Best Binoculars for Hunting Deer, Elk, and More

When I first started hunting, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d just dropped a bundle on my rifle, scope, and other gear, and my bank account was feeling the burn. I figured I didn’t need the best binoculars for hunting. I mean binoculars are binoculars, right? There couldn’t be that much of a difference between pairs.

So, I bought a pair of el cheapo binoculars without bothering with reading hunting binocular reviews or doing any research whatsoever. They worked okay, in the store, at least.

Out in the field, though, I soon learned there was definitely a reason the binoculars I bought were cheap. Not only did they frustrate me by constantly fogging up, but they were heavy to carry. I didn’t have to worry about it for long, though. It wasn’t worth the effort of using them, so I left them around my neck.

I snagged the strap on a branch, and it tore almost instantly. Even though they’d only fallen a short distance, they were toast.

It was then, and there I settled on finding the best binoculars for hunting so that I never made that mistake again. Don’t want to make that mistake too? What did I find? Check out my hunting binocular reviews to find out.

The Award for Best Binoculars for Hunting Goes to…

If you’re a bit short on time, and just want to cut to the chase, the Swarovski SLC 10 x 42 were my final choice. These are pricey, but they’ll last a lifetime. They offer optics that are hard to beat, reliability, and solid engineering.

Hunting Binoculars Reviewed

Vortex Optics Crossfire 8×42 – Best Budget Best Hunting Binoculars

If you’re just starting, and don’t want to spend a fortune, this set is a good option. For budget-crunched consumers, these have earned the title of best hunting binoculars 2019.

They’re not as feature rich as others on this list, but they put in a decent performance.

Key Features

  • 8X magnification
  • Lens diameter of 42mm
  • Roof prism
  • Field of view of up to 393 ft. at 1,000 yards
  • 5-degree angular FOV
  • Closest focus range at 7.5 ft.
  • 17mm eye relief
  • Multi-coated lens
  • 22 oz. in weight
  • Central focus wheel
  • Nitrogen purged
  • Eyecups that twist-up
  • Shock-resistant

What I Like About This Product

This set is compact with a decent field of view and magnification. These are an entry-level pair, but they’re hard-wearing and durable. They produce a sharp image, and you have some adjustment options.

The twist-up eye caps make them easy to adjust if you have glasses. Just twist them in, and the eye caps won’t get in the way.

The company uses waterproofing and nitrogen purging to keep moisture out of the lenses and prevent fogging.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

It’s going to work fine for deer, but you’re not going to want to go hunting brown bears with this. You’ll have to get too close.

Pros

  • Great warranty
  • Easy to grip
  • Plenty of adjustments you can make
  • A good field of view

Cons

  • Fogging is rare, but it happens – it’s covered under warranty, though

These give you a taste of what a better-quality pair will offer at a fraction of the price.

Overall Rating

3 ½ out of 5 Save big on these budget binoculars.

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Bushnell Falcon 10×50

Need a decent pair of binoculars but feeling the pinch financially? These come in at under $100 and offer excellent performance.

Key Features

  • 10 x magnification
  • Lens diameter of 50mm
  • Porro prism
  • 300 ft field of view at 1,000 yards
  • Close focusing range of 25 ft
  • 9 mm eye relief
  • Fully coated lenses
  • 27 oz. weight
  • Eyecups fold down
  • InstaFocus lever

What I Like About This Product

Usually at this price range, you wouldn’t expect too much in terms of clarity. These will surprise you in that regard. The clarity doesn’t match what you’ll get with more expensive versions, but it’s more than enough to spot an elk with.

They’re well-constructed and will handle a fair amount of abuse. The InstaFocus lever helps you to focus fast, so it’s good to use when you’re tracking game.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The lenses aren’t multi-coated, and so these don’t perform as well in darker conditions. You’ll want to replace the neck strap before you even leave the store as well.

Pros

  • Good buy for the price
  • InstaFocus lever makes it easy to focus on the run
  • Great price

Cons

  • Heavy and bulky
  • Not the best for darker conditions
  • The InstaFocus doesn’t always deliver the best results

These deliver a good performance, especially when you consider the price. You’ll want to upgrade at some point, but these will see you through a fair amount of hunting. We have a post on Bushnell binoculars that you may want to check out.

Overall Rating

3 ½ out of 5 There’s nothing cheap about the results this produces.

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Vortex Optics Diamondback 10×42 – Best for the Money

These get our vote as best hunting binoculars for the money because they deliver high-quality optics at a very attractive price point.

