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The Best Binoculars for Hunting in 2023
Binoculars are essential for a number of leisure and outdoor activities, such as astronomy, birdwatching and, of course, hunting. You could even say that for hunting, binoculars are as essential as your rifle and scope. Watching your targets with binoculars makes it easier to locate and track them. Without them, you can only rely on your own eyesight. But what to look out for when you're looking for binoculars for hunting? And what are the best binoculars for hunting in 2023?
Why use binoculars for hunting?
The question here is not so much "why use binoculars for hunting?", but rather "why not"? Your eyesight may be excellent and you may be very good at spotting your prey, but with binoculars, you can see much further. So they can help you find and track your target at a greater distance.
You may also have already considered spotting scopes and wondered which is more suitable. There are, of course, a few key differences, with both having their advantages and disadvantages.
These are usually hand-held, but can also be used with a tripod.
Can be hand-held, but are best used with a tripod.
They have a fixed magnification, generally between 6x and 20x.
Variable magnification, generally between 20x and 60x
Lighter than spotting scopes (approx. 600 g)
Heavier than binoculars (approx. 1500 g)
Compact and portable
Can be bulkier, but still portable
Lens diameter between 20 and 70 mm
Lens diameter between 60 mm and 90 mm
Best suited to rapidly locating a potential target
Best used to identify and track a target
There are several things you should bear in mind.
Binoculars are lightweight, compact, easy to carry and can be used at any time. You can attach them to a tripod, but it's best to hold them with your hands. This makes them ideal for observing and tracking targets on the move.
Visit spotting scopes can be held in the hand (or, more precisely, an upright spotting scope), but it's best to use a tripod. Since they have a higher magnification, you'll notice that the view seems to shake more when you hold the scope in front of your eye. Mounting the spotting scope on a tripod stabilizes the view.
Telescopes also have larger lenses and are therefore heavier. This makes them less easy to transport and requires a little more time to set up. Long scopes are therefore better suited to situations where you want to take the time to observe, identify and track your target before taking action.
In addition, spotting scopes allow you to vary their magnification, so you can zoom in or out. In fact, magnification is often around 3x greater than that of ordinary binoculars. There are binoculars with zoom functions on the market, but they tend to produce a lower-quality image than fixed-magnification binoculars.
How to choose the best hunting binoculars?
When it comes to choosing the best binoculars for hunting, there's a number of factors to consider. factors to consider:
Magnification and objective diameter
Size and weight
Magnification and lens diameter
All binocular models are associated with two digits. For example, you may see binoculars marked 10x50. But what exactly do these numbers mean?
The first number indicates the magnification which, in this example, would be 10x. The second number indicates the lens diameter, also known as the aperture. The element facing your target is the lens, which in our example has a diameter of 50 mm.
To a certain extent, the magnification you need depends on the environment in which you find yourself. A lower magnification is better suited to areas where you have less visibility.like in a forest, for example. Conversely, if you're in an open area with great visibility for miles around, a higher magnification model is preferable.
The diameter of the binocular lens determines the amount of light the binoculars can collect. If you're hunting in broad daylight (especially on a clear day), you won't need a large lens, but you will need a smaller one. if you hunt at dusk or at night, you may need binoculars with a larger objective. This will enable you to identify and distinguish your target more easily.
It note that using higher magnification doesn't necessarily mean you'll see more detail. This is precisely where the lens diameter comes into play. For example, if you have 10x25 binoculars and 10x50 binoculars, the image size will be the same in both cases. However, the 10x50 binoculars will enable you to see more detail in low-light conditions.
The disadvantage is that, as larger-objective binoculars require more glass, they generally weigh more.
Size and weight
The size and weight of binoculars can be a problem, especially if you're constantly on the move. With this in mind, manufacturers have endeavored to produce binoculars that are compact and lightweight, while offering the level of quality expected by their customers.
So you'll find two types of binoculars traditional Porro prism binoculars and more recent roof prism models.
Traditional Porro prism binoculars have a barrel slightly offset from the lenses, giving them that familiar W-shape.
In recent years, however, roof prism binoculars have gained in popularity. They are designed to be more compact and lighter, and their barrel is aligned with the eyepieces, giving them an H-shape.
The criterion that differentiates them is the lens diameter and, consequently, the weight of the binoculars. As traditional Porro prism binoculars have objective lenses further apart, they can have a larger objective. This makes it easier to see in the dark, but it also means that the binoculars are larger and therefore heavier.
Roof prism binoculars, on the other hand, have closer barrels and therefore need a smaller objective diameter. As a result, since roof prism binoculars are smaller and lighter, they won't be able to collect as much light.
Traditional Porro prism binoculars can have a maximum objective diameter of around 70 mm, while roof prism binoculars generally have a maximum objective diameter of 50 mm.
Finally, due to the internal configuration of the optical instruments, you'll generally get a better image quality with traditional Porro prism binoculars. However, this also depends on the quality of the prisms themselves and the type of coating used on the lenses (see FAQ below).
In practice it may not make much difference, but these guidelines can be useful:
For daytime use, roof prism binoculars with smaller apertures are ideal;
For daytime or twilight use, roof prism binoculars with larger objective diameters (e.g. 50 mm) are preferable;
For twilight or night-time use, traditional Porro prism binoculars will let you see more of the world.
You'll agree with me that the weather doesn't care about your plans and could turn against you at any moment. You may also find yourself near water sources such as rivers, lakes, ponds or streams. I'm sure the last thing you want is to see your beautiful binoculars get damaged.
That's why it's a good idea to opt for waterproof binoculars with anti-fog coating. Although not absolutely necessary, these two features will protect your binoculars from water damage and help prevent fogging, or even mildew, on the internal optics.
Frequently asked questions
What magnification is best for hunting?
To some extent it depends on where you hunt and what you intend to hunt. If you're in a vast open area, where your target may be miles away, high-magnification binoculars are obviously preferable. On the other hand, if you're in a wooded environment, or if you know your target will be relatively close, a lower magnification will do the trick.
What are the different optical coatings?
Binocular optics are coated with anti-reflective coatings to improve image quality. Generally speaking, there are three levels of coating: single-coat, multi-coat and full-coat. "Single coating" means that at least one of the glass lenses has been coated at least once on one side. The term "multilayer" means that at least one glass lens has been coated several times on at least one of its faces. Finally, the term "full multilayer" means that all glass lenses have received multiple coatings on all faces. Although full multi-coating is always preferable, multi-coating should be appropriate in the majority of cases.
Are binoculars better than spotting scopes?
It really depends on your hunting style and needs. If you're on the move all the time, we recommend that you choose something compact, lightweight and quick to use, and in this respect binoculars will be much more suitable. On the other hand, if you plan to stay in a single area and/or intend to hunt at twilight or at night, you may find that a larger lens diameter is more appropriate and, in this case, a spotting scope will better suit your needs.