I never realized the importance of a good pair of binoculars until one October afternoon back in 1992. Not only did my binoculars prove helpful in what was turning out to be a great Montana antelope hunt, but they quite possibly also saved a life. Not my life, but the life of another hunter who on that particular day happened to be traipsing along in a pasture where they weren’t supposed to be.
Indeed, I remember the day quite vividly. Slightly overcast, rather warm afternoon temps, moderate breeze…certainly not bad conditions to be sneaking around on the Montana prairie. My buddy, John, had one last doe tag to fill and standing about 225 yards in front of us was the perfect candidate to complete our hunting adventure.
As John carefully nestled his .243 rifle into the notch of the shooting support sticks, he began to adjust his aim and prepare his shot by looking through the rifle’s scope. We were in no hurry, the prairie goats were not in the slightest bit aware of our stealthy approach. As John prepared for the shot, I held my Steiner 7 x 50 binoculars to my face scanning down range at the target to witness the forthcoming action. Just then I caught a slight glimmer of sun reflecting off some blaze orange…much to my surprise, another hunter was perhaps 550 yards or more from our location directly in-line beyond John’s target.
I quickly hollered…DON’T SHOOT!
Immediately, the antelope spooked, my buddy John glanced back at me with a look of growing disgust, and it was quickly obvious I had some explaining to do. I then handed John the binoculars and explained there’s another hunter out there. Unfortunately, neither of us could see that other hunter with the naked eye…but with the aid of binoculars their presence was slightly easier to determine.
During the next several minutes we both tried to calm our thumping pulse rates as we contemplated what could have just happened. Please understand both of us practice safe hunting procedures and we ALWAYS observe what is beyond our targets in case we miss. In this instance, all our eyes could see was rolling, rugged terrain with lots of sage brush. Combined with the fact this pasture was supposed to be exclusively ours to hunt…we had no reason to imagine that another unsuspecting hunter might wander into harm’s way.
Yet, thanks to a pair of quality binoculars it once again saved the day.
When I was in my teens and 20s I never put much emphasis on binoculars being a vital outdoors tool. Then, the older I got the more my aging eyes began to realize just how important the use of binoculars are toward being a successful sportsman — no matter what the age. Sure, spending big dollars on fancy rifles and bows seems more appealing and fun than spending it on optical glass, but those items are not necessarily more important.
An old timer once explained to me that the mere act of walking through the woods or on a mountainside does not always constitute hunting. But, if you’re systematically peering through a pair of binoculars scouring the landscape, well, that’s when you can claim you’re doing some serious hunting.
If you don’t own a fine pair of binoculars I urge you to consider making the investment. Really, no matter what you do outdoors — hunting, fishing, birding, camping, stargazing, etc. — binoculars will enhance your outdoor experience. And don’t settle for cheap glass, either. Do your homework and find a knowledgeable retailer who can demonstrate the many quality styles and options available. Then be sure to purchase binoculars that are handy and comfortable enough that you will want to use them.
No doubt about it the lesson I learned many years ago in Montana convinced me of the real value of using binoculars while hunting. Not only can they increase your ability to put more game on the table, but they also allow you to be much more aware of your surroundings which means you’re playing it safe outdoors.
© 2009 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.