The 10 Best Hunting Binoculars
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in February of 2016. Get up close and personal to all kinds of wildlife, at least visually, with a pair of these hunting binoculars. Designed specifically for tracking game in the great outdoors, they are rugged and durable, and will allow you to spot deer, coyote, waterfowl, small birds and more. Our picks are perfect for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best hunting binocular on Amazon.
December 26, 2019:
I had to make a couple of quality-based updates for this listing. Many of these models have a variety of lens and magnification options available, and options are denoted by the ‘magnification x lens’ format (e.g. 10x42). Magnification power usually involves either 8x or 10x, and both are okay for hunting depending on your needs. Anything within the 8x – 12x range is a sensible magnification, while lens size determines the field of view. Unless you know the lens and magnification you want, perhaps try the lowest specification first.
I updated the Monarch 5 to the Nikon Monarch 7. The Monarch 5 was essentially a replacement for the Nikon Monarch (also referred to as the Monarch 3). Both the Monarch 5 & 7 use 42mm lenses, but the latter model has a wider field of view (351 ft vs. 288 ft) that makes it more suitable for hunting. It also has a slightly higher resolution and performs better in low light, though it weighs slightly more than its predecessor.
I’ve also done away with unprofessional models like the Gosky BAK4 and Tasco Essentials, as well as the Bushnell Falcon 133410. While the last option does belong to a reputable brand, the model itself is in a league below the others here, though still better than a run-of-the-mill option you can pick up at your local (generic) outdoor shop. In the Falcon’s place, I’ve added the Bushnell Trophy XLT which is really a very hardy model, with a 10x magnification and 42mm lens.
I’ve also added two more highly noteworthy options – the Vanguard Endeavor ED and Vortex Optics Viper HD – that use multicoated roof prisms for excellent color and light rendition, particularly in low-light situations. These models are ideal for night-hunting activities. I believe Vortex recently moved their production of the Viper to China – however, this shouldn’t discourage you as the manufacturing and product quality remains excellent.
What Do I Need to Look For in a Pair of Hunting Binoculars?
The most important aspect of any pair of hunting binoculars is its ability to focus far-off objects clearly.
The most important aspect of any pair of hunting binoculars is its ability to focus far-off objects clearly. An average pair of hunting binoculars might allow you to view objects up to 400 meters away; a superior pair might allow you to view objects up to 800 meters away. A superior pair of binoculars might also provide you with a wide sight line (e.g., 100 meters), ample depth perception, and prism-optic lighting for seeing in the dark.
Given most hunting is done in the wilderness, you'll want a pair of hunting binoculars to be either black or camouflage (green or khaki depending on the terrain). In addition, you'll want hunting binoculars to be waterproof and weather resistant, and you'll want the lenses to be dust-proof so their visibility isn't impaired.
Hunting requires you to be on the move, and yet stealthy, which is why you'll want a pair of binoculars that comes with a tight strap (so the barrels won't keep knocking against your hips). A decent pair of hunting binoculars should weigh between 12 oz and 3 lbs with heavier models being indicative of either greater utility or weaker design.
A firm grip is critical to any pair of hunting binoculars. As such, you may want to gravitate toward a model that features rivets along the barrels, or a rubber coating along the exterior. If possible, try to pursue a pair of binoculars that comes with its own storage case. A well-lined case can protect your binoculars whether they're in a tent or sitting idle in the back seat of your car.
Several Secondary Uses For a Pair of Hunting Binoculars
A pair of binoculars is made up of two low-powered, mirror-symmetrical telescopes. While these telescopes are generally resigned to daytime use, they can also be used at night. In fact, the majority of astronomers actually recommend using binoculars for any first-time stargazers. The rationale being that a pair of binoculars is simple to operate, whereas a telescope tends to play tricks on the eye.
A pair of binoculars is made up of two low-powered, mirror-symmetrical telescopes.
Hunting binoculars, in particular, are well-suited to nighttime use. A lot of upscale hunting binoculars are designed with some form of optic - or even infrared - lighting, which could come in handy if your electricity goes out, or if you happen to be looking for your dog in the dark.
Hunting binoculars tend to have a wide sight line and a high-powered zoom, both of which might be useful if you happen to be at a sporting event. The zoom can allow you to zero in on what is happening downfield, or how a quarterback is releasing the ball. A high-powered zoom can also help you to determine what chords a live musician might be playing at a concert, or what a fisherman might be using to bait his hook in a far-off boat.
In short, a decent pair of binoculars can uncover what the human eye cannot see. Given hunting is a largely seasonal pastime, it's good to know that you can still use your hunting binoculars throughout every month.
A Brief History of Binoculars
The first patent application for a telescope was filed by a Dutch eyeglass maker named Jan Lippershey in 1608. Lippershey's application was denied, based on the fact that several people, including Galileo, had already introduced a very similar form of technology. Ironically, in the months that followed, Galileo and Lippershey began competing to develop a twin telescope that could be used for seeing far-off objects through both eyes.
While Keplerian optics were considered more advanced, Galilean optics laid the groundwork for what became known as field glasses.
During the mid-1600s, European inventors continued to experiment by using different combinations of quartz and glass to develop a more precise telescope. One school of thought (i.e., Galilean) was based on the idea of combining an objective lens with a concave eyepiece to bring distant objects into focus. A second school of thought (i.e., Keplerian) was based on the idea of using a convex lens to achieve the same goal.
While Keplerian optics were considered more advanced, Galilean optics laid the groundwork for what became known as field glasses. Field glasses earned their name because they were initially used by European military officers to look out over a battlefield. Field glasses were preferable to a telescope in that they were more compact, they could be worn around the neck, and they enabled a viewer to see with both eyes.
In the 1850s, an Italian optician named Ignazio Porro patented a new "image enhancement system" based on using prismatic mirrors as opposed to lenses. The Porro Prism revolutionized binoculars by allowing for depth perception, along with an unprecedented ability to capture and transfer light.
As of the 1900s, improvements in manufacturing rendered it cheaper and easier to produce a pair of binoculars. In the decades since, binoculars have gone on to represent a thriving industry, with specialized models being made for hunting, boating, surveying, range finding, combat, bird watching, and even theater-going (among other things). Today, binoculars continue to be widely used around the globe.
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