Hunting Binocular Basics: The What, When, and How

If you’re looking into getting high-quality binoculars for hunting then you should read on for our beginner’s guide on binoculars.


What are Binoculars?

Binoculars also known as field glasses, are two telescopes installed side-by-side and aligned to point in the same viewing direction. This type of construction allows for binocular vision (using both eyes)  when viewing distant objects. Most binoculars can be held with both hands, but sizes may differ depending on its application or design. As compared to a monocular telescope, binoculars provide a three-dimensional image.


What do you use binoculars for?

When Were Binoculars Invented?

The first telescope was invented by the great Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei in 1609, where he used it in viewing heavenly bodies in our solar system. His telescope was designed like opera glasses that used arranged glass lenses in magnifying objects. In 1704, Sir Issac Newton introduced a new telescope design that uses a curved mirror to gather light and reflect its focus. This reflecting mirror acts like a light-collecting bucket; the bigger the light bucket, the more light it can collect. The Newton-designed reflector telescope opened the door to magnifying objects millions of times. Box-shaped binocular telescopes were made in the 2nd half of the 17th century and the 1st half of the 18th century by I.M. Dobler in Berlin, Pietro Patroni in Milan and Cherubin d’Orleans in Paris. J. P. Lemiere invented the first real and functioning binocular telescope in 1825.

How Do Binoculars Work?

Binoculars use a magnification lens and a prism in each ocular. The lens performs the magnification of the object you are viewing. The prism’s purpose is to present the image right-side-up and in the correct direction. The image would be up-side-down and backward without the prism. Binoculars have two basic designs:

Roof prisms binoculars are more powerful binoculars where the oculars are closer together that results to image stabilization. Although powerful, they are less adjustable and harder to hold the image steady for viewing. Porro prism binoculars are larger and provide more image stabilization. It’s designed with a larger hinge between the oculars and offers a broader range of adjustment. Porros are comfortable to hold but have less-powerful lenses. It is far easier to get a steady view of an image with a less-powerful lens.

Hunting Binocular Basics

After your bow or rifle, binoculars are one of the most vital items in your hunting arsenal. They open up a whole range of possibilities. Want to examine sign on a trail without getting close enough to contaminate it with a sign of your own?

When going for outdoor activities, binoculars can let you focus in on something a few yards away and see it as if you were sitting beside it. A dim flicker of movement in the distance suddenly appears in sharp close-up when you aim the lenses at it.

Not sure if that was a deer or just a branch moving in the wind? Binoculars let you check it. If you choose the right pair, you can even extend your hunting day using their light gathering capability to let you see clearly at lower light levels.

Of course, you do need to get the right pair, and with binoculars, it’s easy to get it wrong. There’s a huge range of available models designed for everything from astronomy to getting a better view at the theater, so not all of them are much used for hunting. You also need to take into account what type of hunting you will be doing as someone who hunts in close quarters with a crossbow will have different needs than someone hunting with a more extended range recurve bow or rifle.

Deer under tree

The smallest compacts will work well in a floodlit football stadium but won’t help you much in the woods at twilight, while large astronomy binoculars will give stunning magnification and light gathering, but are far too heavy to hold steady without a tripod.

Luckily there are plenty of good models designed for hunting and other outdoor sports. These can be split into compact and full-size designs, and both have their advantages. Binoculars are described by two numbers – their magnification and the size of the objective (front) lenses, so the 8×35 pair will have 7-power magnification and objective lenses 35mm in diameter.

Generally, anything with lenses smaller than 30mm can be called compact, and anything larger than that is full sized. While there are a few older designs around whose weight and bulk make them full size but have lenses around 28mm, but there’s no reason to buy these for hunting and we won’t be looking at them here.

The Out sider

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