Many hunters will tell you that their optics are the most important equipment in their pack – and for good reason. Clear, reliable binoculars allow for quick recognition of wild game. For deer hunters, this means, among other things, swiftly identifying antler and body characteristics to determine age class.
As such, many hunters will stretch their budget when it comes to hunting binoculars. However, for most whitetail hunting sessions, are binos costing $500 to $5,000 necessary?
Call me crazy, but I think not.
Hunting With Budget Binoculars
I’ve been hunting for nearly 50 years and currently my best pair cost me less than $300 – and I don’t even use them on every hunt.
Don’t get me wrong, high-end binoculars are a worthy investment and enhance the hunting experience. In most cases, the additional quality and benefits are noticeable. But, I’m really hard on equipment and having a couple pairs of low-end binos are a necessity for my many trips to the field. However, that doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice quality. The fact is, the level of quality of today’s optics has increased, meaning a lot of budget binos sport important features such as good optical glass and coatings. This means that they gather light reasonably well during darker conditions. Fogging will also be less of an issue (if any).
At the end of the day, most hunters don’t need to count points over 500 yards.
Digiscoping With Budget Binoculars
The great thing is digiscoping doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of binocular cost, this approach is an effective part of anyone’s hunting and scouting regimen. It kicks things up a few notches by bringing your quarry in closer for more detailed evaluation at larger distances; and documenting it via images and video.
I’ve found that, for digiscoping, it’s largely about using relatively high magnification and field of view, so I typically carry 10X42, 10X50, and 12X50 powered sets to the stand. Budget binos are usually heavier, but that’s not a bad thing in the digiscoping world (at least for me) as they minimize vibration. Like all classes of binoculars, not all lower-end ones are created equal. Still, there are many models and brands under $150 that easily do the trick on your average hunting or scouting trip. This is a good thing, because it means that you can effectively digiscope on a tighter budget with a Phone Skope adapter kit – and still go home with quality images and video.
Low-end binoculars I’ve had success with include Bushnell PowerView ($75), Nikon Aculon ($95), Celestron Gamekeeper ($90), and Barska Blackhawk ($95). Phone Skope will have either a custom kit for these models or, at a minimum, their Universal Optic Adapter. I often take a pair of Bushnell 10X42 Powerview binoculars to the stand with great results.
I was able to capture this young buck (see below) at 140-yards with both my PowerView binos and a higher-end Leupold pair. While this isn’t a great distance, the difference in picture quality was immaterial, if not unnoticeable.
As mentioned, dependable optics are paramount to hunting success. While quality of optics tend to increase with price, there are many more basics to tend to first when digiscoping. It’s much more about choosing ideal light conditions, keeping your optics steady, improving focus, and practice. Within reason, don’t let the sticker price on your binos discourage you from securing a Phone Skope adapter kit and hitting the woods.