Top 10 Binocular Tips From Industry Experts
THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN
KUIU asked some of the industry’s best binocular and glassing experts for their top 10 best hunting bino tips-and-tricks. Read on to learn glassing techniques, optimal tripod set-up and how to care for your binos.
1. KEEP IT STEADY
If you’re not glassing from a tripod, you’re missing out. When KUIU reached out to some of the best hunters in the industry for their top bino tips, they unanimously stated glassing with hunting binoculars on a tripod is game-changing, especially when hunting western big game. The steadiness from a tripod is unmatched, but not always practical.
If you can’t use a tripod, resting your binos on the top wheel of your bow, on a trekking pole or simply placing your elbows on your knees while sitting are great alternatives. Having a stable platform will increase your ability to pick up game and reduce eye fatigue.
2. GET COMFORTABLE
Randy Ulmer recommends the more time you spend glassing, the more likely you are to find the animal you’re looking for. It’s important to be as comfortable as possible in every way to make glassing more enjoyable and to minimize fatigue.
“The best method I’ve found for remaining comfortable while glassing is to mount my binoculars on a tripod whose legs expand wide enough and tall enough that I can get into the tripod and sit up straight. I’ll use a stool when practical for several reasons: It gets me a little above the grass and vegetation, and it’s more comfortable than sitting on the ground.”, commented Ulmer.
When a stool isn’t practical, KUIU’s glassing pad does the trick. It’s comfortable, lightweight and stows perfectly between your backpack frame and bag.
3. PROPER TRIPOD SET-UP
Jay Scott with Colburn & Scott Outfitters offered up some fantastic tips. He recommends glassing off a tripod in the seated position to get your body as stable as possible. By sitting down and having the tripod low to the ground, it offers a stable platform that will minimize a shaky image while glassing, especially in windy conditions. Also, avoid extending the center post on your tripod, keep it low and close to the top of the tripod as possible. Utilize the stiffest part of the tripod legs and only extend the lower legs if you need to. The stiffer the legs and center post, the less it will be affected by wind and the steadier your glassing will be.
If you’re glassing from a tripod in the standing position to get a better view, the same tripod set-up concept applies, avoid fully extending the center post and lower leg section. Always use the tripod in its stiffest and sturdiest position. If you’re having to max out the center post, to reach eye-height, you need a taller tripod.
In windy conditions, it’s also a good idea to hang some weight to the center post of the tripod to minimize shake and possible movement.
Jason Whitaker from Whitaker Brothers Hunting Company has a tip he’s been using for years on setting up your tripod handle for bino use. The handles that come equipped on most tripod heads are adjustable, yet too long for binos, especially if the handle is pointed at you. Whitaker recommends installing the handle pointing forward—this keeps the handle out of the way and allows you to have your hands in a comfortable position while you’re behind the glass. If your handle is too long, simply cut it down to a comfortable length.
“When we get a new pan head, we take the handle out and cut it short and then flip it around so it faces forward. While glassing, I position my pinky finger under the handle with 3 fingers on top of it and my thumb resting on the handle swivel or pan head—that way, I have control and can be smooth while panning side-to-side or up-and-down. You can also pan side-to-side by just moving it with your face. We love cutting the handle and flipping it around!”, commented Whitaker.
4. SELECT A GOOD VANTAGE POINT
Utilize the terrain to your advantage. The highest and steepest peak will offer the best vantage point and allow you to see 360 degrees around you. Keep an eye out for cliff edges, long ridges, rocky outcroppings, knobs and high points to glass from, but remember to stay concealed while getting into position. Before going into a new area, scout for ideal vantage points on topo maps or Google Earth and know their location before you get there. Plan a route to your vantage point that will keep you concealed and from getting busted.
If it’s windy, position yourself so you’re glassing into the wind. Big game typically get out of the wind as much as possible by utilizing terrain, trees, and vegetation as a natural wind block. Glassing into the wind will put you in a favorable position to spot them.
When you first get into position, glass the obvious or likely areas to hold game first. If you immediately go into a grid-search mode, you may be overlooking prime areas. After you’ve glassed the hot spots, use a grid-search technique, sweeping horizontally and vertically.
“If you’re not seeing animals, you’re likely glassing too fast. Slow down and let your eyes do the work.” Jay Scott added.
