3 Reasons to Carry Binoculars You Probably Haven’t Thought Of

By Steve Sorensen

Alpen 788

If binoculars are useful in finding a big ol’ trophy bull moose, surely they’re useful to the whitetail hunter. (Steve Sorensen photo.)

Spotting scope with 820 SLR camera adapter in use

A good pair of binoculars and a Havalon knife—two essentials to carry on every whitetail hunt. (Steve Sorensen photo.)

Spotting scope with 820 SLR camera adapter in use

One difference between so-so binos and quality binos will show up when you actually use them. Your eyes won’t get nearly as tired using quality glass. (Steve Sorensen photo.)

Nearly every article you read about binos gives you the lowdown on all the technical stuff—power, field of view, objective diameter, exit pupil, prisms, coatings, brightness. And it’s all aimed at the hunter who is considering a purchase. But the truth is this: I don’t know a hunter who doesn’t already have some kind of binoculars. Ask a hundred hunters if they own a bino—I’ll bet a hundred say “Yes.”

I’ll also bet that not one in 10 takes it hunting. No—it doesn’t count just having a pair in your truck. You gotta carry them. And use them. So if you’re the guy who doesn’t carry his bino in the woods, let’s set aside the technical stuff right now and focus on using the bino you have.

I know—when you do carry them, you don’t often use them. Let’s fix that right now. Here are three reasons you don’t carry binoculars—and how to change that.

1. Binoculars slow you down.

“Don’t slow me down!” People say that like slowing down is a bad thing. When it comes to hunting, slow a good thing. Slow is how you don’t miss things. Slow is how the game animal you’re pursuing isn’t aware of your presence. Slow is most definitely better when hunting.

The truth is most of us move too fast when we’re in the woods. That old Simon & Garfunkel tune, “Slow down, you move too fast,” should be the theme song for hunters. If “feelin’ groovy” means tuning in to your environment and getting into “the zone,” you can do that only when you’re moving slowly.

It ain’t easy to slow down because real life tumbles by at a faster pace than ever and we get ramped up to its speed. When you step into the woods, that needs to change. Binoculars can help you do that.

“But binoculars are cumbersome,” you say. I reply, “That’s a good thing if it slows you down.” Don’t take a compact bino and stuff it into a pocket or pack so you don’t even know it’s there. Hang ’em around your neck—you HAVE to walk slowly if they aren’t going to beat against your chest all day. Put your bino where you’re thinking of it, even if it is uncomfortable. Even if it’s big. Let it bounce against your chest. Yes, there are disadvantages to that, but you can remedy that later by getting a binocular harness from Alpen Optics. For now, let ’em bounce. Be very conscious of them—that’s the goal here. Become aware of your bino—you won’t use them if you’re not aware of them.

2. Binoculars make you a better observer when you’re not using them.

“Huh?” You say, “Don’t you observe when you are using them?” Yep—seems counter-intuitive, but suppose you’re on a stand. You see a deery-looking thing you can’t identify. This UGO (Unidentified Grounded Object) doesn’t move, but maybe that’s because it saw you first and it’s staring at you.

Very slowly lift your bino and get a good eyeful of details so you can dismiss this UGO, if that’s all it is, or shift into kill mode if it’s the real deal. So, resolve all the details about what’s on the other side of the valley or what’s in the shadows over yonder. Then you can go back to picking apart the landscape looking for that buck. When you know exactly what that distracting, questionable thing really is, you’re free to focus on seeing what you’re actually looking for. And when something shows up you haven’t noticed before, you notice it as new with your naked eyes. Now check it out with your binocular.

If you’re spot-and-stalk hunting you’re glassing constantly. If you’re on a stand you aren’t. But you should, once every 10 to 15 minutes, examine everything through your bino. You’ll see more detail and become more intimately acquainted with the view from your stand. When a new detail really does show up, and it has eyes, you’re more likely to notice it before it notices you.

3. Binoculars keep temptation at bay.

I made a couple of bets at the beginning of this article. Here’s another. I’m betting no one reading this would ever do this, but chances are you’ve heard of it or seen it done. Maybe it has even happened to you. You’re in some crowded deer woods and you notice another guy a pretty good distance away looking through his scope. Is he looking at you? You ease over behind a tree and peek around to see him. Here’s where a fluorescent hat comes in handy. You wave your hat. He puts the gun down.

Yes, occasionally there’s that guy who is a little too confident and a little too stupid at the same time. Don’t be that guy.

If you need the clincher, here it is. Carry a pair of binos and you’ll get more game. That’s a no-brainer. It’s like having a camera. A pro photographer once told me, “The secret to taking good pictures is this: force yourself to take lots of pictures—the odds are that some of them will be pretty good.” Something similar is true about binos. The secret to depending on binos is to force yourself to use them—a lot. You’ll soon find out binos do much more than bring the world up close.

None of this is meant to imply that the technical details are unimportant. If you’re thinking of buying a good pair of binos and want to know the technical stuff to make an intelligent buying decision, you definitely oughta read the technical stuff. Check out Havalon’s articles on buying and using binoculars. Now, start glassing.

About Steve Sorensen

Outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen is the author of Growing Up With Guns, writes an award-winning newspaper column called The Everyday Hunter®, and edits content on the Havalon Sportsman’s Post. He also writes The Everyday Hunter® Handbook series, Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman's event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com.