Key Features

  • 10 x magnification
  • Lens diameter of 42 mm
  • Roof prism
  • 330 ft. field of view at 1,000 yards
  • Angular FOV is 6.3 degrees
  • Close focusing at 6.7 ft.
  • 15 mm eye relief
  • Multi-coated and dielectric lens coating
  • 24 oz. weight
  • Nitrogen purged
  • Waterproof
  • Non-slip and shock-resistant

What I Like About This Product

This model is an upgrade to the company’s popular Crossfire range. The optics here are a lot better thanks to the dielectric coating. These assist in making the images sharper in clearer.

I like to hunt rain or shine, so the rubber armor coating on the outside is ideal for helping maintain your grip. These glasses won’t fog up either.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

They’re great for hunting game, but not so good at getting close up detail. You’d be able to see an owl in a tree, for example, but you wouldn’t get much detail on its feathering.

Pros

  • Great price
  • Good optics
  • Multi-coated lenses cut glare and sharpen the picture
  • Grip is good

Cons

  • Not ideal if you want to go bird watching
  • The picture blurs slightly at the outer edges.

You can get better, but you won’t get them at this price point.

Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Get great optics for less.

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Bushnell Trophy 10×42

This set won’t earn the top honors in many hunting binocular reviews, but they should earn a spot in the runner-up category. They’re budget-friendly and deliver good results.

Key Features

  • 10x magnification
  • Lens diameter of 42 mm
  • Roof BaK-4 prism
  • 330 ft. field of view at 1,000 yards
  • Closest focus range is 10 ft.
  • 15mm eye relief
  • Multi-coated lenses
  • 25 oz. weight
  • Nitrogen-purged

What I Like About This Product

Bushnell can be relied upon to produce products that are decent quality without bankrupting you. These provide a clear, crisp image and offer a wide field of view.

I like that these are compact and rugged. They’ll take a fair amount of abuse and last for a good long while.

The coatings on the lenses make it possible to pick up details even in low light conditions. You can choose between the standard green or camo options.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

These are not the best option when you’re hunting at long ranges. They are best suited to distances of up to around 250 yards. The lenses are also not as lightweight as they could be.

Pros

  • Good optics
  • Good price
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Has decent quality accessories
  • Durable
  • Good grip

Cons

  • Loses detail at long ranges

This is a solid set for those who are operating on a tighter budget. They are better suited for shorter distances, though. If you’re planning on hunting from further than 250 yards away, look for something better.

Overall Rating

3 out of 5 Bushnell makes budget-friendly buys fun again.

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Swarovski SLC 10×42 – Best Overall

Swarovski is a company that knows its way around optics. Their products are amongst the best in the world. With this set of glasses, you’ll see why.

Key Features

  • 10 x magnification
  • Lens diameter of 42 mm
  • Roof prism
  • 330 ft. field of view at 1,000 yards
  • Angular FOV of 6.3 degrees
  • Closest range focus of 10.5 ft.
  • 16mm eye relief
  • 27 oz. weight
  • Swarovision and Swarobright coatings
  • HD optics
  • Innovative strap design
  • Shock-resistant
  • No fogging

What I Like About This Product

The contrast with this set is impressive thanks to the HD optics. You’ll get an image that has no blurring, and that is true to life.

It’s a minor thing, but the strap design makes life easier too.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

At 27 ounces this isn’t the lightest set out there. It’s also pricey, so be prepared.

Pros

  • Colors really come to life with this set
  • Crystal clear images
  • High-quality optics
  • Durable
  • Quality brand

Cons

  • Could be lighter
  • Pricey

These cost a pretty penny, but they are probably going to be the last set you’ll need. The build-quality means that these will last you a lifetime. If you’re an avid hunter, these will be a great investment. Click here to see more Swarovski models.

Overall Rating

4 ¾ out of 5 For those that prefer the finer things in life.

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Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 – Runner Up

Zeiss is another European brand with a long and established history. Again, any item you buy from them is bound to be great.

Key Features

  • 10 x magnification
  • Lens diameter of 42 mm
  • Roof prism
  • 330 ft. field of view at 1,000 yards
  • Closest focus range of 5.5 ft.
  • 14mm eye relief
  • Multi-coated, hydrophobic lenses
  • 5 oz. weight
  • The body is made from polyamide and has been reinforced
  • ED Glass

What I Like About This Product

What’s not to like? The optics are outstanding, and light and colors are faithfully portrayed. You’ll easily be able to pick up deer and smaller game, even at a reasonable distance.

What makes these really special, though, are the hydrophobic lenses. These help the glass shrug off water, oil, and dirt. They’re fantastic for when you’ve gotten into position down in the mud.

The build quality is excellent, and this set can take more than just a few big knocks.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The reason these achieved runner up status was that the diopter adjustment settings are limited. If you have vision issues, this could mean not being able to focus correctly.

Pros

  • Hydrophobic lenses
  • Excellent field of view
  • Focuses at short distances too
  • Compact design

Cons

  • Limited adjustments of the diopter

It was a close call between this pair and the Swarovski’s. In the end, though, this pair came up second because they’re not as good for those with poor vision.

