To See or Not to See: 3 Reasons to Carry Hunting Binoculars You Probably Haven’t Thought Of

By Steve Sorensen

If you’ve had your fill of technical bino talk,
tune in!

Hunting binoculars and a Havalon knife

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

Nearly every article you read about binoculars gives you the lowdown on the technical stuff – power, field of view, objective diameter, exit pupil, prisms, coatings, brightness. 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 a pair of good hunting binoculars. Ask a hundred hunters if they own binos – I’ll bet a hundred say “Yes.”

I’ll also bet not one out of 10 of those same hunters remember to take their binoculars hunting with them. No, it doesn’t count having a pair in your truck. You gotta carry them, and use them. So if you’re the guy who doesn’t carry his binos in the woods, let’s set aside all the technical stuff right now and focus on using the binoculars you already have.

I know – when you do carry them, you just don’t 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 it like slowing down is a bad thing. When it comes to hunting, slow is 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 out 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 a theme song for hunters. If “feelin’ groovy” means tuning in to your environment and getting into “the zone,” you can only do that if 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, all that needs to change. Binoculars can help you do that.

“But binoculars are cumbersome,” you say. Well, I say that’s a good thing if it slows you down. Don’t take a pair of compact binos and stuff them into a pocket or pack where you’ll eventually forget where they are. Hang ’em around your neck – you HAVE to walk slowly if you don’t want them beating against your chest all day. Put your binos where you’ll think about them, even if they are big and uncomfortable. Let them bounce against your chest. Yes, there are disadvantages to that, but you can remedy that later. (See sidebar.) For now, let ’em bounce. Be very conscious of them – that’s the goal here. Become aware of your binoculars – you won’t use them if you’re not aware of them.

A good pair of hunting binoculars can improve your hunt

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. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

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 binoculars 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 and what’s in the shadows over yonder. Then you can go back to picking apart the landscape looking for that buck. Knowing what that distracting, questionable thing is allows you to focus on seeing what might actually be there. 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 binos.

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 15 to 20 minutes, examine everything through your binoculars. 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.

Glassing for moose with hunting binoculars

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

I made a couple of bets at the beginning of this article, and I’ve got one more for you. I’m betting no one reading this would ever do this, but chances are you’ve heard of it or seen it done before. 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 you have that guy who is a little too confident and a little too stupid at the same time. Please, don’t be that guy.

If you need the clincher, here it is: carry a pair of binoculars and you’ll get more game. It’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 – odds are some of them will be pretty good.”  Something similar is true about using binoculars. The secret to depending on binos is forcing yourself to use them a lot. You’ll soon find out they do a lot more than bring the world up close.

None of this is meant to imply that the technical details are unimportant. If you’re thinking about buying a pair of good hunting binoculars and want to know all the technical stuff in order to make an intelligent purchase, you should definitely read it all. Check out Havalon’s articles on buying and using binoculars. Now, start glassing!


hunter outdoor writer steve sorensenAbout 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 Post. He also writes The Everyday Hunter® Handbook series, including a new book called Essentials of Scent Control. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at

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4 Responses to To See or Not to See: 3 Reasons to Carry Hunting Binoculars You Probably Haven’t Thought Of

  1. albert says:

    Good guide, and very useful!

  2. Really have to agree with you especially with the third point. It’s really dangerous if you happen to shoot the wrong ‘thing’. In my opinion, if you really can’t see clearly what it is, it’s always safer to hold you shot. What do you think?

  3. Ross says:

    Thank you ! Steve Sorensen. Thank for article . Your article very usefull!
    “Binoculars slow you down” Slow down make me looking target better

  4. Muks says:

    Nice article…

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