A successful hunt starts with spotting the animal in the first place. That’s why you should never overlook the value of quality optics like binoculars and scopes.
Sticker shock is often strong with high-resolution binoculars and spotting scopes. But an incredible in-field glassing experience will quickly erase the lofty cost of optics.
There’s a night-and-day difference in budget options and top-quality versions. And it’s related to something important: technical applications.
Think of optics as a lifetime purchase. While other high-dollar buys may turn over, there’s no reason well-maintained optics can’t last your entire hunting career.
Hunting Optics Buying Guide: Binoculars and Scopes
It’s important to consider all the elements — glass, ergonomics, adjustments, coatings — that make a pair of optics worth the investment. Here’s a rundown on what to look for when it comes time to purchase a pair of serious optics.
When you pick up a pair of binoculars, put them to your eyes. The picture should be brighter than what you can see with your naked eye. Animals often move in early- and late-day conditions when the light is low, so brightness is key for glassing in tricky outdoor conditions.
For example, elk seek dark timber for bedding refuge, and stealthy whitetails have a habit of moving at last light. Without quality optics that brighten your field of view, it’s easy to miss opportunities.
Testing for brightness is simple. At the store, wear a pair and look at the darkest area you can find. You’ll see the difference right away.
Brightness lets you look deeper into the shadows and in the twilight timeframes. Clarity allows you to pick out details in angled light or darker fields of view.
A fuzzy or vibration-heavy sight picture can detract from your ability to differentiate a mule deer antler tine from a sagebrush branch or suss out the tiniest flickering ear on a bedded bull elk.
Optical clarity can take your scouting to a new level. The quality of glass, engineering build, and lens coatings all create clarity. Look for absolute sharpness and a high-contrast image when selecting your optics.
Mother Nature will test the seals on your optics. Weather and human-induced moisture, heat, and dust are all enemies of your optics’ clarity and longevity. More economic options might work initially but are known to break down as the elements assail hunting gear over time.
To back up waterproofing claims, look for trusted names with quality warranties. If the rain seal goes bad, you’ll want to have assurance for repair or replacement optics. That’s part of any smart optics investment.
Ergonomics and Adjustments
Glassing is a practice in patience. The longer you’re behind the glass, the higher your chances of seeing animals. And for those longer glassing missions, comfort comes into play.
Higher-end binoculars are specially developed for these types of extended sessions. To ensure optics are most comfortable in your hands, feel the width of the barrels and locations for the thumbs to cup under the bottom of the scope. Make sure those jive with your hands, whether large or small.
It’s also important to be able to make minute adjustments comfortably with your hands remaining in place. The main focus and diopter rings should be precise and exact. If you’ve ever driven an older car, you’ll note the “play” in the steering wheel. There should be no play in optics adjustments. Any movement in a focus ring tunes the vision of the optics.
Seeing Optics Pay Off
With this guide, it won’t be difficult to purchase quality optics that will inspire your next hunt. Identify the power of optics needed for your hunting situations and do your research with each previously mentioned aspect in mind. Check off each box and you’ll be in good shape.
And, as always, go into the store. Trying optics before you buy pays off.