6 Best Binoculars For Hunting Deer, Elk & Other Game

Zeiss Terra ED is also available at:

Walmart

 

The Right Binoculars for Hunting Specific Game

It’s perfectly viable to choose a single pair of binoculars and use it for hunting any sort of animal. Every binocular above will serve you well in the field.

However, certain types of binoculars are better for hunting different game. You would use a different rifle for deer than you would moose, and the same is true for binoculars.

I’ll cover several different animals below and recommend specific binoculars for each one.

Oh, and by the way, if you do want to buy one set of glass and use it for everything, the Swarovski SLC 10×42 is the overall best choice.

Deer Hunting

deer through trees

There are two basic areas in which you’ll hunt deer: forests and fields.

Your choice of binoculars will change depending on whether you’re shooting at long range across fields or are stalking through dense woods.

For forest hunting, you’ll want an 8x set of binoculars. Woody terrain can be difficult too, so you want something robust.

My recommendation would, therefore, be the Vortex Optics Crossfire 8×42.

However, field hunting happens over longer ranges with more flat ground. The Bushnell Trophy 10×42 is a good choice for field work.

 

Elk and Mountain Goat Hunting

mountain goat

Mountainous and long-range hunting dominates elk hunting. Not only do you need to see far, but you need to be able to save weight as well.

The Vortex Optics Diamondback makes for a great binocular for elk hunting because you get the higher magnification without as much weight as some of the other 10×42 binoculars.

Goats are also found in the mountains, so my recommendation is the same for them.

 

Black Bear Hunting

black bear behind the bush

You’ll generally find black bears in the woods, where you want high contrast without too much magnification.

So, for hunting black bears, I’d also recommend the Vortex Optics Crossfire 8×42.

 

Brown Bear and Moose Hunting

moose feeding on the bushes

Brown bears, however, are often hunted at a longer range than black bears, so you’ll want a 10x magnification. The can also live in areas subject to perilous weather, similar to moose.

Don’t skimp on optics when hunting these large, dangerous animals. The Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 is a great choice, especially with its hydrophobic coating.

 

The Importance of Choosing a Good Pair of Binoculars for Hunting

man holding binoculars

Good optics are expensive, whether they are scopes or binoculars.

It can be tempting to save your money and buy cheap no-name binoculars or even go into the field without any good glass.

After all, you have a rifle scope, right?

That’s a terrible idea!

Riflescopes are a poor choice for scoping out an area to find and identify game.

They have a small field of view compared to binoculars, making it harder to find what you’re looking for. They’re also much more awkward to use because they involve aiming your gun where you need to see, which also violates the rules of firearm safety!

As for cheap binoculars, they’ll fail you in the field.

cheap binocs

Hunting can involve large temperature swings. Foggy glass will block your view. Cheap prisms are dull and lack contrast, so you won’t be able to tell if that’s an antler or just a branch.

Binoculars which are hard to adjust or focus are frustrating to use and can strain your eyes, ruining the whole hunting experience and causing you to miss spotting your prey.

Cheap binoculars also have cheaper construction that can fall apart when knocked around, which often happens while tramping around the woods. And if water gets into the binoculars, forget it! Then you’re carrying around dead weight.

Good binoculars let you quickly find your animal and identify their species and gender without eye strain or frustration.

 

How to Choose?

shelf of binoculars

So, you’re convinced you need a good pair of hunting binoculars.

Great!

Now, how do you choose which set to buy?

Well, earlier I gave some recommendations of which binoculars to use when hunting certain animals.

But I’m a big proponent of understanding the hows and whys of the gear you’re using. So, I’ll cover several aspects of choosing binoculars.

Everyone’s situation is different, even when going after the same game.

Perhaps you’ll learn enough to make a more informed decision, even one that goes contrary to my earlier advice!

 

Magnification

One of the most important choices to make is the amount of magnification you want.

Generally speaking, you’ll want 8x or 10x for hunting. Less magnification doesn’t let you see far-off details as well, and more magnification results in a shakier image.

Your choice of magnification will depend on how far you’ll need to use the binoculars. More magnification isn’t always better because you’ll lose out on field of view.

If most of your hunting is at closer ranges, within 250 yards, then a 10x magnification will be too much. You’ll lose too much field of view to be useful for finding game, and it may be hard to hold the view steady.

