What Binos for long range hunting?

Ian M

Well-Known Member
May 3, 2001
Sask. Canada
Last year I had the opportunity to hunt with four sets of premium binocs. I hauled all four sets out to several big game hunts, including a couple of mountain hunts and some real wide-open western hunts. The binocs had similar specs, all 8 by 40mm or close.

During the hunts I got a wide variety of guides and hunters to use a different set each day or for a couple of days, ensuring that everyone used each pair. I also took them to shooting ranges and asked anyone there to rate them as per their personal preferance. I had dozens of guys look through all four sets.

The binocs were made by Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski and Nikon - they were all top-end models, fairly even in price.

Results - it gets down to comparing superb against superb. Ergonomics becomes a big factor because most eyeballs cannot discern any significant difference. We used them in poor light, rain, bright sun - you name it and although the results varied a bit I was interested that the Nikons got the most points.

This was despite the fact that many viewers had very strong brand-loyalty - seems if a person owns Leica or Zeiss or whatever they do so because they are convinced that is the best brand period.

I own a set of Zeiss 8-56 Nightowls that are superb for long range spotting but they are too heavy to carry in the field (we call them truckbinocs). I do take them a lot but usually in a packsack. My son uses Swarovskis, I use the Nikons a lot or a set of 8-45 Nightowls.

I use the Crooked Horn Outfitter bino flex carrying system that is sort of like a shoulder harness - it is the only way to carry any binocs, large or small.

Seems like really good binocs give the impression of being stronger than they really are - for example top-end 8 power binocs are frequently mistaken as being 10 power. Of course the biggest difference (compared to cheap glass) is how easy they are on your eyes at the end of the day, how long they stand up to rugged use and how they feel in your hands. Plus you can define things with good glass that you can not see with cheap glass, in good light and particularly in poor light.

Brightness, sharpness and color trueness are so hard to quantify that most guys form opinions that are very hard to verify - since everyone has different eyeballs and accuity.

Good glass, whether in binocs, scopes or spotters is worth having.
I own a few nice pairs of binocs. I have a 10x42 Zeiss and a 10x56 Zeiss Nightowl. Both are superb. I also own a Swarovski 15x56. This is the glass I used the most last hunting season on long range critters. I have a tripod mount for it and that makes a big difference in clarity.

Just after the season ended I received my back-ordered Swarovski 10x42 EL. This is Swarovski's brand new design and I love the ergonomics. My favorite of all.

In bright daylight, many other brands of less expensive binoculars work well but for low-light use only the premium brands excel.
I can't justify the price of these just yet.
Got other toys on the wish list right now
but Mead and Celestron both make astronomical
binos. They are basically two telescopes
mounted side by side. I've looked though
both and they are unreal. They also will run
you 2-4K depending on the model.

If your wallet can handle it they are worth looking into.
I bought the Lieca 10x42`s and love `em for the lack of eye strain, clear etc. I`m using them for all my glassing in the range of up to a mile or so. I just wish they came with a cover for the objectives.
We use the large bigeyes for the Ultra longrange hunting.
We have several styles. Some are two Bushnell 60MM Spacemasters in an adjustable bracket where we can interchange the eyepieces for the power we need. The normal power we like is 20X to 22X wide angle.
I have put at least 35 sets of these together for hunters over the years. The price for them runs about $700.00 and I have a set here brand new for sale.

Some are with Kowa 77mm or 82 MM in a bracket and some are military ship glasses or German flak and spotting glasses.
For longrange work, you need power and/or large objective lens units that's easy on the eye strain and also something that is tripod mountable.

When we backpack our equipment in, we wrap the glasses in bubble wrap and then wrap our down pants or coat around them and put them in the back pack. We then take a small tripod and all lighter equipment for a day out on a far ridge point.

I have a pair of Ziess 10x42s that have worked well for years in low light and adverse weather conditions. 10x seems to be a good all around power. For day light I use a smaller compact 8x20 pair of lieca's. These work out well if you will be backpacking or hiking to higher ground and weight and size are factors. Once game is spotting the spotting scope comes out to determine if the quarry is worth the stalk. This worked well for me when I hunted Alaska and the days were long and a lot of high terrain had to be climbed daily. With optics get the best you can afford you won't be dissappointed.
How do the space masters stack up for quality to the Kowa? Which one is better at fighting through mirage? What does one of these units weigh? I have been thinking of such a set up for quite sometime. Right now I am making due with a pair of Nikon 10-22 scoutmaster binos on a tripod. Not great quality, Bak4 prisms, but they have good magnification and I can crank them down if the mirage gets too bad. I am very interested in the big eye setus though. Will I notice a big difference from the Nikons, if I go with the spacemasters?
Vince Foster
I don't use binos for hunting. When I see a deer I get the gun on it and look thru the scope. I can't kill a deer with binocs. My long range scope (for deer hunting) has a max power setting of 16X, that would be a heck of a pair of binocs.

"I don't use binos for hunting. When I see a deer I get the gun on it and look thru the scope..."


I too hunt the NW PA woods. If you truly do hunt long range, and the first thing you put on a "deer" is a scope with a rifle below it, well, I'll just say, hope it ain't me you end up looking at.
'yote Bate...

I've owned a bunch of bins... and my preferences are now a small pair of "quality" 8 or 9 power with smallish objectives - maybe 30 or 35 mm... and for the really long stuff, I first tried a pair of 20x80 Celestrons, and they were OK, but heavy... went to 15x80 Steiners (with built in compass), and I love them. They are sharper than the Celestrons, and about 1/3rd the weight.


When you are deer hunting in PA hopefully you are hunting in a legal manner. By this I mean you are wearing the required amount of "blaze orange" about your head, back and chest.

If you are wearing at least the minimum amount of "blaze orange" required by the law in PA then I can see that you are not a deer. The reason for wearing the orange is that you are visable a long ways off to other hunters.
Therefor I would never point my rifle at you or any other hunter in PA.

I will change tactics when deer start wearing blaze orange but until that happens I will look at the deer with my scope not binocs.

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