Nine Rules for Using Binoculars

Most of what we read about hunting optics is abut the products themselves, not about how to use them properly. Unfortunately, the best instruments give you no edge if don’t use them well.

Rule #1: Look close first

Game at a distance tolerates you longer than game up close. Many animals far away won’t even know you’re glassing them. So you have more time to look, or ready yourself for a shot, when the range is long.

Rule #2: Use your unaided eye to update yourself on the "big picture."

Focusing on detail blinds you to peripheral things. I spend about 70 percent of my time "in the glass" and 30 percent studying country around me with my naked eye.

Rule #3: Carry a binocular that gives you a useful image but leaves you fresh after a long day.

A binocular should be light and compact, so you can hang it from your neck. My self-imposed weight limit is 30 ounces for a binocular. Equip yours with a durable, supple strap adjusted (or knotted) so the ocular housings just clear you chin when you lift the instrument.

Rule #4: When you look, move only your eyes, not your head or the binocular.

I do this by reading each field as I would a book, from left to right, top to bottom. Then I move the binocular to the next "page."

Rule #5: Keep your lenses clean.

It’s foolish to pay hundreds of dollars for premium-grade optics, then let field debris make the image as dim as one you’d expect in a discount store binocular.

Rule #6: Check your focus often.

Dials can get bumped and spun during a hunt. Use those adjustments. Don’t make your eyes do all the work.

Rule #7: Know what you need.

Any preconception of what an animal should look like programs your eye to ignore images that don’t conform. The "whole animal" mirage causes you to reject the conspicuous curve of a deer antler or the black belly line of an elk as unimportant.

Rule #8: Look first where game is likely to be and second where it might be, but don’t look where it can’t be.

Knowing where to look is an important as knowing what to look for.

Rule #9: Make the sun work by keeping it behind you or looking from shadows where your eyes are protected from glare.

Like cameras, hunting optics can only manipulate images. What we see is what light shows us. Make the sun a spotlight, shining into the eye of your quarry while giving you the clearest, sharpest picture possible.

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