Best Binoculars for Elk Hunting to Buy in 2023

Best binoculars for elk hunting

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Binoculars are an essential tool for elk hunting. They enable hunters to locate and track game from a safe distance while minimizing noise and disturbance.

You don’t need massive magnification to do that, and in fact, having a wider field of view may be more useful than more magnification.  

After reviewing the top elk hunting binoculars on the market, my opinion is that the Steiner Predator Series is the best overall option.

With its rugged construction, advanced features, and superior optics, it’s a pair of binoculars that’s designed to deliver exceptional performance in the toughest hunting conditions.

Without further ado, here are my picks for the best binoculars for elk hunting in 2023.

Best Binoculars for Elk Hunting in 2023 – A Rundown

  • Different sizes
  • Uses porro prisms
  • Rugged, lightweight, and ergonomic
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  • Features Swarovision technology
  • Ergonomic design
  • Waterproof and fogproof
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  • Excellent magnification and objective lens diameter
  • Multi-coated but not waterproof
  • Have camo skin
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  • High-density, extra-low dispersion glass for clear images
  • Rugged, rubber-armored exterior
  • Waterproof and fog proof
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  • ED glass for clear images
  • Rugged, rubber-armored exterior
  • Waterproof
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  • Decent-sized objective
  • BaK-4 prisms
  • Extra-low Dispersion glass
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  • High-definition calcium-fluoride lenses for clear images
  • Forever warranty
  • Waterproof and fog proof
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  • BaK-4 roof prisms
  • Tripod mount
  • Diopter adjustment
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1. Steiner Predator Series – Best Overall

The Steiner Predator Series binoculars are designed for hunters who require precision and clarity but don’t want to pay thousands of dollars.

These binoculars feature a high-contrast optics system that enhances image clarity, even in low-light conditions.

Features & Specifications

  • Different sizes: You can get the Predators in 10×42, 8×42, and 8×30 flavors, all of which have different features. The 8×30 variant comes with autofocus, as does one of the 10×42 flavors, and you can also get a model with laser rangefinding built in, though you’ll pay a lot more for it than you will for the base model.
  • Uses porro prisms: The Predators use porro prisms, which is one reason they can be so affordable.  However, they can feel more awkward to carry around and stabilize. These big binoculars can feel awkward if you’re not used to porro prism binos. 
  • Rugged, lightweight, and ergonomic: They’re waterproof and fog-proof, so they’ll last through any conditions you are out hunting in.


  • High-contrast optics system for enhanced clarity
  • Lightweight and ergonomic design
  • Waterproof and fog proof


  • Higher price point compared to other options
  • Can be awkward to hold and stabilize

Steiner Predator Series

The price of Steiner Predator Series varies, so check the latest price at

2. Swarovski EL – Highest Quality

The Swarovski EL binoculars are known for their exceptional quality and precision.

I’d recommend the binoculars with a 10x magnification and a 42mm objective lens diameter, as this makes them ideal for elk hunting.

They are designed to provide sharp, clear images in all lighting conditions, and these binoculars live up to the Swarovski name.

That said, Swarovski binoculars are in an entire different class of pricing than most of the options you’ll see on this list.

The truth is that while the imagery is absolutely gorgeous, you simply don’t need to spend that much to achieve your purpose. 

Features & Specifications

  • Features Swarovision technology: The Swarovski EL binoculars feature Swarovision technology, which provides a wide field of view and edge-to-edge sharpness. 
  • Ergonomic design: They also have a comfortable ergonomic design with a large focusing wheel. 
  • Waterproof and fogproof: The binoculars are waterproof and fog proof, ensuring that your view remains clear in all weather conditions.
  • Guaranteed functionality: You have diopter compensation, waterproofing up to 13 feet, and guaranteed functionality from temperatures as low as -13 degrees to 131 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Exceptional quality and precision
  • Swarovision technology for a wide field of view
  • Waterproof and fog proof


  • Extremely expensive

Swarovski EL

The price of Swarovski EL varies, so check the latest price at

3. Bushnell PowerView – Best Budget Option

The Bushnell PowerView binoculars are affordable for hunters who require reliable binoculars. 

