Do I really need binos?


July 17, 2009, 01:18 PM
Binos, binos everywhere. Geez! Seems everytime I pick up a hunting magazine they are extolling the virtues of high quality optics. The most recent F&S suggested not spending less than $400 on a pair. These rags make it sound like the panacea of hunting, like I HAVE to have a great pair of binos or I'm just not measuring up yet as a hunter. Still, I've harvested the last 4 years without using any. Marketing ploy?

So here's the background. I hunt elk, deer and bear. The longest shot I've ever taken on any of them has been about 90 yards. Here in western Washington, the woods I hunt are so thick I honestly don't know what advantage binos could give me-dense rainforests. Where I hunt elk in Idaho, the woods are not quite as thick as here, but they are still fairly dense. In the 7 years I've gone, the longest shot, which happened once, was estimated at 150 yards, from another member of the brood.

You elk hunters know that they are hot animals, and during hunting season like hanging out in thick, cool, gnarly holes, that are so filled with 'stuff' that it's darn near impossible to approach them without sounding like the 1st Marine Division coming through the woods. Nobody in our hunting party uses binos, there just doesn't seem to be a need.

So, you killers out there, will adding a pair help me with my hunting in any way? Why will adding a pair of 8x42s be better than scoping with my very expensive Nikon scope, which goes to 10 power? I have a pair of Bausch and Lomb binos, 12x25, very small, very light, that I almost never use on hunts. They were $125 when I bought them 12 years ago. Do I need to replace them? How would I use a pair of $500 binos in these thick forests, and what advantage would they give me? Can anyone front me $1500 for some Leicas?



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July 17, 2009, 01:40 PM
I use them even in dense cover. Sometimes what you think might be a twig, could actually be that antler sticking up.

July 17, 2009, 01:41 PM
The main thing is, when you are scoping with your rifle scope, you are pointing your rifle right at the hunter across the clearing in the dark shadows you thought might be an elk!

Very Bad safety practice to scope game with a hunting rifle.

You will also find you can do a lot of looking with both eyes open holding up a light pair of binoculars. Squinting through a scope for a long period makes your eyes hurt.

And you can wear yourself plumb out holding a rifle up for 30 minutes to an 4 hours watching the shadows for game to appear.


July 17, 2009, 01:47 PM
Very Bad safety practice to scope game with a hunting rifle.

...and a misdemeanor in Idaho, if you actually do point it at another hunter.

However, that doesn't sound like what the OP is saying. What he's saying is that, due to the hunting he does and where he does it, he sees what he can with his eyes.

Nothing wrong with that. Your eyes have a much wider FOV than binocs. Sometimes FOV matters a lot more than magnification.

As long as you don't point a rifle at anything you can't clearly identify, there's nothing saying you must use binocs.

Tully M. Pick
July 17, 2009, 02:12 PM
Why will adding a pair of 8x42s be better than scoping with my very expensive Nikon scope, which goes to 10 power? If you're identifying your target with your eyeballs, nothing. If you're scoping your target for identification purposes, you're doing it wrong.

July 17, 2009, 02:19 PM
If you're scoping your target for identification purposes, you're doing it wrong.

And you might get shot, or arrested.:)

.333 Nitro Express
July 17, 2009, 02:32 PM
No, you don't, and you sound like you know it already.

Go out and hunt without them. You'll live richer and lighter. And you'll never know how many heads of game have slipped past you.

And you also seem to already know that the only realistic choice in the market is between super-cheap binoculars and super-expensive ones. So I think you're definitely doing the smart thing using your riflescope as your primary sporting optic.

July 17, 2009, 02:56 PM
Wow guys, do you always assume the worst? Give me a little credit...I'm really not scanning the forest with a loaded rifle looking for game.

I use my eyes, and am very often moving. We don't sit around waiting for game to pop out from the brush. The areas I hunt I move slowly and as quietly as possible. Sorry I didn't specify this earlier. It's sort of a fast 'still hunt' if there is such a thing. We all do it the same, and we all seem to have success this way. I have yet to sit for longer than 20 or 30 minutes unless I'm resting.

Given the above, it's difficult pulling out binos every 5 minutes while walking to scan the forest. I hunt, elk in particular, more with my ears, than my eyes. Deer and bears are in forest so thick I don't have clear shots much past 30 or 40 yards.

Constructive comments appreciated.


July 17, 2009, 03:32 PM
Well, all I can say is, I have a very small & light pair of Pentex 8-x25's for walking / stalking, and a larger pair of Leupold 10x40's for long range scouting.

I consider them both as necessay as camo clothes for coyote hunting.


.333 Nitro Express
July 17, 2009, 03:37 PM
Ah, and I thought I'd been too subtle in my veiled sarcasm... <grin>

Well, Thomas, if you think that in your particular kind of hunt binoculars are either an impediment or unnecessary--and if this type of hunting has produced good results so far, you may be fine without them.

