by Will Allen
Binoculars may be the most important optional piece of hunting equipment in a hunter’s arsenal. In fact, I wouldn’t consider them optional at all. Obviously, western hunters need good optics for spotting game that could be thousands of yards away. Binoculars are also vital to big woods hunters with less than 100 yards of visibility. For them it is a matter of getting detailed information about the surrounding woods.
When it comes to selecting binoculars, there are two main numbers that will be thrown at you, for example 8x42. In this case the 8 is the magnification or power. In other words, images will appear eight times larger than they do with the naked eye. Eight power binoculars are a solid choice for woodland hunters. Open country hunters usually go with a magnification of ten, twelve, or more. Higher powered binoculars are not always best. As magnification increases, steadiness becomes increasingly important. Light is also reduced at higher magnification.
The second number is the objective lens. In simple terms, it is the diameter of the lens in millimeters. The higher you go, the bigger the lens. Larger lenses have wider fields of view and allow more light into the frame. Hence, a pair of binoculars with a larger objective lens is better in low light conditions. Keep in mind, this usually comes at a price… weight. My 12x50s are an incredible asset for me while hunting. However, they weigh almost three pounds. Without a binocular harness they get uncomfortable to wear around my neck all day.
Once in the field, it is time to put those binocs to use. Whether you’re looking over vast amounts of prairie or 100 yards of tag alder swamp, the best way to spot deer is to glass small chunks of territory and take your time. Most hunters like to scan the horizon with a long sweeping motion. If there is a deer walking through or standing out in the open, they will surely be spotted using this method. But old, wise deer don’t spend a lot of time walking around in the open during daylight hours. Study small areas for thirty seconds to a minute while looking for antler flashes, glassy eyeballs, flicked tails, or ear movement. After you’ve taken a close look, glance the periphery and pick out another small area to study.
One of the best ways to spot bedded down deer is to look for horizontal lines. Trees, brush, and grass grow vertically. The back and belly of a deer will stand out against the vertical lines. Once you learn to pick out deer in this fashion, they will start to look like they are wearing blaze orange.
A lot of bow hunters don’t see the value in binoculars. They are engaging in close quarters hunting. What good is it to see a deer 200 yards away if it can’t be shot until it is 25 yards away? Obviously, being able to see deer will help pattern them for other hunts. Perhaps a new stand site is needed. Bigger bucks will often follow smaller bucks through the woods. Binoculars will help you see what is beyond the deer approaching your stand. These are good reasons for bow hunters to carry binocs.