These binoculars pack BK-7 prisms instead of BaK-4 prisms, though, so you won’t enjoy as sharp or beautiful of an image as you could expect from pretty much any other pair of binoculars on this list.

While these binoculars are considerably cheaper than the Swarovski binoculars and some of the other options on this list, they are hands-down worth the price. 

If you can afford to spend more, you will certainly notice a jump in quality; if not, these will serve you just fine.

Features & Specifications

  • Excellent magnification and objective lens diameter: These binoculars have a 10x magnification and a 50mm objective lens diameter, making them ideal for elk hunting. These are porro prism binoculars, and the extra-large objective diameter gives them competitive image brightness and sharpness.
  • Multi-coated but not waterproof: The PowerViews are fully multi-coated, but they are not waterproof. Consider these as an option for fair-weather situations only. 
  • Have camo skin: They have good camo skin on them and are covered in non-slip rubber that does a good job of keeping them protected from bumps. Other than that, they don’t come with a lot of features, which is to be expected at their lower price point.


  • Affordable option
  • Rugged design
  • Fully-coated optics for clear images


  • Lower quality compared to other options
  • Narrower field of view

Bushnell PowerView

The price of Bushnell PowerView varies, so check the latest price at

4. Vortex Viper HD Binoculars – Best Weather-Proofing

The Vortex Viper HD binoculars are designed for hunters who require precision and durability.

These binoculars have options from 8×42 all the way to 12×50 depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

For elk hunting, either the 8x or 10x would likely be your best bet, but I won’t try to tell you how to live your life.

These are roof prism binoculars, so you can expect a slightly higher price, but Vortex is a great company when it comes to balancing basic functional quality and features, and the Viper binoculars are no exception.

These may be a bit on the pricier side, but they are a fantastic pair of binoculars with a lifetime warranty.

Features & Specifications

  • Powerful glass: The Vortex Viper HD binoculars feature high-density, extra-low dispersion glass that provides sharp, clear images with minimal chromatic aberration. They also have twist-up eyecups and diopter adjustment. 
  • Strap attachment point and tripod adapter socket: They come with a strap attachment point and a tripod adapter socket so you can add as much stabilization as you want.
  • Waterproof and fogproof: The Vipers are argon-purged and sealed with o-rings to make them quite waterproof and fogproof, and they have armortek coating on the outside lenses to protect them from scratches, oil, and dirt. 
  • Ideal for low light conditions: You shouldn’t have any problem with low light with any of the flavors that these binoculars come in. The exit pupil on all of them is big enough for the vast majority of scenarios.


  • High-density, extra-low dispersion glass for clear images
  • Rugged, rubber-armored exterior
  • Waterproof and fog proof


  • Slightly heavier than other options
  • Higher price point compared to budget options

Vortex Viper HD Binoculars

The price of Vortex Viper HD Binoculars varies, so check the latest price at

5. Nikon Monarch M5 – Best Value

The Nikon Monarch M5s are almost good enough to make the top of the list.

They’re reasonably priced, and you can adjust the diopter and lock it into place afterward, keeping it exactly where it needs to be. 

The M5s are waterproof up to 3.3 feet for 10 minutes and purged with nitrogen to prevent internal fogging.

Features & Specifications

  • Flip-down lens covers: The lens covers on the objectives flip down, and you get the Extra-low Dispersion lenses; you can choose between 8x, 10x, or 12x, all with a 42mm objective. In lower light, you won’t get as much brightness out of the 12x as you will the 8x, but you should still get reasonable performance.
  • Use roof prisms: These binoculars use roof prisms, which means they’ll be a little easier to balance and handle, but they contribute to the price of these being higher than some other options. 
  • Lenses are multi-coated: Your lenses are multi-coated and you get a little bit longer eye relief with these than with most other binoculars. The field of view will be plenty wide on these and overall they are a great choice if you are hunting elk.