I once hunted Moose in Finland with dogs (Karelian Hounds, mangy ol' things but a hoot to hunt with), and I didn't pull out my binoculars a single time in several days. Sure, I wasn't trophy hunting, so even judging horns wasn't an issue. Not the same hunt as you, but comparable in rhythm and environment.

I guess I just subscribe to the "why not?" camp, though. No matter what kind of hunting you do, an instrument that helps you see better and for a longer time between dusk and dawn has all benefits and no drawbacks that I can think of.

And you don't need to spend that much either. Today, $100 buys you a lot of glass. Then, if it stays in the pocket or breadbag, OK, but once you start using it so many more things will reveal themselves to you to add another "dimension" to your hunting excursions.

And there's another consideration, although it may not apply in your case. To me, there is a list of "necessaria" for any less-than-totally-casual outdoor activity--like mountaineering, hiking, fishing, hunting, etc. A pair of binoculars is definitely part of the top-10 list for hunting. Having to borrow a pair from a companion in case of need would make me feel unprofessional and unprepared.


July 18, 2009, 02:11 AM
If you need to use binocs to see that it is an antler, what type of shot are you being presented?

Sav .250
July 18, 2009, 08:09 AM
They are part of my "equipement." Plus, I get to see other stuff, up close an personal. Different strokes for different folks..............

July 18, 2009, 08:18 AM
Well, magazines make money by selling advertisements so they are never going to write an article that’s bad for business. On the other hand when I carry along pair I tend to see more game than without. There is decent glass out there without breaking the bank but there is a lot of cheap stuff that would be worse than not having anything at all.

July 18, 2009, 08:31 AM
You can get high quality compact binos for well under $200 new. If you look on Ebay, you can even do a lot better. Small, compact and they don't weigh much.

July 18, 2009, 08:53 AM
Binoculars aren't just good for spotting game, I use them a lot for routefinding too.

July 18, 2009, 09:08 AM
If you need to use binocs to see that it is an antler, what type of shot are you being presented?

May I answer for him?

Once you see it is an antler you can wait for a clear shot, or change location setting yourself up for a clear shot......At least that is what I would do.

The idea is identafaction, good optics DO help with that.

July 18, 2009, 09:20 AM
First let me say that I also condemn the practice of glassing with a scope. That said however.

I have binoculars and carry them with me sometimes while hunting. Due to the relative short ranges I can see in the thick woods here in Alabama sometimes they are practical and sometimes they are useless as teats on a boar hog. Also at such short ranges I cannot for the life of me understand what a 1000 dollar pair of binoculars could do for me that a 100 dollar pair cannot. Yet some people even here are just convinced that if you aren't packing a 1200 dollar pair of Swarovski's then you are an uninformed idiot. I chalk them up to being brainwashed by one too many hunting show advertisements. Maybe out west in big sky country binoculars are always essential and the more expensive the better. But people need to keep in mind that not everyone's hunting situation is the same as their own.

July 18, 2009, 09:42 AM
YES you really do need them. 1st is the safety aspect. but what you may not know is they WILL help you see more game even at closer ranges. they have a way of cutting through the brush, so you can identify that image that you are not sure what it is. plus, they allow you to see animals you never could with just your eyes. they do not have to be $5,000 dollar swvorskys (I know that is mis-spelled), even a set of $40.00 bushnells will help. i prefer the small compact rubber coated ones. they get in the way less, and are quiet if it bangs against your rifle.

Leaky Waders
July 18, 2009, 10:22 AM
"Also at such short ranges I cannot for the life of me understand what a 1000 dollar pair of binoculars could do for me that a 100 dollar pair cannot."

If you look through both pair in the conditions that make yours more 'useless than teats on a boar hog' you'll quickly see the difference.

I use my binos for mostly for bird watching, but use them for hunting too.
For birding, you need to ID the color of the iris, or some other small detail on the bird, oftentimes in low light conditions.

Want to know which duck has the band on it? Which deer is the 8 point and which is the six? The hull number to the jerk who's run through your decoys? You're not going to do that with a 40 dollar walmart set.

But if you're satisfied to ID the game, then that's where the Walmart binos shine, they're cheap so no big loss if something wicked bad happens to them. And, with decent lighting you should be able to tell animal from vegetable ;)

As for the OP, if you do get a set of binos then make sure they are user other words, make sure that they aren't so big and heavy that you would never carry them, they have a wide field of view...people new to binos like 7-8 power because it's easier to spot what you're looking for.

betterviewdesired and fatbirder usually have bino reviews and links (off the top of my head). A while back we were talking about binos on this message board and I posted a link of a cornell review (I think it was cornell) about different kinds of glass.

