By Robert J. Kaleta
(Vanguard Product Marketing Manager – Sporting Optics)
In today’s world we often hear the phrase; “Bigger is better” or “More for the money”. However experience has demonstrated that this is not always the optimum case or direction to take when discussing optics; specifically as it relates to binocular magnification for use while hunting. Hunting with lower magnification binoculars whether in dense hardwoods or the open prairie can be far more practical than with the higher power options.
Hands down the most common choice that consumers immediately gravitate towards when selecting a binocular is the 10X40 or something similar in size. Higher power binoculars like the 12X or 15X have their place with specific applications like sheep hunting, or in open grassland or desert terrain supported by a shooting stick, or even for use on small varmints etc. The majority of hunters would be better equipped to select an 8X or even the 7X as their standard field binocular. Not to say the 10X isn’t the best all-around answer for roaming the countryside in pursuit of game. My point is not to be too quick to overlook the benefit of the lower powered options available. Here’s why...
The higher the magnification the “less” you actually see. By that I mean your Field of View and Depth of Focus will be less with the higher magnification optic. This could easily result to missing game while glassing. Remember your hunting binocular should be used primarily to find game. A buck’s head turning or the twitch of a tail outside the binocular’s field of view will simply go unnoticed. Recognition of that bedded mule deer becomes an even greater challenge while glassing if it is lying closer than or beyond the depth of focus. (The higher the magnification the shorter the depth of focus.)
Use your binocular to look for movement and for any contrast in color. Quality optics like the Vanguard ENDEAVOR series with low chromatic aberration are best for picking out the camouflaged hide of a deer against fall or winter colored brush. Once you have located something worth a closer look, then get out your spotting scope for the detail work. The Vanguard XF and HD spotting scope series are perfect for this type of observation with high magnification eyepieces, excellent resolution and detailed focus mechanisms. If you have a guide or companion with you, also direct them to locate the buck and to help determine if a stalk is warranted.
All things equal; lower magnification binoculars are also going to deliver a larger exit pupil for even better low light performance. This is extremely beneficial when hunting black bear or whitetail deer during the normal twilight hours when trophy bucks or boars usually show themselves. Combine the above benefits with less image jump or “shake” and it is easy to determine why you should take a second look at a lower magnification binocular option when making that purchase or selecting what binocular to carry hunting.
Remember - Use your binocular to find game first. Study the detail of the animal with a spotting scope once you’ve found it. Then make an ethical shot with a quality riflescope combined with the right reticle choice and magnification setting. More to come in the following months…