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What Is the Best Binocular Magnification for Hunting? Optical Features Explained

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man using binoculars outside on a winter day

By definition, magnification is the ability of an optical device to enlarge or reduce the actual size of an image of a particular object.

It’s vital to always make sure that you’ve got the right magnification any time you go out hunting. Regrettably though, seeing as it all hinges on several factors, we cannot give you a clear-cut answer. All we know with absolute certainty is that anything that lies between 7X and 12X is perfect. Don’t go with a fixed-magnification device though, as that might limit your options.

Besides the magnification, you also have to take into consideration the terrain, type of game, Field of View (FOV), and image stability, among other things. Our advice to you is to play it safe. And safest play is to invest in a pair of binoculars that comes with a variable magnification feature.

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The Ideal Binocular Magnification for Bow Hunting

Bow hunting is the practice of hunting a wide variety of game animals by archery. It’s far more skillful compared to rifle hunting, meaning you need magnification that’s at least 7X. Of course, the weather conditions and the terrain will determine the most suitable magnification power, but you have nothing to worry about if your pair of binoculars is a variable one—especially if it offers a range of 7–10X.

It’s crucial to remember that the magnification aspect of an optical device usually affects the FOV. And In addition to the fact that they are intertwined, they are also inversely proportional—the more powerful the ocular is, the narrower the FOV. That also implies that you’ll have a hard time using it off-hand, as you constantly have to move the device to ensure the object doesn’t get out of frame.

If you’re planning to use a deer or tree stand, you’ll need a set of binoculars that delivers a 7X or 8X magnification power. 10X is still not too bad, but you will not have an easier time spotting a game that’s bedded down. Go for 12X power if the terrain is too rough to spot your prey from a distance. Regardless, with a 12X magnification, you have to get close to your target to make an accurate shot. 

person holding his binoculars
Photo Credit: Khaligo, Pixabay

The Ideal Binocular Magnification for Elk Hunting

The best magnification in this case will mostly boil down to your terrain and the preferred hunting style. It goes without saying that rough terrain will require a high-powered device, but if you’re planning to call in the elk, that magnification must be reduced to 8X. A 10x or 12X pair of binoculars will only be useful if you’re trying to close in the distance.

Elk hunting usually requires a 50mm or 42mm aperture. Then again, if you’ll be hunting very early in the morning or late in the evening, the light conditions will ask for something bigger. From our experience, a 56mm aperture is large enough to deliver the appropriate level of brightness. 

Side Note: Binoculars that are designed to provide larger apertures and high magnification powers are relatively heavier. That’s to say, the best results will only be yielded if you also invest in a premium-quality tripod.

a hunter looking through binoculars in the forest
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

The Ideal Binocular Magnification for Damp Conditions

First off, if you’re going hunting in the swaps or marshlands, you should have a pair of binoculars designed to be waterproof. Even though they are usually a tad bit pricey, such devices are meant to assure their users that the lenses will always be well protected against fungal growth, and the images generated will never look distorted.

The best magnification power for damp conditions is 8X or 10X. It’s more than enough to not only ensure that the device remains lightweight, but to also provide a wider FOV. A 32mm lens diameter is the minimum requirement for such conditions.

close up man using binoculars to spot birds
Image Credit: Forest Simon, Unsplash

The Ideal Binocular Magnification for Open Lands

Some game animals love spending time in open fields or prairies because such habitats make it easier for them to spot predators looking to make a meal out of them. They instinctively know open lands allow them to see anything approaching from a distance before it’s too late.

That’s why you need a 12X-powered optical instrument with a 44 mm aperture or more. The field of view won’t be as wide as we would have liked it to be, but at the same time, closing in the distance without spooking the animal won’t be an issue. 

Person with binocular
Image Credit: Pxhere

The Ideal Binocular Magnification for Thick Vegetation

It’s common knowledge that unlimited visibility is one of the prime reasons why we normally invest in top-notch models. So, if you’ll be hunting in conditions characterized by limited visibility, you have to work with something that fits the bill. We’re talking about a pair of binoculars that’s compact—making it easy to carry—and average in the magnification department.

Don’t go for a ridiculously large pair that also features a high power. An 8X or 10X magnification will be ideal for thick vegetation. 

binoculars on a tree trunk
Image Credit: Pat_Scrap, Pixabay

Other Optical Features to Keep in Mind

Magnification is not the only aspect that will significantly influence your outdoor glassing experience. There are several other factors that you’ll have to investigate before choosing the device that best suits you.

  • Objective Lens Diameter: Your binocular’s ability to gather more or less light will be influenced by the diameter of the objective lens. If you have two pairs with similar specifications, but you’ve noted that one of them is generating relatively brighter images, it’s because the lens diameter is larger. A larger lens translates to more light, which ultimately translates to clearer images.
  • Twilight Factor: This is the number that we often use to determine the effectiveness of an optical instrument in low-light Generally, different pairs of binoculars usually have a twilight factor that’s between 5 and 20. What’s more, according to experts, that value is normally a function of their magnification power and the objective lens diameter. It’s also worth adding that high values are only found on pairs that are more suitable for twilight hunting.
  • Eye Relief: It’s the distance between the optical device’s lens and the user’s eye. For binoculars, the eye relief normally lies between 10 to 20 mm. Viewing the full image will be impossible if your eye relief is more than 20mm, and a kidney-shaped shadow will cover parts of the image if the value is below 10 mm.

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The best binocular magnification for hunting is one that best serves your needs. If you go for too much power, you’ll be forced to work with a very narrow FOV. And that’s not something desirable for users looking to hunt in close-quarter environments. Not being able to deliver sufficient power is also an issue, as it might leave you yearning for clearer images.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Family, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.