On the other hand, if you need to identify game at long ranges, you’ll want the higher magnification. You may not be able to identify your target with 8x if you need to glass game at over 300 yards.

 

Objective Lens Size and Field of View

man standing on a cliff with binocs

Field of view is often measured in feet at 1,000 yards. So, if the measurement is 330 feet, then you’ll be able to see that many feet from one edge of your view through the binocular to the other edge.

A wider field of view is almost always better because it lets you see more of the landscape at once.

Hunting requires you to search for and find an animal, so you want as wide a field of view as possible.

Unfortunately, this often means you need a larger objective lens, which is the glass on the far side of the binocular.

Glass is heavy, so the larger the objective lens gets, the more the binoculars will weigh you down.

The most common objective size for hunting is 42 mm. It’s a good balance between a wide field of view and heavy weight dragging you down.

Sometimes you may want to go larger or smaller, but for hunting, you generally don’t want to stray too far from 42 mm.

 

Size and Weight

Zeiss Terra on hand

One of the biggest challenges hunters face is keeping all of their gear on them without becoming overburdened.

Ounces are pounds when in the woods, so you do want to choose your binoculars with an eye for saving weight.

Most binoculars are made from aluminum, which is pretty lightweight already. However, you can also find binoculars with a magnesium chassis. Those are almost as strong and save weight, or they can be used to bulk up the body for more durability without adding a bunch of weight.

Generally, you don’t want to save weight by choosing plastic binoculars. Those won’t adequately protect the inner optics most of the time. However, glass-reinforced polyamide is a good polymer that protects the lenses and prisms while saving weight.

Size is also a consideration, though not as much.

Hunting binoculars will often hang from your neck or on a chest rig, so you don’t need binoculars that are small enough to fit in a pocket.

 

Image Quality

image through a binocular

Image quality is very important when hunting, but not in the same way as with other binocular uses.

Bird watching binoculars are optimized for color accuracy so you can enjoy the beautiful plumage of wild birds.

Hunting binoculars, however, focus less on color (most game animals are a shade of brown, after all) and more on contrast. This lets you spot a potentially camouflaged animal more easily.

Also, light transmission can be extremely important for hunting binoculars. Some animals are more active at dawn or dusk, times when there won’t be enough light for cheaper binoculars to transmit a clear image.

 

Fog, Waterproofness, and Durability

Nature is not easy on your gear, and hunters put more stress on their equipment than hikers or bird watchers.

This is because you won’t stick to the trails. You’ll go off the beaten path, through dense patches of vegetation and over weathered rocks.

This can scratch and bang up your binoculars, so you need to ensure they’re up to the challenge.

Weather is also an important consideration. Your binoculars will potentially be subject to freezing cold, harsh rain, and blazing sun. You need them to be able to handle all of these.

Also, a rapid change in temperature can cause cheap optics to fog up and make it hard to see your target.

This can even happen from raising cold binoculars up to your warm face!

Nitrogen purged binoculars don’t fog nearly as easily as cheap binoculars. It’s even better if the lenses have a hydrophobic coating, which also keeps off blood, oil, and dirt.

 

Environment

A man in camouflage and with a hunting rifle in a forest on a spring hunt

Finally, the environment in which you’re hunting can throw all of this advice out the window.

For example, my favorite hunting area is in Southeast Alaska. If you haven’t had the fortune of visiting, that location is dominated by the Tongass National Forest.

It’s densely-forested, mountainous terrain that’s actually a rain forest. Most of my encounters with game animals have occurred at tens, not hundreds, of yards. Even 8x binoculars are generally too powerful.

So, when hunting in this part of Alaska, I use a compact pair of binoculars to both save on weight and to get a small and easy boost to magnification.

I’ve also hunted in Kansas. Eastern Kansas has fields and forests with light woods, so both of my deer hunting recommendations work very well.

But western Kansas is flat with extremely long sight lines. When hunting in that area, you don’t move much and need to see far, so 12x binoculars shine.

Keep in mind where you’ll be hunting and choose accordingly!

 

Top Hunting Binocular Brands

Bushnell

Bushnell logo

Bushnell is based out of Overland Park, Kansas, near some of my old hunting grounds.

