Selecting Hunting Binoculars


by: John W. Brendemuehl


01. Price Range. 

The price range of between $200 and $500 seems to satisfy the majority of hunting enthusiasts. 

Binoculars costing less than $200 often are found to be lacking in at least one desired feature, while those with prices above $500 may not offer substantial additional features to justify the price increase. 

When considering binoculars costing less than $50, durability is suspect at best. Used constantly in outdoor settings one may suddenly find these inexpensive binoculars to no longer function properly. This category of binocular is probably best suited as a beginning model, or one for occasional general use. 

02. Magnification & Aperture. 

These are the two numbers associated with all binoculars. The first value (“8”) is the power of the binoculars. Meaning that the object being viewed will appear eight times closer, or larger, than if seen with the naked eye. The second value (“42”) records the size of the front (objective) lens as 42 mm and indicates its light gathering capability. 

Theoretically higher aperture ranges are better suited for early morning dawn and late evening dusk viewings. Game often is most active during these hours, and the dimmer light requires higher light gathering capabilities from your binoculars. However, as the size of the objective lens increases so does the overall binoculars weight. 

Typically the numbers most often associated with hunting binoculars run in the 8 – 10 magnification and the 40 – 45 aperture ranges (8x40, 8x42, 8x45, 10x40, 10x42, 10x45). In very dim light, you may even want to go to the 50 mm range. 


03. Eye Relief. 

This is the distance between where your eyes are placed and the rear ocular lens. The recommended minimum distance is 14 mm. Eye relief is important to for the comfort of the binocular user, especially when the binoculars are used for extended periods of time. Eyes placed closer than the recommended 14 mm blink more often, thus increasing eye fatigue and discomfort. 

Better hunting binoculars have at least 14 mm adjustable eye relief features and normally include twist up eyecups. 

04. Lenses Coating. 

Hunters want to clearly see their target without distortions. The best hunting binoculars have fully multi coated (FMC) lenses. This means that each of the binoculars internal lenses has been coated at least twice with anti reflective layers on both sides of all lenses. Lens coatings are necessary to create a brighter, clear image and to correct any color distortions. 

In this regard, be aware of terms such as “fully coated” and “multi coated”. Multi coated lens have coatings on only some of the sides of the internal lenses. Fully coated lenses have even less coatings. 

Hunting binoculars that produce the brightest, clearest images almost always have fully multi-coated lenses. 

05. Waterproof & Fog Proofing. 

Waterproofing and fog proofing are important binocular features because hunters often encounter changes in weather conditions during the hunting day. This can be changes from sun to rain, from warm to cold, or include sleet and snow. The moisture condensation associated with these weather changes are prevented with a solidly constructed waterproof/fog proof binocular. A non-functional binocular (fogged) half way through a hunt can be an extremely demoralizing event. 


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Waterproof binoculars are purged of their interior oxygen, have this purged space replaced with nitrogen, and are O-ring sealed to create a waterproof/fog proof construction. Fog proofing normally is a by-product of this waterproofing construction. 

Insist on hunting binoculars that are specifically listed as both waterproof and fog proof. Some models may be designated as “weatherproof” or “water resistant”. Be leery of any proofing verbiage that is not specifically listed as waterproof and fog proof. 

06. Construction & Use. 

Hunting binoculars are often used over rugged terrain where it can be dropped or bumped against a rock or a tree. Look for hunting binoculars that are designated as shock resistant or offer rubberized exterior armoring to help provide physical protection. 

Also, be aware that significant banging, dropping, or jars can cause damage to the binoculars interior alignment and weaken the waterproof/fog proof features of the binocular. 

While often considered minor at first, binocular neck straps or a body harness can become more important as the day goes on. The neck strap can secure your binocular close to your body to prevent it from banging around, while the body harness helps to ease the weight of the binoculars. 

A solidly constructed binoculars case provides protection when the binoculars are not in use. And attached lens covers prevent wasted time looking for loose covers. 

