Aug 042013

hunting binoculars reviewsA pair of good hunting binoculars is indispensable for hunters in the field. This may be the most important piece of gear in your inventory, and there are a lot of choices. What magnification is right? Should you choose a porro prism or roof prism? How important is it for binoculars to be waterproof, or shockproof? In this article, we’ll explain some of the important features of binoculars for hunting, and review some of the most popular models.

Key Features of Hunting Binoculars

Binoculars come in a variety of sizes, magnifying powers, and price ranges. Here are some of the most relevant features for deer and turkey hunters.


This is usually described as something like “8×25”. The first number is the magnification (8x), and the second number is the diameter of the objective lens (in millimeters). The larger the lens, the larger the field of view and the brighter the image.

Internal prism

All binoculars employ either a Porro prism or a roof prism. Porro prisms provide a slightly clearer, more three-dimensional image and better depth perception. They generally provide a wider field of view, which important when glassing for game in fields and open areas. You can recognize binoculars with porro prisms because the eyepiece is noticeably offset from the lens. This is because porro prisms are a bit bulky, which generally calls for a larger binocular frame. The components of a roof prism overlap closely, allowing the objective lenses to line up directly with the eyepieces. This allows for a more streamlined, compact binocular design. You’ll often see roof prisms in compact pocket-sized binoculars.

Lens Coatings

Manufacturers apply chemical coatings to the lenses of binoculars to reduce glare while making the viewed image as bright as possible. The number, extent, and quality of these coatings directly affects how well your binoculars will work, especially in low-light conditions. Terms for lens coatings are as follows (the last one is the best):

  • Coated. A single layer is applied to at least one lens surface
  • Fully-coated. A single layer is applied to all air-to-glass surfaces
  • Multi-coated. Multiple layers are applied to at least one lens surface
  • Fully multi-coated. Multiple layers are applied to all air-to-glass surfaces

Eye Relief Cups

Eye relief cups are twist-up cups on the eyepiece of the binoculars that create a gap (empty space) between your eye and the glass. This creates a little darkness around the circle of light that you’re looking at, making it a bit easier on your eyes when looking through the binoculars (hence the term). I’ve noticed it’s really useful for if you wear glasses or shooting glasses while out in the field.

Waterproof and Fogproof

Many binoculars are rendered waterproof and/or fogproof through the use of O-ring seals and nitrogen purging, or similar means. This ends up being an important quality for hunters, especially those of us pursuing whitetail deer and turkey. How many times have you encountered any of these circumstances?

  • Hunting in the rain or snow
  • Dew or melting frost in the woods or fields
  • Splashing through streams, creeks, or swamps
  • Sweating while hauling gear or climbing into your stand

All of these are situations where you want binoculars that are waterproofed and won’t fog up on you.

Hunting Binoculars Reviews

Let me tell you something about shopping for binoculars. It is HARD. The reason is that binoculars aren’t just for hunters – they’re for bird watchers, astronomers, sports fanatics, even opera-goers. As a result, when you start looking at the bestselling binoculars, many of them aren’t ideal for hunting. They’re too bulky or too heavy, or not rugged enough to be taken out in the field. I’ve gone through and removed all of these, focusing only on binoculars that are good for hunting. That means lightweight, durable. Maybe waterproof, hopefully somewhat compact. Here are some of my favorites, including the pair I bought for myself.

Good Compact Binoculars

First we’ll start with a couple of pairs of lightweight, compact binoculars. These give you most of what you’d get in a full-size set of field glasses, with the bonus that you can shove them in a waist pack or jacket pocket.

Nikon Compact Realtree Hunting Binoculars
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Nikon Realtree Compact 10X25 Binocular

This may be the nicest pair of super-compact binoculars that I’ve seen. They’re 10x25mm, roof prism with very deep (13mm) eye relief cups. The dual-folding hinge lets you fold this up to fit in a regular shirt pocket. And I love the Realtree APG camo design. Great for turkey hunting, stalk hunting, or scouting missions.

  • Compact dual-hinge fold
  • 10×25 magnification with roof prism
  • 13mm eye relief, multi-coated optics
  • RealTree APG camo
Bushnell Hunting Binoculars
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Bushnell Powerview 7-15×25 Porro Binocular

Bushnell hunting binoculars reviews
Bushnell makes outstanding optics for sportsmen. These are their entry-level, compact binoculars that have the “InstaFocus” system: a quick-press lever that brings images into view. You can also use the center focus for more fine-tuning.

  • BaK-7 prisms and multi-coated optics for superior resolution and image clarity
  • Non-slip, shock-absorbing rubber armor
  • Fully coated optics
  • Fold-down eyecups

Good All-Around Binoculars

These next few binoculars aren’t quite as compact, but they trade size for power: high magnification with big diopters to give you a wide, bright field of view, even in low-light situations.

Nikon Hunting Binoculars
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Nikon ProStaff ATB 12×25 Waterproof Binocular

Nikon hunting binoculars reviews This is probably the best-reviewed pair of Nikon binoculars for hunting (4.8 out of 5 stars). They’re waterproof, fogproof, and coated with rubber armor to be extra durable in the field.

  • 220-foot field of view at 1000 yards with 12x magnification
  • 100% waterproof and fogproof
  • Polycarbonite body with rubber armor
 Hunting Binoculars
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Bushnell PowerView 16×50 Wide-Angle Binocular

Bushnell Powerview hunting binoculars reviews
This is a modern version of the classic field glasses of old. Bushnell’s Powerview 16x50mm has two features that make it ideal for hunting: a wide-angle view and one-touch InstaFocus. That gives you a quick, bright picture of your target even in low-light conditions.