Anyways, my bandwidth is really limited here...i hope this freaking goes through when I mash enter.



Harve Curry
July 18, 2009, 10:29 AM
Yes on Binoculars. If you don't have them there will be something you want to look at with your rifle scope and some things you cannot look at.
More then once I caught a hunter looking at me through his rifle sight, no doubt a round in the chamber. Not a good feeling.
I was at a hunters safety meeting this subject came up and I asked the game warden sorta tounge in cheek, "if you see a hunter looking at you through his rifle scope can you shoot him?" He replied "only if you see smoke first" :D

July 18, 2009, 10:40 AM
never had much use for binoculars I own some but dont usually take them think they would be valuable at longer ranges but in brush and short distances magnification doesnt really help.

July 18, 2009, 11:42 AM
I don't shoot at antlers. I've seen what I though were twigs that turned out to be antlers. I also don't try to punch a bullet through heavy cover nor do I use a scoped rifle to glass with. Fact is, I've rarely used a rifle to hunt with. Not that I can't and not that I don't know how to, but except for elk hunting, I use a pistol. Have now for over thirty years.

July 18, 2009, 02:37 PM
IT does not matter if you still or stand hunt you do need a good not expensive set of 8x32 for most glass'n but i have used a set of 10x40 Simmons for 16 years, I watch deer in the trees at real close range and at 1000 yards wish'n they would walk closer. With out them i would miss half of what i see. I wear the binos in one of those chest suspenders and carry my rifle on a Safari Sling, Look them up and get one. I never pickup my rifle till i'm ready to shot a deer. Your gun just lays across your chest in about any position you set it at and its always ready to shoot. If you have not tried a good pair of binos in 7 years to figure out if you want some or not come'n here to ask is just dumb. I know no hunter that does not own atleast one got set. Get a set off a buddy and go set in the woods ,about time to get early patterns together anyhow.

July 19, 2009, 03:19 AM
Personally, IMO, binoculars are like hand tools. Im not a mechanic, so i dont need SNAP-ON brand. Im fine with craftsmen. Im also not a guide and me living doesnt depend on the game i bring home, so i dont need to spend $1000 on bino's. A couple hundred should get most any hunter what he needs, although it might not be what he wants. Monoculars are nice on saving weight and will be a bit cheaper since there isnt as much labor and materials in the product.

There are some people who think they need every gadget and gizmo to hunt or it always has to name brand. Its a big hobby for some and they are avid enthusiasts, so they spend alot of money on their toys. Its just different strokes for different folks i guess.

July 19, 2009, 03:27 AM
I'd say if you are being successful maybe you don't need them, but I can tell you they do help, even in thick cover. And you don't need a $400 pair, nikons or bushnells would be fine, especially for close range stuff. I'd get a 10x at least though, you may need the extra power in the future.

Leaky Waders
July 19, 2009, 03:41 AM
He has a pair of 12x's from a respectable brand that he deosn't use now.

My guess is because - the field of view is so small it's difficult to find what he's trying to see, the exit pupil is so small ca. 2 that it's hard to see what he can in anything but the best lighted conditions, and the magnification is so large that they are hard to hold steady.

When you're using your binocular, you want to see the object you're looking at quickly, not having to sweep the field looking or be whispering to someone next to you "OK, I'm looking at a vine on the big oak tree, do i need to look left or right to see the possum or whatever."

Stick with 7 or 8's. Try to get a light pair with an exit pupil of 4...then you'd most likely use them.

For binos, the price tends to go up as you pay for waterproofing, precision lenses, lens coatings, light weight, and durability.

July 19, 2009, 06:46 AM
If you need to use binocs to see that it is an antler, what type of shot are you being presented?

None. Yet.

But it might be nice to know that there is indeed a buck behind that bush.

Part of the OPs problem is that while his current binos may be small and light, they are too powerful. It's very hard to handhold a 12 power. A pair of 8s would serve better.

+1 on do NOT scout with your riflescope!

July 19, 2009, 07:25 AM
You do not have to have binoculars to take game. I never leave home without them because it makes the hunt much more enjoyable. Hunting is not just about killing something.

I enjoy observing all wildlife and use mine all the time to do that or just check out the scenery. You do not have to use them just for distant viewing either. They can come in handy for getting a closer look at a rub or scrape from 25 yards away with out getting too close and leaving your scent right on it.

Stay with 7-8 power and get at least a 40mm front glass. 8X42's are popular for a reason. The 10X and bigger are bigger and heavier to carry and the extra magnification is hard to use because any shake you have in them is magnified as well. If you want more power get a 20X spotting scope and use it with a tripod.

The $400 price seems about right in my experience. Binoculars are a lot like scopes and the cheap ones will eventually let you down. Some sell for over $2000 and just like scopes,yes, they are better, but not enough better to get my money. I can see a huge difference between a $200 binocular and a $400 one however.