Better class hunting binoculars normally have some shock resistant capability and include (with the purchase) a carrying case and a binoculars neck strap. 

07. Closing Thoughts. 

A good binocular will enhance your hunts for years to come. Buy the best you can afford for the hunts you are going to make. While the brand of binoculars often come down to a personal choice, their initial cost should be computed over the years you plan on using them for your hunting enjoyment. A $250 investment used during five annual hunts breaks down to a cost of $50 a year.



The Best Fishing Spots in the Smokies



By: Bob Foster



With nearly 700 miles of fish-able waters within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, no matter what your species and stream, your rod and reel will feel tugs. The fish population moves around each year, so the type of fish you seek and when you come determines your prime fishing spot. 53 species of fish swim in the park waters, and brook and brown trout thrive here all year round. Here are five of the most recommended places to catch these fish and have an adventure in the great outdoors. 

1. The Little River: The ever-present throngs of locals and tourists make this the most popular fly-fishing spot in the park. The mountainous and forested scenery isn’t bad either and since the Little River is one of the largest streams in the Smokies, both roadside fishing and elevated fishing,after a couple miles of hiking the Little River Trail, are available. This river near Elkmont, Tennessee has some of the best angling for rainbow and brown trout. The prime fishing location is where The Little River meets the Fish Camp Prong. Surrounded by flowers, boulders, and waterfalls, both easy and challenging fishing areas run down the river. The “Y” of the Prong water warms so much during the hot summer months that the rainbow trout flock into the large, deep pools near the gorge that can be difficult to fish and navigate 

2. The Horseshoe: If you want to fish for rainbow trout, you must go to this one-mile loop that follows the stretch of the Upper Abrams Creek flowing out of the Cades Cove Valley. Many locals fish here as well, to try to catch some of the booming trout population. You can access The Horseshoe from the Abrams Falls Trail, which runs parallel to Abrams Creek (one of the larger Park streams) most of the way. Take caution, though, because the Horseshoe is notorious for extremely slippery rocks. It will take at least a day to fish the entire loop. 


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3. Porters Creek: New anglers can test their ripe skills on the smaller trout that live in the calm pools of Porters Creek, a little-fished area of the Great Pigeon River near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This isolated area has easy fishing during the summer months, when the best trout swim two to three miles from the river’s berth, but the first few miles of the stream remain too warm for the fish. 

4. Cataloochee Creek: Since the most popular fishing areas are near the roads, check out this remote area in the northern section of the park. Although it takes awhile to find (about an hour’s drive from Gatlinburg), once there, the water is extremely accessible. Cataloochee Creek also offers the elusive smallmouth bass to patient anglers, and because the Cataloochee Creek hides these waters and open fields, it’s requires less skill to fish here than in other areas of the Smoky Mountains. In addition to the rainbow trout, elk and other wildlife inhabit this picturesque area of the park, isolated by the surrounding 6000-foot peaks. 

5. Hazel Creek: For multiple-day fishing trips, you must go to Hazel Creek, a fishing area famous for satisfying even the most cynical angler. What makes Hazel Creek so sought after? Well, it’s only accessible by shuttle boat from the Fontana Lake Marina in the North Carolina side of the park or after a long hike from the tourist spot Clingman’s Dome. But your efforts won’t go unrewarded, as large (and surprisingly colorful!) brown, brook, and rainbow trout swim in both the large and small streams that feed into Hazel Creek. No matter what your skill level, you can fish here. And, with so many campsites along the bank, it only makes sense to stay overnight or make a weekend fishing trip out of it with your buddies or family. At Hazel Creek, you’ll want a rod capable of throwing big flies if needed, but soft enough to handle leader range as well. 

No matter what trout, stream, or location you seek, most locations within the park remain stocked at or near the capacity for fishing all year long. Remember, you must get a license from either Tennessee or North Carolina before fishing in the park. And, if you need more help or education, a local fly-fishing school offers guided fly-fishing trips that include day and overnight excursions.