  • Porro prism, multi-coated optics
  • 16x magnification with InstaFocus
  • Neck strap and carry case included
  • Tripod-adaptable
Pentax Hunting Binoculars
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Pentax UCF II 8-16×21 Zoom Binoculars

Pentax hunting binoculars reviews

Here’s a nice pair of hunting binoculars that features a variable zoom. The multi-coated lenses protect from UV and also help visibility in low-light situations. Both zoom and focus can be adjusted from center-line knobs, so you don’t have to take your eyes from the binoculars to change things.

  • Variable zoom from 8x to 16x
  • Central knobs for zoom and focus adjustment
  • Multi-coated optics for low-light visibility and UV protection
  • Lightweight and compact thanks to inverted porro prism

Deer Hunting Binoculars

I had to make a special category for this, because these two pairs of binoculars just felt like they were made for deer hunters. They’re not compact, but they give you a great view at a good price.

Deer Hunting Binoculars
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Bushnell Powerview 10×42 Binocular, Realtree AP Camo

Camo deer hunting binoculars reviews
This is your go-to deer hunting binocular, as evidenced by the Realtree AP camouflage exterior. The magnification (10x) and diopter (42mm) give you a big picture without too much zoom, perfect for scanning field edges for feeding does or racked bucks.

  • 100% waterproof and fogproof
  • Integrated lens caps
  • Multi-coated optics
  • Realtree AP camo
Bushnell Hunting Binoculars
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Bushnell Trophy XLT 10×42 Bone Collector Roof Prism Binoculars

Bushnell hunting binoculars reviews
Here’s a pair of binoculars engineered with the hunter in mind. They employ a roof prism to be streamlined and lightweight (25 ounces), and provide 10x magnification with 42mm objective lens for maximum brightness.

  • Full multicoated optics deliver bright, sharp image
  • Dura-Grip rubber-armored housing with soft-touch thumb grips
  • O-ring-sealed and nitrogen-purged to be waterproof and fogproof
  • Flip covers for objective lenses; twist-up eye relief cups

Don’t Forget A Binocular Harness

Don’t forget a hunting binocular harness to keep them secure and accessible while in the field. Just as a pair of binoculars in your backpack isn’t useful to you, neither is one that bounces loosely around your neck. A binocular harness is an inexpensive solution to both problems.

Bushnell Hunting Binoculars
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Bushnell Deluxe Binocular Harness

Bushnell binoculars harness reviews Here’s a binocular harness from the maker of most of these hunting binoculars – Bushnell. Elastic straps position the harness comfortably on your chest, while the back panel distributes your binoculars’ weight evenly about your back and shoulders. An optics rest below the chin enables quick-draw sighting if you need to look at something while afield.

Redhead Binocular Harness
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RedHead Optics Harness System

Redhead Binocular Harness Bass Pro Shops makes a nice harness system so that your shoulders (and not your neck) support the weight of your binoculars, range finder, or camera. After a long day in the field, you’ll be glad to have had this. It’s a lightweight, flexible system that features a quick disconnect so you can remove it quickly.

  • Elastic straps are fully adjustable
  • Works for all sizes of binoculars, cameras, and rangefinders
  • Eliminates neck fatigue
  • Quick disconnect system for fast removal

Summary: Binoculars as Hunting Tools

Without a doubt, my new hunting binoculars were the most important addition to my gear inventory last year. I’ve used them for scouting, still-hunting, looking for game on my tree stand, and even to look for rubs in open woods. Last year I used them to watch a tom strutting for his flock of hens for over an hour – a truly magical experience in the woods that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy without a good pair of binoculars. Get one today!

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Written by Dan Koboldt

  9 Responses to “Hunting Binoculars Reviews”

  1. […] want to spook the game further so I turned around. I’m embarrassed to admit that I forgot my hunting binoculars, but I had a fair idea of where she’d […]

  2. […] two wooded ridges, bounded on one side by a fallen tree. About a year ago, I’d used my hunting binoculars to watch a gobbler strutting for his pack of hens here for hours. Plus, my Labor Day scouting […]

  3. […] I would never go hunting without a pair of good hunting binoculars. They have so many uses — looking for game, inspecting “strange” objects in dense […]

  4. […] in your stand wondering where the deer have gone. Invest in a good pair of binoculars (see our Hunting Binoculars Reviews for some good options). Find the deer, work out their new patterns, and plan an ambush. […]

  5. […] about deer behavior. This is especially true when I can see the deer and watch them through my hunting binoculars. My experiences suggest that deer can not only hear well, but are attuned (if not always […]

  6. […] out exactly what they want. If you want to give a big gift, like a scouting camera or a pair of good hunting binoculars, it never hurts to ask. Or have a friend or spouse find out what the hunter wants, as in the model […]

  7. […] does in a field through timber from a good distance away. It’s even better with a pair of fogproof hunting binoculars. Of course, that visibility (and the crunch that snow makes when you walk on it) works both ways. I […]

  8. […] 40 yards away, slightly uphill, but it didn’t look like a stump. I took a look through my waterproof hunting binoculars. Yes, it looked like a […]

  9. […] of course, but I’ll also want calls, cover scent, a windicator, and most importantly my hunting binoculars within easy […]

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