July 19, 2009, 03:46 PM
I too sometimes wonder how man ever survived in the wild before the invention of Binos, rangefinders and all the other paraphernalia that the gun rags tell us we NEED in order to be successful, and what the 'ell hunters use to carry all that stuff in and outta the woods. No wonder ATVs have become so popular. That said, I realize that there are some forms of hunting where a good pair of binos or a spotting scope are a necessity. For me I use them all the time for turkey hunting, but rarely ever use them for deer hunting. Like the OP, I gun deer hunt in heavy cover and am generally walking and stalking. Have maybe killed one deer in my 44 years of hunting over 100 yards with a gun. When I see something I cannot identify clearly I will use my scope. Since gun hunters here are required to wear 50% blaze orange, I have yet to mistake a hunter for a deer and accidentally put a scope on one of them....:rolleyes:. Many times at the range I see deer, the movement required to bring up the binos, then put them back down so they are outta the way and then bring up the gun is enough to spook them. If I raise the gun to scope them and they become alarmed, all I need to do is release the safety, put my finger in the trigger guard and pull the trigger. Also since it only takes a matter of a few seconds to identify the target, the issue of holding the gun up for long periods of time is moot. When I hunt with my handguns and open sights, the ranges I shoot at, it's pretty easy to identify the target without magnification. For the few rare times I sit on stand in the open, whether it be gun or bow, I will take along my Nikon 8X40s.

July 19, 2009, 04:00 PM
short answer... you dont NEED them.. I carried them for a while then realized I never used them so I dont carry them anymore...if you are yote or prairie dog hunting and have to see for several hundred yards.. I would recommend a quality pair but for 150 yards and closer, medium to large game, I dont find them to be a necessity.

July 19, 2009, 04:09 PM
As was stated, one of the reasons magazines focus on certain products is because they're either being paid to, or they hope to get paid to. Another reason is that optics are very important to some hunters, and these articles give them a chance tolearn more about an aspect of hunting that appeals to them.

As for quality of glass, everyone's needs are different, everyone's wishes are different, and everyone's eyes are different. Another thought, these things can change over time. When I was 19 I hunted with 19 year old eyes and I never used binoculars and rarely used anything but open sights on my guns. Now that I'm 44, I want really good binoculars, and the cheapest scope I have on any of my rifles is a Leupold Vari-X II 4-12 power.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
July 19, 2009, 11:47 PM
No, you don't NEED them, as you've figured out. And you certainly don't need really expensive ones in the deep woods where you hunt. In the open areas maybe, but not the woodsy areas.

What I've gleaned about binos so far:

1. Though I don't need them, I prefer to have them. Even in the woods, for still hunting (stalking). They help you to see much further *through* the trees, to look for that eye, white spot, antler, etc., on a bedded deer or even a standing animal.

2. I prefer a low magnification bino in the woods - 6 power is perfect. 7 power is OK. 8 power is bordering on too much.

3. I like a LIGHT bino - small and light is good when hiking a ways.

4. I prefer a porro prism - far superior for stalking in my view, due to the larger depth of field. They are also cheaper and usually a smidge lighter than roofies.

5. You DO want a waterproof bino. Never know when you might fall in the creek or have a downpour start on you.

7. There are several fine inexpensive ones, which is important, because they get scratched up etc. - don't want anything TOO nice in the woods.

8. The best value, bar none, in an inexpensive bino, is the Leupold "Green Ring" Yosemite 6x30mm, and I've had Steiner, Bushnell Legend, Brunton Echo, Nikon Action, and others. You can get this bino in several colors and both 6x30mm and 8x30mm configs - both are good but I prefer the 6x for stalking in the woods.

Hunting is not just about killing something.

I enjoy observing all wildlife and use mine all the time to do that or just check out the scenery. You do not have to use them just for distant viewing either. They can come in handy for getting a closer look at a rub or scrape from 25 yards away with out getting too close and leaving your scent right on it.

Absolutely; that too!

July 20, 2009, 12:02 AM

Get yourself a lightweight pair of 7 or 8x 25 binos. You will definitely improve your chances of seeing game.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
July 20, 2009, 11:42 AM
By the way, the Brunton Echo is also a pretty fine value in sub-$125 bino, particularly for a roofie, but still not as good as the Yosemite. Great close-in focus - the Echo roofie is an excellent bug-watching or other close-in activity bino.

July 28, 2009, 06:10 AM
If you don't use a scope on your rifle then No, you don't need binos. However.......

July 28, 2009, 03:47 PM
It all depends on the environment you are hunting in. Go to south western Montana units and I feel binos are a must with large expanses of open sage brush. Even a spotting scope is worth having in that country.

But the thickets of the western washington, then no I don't think so.

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