I’ve been writing articles on binoculars for specific purposes, such as stargazing and concerts. But there is one topic left to be written; hunting.
In Japan, the possession of a gun is subject to the strict Firearms Control Law. Like most people here, I
have never touched a real gun in my life. The only civilians who are allowed to own guns here are hunters.
Of course, they need to get a special license and renew it regularly. They also have to store their guns in a locked container. Thus, compared with the U.S., in Japan, it’s much more difficult to find a hunter to ask about their binoculars. I also didn’t want to write an article full of second-hand quotations.
Fortunately, I had an opportunity to meet a real hunter quite by chance. Mr. Miyano of Hinode Optical knows Mr. Mihashi, who enjoys hunting on weekends.
The proverb, “Make hay while the sun shines,” drove me to make an appointment with him as soon as I
could, even though my schedule was pretty full. After the interview, I knew that it was worth the effort to see him in the western mountains of Tokyo.
Ask a weekend hunter: What are the best binoculars for hunting?
Mr. Mihashi is an energetic man, who has run a lumbermill for many years. I was surprised to learn that he’s sixty years old. I was under the impression that he was only slightly older than me.
After handing an elegant wooden table over to a customer, he ushered me into his house near his lumbermill.
Q: How did you begin hunting?
Very few people in Japan hunt. What made you want to be a hunter?
At first, I was not interested in hunting at all. But my father was a hunter, and I somehow took up his
hobby about twenty years ago.
Now, I enjoy hunting on weekends throughout the year with other hunters.
Is hunting popular around here?
Not really. Very few young people want to join us.
I hear that game meats are getting popular at some restaurants in Japan. Do you provide restaurants with meat?
No, I don’t hunt for money. I share the game meats with my neighbors. Sometimes, when the municipal government or the police ask our hunting association to get rid of vermin in residential areas, we’ll go on a hunt, even at night.
Q: What animals do you hunt?
What animals do you hunt?
In most cases, I hunt boars and ducks. I use a rifle for boars and an air gun for ducks. Boars run fast, so it’s not easy to hit their vital organs.
Last year, a young man in our group fired a shotgun at a boar that was charging me. One of the pellets hit me in the shin and broke the bone. I was hospitalized for a while. Novices tend to panic at the sight of prey.
Q: Show me your rifles and binoculars.
Can you show me your rifles and binoculars? I’ve never seen a real rifle.
(He went out of the room to get his rifles with scopes and three pairs of binoculars.)
Wow! You have really expensive binoculars! One Zeiss, and two Swarovski. (Pointing
these the latest models.)
Yes, they are. Zeiss’s Victory SF 8×42 cost about $3,000.
Can I try them?
(I was stunned by the brightness and the crisp image in the peripheral area. I could tell
these were something special.)
You have Swarovski’s EL 8.5×42 as well. Which ones do you like better, Zeiss or Swarovski?
They both work brilliantly, but I prefer Zeiss because they weigh less and have a little guess Zeiss uses lighter materials.
So, when you go hunting, you take the Zeiss’s Victory. Is that right?
Actually, I don’t use either for hunting.
Oh, really? So, you take Swarovski 8×32 with you for hunting. Why do you choose them instead of the other 42mm binoculars?
42mm binoculars are powerful and bright. However, I like Swarovski 8×32 better because they fit my hands perfectly.
Compared with the latest large binoculars, this pair has a little more chromatic aberration, but I still prefer them.
So, you take them when you hunt deer and boars?
Actually, I don’t use binoculars when hunting in the forest. You know, I have heavy equipment to carry,
like my rifle and backpack. I don’t want to hang binoculars around my neck.
On the other hand, I always bring my binoculars for duck hunting at the hunting ground near a pond.
My binoculars help a lot in hunting ducks with my airgun. Ducks are hard to spot with your naked eyes when they’re in the reeds.
This pair (Swarovski EL 8×32) has a deep depth of focus, which enables me to search for ducks without constantly adjusting the focus.
Q: What else is important when choosing binoculars for hunting?
That’s why this 8×32 pair looks well used. You don’t always give first priority to the optical performance. What else is important when you choose binoculars for hunting?
I have tried using 10× pairs before, but the image is too dark for me. 8× is the best for hunting at twilight or at dawn. With cheaper binoculars, I couldn’t see ducks in the reeds at 60m away. The grade of lens coatings is important, especially in dim light.
Taking all these things into consideration, I like these best.
Another issue I have is when panning across a field with binoculars, the image gets distorted, which makes me a little woozy.
That must be the *“rolling ball effect.” Some people are very sensitive to it, though it doesn’t really affect me.
(*This is also called the “globe effect,” which is caused by the magnification difference between the
center of the image and the peripheral area.)
I always keep one thing in mind when I buy binoculars. I choose the best pair I can afford. I never want to feel the regret of “I should have bought the better pair”.
I know what you mean, but I’m afraid that many people can’t afford the best pair.
For me, since there are hunting accidents every year, it‘s important to have a good pair to avoid such accidents.
I see. You need the best ones for safety. By the way, these rifle scopes look expensive, as well.
I mainly use rifle scopes made by March, which is a famous Japanese maker. The reticle is so precise that I seldom miss my target. I also have a Swarovski scope.
May I try your rifle scope? This is the first time for me to look through a rifle scope. Oh, the eye relief is very long. It’s more difficult than I thought to find a target while holding a heavy rifle. Snipers in movies seem to find their targets so easily.
Practice makes perfect.
As I said; I love my Swarovski 8×32, but the best binoculars depend on what you hunt. If I were in a place where you have a clear view for hunting bears, I would choose 8×42.
So, the bottom line is that you need different binoculars depending on your purpose or circumstance.
Thank you for your time today.
It seems that Mr. Mihashi doesn’t skimp when it comes to the precision instruments he uses. He has
spent time looking for binoculars that work best for him and has decided on expensive ones, such as
Zeiss and Swarovski. He knows the value of having the best binoculars.
During this interview, I was reminded of an old Swarovski pair I saw on eBay, which had been very worn in. I’m guessing the original owner might have been a hunter like Mr. Mihashi.
No matter how expensive your binoculars are, they should be put to good use. It’s wasteful to carefully keep them hidden away in a closet just because they’re expensive.
About five years ago, I sold several of my binoculars. As I’ve grown older, quality has started to outweigh quantity. I haven’t gotten the latest Zeiss model yet, but someday.
You don’t necessarily need binoculars to hunt, but a good pair can be very helpful. The best configuration depends on what your prey is and the environment where you hunt.
Mr. Mihashi states that brightness is essential at twilight and dawn. However, he prefers 8×32 over 8×42 for duck hunting because of their compactness. Optical quality isn’t always the most important factor.
He thinks it’s worthwhile to pay more for a good pair rather than regretting buying a mediocre pair. He also needs good quality for safety purposes. He has good reasons to have the proper equipment.
Binoculars are a genuine tool for hunting, not a hobby item. His well-used Swarovski looks well suited for hunting.