George Block Column

A good set of binoculars can make or break the hunt

Good set of binoculars can make, break the hunt

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May is a busy month. Should I go trout fishing or try to catch a few walleye?


Then again, Tom Turkey is still rounding up a harem of beautiful ladies. And in a few weeks, the young groundhogs will be chomping on alfalfa, and landowners will be pulling hay.


For me, it is groundhog hunting that wins out.


I know I can hunt groundhogs almost any time, but I set aside a time when the females are nursing their young as a time to test my self control and leave them alone, unless circumstances dictate otherwise.


Those circumstances being the groundhog doing serious damage to buildings or livestock.


When talking about groundhog hunting, you’re usually talking about using a long-range rifle. Some will argue the merits of a 22-250, while others say the 25-06 is the best. That is part of the whole scene.


But there is another side of groundhog hunting that should be discussed: optics.


There are few, if any, hunting situations that require good optics more than groundhog hunting. Staring through binoculars all day long at a mound of dirt 400 yards away can be a test of the binoculars hanging around your neck.


Remember, while out in a freshly mowed field, a groundhog can be easy to spot, if you put that same animal in a hole surrounded by high weeds with little but the top of its head and its nose sticking up, it’s a test of even the best binoculars.


For many years, I carried an old pair of Bausch & Lomb binoculars. They still reside in the room where I do my reloading. In fact, I still use them on occasion.


But a few years ago, I purchased a pair of Swarovski binoculars, and they travel with me now. Not only are they extremely sharp, but they are lighter than the old set.


You can argue the pros and cons of German optics and whether they are worth the price, but one thing is certain – they are clear.


My partner in hunting uses a Zeiss glass with a built-in range finder.


The Swarovski binoculars price starts at $1,000 and goes up from there. Are they worth the money? I guess that depends on how often they are used.


Much the same could be said about rifle and spotting scopes. A buddy has a Swarovski spotting scope, and like the binoculars, it is fantastically sharp.


I guess the price will create some sticker shock, but they are a lifetime investment. Actually, in my case, I have a grandson who has a claim on my set.


Forget about leaving him a rifle in my will. He wants those high-priced binoculars when I move on to the groundhog pasture in the sky.


I often suggest to people who hunt to buy better optics than they can afford. It is worth it.


If you can’t afford the Zeiss or Swarovski, but Leupold. If you can’t afford Leupold, buy Nikon. And don’t forget Bushnell. They all make optics in different price ranges.


Here’s a bit of advice: Check the clarity of any optical instrument outdoors. You can look through them in a store, but that means nothing. They should be clear all the way to the edges.


Seldom mentioned is comfort in carrying, which is important with binoculars. If they are too big, they will be hanging somewhere at home instead of around your neck.


And cheap glasses invites a headache.


Buy quality, and you will never go after deer or shoot groundhogs without them.


Good glasses hanging around your neck can make a big difference.


Need to count the points on a deer and you will praise the quality. Need to detect a groundhog at 300 yards that is watching your every move? Again, you will count those binoculars among the hunt’s necessities.



George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.


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