Recon Made Easy: Top Binoculars for 2012

As a 12-year-old, beginning bowhunter, I thought binoculars were unnecessary for deer hunting. After all, the deer needed to walk into 20 yards or less, and if I couldn't see what was going on then, I didn't belong in the woods. Of course, during those early years every legal deer was a shooter, and I didn't have much of a need for field-judging rack size or probable maturity.

Over the years, I realized the benefit of seeing an approaching deer so I could get ready for a shot. I began to understand the need to investigate a strange brown spot in a soybean field while still-hunting or scan the far reaches of a picked cornfield before sneaking into my stand. It became abundantly clear that binoculars belong in the deer woods.

Then I went on my first Western hunt with my dad in Wyoming for antelope. That hunt opened my eyes to a lot of things, but arguably most important was we learned good glass isn't merely a tool in our arsenal, but perhaps the biggest crutch worth leaning on. The lessons learned on the open, sagebrush-studded prairie followed us home as we returned to the world of whitetails.

Since then, a quality pair of binoculars has been strapped to my chest like a newborn child in one of those hands-free baby transporters. And like a newborn child, I take great care not to forget my binos, and to protect them as much as possible.

How much money you're willing to spend on binos is probably the number-one deciding factor on what exact model ends up riding home from Cabela's with you. Price tag aside, consider a few things. The first is that all binoculars will feature two numbers, like 8x32 or 10x42. The first number represents the amount of magnification. The second number represents the objective lens diameter. This number is far more important when hunting whitetails because the larger the objective diameter, the better a pair of binos will be at gathering light, with all else, such as glass quality, being equal.

Beyond magnification and objective lens diameter, factors like overall weight and durability come into play. A few minutes with your hands on different glass will tell you plenty about the other features. Following are 13 of the best options worth checking out.

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