Overall Rating

4.5 out of 5 Precision German engineering at its very best.

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Leica 10×42 Geovid HD-B Laser Range Finding Binoculars

Leica is another brand that makes waves. If you’re a gadget freak, you’re going to love these because they have a built-in laser range finder. Just be warned, you’ll have to put down some serious cash for them.

Key Features

  • 10X magnification
  • 20 mm eye relief
  • 342 ft. field of view at 1,000 yards
  • Close range focus of 16.5 ft.
  • Perger-Porro prism
  • Range finding for up to 2 200 yards
  • 7 oz. weight
  • Comes with a microSD memory card
  • Objective cap set
  • High-quality case and carrying strap

What I Like About This Product

The built-in ABC system will help you match your ammo and rifle to the exact right setting. You can save your calculations on the microSD card. If you’re into long-range hunting, you’ll appreciate the tweaks that this system allows.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

You’re getting great features, but you’re paying a lot for them. The extra features also add to the weight. It’s not ideal. If you’re going to use them, it’ll be worth it, if not these are overkill.

 

Pros

  • You can load your ballistics info
  • Make adjustments for environmental conditions, incline, and so on
  • A good field of view
  • Optics that can’t be matched
  • Ergonomic and easy to grip design
  • Durable and high-quality build

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Not suited for casual hunters

If you’ve got the bucks, and need the accuracy of a range finder, these would be a good investment. If you only go out occasionally and stick to forests, you probably won’t find the extra cost worth it.

Overall Rating

4.75 out of 5 The deer don’t stand a chance with these binoculars.

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Vanguard Endeavor ED 10×42 

If you’re feeling a bit of sticker shock from our previous model, this one should soothe your nerves a little. It’s great quality at an affordable price.

Key Features

  • 10X magnification
  • Lens diameter of 42 mm
  • 340 ft. field of view at 1,000 yards
  • FOV angle of 6.5 degrees
  • 5 mm eye relief
  • 8 oz. weight
  • Bak-4 prism
  • Fog-proof
  • Waterproof
  • Twist out eyecups
  • Lifetime warranty

What I Like About This Product

These are easy on the eye and pocket. They could tie with Vortex Optics as best hunting binoculars for the money. They’re entirely sealed – water is not going to get in there – and won’t fog up.

The optics are great, especially for this price range. They perform well in low-light conditions and well-lit conditions.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

It’s a bit of a pain to have to adjust the focusing when tracking something along the skyline. If you’re hunting deer in the wood, this is not so much of an issue. If you’re out on an open plain, it might be.

Pros

  • Great image clarity
  • A good field of view
  • Simple to use
  • Ergonomically designed and easy to keep a grip on
  • Durable
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Multi-coated lenses

Cons

  • You’ll need to fiddle a bit with the focus wheel if you’re looking at a dark object against a bright background.
  • The carrying strap could be better.

Overall, this is a solid purchase for most hunters. The price is reasonable, and the optics are surprisingly good as well.

Overall Rating

4 out of 5 A great value for money option.

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Buying Guide

The binoculars listed above will work well for general hunting purposes and serve as good multi-purpose pairs for most uses. That said, there are some slight differences between what works best for different kinds of game.

Let’s go through some of the different game options so that you can narrow your choice down.

Best Hunting Binoculars for Deer Hunters

This is going to depend on whether you’re hunting them at longer ranges across open plains or in dense woods.

With hunting in a forest, you don’t need as much magnification – 8X should be plenty. What you do want is a set that can handle some knocks. The Vortex model should work well.

By contrast, if you’re working over longer distances with flat plains, you’ll need more magnification. There you’ll need at least 10x magnification. The Bushnell Trophy would do the trick.

Best Hunting Binoculars 2019 for Elk Hunting

You’re going to be out for a while if you’re hunting elk. You can also expect to have to hike over more mountainous terrain. Get better magnification and as low a weight as possible. The Zeiss pair would be a good option.

Bear Hunting

This will depend on the type of bear you’re hunting and where they live. They can blend into the forest fairly easily, so you’ll want a set with great contrast. 8x – 10x magnification will be more than enough. The Swarovski will be a solid choice here.

Weight

Realistically, 27 ounces isn’t a lot of weight, but factor in all the other gear that you’re carrying and you’ll understand why I say that weight is important.

The body of the binoculars is usually fairly lightweight. Most options are made from aluminum or plastic. Plastic is generally lighter, but it’s not going to be very durable. It also won’t do much to protect the lenses inside.

Better-quality lenses are bound to weigh more, but the companies will compensate by using a lighter body.

