How to choose binoculars for hunting

how to choose binoculars for hunting

If you are a hunter, a pair of binoculars have to be part of your arsenal; there are one thousand and one reasons why you have to choose a pair of binoculars for hunting but the main one is to be able to spot the wildlife before the wildlife spots you.

How to choose binoculars for hunting? The binoculars for hunting must have a magnification between 8x and 12x with an objective lens diameter above 42mm to be able to spot wildlife even in difficult lighting conditions, to be waterproof, weatherproof and fog-proof. ED elements and multi-coating are additions for improved clarity, brightness, contrast and to remove the chromatic aberration.

The binoculars have to be lightweight and portable as you will carry those around for a long period of time, and having a heavy pair of binoculars on your neck will just make your hunting session to be more difficult.

Therefore, in this post, I had created a list of main key points for the binoculars with our recommended examples. I recommend you to keep reading for more in-depth information

How to choose binoculars for hunting

As mentioned above, the binoculars are main accessories but maybe you are asking yourself, why not monoculars or a spotting scope for hunting?

It is all related to create a balance between portability, magnification and performance, to be a simple optical device to be used without any setup, to be used at any time with no stress. Being able to see with both of your eyes you can see more details and spot the wildlife even easier in special if the lighting can be difficult in some spots.

How to choose binoculars for hunting – why 8x to 12x magnification

8x to 10x is in general what I recommend for birdwatching and is the standard magnification which is used in binoculars, where you are able to see the objects and wildlife 8x to 10x larger than what you can see with your own eyes. A 12x magnification is recommended if you are hunting with a riffle where a scope is attached to it. The wildlife, in general, can be farther, therefore a 12x magnification may be ideal but this does not mean that you are not able to see and spot through an 8x or 10x magnification

With a magnification of 10x and above, is slightly difficult to carry observations handheld and if you followed my blog you may notice that I repeatedly mentioned that usually what is above 10x magnification you need a tripod for stability. In the case of hunting, I do recommend a magnification of 12x as well as, just think, you need to be a steady and calm person. But because you are a hunter, I am having a guess that it won’t be a problem.

  • Use an 8x magnification for a larger visual field where you may be able to get relatively close to the wildlife
  • A 10x magnification is when you the wildlife is farther or you need to spot distant wildlife. There is no major difference between 8x and 10x
  • I personally recommend a magnification of 12x where a rifle with a scope is in use, but not always.

It is a bit confusing? Use binoculars with a 10x magnification and everything should be fine. This is the first step on how to choose binoculars for hunting.

The glass quality, prisms and body armour

For the nature of the usage, the binoculars have to be weatherproof, waterproof and fog-proof; this has to withstand any weather conditions and it is crucial as well for the binoculars to be shockproof with a rubber body armour.

A rubber body armour may protect the binoculars from damages in case those are dropped.

Related to the glass quality, it is basic to have better glass for clearer observations, but if the binoculars have ED elements, this is an addition. It is also pretty important for the binoculars to be either multi-coated or fully-coated in order to reduce glare and reflection, improve brightness and contrast. Just keep in mind that in the case of hunting, better the quality of the binoculars, better the chance to spot wildlife in very dense forests and bushes.

In the case of prisms, there are two main types: Roof prisms and Porro prisms. These can be BK7 and BAK4. The BK7 are found in cheaper binoculars where the BAK4 in more adequate binoculars. You want for sure your binoculars prisms to be BAK4. But this won’t be an issue if you are going to properly invest in a pair of binoculars for hunting rather than to buy the cheapest one found on the market.

Portability vs power vs aperture.

how to choose binoculars for hunting

We have a triangle here where those 3 key points (portability, power and aperture) have to be balanced. But the triangle can change its shape and accommodate everyone’s needs.

Portability is the first key point to focus on the triangle. If the binoculars are portable and lightweight, there should be no problem at all. Think about the fact that you will have a lot of gear with you, walk many miles through difficult terrain and you simply don’t need extra weight to add.

The aperture is the second key point to focus on the triangle. This has to be balanced with portability, as larger the aperture or the objective lens diameter of the binoculars, in general, heavier they are. You need to balance this, therefore, I recommend something with a 42mm-50mm objective lens diameter. With the glass of this aperture, you are able to carry on observations even in difficult light conditions and the binoculars remain lightweight.

As for the third key point, is the magnification (or power). Why is this only the 3rd key point? as for the power recommended between 8x to 12x, and as much around 10x magnification, most of the binoculars are able to offer this, therefore, it is very common to find over 80% of the binoculars on the market having this magnification. What is more difficult, indeed, is to find the right objective lens diameter balancing portability.

It is relatively strict to use some of the specs as I suggest, but you need to, as long as you want to get the best out of the binoculars when hunting. Imagine having a bigger magnification, it will be certainly difficult to carry handhold observations, as for larger objectives, for portability.

If the objective lens diameter is smaller in dimension, you will have difficulty to observe even in daylight conditions, as not enough light may come through the main lens, nor the exit pupils are big enough for the image to be clear and bright.

Choosing night vision binoculars vs normal binoculars for hunting

I may not have a lot of experience with hunting but I do have with the binoculars. And as far as I am aware, during the night the wildlife (at least certain types of wildlife) can be more active, which makes a good time for hunting.

But you can’t use a normal pair of binoculars, therefore, you DO need a night vision or thermal binoculars.

A pair of thermal binoculars can be extremely expensive and if you don’t have deep pockets to buy one, a night vision is a good alternative. Speaking of alternatives, it doesn’t have to be a thermal binocular as there are thermal monoculars or other devices more price friendly.

Now to reflect back on the thermal imaging, it is the easiest way to spot wildlife by following the heat signature of the animals. The binoculars may not offer you a great magnification, but during the night, you don’t need one.

The night vision binoculars are cheaper than the thermal ones but sometimes limited by the range. An IR LED (infrared) lighten up the area beyond our visible light spectrum and a sensor is reading the IR light, offering you the night vision. According to some researches, the animals are NOT sensible to infrared light, therefore, this is a good recommendation for night hunting (except frogs, snakes and some bugs).

If you are hunting with a rifle scope, you may be able to attach a night vision scope to your rifle as an alternative for night imaging.

Our top 3 recommendation

The following list of recommendation is not in order. There may be Amazon Affiliate Links, please read the Amazon disclosure on the right sidebar or at the bottom of the post if you read this post on a mobile device.

Night vision binoculars with a 7x magnification and a 31mm objective lens diameter. Recommended for hunting during the night with a viewing range up to 1300ft/400m.


Nikon Prostaff 7s 10×42

I own these binoculars for a while and they are one of the best-rated on the internet, checking every key point from our recommendation except the ED elements (Monarch 7 10×42 for ED version). Check our Nikon Prostaff 7s 10×42 REVIEW for more info.


Hawke Endurance 8x42mm ED

Fully multi-coated, ED elements, full rubber armour and one of the most lightweight I could recommend.

Conclusion about how to choose binoculars for hunting

I could go writing an endless post but this is not the point. Your main area of concern is to get the right binoculars for hunting. Follow our tips and recommendations and you cannot go wrong.

Just keep in mind the few key points in case you decide to look for yourself at alternatives. You need the binoculars to be very portable, to have a minimum objective lens diameter of 42mm for difficult lighting observations and magnification between 8x and 12x, with the most recommended of 10x.

For now, I should say thank you for sticking up to the end of the post. Take care and hope to see you around!

About Gabriel Mihalcea

Passionate about binoculars, photography and blogging with years experience behind, I love to split my time and observe the beauty of this world with different eyes.

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