From the outset, I'll admit that I'm a little picky about optics since they can make or break hunts.
Why? Because it's often at the first legal blush of shooting light – or at the very last gasp of shooting light later on in the day – when a big white-tailed buck or bull elk decides to suddenly pop out of the dark timber.
Offering the day’s only opportunity to shoot, a chance that may very well come down to a quick decision made by looking through binoculars and rangefinder.
The trouble is, not everyone has the unlimited discretionary funds to pursue all hunting dreams.
Or to buy all of the equipment, gear and toys, necessary or not, for such pursuits, at least without skipping a mortgage payment, breaking into the kid's college fund or making the retriever skip a meal or two.
Loosely translated, buying the very best European-level optics isn’t always possible.
This simply means a hunter must do research to find good optical quality and in-the-field performance, all while remaining at an reasonable price point that won't hinder the needs of the family.
With that as the backdrop, you can imagine the interest that was piqued when the boss tossed a pair of Bone Collector Bushnell Trophy 10x42 binoculars my way and asked me to give them a try this hunting season.
My first instinct was that I was perfectly happy with the three different models (from two different brands) that my boys and I have settled in on using over the past few years.
During that timeframe, these optics have done what we have asked them to do, and thus, they have steadily remained in our various hunting packs.
And now? Well, let's just say the Bushnell Trophy binoculars have occupied a spot in my hunting pack now.
Bone Collector Bushnell Trophy 10x42 binoculars (Lynn Burkhead photo)
Why are these binoculars still there?
First, they are well made, featuring a pleasing easy-to-grip shape that sports a textured Dura-Grip rubber coating. That soft, rubbery armor eliminates sun glare and helps to dampen any noise made in the field, all while giving hunters a solid and comfortable grip, even on a wet day spent high up in a windy treestand.
The 10x42 Trophy binocs – which check in at just more than 25 ounces – also have user-friendly features that include flip-up covers for the objectives, twist-up eyecups (aiding in eye-relief) and fast focus and adjustment knobs to help get these optics quickly dialed in to your visual needs.
They also come with fog-proof and waterproof features (thanks to O-ring seals and nitrogen purging, features that make these binoculars able to withstand complete immersion in water).
And trust me, such features come in handy for a semi-klutz like me. After all, how many other people do you know that have dropped a brand new smartphone into the dog's water bowl?
If the Trophy 10x42's solid construction is one selling point, then a second is that they are affordable, generally selling for $125 to $150 depending on where you purchase them from.
Add in Bushnell's No Questions Asked Lifetime Warranty and even I can afford to buy another pair or two of these Trophy binoculars.
Finally, these Bone Collector optics also come with fully multicoated lenses, high-quality lead-free glass and BaK-4 prisms.
When you translate the marketing talk on the box and/or website into English, what does all of it mean for a hard-working bowhunter?
That these optics feature good light transmission capabilities and are surprisingly clear, crisp and bright in the field, comparable with other optics that sport much more expensive price tags.
I found that out first hand while scanning the edge of a timber patch as I hoped to encounter a 160-inch buck that was nothing more than a ghostly apparition for several weeks on our trail cameras.
Showing up only during the early overnight hours, I was hopeful on this particular evening that a change in the weather – a big cold front was pushing through – and the last days of the rut might conspire to get Big Daddy up on and on his feet a little bit early.
Unfortunately, I never did see him that evening. But that wasn't the bino’s fault since I was able to scan the terrain in front of me with good precision and clarity all the way to the absolute end of legal shooting light.
Even if that light was more muted than normal on a damp, windy kind of evening where the clouds were low-slung and racing across the sky while spitting out a bit of rain here and there.
As I exited the woods on that early-winter day, I did so regretting not seeing the big typical I was chasing, but not the choice of binoculars that I had in my hand.
Bushnell Trophy 800 Laser Rangefinder (Lynn Burkhead photo)
But binoculars are only one part of the optical equation necessary for deer and big-game hunters. And since no hunting pack is complete without a good, long-distance rangefinder, consider adding in the Bushnell Trophy 800 Rangefinder for another $200 or so.
With laser range-finding accuracy to within a single yard, a rainproof housing and the ability to range targets all the way from 7 yards out to 850 yards, this unit runs on a single 3-volt battery (which is included).
Add in Bushnell's warranty and the unit's ability to acquire dark and non-reflective targets and this is a solid unit that will help you quickly dial in the shot distance you’re facing.
Weighing in at just over 5 ounces, this is another great value from Bushnell, a rangefinder that excels at reaching out, grabbing your target's yardage and quickly relaying it back to the hunter.
The bottom line is that I'm impressed with the Bushnell Trophy 10x42 binoculars and the Trophy 800 Laser Rangefinder I’ve used. They are durable, solidly made, perform well in a variety of conditions and do so for an easy to absorb price-point.
In fact, the two of these Bushnell Trophy units together – the 10x42 Bone Collector binoculars and the 800 Rangefinder – can be purchased for a fraction of the price of a set of European optics, giving solid performance in the field without breaking the bank.
All in all, these optics are good products that should serve hunters, like myself, very well in the field for a number of years to come.
And all at prices that will allow me to keep fueling my hunting dreams in the whitetail woods and out West.
And more importantly to the Mrs., allowing me to do so and to keep sending me kids through college.