Big whitetails bed in the shadows and move in the half-light. They’re here and gone. To see them, you want the brightest binocular. To find them fast in cover, you want the widest field of view. In short, you want low power. O.K., use 10X in the wide open West. But just about everywhere else, 8X or under is better. All else being equal, lower power gathers more light, increases field of view, and makes for a more compact package that at the end of the day doesn’t feel like a car battery slung around your neck. Here are four affordable models, all fully multicoated, phase-correction coated, rubber armored, waterproof, fogproof, and perfect for hunting whitetails.
1. ******Leupold** Hawthorne 7×42 ($440; leupold.com)
The Skinny: Wonderfully bright. It’s a shame that this configuration isn’t more popular and available. It’s darn near perfect for the majority of whitetail hunters. Fairly lightweight for a full-size binocular, the Hawthorne delivers a good picture and the finish provides a solid grip. The real-world price is closer to $300, and I’ve seen it as low as $260.
The Specs: FOV at 1,000 yd.: 389 ft. Weight: 22.9 oz. Length: 5.5″ Exit Pupil: 6mm Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty
The Skinny: If you must have full-size binocs of at least 8X power, Nikon’s new ultralight, -polycarbonate-body Monarch 5, with ED glass, delivers bright and sharp images in a very wispy, if not especially small, package. It’s ideal for still-hunting or stalking all day in fairly open terrain where an extra X or two can be a plus.
The Specs: FOV 330 ft. Weight: 20.8 oz. Length: 5.7″ Exit Pupil: 5.25mm Warranty: Full lifetime warranty
3. ******Meopta MeoPro 6.5×32** ($300; eagleoptics.com)
The Skinny: This 6.5×32 has the smallest exit pupil on this list, but that’s made up for by the company’s excellent lens coatings, which have an industry-leading light transmission of 99.8 percent. A huge field of view and fast focusing help you get on deer in an instant. Great optics for the money, and perfect for the big woods and bowhunting.
The Specs: FOV 440 ft. Weight: 21 oz. Length: 5.2″ Exit Pupil: 4.9mm Warranty: Lifetime transferable warranty
4. Vortex Viper HD 6×32 ($549; eagleoptics.com)
The Skinny: The Viper HD 6×32 delivers high-end performance at a midrange price, all in a very tidy package. The lightest, most compact model here, it jumps up to your eye, feels good in the hand, and is made for hard use. These have become my go-to binocs for the vast majority of my whitetail hunting.
The Specs: FOV 420 ft. Weight: 20.6 oz. Length: 4.9″ Exit Pupil: 5.3mm Warranty: Lifetime warranty
Big Pupil Means Bright Picture
Lens and prism coatings are important to be sure, but all else being equal, brightness is a function of exit pupil, which is determined by the size of the binocular’s objective lenses divided by the power. The bigger the exit pupil, the brighter the picture. A 10×42 binocular has an exit pupil of 4.2mm. Compare that with the 8×42 and 6×32 above, with an exit pupil of 5.25 and 5.3, respectively; or with the 7×42’s wide-eyed pupil of 6mm.