Pedro Ampuero (ESP) has a great tip for when you’re first cresting a ridge on an area you want to glass.
“When we peak over a ridgetop into a new valley, we stop to glass as it reveals itself. Start glassing what you see first, take a few steps and glass the new country that appears. That way, if you spot an animal, it won’t be too late to back out without being seen. If you keep walking until you see the whole valley, then start glassing, you will be exposed and will not have a chance to back behind the ridge to put on a stalk.”
5. GLASS WITH THE SUN AT YOUR BACK
By keeping the sun at your back, you’ll be able to glass further and clearer. This isn’t always practical, especially in the afternoons when animals are typically bedded in the shade. But in the early mornings and late evenings during primetime, keeping the sun at your back, or at least not looking directly into the sun will give you an upper hand. For the times you’re looking into the sun, you’ll appreciate having clean lenses.
6. WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
Pedro Ampuero (ESP) of KUIU Europe says it best:
“I think when many people glass, they look for a specific color, shape, or animal. For example, they look for the white butt of a mule deer or an orange shape of a broadside elk. I think focusing on scanning the terrain without thinking of a specific animal, shape, or color leads to locating more game. You’ll pick up bedded animals, animals in the shade, or just a body part of the animal.”
Finding something for size reference is always helpful too. Spotting a doe can help you figure out exactly how big the deer will be. While looking through binos, your depth perception may be off and may lead you to look for something bigger or smaller than it is.
7. WHEN IT'S COLD, KEEP THEM WARM
Keep your binos warm to avoid fogging up when you’re glassing in cold weather, 40 degrees or less. If your binoculars are cold, your breath and warmth from your face will fog them up almost immediately. It’s a good idea to keep them under your shirt or coat. When camping overnight, keep them wrapped up in your tent or sleeping bag.
8. BUY ONCE. CRY ONCE.
A good rule-of-thumb is buying the best pair of binoculars you can afford. Quality optics are vital. You get what you pay for when it comes to buying high-end quality binoculars. High end glass offers edge-to-edge clarity, brightness, color saturation, and lower levels of eye fatigue, benefits that make the purchase more than worth it.
You’ll be ahead in the long run if you invest in one quality pair of binoculars ($1500+) that may last the rest of your life, instead of buying $500 pair every 2-3 years. Don’t buy on warranty alone—the best warranty is the one you’ll never have to use.
9. SIZE DOES MATTER
Size matters when it comes to binocular magnification. Large objective and ocular lenses allow more light to enter your eyes—the more light your optics allow into your eyes, the easier it will be for you to see at dawn and dusk conditions. A set of 10x42mm binoculars will have a light gathering factor of 4.2 (42 divided by 10). The average human eye’s max light gathering capability is around a factor of 5.
8x42 | 10x42 | 10x50
- May be used free hand
- Compatible in LG KUIU PRO Bino Harness System
- Wide field of view
- Ideal for up close in heavy timber to open country
12x50 | 15x56
- Difficult to use free hand
- Compatible with XL KUIU PRO Bino Harness System
- Ideal on a tripod
- Narrow field-of-view
- Ideal for long distance glassing or spotting minor details
10. KEEP YOUR BINOCULARS CLEAN
One of the best ways to help keep your optics clean is to stow them in a bino harness while in the field and in their case during storage. The KUIU PRO Bino Harness features an overlapping top lid that fully encloses the case to keep moisture, dust, and debris from collecting on your binoculars.
Whether your optics cost $300 or $3000 you can’t overlook the importance of cleaning the lenses correctly. Today’s binoculars feature multi-layer lens coatings to enhance clarity, reduce glair and minimize fogging. Improper cleaning or wiping and using materials like your shirt sleeve may cause microscopic scratching. Over time, this will wear through the lens coating and into the glass lenses themselves, decreasing clarity and performance.
To clean your optics, use these 3 easy steps.
- Use compressed air or a soft camel hairstyle brush to blow away any dust or debris.
- Use an approved optics style Microfiber Lens Cloth and small amount of cleaning solution to gently wipe the surface of the lenses until they’re clean.
- Use a dry portion of that same cloth to dry the lenses of any moisture residue from the cleaning solution.
Combining these binocular tips, tricks, and techniques with patience, persistence and hard work will ensure your next glassing session is a success.