November 14, 2023
It's a great time to be a deer hunter. It’s the peak of the whitetail rut in every region of the country, though it may be beginning to wind down run some places.
Like most of the gear today’s deer hunters use from the pre-rut and early rut to the peak-rut frenzy, to even the quiet post-rut days of late November and early December, a good set of hand-held optics is vital to success.
The use of binoculars has become one of the most important tools in the modern hunting and angling games. They are vital in virtually all hunting applications and all phases of the deer rut. Binocular makers like Bushnell have taken optics to amazing technological advancements that continue to change the hunting landscape.
While the basic design of binoculars remains similar to the first tubes that were assembled a few hundred years ago, the theory remains much the same today as it was back in the 17th century—to aid people magnify and better see a distant object. Along the way, it’s worth noting what binoculars, or field glasses as they were once known, are in their simplest form. And that’s essentially having two refracting telescopes that are side-by-side and aligned in such a way that viewers can utilize both eyes to view distant objects.
The Beginning of Optics
The whole binoculars idea got going in the early 1600s, according to a University of Arizona's College of Optical Sciences report on the history of telescopes and binoculars. In the early days of the development of the Dutch, or Galilean, telescope, Hans Lipperhay sought a patent in the Netherlands for "a certain device by means of which all things at a very great distance can be seen as if they were nearby, by looking through glasses." That request in September 1608 was followed by a request a few weeks later that hoped to ascertain whether such a device would allow a user to look through with both eyes.
Fast forward through the remainder of the 1600s and 1700s, and the slow development of binoculars continued, according to the University of Arizona’s John Greivenkamp and David L. Steed. Over time, with the ongoing evolution of both materials and manufacturing processes, such products as monocular optics and binocular opera glasses were sought out and used by the common man, the military man and European royalty.
It's a complex story, but in general, as the design process continued on into the 1800s and 1900s, the report by Greivenkamp and Steed paints the picture of an ongoing shift toward field glasses. Improving technology and manufacturing processes allowed binoculars to take a significant leap forward. Parallel optical axises of two side-by-side "telescopes" with matching magnification in the two tubes, while allowing for joint focusing in a hand-held device, made an incredible impact for outdoors-watchers.
With the refinement of prism systems and better glass-making qualities for sharper images, the binocular design process sped forward in the second half of the 19th century. As optical scientists, inventors and manufacturers continued the push toward today's technologies, the entire concept reached critical mass in the early 20th century and field-glass usage became common, as such historical events like World War I began to unfold on the world stage.
Today, as lens coatings and precision high-definition glass-making continue to be refined, and including technologies like range-finding lasers, modern binoculars would cause the jaws of early inventors like Hans Lipperhay to drop in utter amazement.
The Transformation of Modern Optics
Now, most outdoors enthusiasts take the whole concept of peering through a pair of lightweight tubes for granted, consumed with deciphering the images delivered to the eyes and mind quickly and accurately. After all, once you let an arrow slip from the bow or squeeze the trigger on a hunting rifle, the deed is done one way or the other and your decision had better be correct.
For making such snap decisions or for interpreting data at a distance, outdoors types today depend on binoculars in a wide array of settings from the American prairies by upland hunters to the rolling waters of the Atlantic Ocean by striped bass anglers, to the whitetail woods by deer hunters, especially during November’s rut, when they seek the buck of a lifetime.
For whitetail hunters sitting in a bottleneck stand in the rolling hills of the Midwest, the Pineywoods of East Texas and Louisiana, over a green food plot in the Deep South, or in the forested landscapes of the northeast while the last few acorns are peppering down, tight-quarters viewing is often a must with your binos during a November rut hunt.
Picking the Right Binos
Having the right pair of field glasses tucked away into a hunting pack, or hanging from a hook in a treestand is extremely important.
For those up-close viewing needs, woodsy options abound like Bushnell's Legend 8x42, the Forge 8x42, and the 8x42 Engage EDX are all choices that bring features and price points together for hunters needing a new general-use set of eyes in the deer woods.
For hunters who are manning deer stands in more open prairie-like habitat in places like the southern Great Plains, viewing needs in the so-called deer woods often require a bit more of an ability to reach out and touch things.
In such longer-range situations, from the low light of early and late hunting hours to the all-day sits at peak rut, you'll likely want something like the Bushnell Engage X 10x42, the Nitro 10x42 Black or the Legend Ultra HD 10x42 binoculars to reach out and decipher what you are seeing between a prairie sunrise and sunset.
And in some cases, where you need not only an image but the shooting distance to that image, you’ll even want something like the Bushnell Prime 10x42 x 1500 Vault Bundle that pairs high-quality binoculars and a quick-use laser rangefinder together in a one-stop shopping package. You can even go beyond the traditional binocular and rangefinders that have been common in recent years to the Bushnell Fusion X 10x42 rangefinding binoculars, a space-age device that gives hunters an exact distance readout as they steady the crosshairs on a prairie buck slipping towards the horizon.
For ultra long-range options, including a peering through the canyonlands, mountainsides and draws of the America West to a long-distance reconnaissance mission as you arrive in camp and try to determine where to hang a quick-strike deer-hunting stand, you’ll want even more power-packed viewing options.
If that’s the case, you might want to reach for products with more optical oomph like the Bushnell Engage EDX 10x50, the Engage EDX 12x50, or the Legend 12x50 binoculars all coming into really long distance play.
The bottom line here is that binoculars will play a key role in the demise of many big bucks this month as hunters prepare to speed dial their favorite taxidermist and the local meat processing plant after punching an unused deer tag.
For hunters and the binoculars that they so routinely depend on, the art of reaching out and seeing game in the deer woods has never been better.