oz
  • Length: 5.8 in
  • FOV: 319 ft
  • Our Score: 4.7/5

2. Vortex Diamondback

  • Size: 8 x 42
  • Weight: 24.4 oz
  • Length: 5.9 in
  • FOV: 345 ft
  •  Our Score: 4.8/5

3. Nikon Prostaff 7S

  • Size: 8 x 42
  • Weight: 22.9 oz
  • Length: 6.6 in
  • FOV: 357 ft
  • Our Score: 5.0/5

Best Binoculars for Deer Hunting: Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Deer hunting presents us with a bit a conundrum, due to the fact that some hunters prefer hunting in the big woods, while others like to setup across open fields. That leaves deer hunters with a decision; do you buy the binoculars with more magnification or with the brighter and larger field of view?

8×42 binoculars are a great all around choice for whitetail hunting. You get a high magnification with a solid field of view. woods hunting, and bow hunters in particular, do not need the magnification. They need a larger field of view, and a brighter picture for the lower light environment. In this case I strongly recommend a high quality set of 8×42 magnification binos. On the other hand, if you hunt fields or are an avid muzzleloader, then 10×42 would be a great choice.

Some bow hunters might scoff at the need for binoculars when they can only shoot an animal 25 yards away. I would argue that binoculars can help you pattern those animals movements, indicating you might need to make a stand move. You can also use them to track the animal after a shot. I’ve used my binoculars to in the past to follow the deer until I see them die, making for a much easier tracking of the animal.

We highly recommend the Vortex Diamondbacks as the best 8×42 hunting binoculars. They are bright, lightweight, high quality glasses that come highly rated by hunters.

Best Compact Hunting Binoculars: Bushnell H20

All of the binoculars I’ve discussed thus far have been regular sized glasses. Compact binoculars are a popular choice among hunters as well. There are differences between compact and regular binoculars that you should know about.

To achieve the compact design, the lenses are smaller in diameter (25mm objective) to achieve the tubular shape. To achieve the same magnification as the larger models, these smaller lenses provide a substantially less bright image. To get a brighter view you’ll need to move down in magnification to 6x or lower. If you are an active hunter or you like to travel light, compact hunting binoculars can be a great option.

One of my favorite compacts is the Bushnell H2O. They come in 8×25, 10×25, and 12×25 sizes. The roof prisms are made from Bak-4 glass, and the lenses are fully coated. I really like the waterproof and rubberized housings. I’ve used these in all kinds of weather and I can say they have held up nicely.

Best 10×42 Binoculars for Hunting: Vortex Viper HD

The best 10×42 binoculars for your money, in my opinion, are the Vortex Viper HD. The Vipers have many of the features the high dollar glasses do, but at a fraction of the cost.

The lenses are made from high density, extra low dispersion glass, with phase correction and anti-reflective coatings. This design means you get bright, clean and crisp viewing with little to no glare that I always seem to get with cheaper binos.

I love that I can go from sun to shadow and still maintain a highly detailed image. I also never seem to develop a sore neck from using these for several days. They are very light weight and I don’t have to strain my eyes.

The housings are rugged and can take some abuse. They are covered with a rubberized coating that Vortex calls “ArmorTek”. The ArmorTek makes for no slip holding and absorbs the bumps and falls that inevitably happen in the field. Don’t worry about a little rain because they are also waterproof and fog proof.

One other feature I really like the locking diopter. The diopter lets you adjust the glasses to account for the slight differences between your two eyes. If the diopter didn’t lock, it would make for a long day of refocusing and tired eyes.

When you take all those great features and performance, then throw in the Vortex Lifetime Warranty, you have a great pair of hunting binoculars.

Best 8×42 Hunting Binoculars: Nikon Prostaff 7S

Like I said earlier, 10×42 are the most popular size binoculars for hunting, but they aren’t for everyone.

Do you have less than a surgeon’s steady hand? Do spend most of your time in heavily wooded areas? Maybe you tire of holding up the larger sized binoculars for hours and days on end. If any of these describe you, then you may be better suited with a set of 8x magnification binoculars.

With the 8×42 size, you get a lighter, more compact set of glasses, with a larger field of view. Lighter means you can hold them all day with less strain on your neck and wrists. With 8x magnification you are essentially trading a bit of magnification for a gain in the amount of light the lenses will gather. In low light dawn and dusk periods, this could be a critical factor in what you can spot.

With all that said, you can get the Nikon Prostaff 7S in the 8×42 size for under $200. This model are highly rated by users and are budget conscious.

Best Binoculars with a Rangefinder: Bushnell Fusion

Have you seen these marvelous creations on the TV hunting shows yet? These binoculars go the extra mile and have a built in laser range finder. Rangefinder binoculars use lasers to measure the distance to a target. They use sophisticated technology to measure the reflection return of the laser back to the binoculars, and then displaying a target range reading.

Leica was one of the first to come out with retail version, with their Leica Geovid HD-B rangefinder binoculars. They since come out with the second generation of Geovids, using their patented Advanced Ballistic Compensation (ABC®) and man are they cool.

Every time I see one of these Bushnell Fusion binoculars, I think how sweet it would be to own a pair. I hope over time that the technology catches up with the demand to lower the prices. I would really only recommend these to the professional and hard core hunters.

Which Magnification is best for Hunting, 8×42 or 10×42?

8×42 and 10×42 are the most popular sizes of binoculars for hunting. They have a good combination of power and light gathering capability, which is perfect for low light hunting conditions. Those 2 numbers are important and you need to think about how you hunt and your personal vision abilities to determine which is best for your hunting trips.

The first number is magnification, as in you will be seeing an object “8 times” or “10 times” closer than with an unaided eye. That’s sounds great and all, but higher magnification also means you will potentially experience a magnified unsteadiness in the eyepiece. Having a sweet pair of 10×42 lenses doesn’t do much good if have the coffee shakes out in the field!

If you hunt mostly in the woods where visibility is limited in the first place, then 8×42 binoculars will be a fine choice. My female hunter friends also like 8×42 binoculars for their lighter weights.

Alternately, 10×42 is better for hunting in open fields, and if you have excellent vision and steady hands. 10×42 binoculars are almost always heavier, and if you tend to scout with your optics for long stretches of time, your hands and arms may get tired. For those hunting in the western US, you could benefit from even higher magnifications, but you may need a mono-pod or binocular harness to steady your view.

Image Credit: Lindsay @ HuntFiber.com, Used with Permission