Size

Size can also be important. Generally speaking, the more compact, the better. That way, it doesn’t take up as much space when you’re packing. You will be able to sling them around your neck or attach them to a chest rig so packing might not be much of an issue.

Image Quality

This is an important aspect, but excellent image quality when you’re hunting might not mean the same thing it would with bird watching, for example. With hunting, you need to be able to see and identify your prey.

You don’t need to see the nuances of color in the deer that you’re hunting though. For a bird watcher, those details are a lot more important. For a hunter, contrast becomes more critical. You need to be able to pick out camouflaged prey.

Light Transmission

If you’re hunting in low light conditions, you need a pair that has excellent light transmission properties. Cheaper binoculars, or those without coated lenses, won’t be able to distinguish shapes in bad lighting.

Waterproof or Not?

If you can be sure that you’ll never be caught out in the rain, or never cross a stream, then it’s not important. Personally, I think it’s essential. Water can ruin the optics so stick to a waterproof version.

Anti-Fog?

Again, you’ll be out and about in all kinds of weather. The last thing that you need is to have a set that fogs up every time. Nitrogen purging is one technique that companies use to ensure that the lenses don’t fog up at all.

Cheaper makes of binoculars tend to be very bad in this area. Changes in temperature will cause them to fog over quickly. You’ll lose precious minutes waiting for them to clear again.

Durability

No matter how careful you are, your binoculars are going to take something of a beating when you’re in the field. No rig can keep them from being bounced around a little when you’re walking or driving.

You’ll also need to factor in that branches can scratch the body and lenses. You might even drop them from time to time. Buying a model that has rubber armor, and that is shock-resistant will cost a bit more.

It beats having to replace your glasses because they took one jolt too many, though.

Budget

Budget is an important consideration, of course. Do you go all out and buy a more expensive model like the Zeiss or Swarovski? Over time, these models are going to serve you well. They’re not much good if you can’t afford to pay for them.

If you need to save money, cut back on the excess features, and focus on image quality instead.

FAQs

Should I spend more for hunting binoculars?

We’re not saying that you have to break the bank, but it’s a good idea to budget for a little more. The cheaper binoculars that you get won’t be worth much out in the field. How disappointing would it be to lose an elk because you wanted to save a few bucks?

Learn from my mistake and put some money down to get a better set. Cheap sets are not built well enough to withstand the knocks when you’re out and about. They’re also likely to let moisture in. If that happens, they’re useless.

Besides which, they’re also not built to handle extremes in temperature. They’ll fog up a lot more easily and become, you guessed it, useless.

Can’t I just use my rifle scope?

You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. Riflescopes are perfect for when you’re lining up a shot because they have a very narrow focus.

When you’re looking for game, their field of vision isn’t wide enough. Besides that, every time you’re scoping out the landscape, you’re pointing your gun. It’s not safe.

How do I select the perfect set for me?

We’ve spoken a little about what works best for different types of prey. That said, it’s also important to keep your own circumstances in mind. What works well for me might not be the best option for you. Here’s what you should consider.

What magnification do I need?

For hunting, you’ll need between 8x and 10x magnification. You want to be able to spot your prey and potential hazards while they’re further off. Would you like to meet a brown bear up close and personal?

You want enough magnifications so that you can keep a safe distance. At the same time, you want something that will also work closer up. More magnification means a smaller field of view. So, it’s best to stick to 8X or 10X here so you can see more.

If you’re hunting in a forest, I’d say that you’re better off sticking to 8X. If your prey is generally more than 250 yards away, you’ll need at least 10X magnification.

What does the field of view mean?

Your field of view refers to how much of the landscape you can see on either side of the main frame. Think of it like the panoramic setting on your camera. The wider the field of view, the more you’ll see in the image when you look through the binoculars.

When you’re hunting, a wider field of view is vital because you’ll see more of the field.

What about the objective lens?

This is the lens on the outer side of the binoculars — the lens that’s closer to your prey. A wider field of vision means that this lens needs to be bigger. That also means it will be heavier.

So, having a full field of vision is also not ideal because it means more weight to carry. When hunting, look for a lens diameter of around 42 mm at most. This should give you a wide view without adding too much extra weight.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, I’ve given you a lot of food for thought here. I’ve given you a high-tech option in the Leica. Why didn’t it take top honors? Because it’s pricey and not as versatile as the Swarovski.

Swarovski came in as the top of the pops. It’s also pricey, but the optics and durability make it a sound investment.

That said, if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, the Vortex Optics Diamondback model has plenty of power. It won’t let you down and is reasonably priced.

Vortex is a great brand, and produce reasonably priced quality products. It should come as no surprise then that I chose the Vortex Optics Crossfire as the best in the budget range.

All of the models that made it onto this list can be bought with complete confidence. Happy hunting.

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