I do like Bushnell for more reasons than that, though. They provide good optics at a good price.

The Bushnell Trophy TRS-25, for example, is just about the only good red dot sight under $100.

Bushnell was founded in 1948 by David P. Bushnell, who brought back binoculars from Japan. Even today, Japanese glass is well-regarded.

Though most of their line is aimed at hunters and target shooters, Bushnell also sells microscopes and telescopes. Their products are good for nature lovers, stargazers, fishermen, and bird watchers.

Bushnell Reflector Deep Space Series Telescope
Bushnell Reflector Deep Space Series Telescope

You can even find Bushnell binoculars at sporting events and theaters, so people in the nose bleed section can watch the actors on stage!

Few of Bushnell’s products could be called top-of-the-line. However, not everyone needs to spend the money on the best of the best. Bushnell’s binoculars and other optics provide a higher amount of value than similarly priced offerings from other companies.

Binoculars are a particularly strong focus of theirs. Bushnell has won awards for their designs, and they continue to design and produce high-value, high-quality binoculars.

Bushnell also owns Butler Creek, Simmons, Tasco, Uncle Mike’s, and my favorite gun cleaning company: Hoppe’s.

 

Vortex Optics

Vortex logo

Vortex is one of my favorite optics manufacturers, both for binoculars and for rifle scopes.

They’ve made it their goal to provide high-quality glass at a reasonable price, across all budgets.

They sell riflescopes, red dot sights, spotting scopes, binoculars, rangefinders, and monoculars. Their target markets are hunters and guides, recreational and competitive shooters, as well as military and law enforcement personnel.

Vortex Optics is based out of Wisconsin, but they have representatives across the nation and even in Canada.

Perhaps my favorite quality of Vortex’s is their warranty. Every Vortex customer is a VIP, even if you have their cheapest product.

Vortex VIP warranty

Most warranties only cover the manufacturer’s liability. Vortex claims their warranty is an “Unlimited, unconditional lifetime warranty.” This means that they will cover damage to the unit, even from a mishap while hunting!

You don’t need to fill out and send in a warranty card. You don’t need to hang onto your receipt. You don’t even need to be the original owner of the product.

If you have a Vortex Optics binocular that was damaged for any reason, short of deliberate damage, contact Vortex and they will make it right.

Their products are recommended by users in forums across the internet and by hunters who use them out in the woods.

Sure, sometimes someone has to send in a defective unit. But nobody has anything negative to say about their customer service.

 

Zeiss

Zeiss logo

Carl Zeiss AG, often just called Zeiss, was established by Carl Zeiss in Germany in 1846. He teamed up with Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott to form an optics manufacturing company that laid the groundwork for modern lens and prism technology.

Many modern prisms used in binoculars, riflescopes, telescopes, and other optical devices are based on glass developed by Zeiss. One of the most famous prisms is barium crown glass produced by Schott, also called BaK-4.

If Zeiss had any problem, it’s that their quality was too high for many amateurs to afford. Zeiss scopes and binoculars, for many years, were exclusively top of the line. This put them out of the budget of the average hunter.

Recently, however, Zeiss has started to take advantage of overseas manufacturing to produce binoculars that are nearly as good as their most expensive fare for a fraction of the price.

Zeiss has three lines of sports optics: Victory, Conquest, and Terra.

Zeiss Victory SF
Zeiss Victory SF

In all cases, the lenses, prisms, and other glass are still manufactured in Germany. But the body of the Terra line of Zeiss binoculars is often made in China. A single imperfection can ruin a lens, but the chassis does not need to be held to such a standard.

This lets you appreciate Zeiss quality without spending more on your binoculars than you did on your rifle and scope.

 

Conclusion

Vortex Diamondback

All of the binoculars above are good hunting binoculars. They’ll survive many trips into the woods and will help you find many game animals.

Some are better suited for deer, others for elk. And where you’re hunting affects your choice as well.

If I had to choose one pair of binoculars, however, I would pick the Vortex Optics Diamondback. It provides tremendous value for your dollar, has great optical clarity, and will survive any weather system.

Happy hunting, and may you always find your animal!

If you are not looking for hunting specific binoculars, take a look at our list of top 12 binoculars for all purposes.

 

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