  • ED glass for clear images
  • Rugged, rubber-armored exterior
  • Waterproof and fog proof


  • Higher price point compared to budget options
  • Slightly heavier than other options

Nikon Monarch M5

The price of Nikon Monarch M5 varies, so check the latest price at

6. Bushnell Legend L-Series

The Legend L-Series is a great example of what get you get when you pay for a reasonably priced product.

You get a pair of roof prism binoculars with just about every feature you might want. They are only available in 10x42mm, but since that’s a great middle-ground for most folks, it should be a decent fit for hunting elk.

Features & Specifications

  • High-quality glass and optics: Despite the low price, the L-series comes with Extra-low Dispersion glass, uses BaK-4 Prisms, and has fully multi-coated optics. 
  • Waterproof: These even claim to be waterproof, though I’ve never personally tested that claim. They hold up in the rain and other forms of bad weather with aplomb. 
  • Tripod-mountable, lightweight, and comes with warranty: They can be mounted on a tripod and work with straps. You even get an adjustable diopter to customize them to your exact pair of eyes. They only weigh 23.5 ounces and are a fairly standard size for binoculars. What’s more, they even come with a decent warranty, albeit not as amazing as Vortex or Leupold.


  • Decent-sized objective
  • BaK-4 prisms
  • Extra-low Dispersion glass


  • Diopter adjustment isn’t as good
  • Not guaranteed to be submersible in water

Bushnell Legend L-Series

The price of Bushnell Legend L-Series varies, so check the latest price at

7. Leupold BX-1 McKenzie HD

The McKenzie binoculars are a great pair of binoculars, especially for the price that they’re offered at. Leupold is famous for their image quality.

Everything from light transmission, to sharpness, to color accuracy, Leupold is expected to be at the top, and the McKenzies are no exception. 

You can get them in 10x or 8x, with either a 42mm or a 50mm objective lens, and no matter what you choose you’re going to be floored with the quality of the image at such a low price.

They use BaK4 prisms, and have Leupold’s proprietary multi-coating on all of their lenses for both protection and image quality. They’re guaranteed to be 100% waterproof and fogproof.

They are also backed by Leupold’s legendary “forever” warranty. 

Features & Specifications

  • Extended eye relief: The McKenzie’s have an extended eye relief so you can be comfortable using them for an extended period of time. 
  • Tripod-mountable: You can mount them on a tripod, and the twist-up eyecups are removable and replaceable in case they get damaged. The lenses use Leupold’s Advanced Optical System, which is largely responsible for the amazing image quality.
  • Lightweight: They’re light enough to carry around all day but with enough magnification to do everything you need them to do, at least when it comes to hunting elk. 

These binoculars also come with a shoulder strap, binocular case, lens covers, and a lens cloth for cleaning. If you want to be able to clearly tell the brownish hues of an elk from the brownish hues of the brush, these are a great bet.


  • High-definition calcium-fluoride lenses for clear images
  • Forever warranty
  • Waterproof and fog proof


  • No 12x option

Leupold BX-1 McKenzie HD

The price of Leupold BX-1 McKenzie HD varies, so check the latest price at

8. Vortex Optics Crossfire HD

The Crossfires are nitrogen-purged, which still provides a functional level of water and fog-proofing.

The rubber housing works great and overall these are still a great pair of binoculars. The image from the Crossfire is good enough that you probably wouldn’t be able to tell a difference from memory.

Features & Specifications

  • Uses BaK-4: The Crossfires use roof prisms that are BaK-4, and you still get a tripod mount and diopter adjustment. 
  • Excellent edge-to-edge sharpness: The edge-to-edge sharpness is great and you shouldn’t notice any blurring or fuzzing on the edges of the lenses.

They’re not too heavy, not too large, and are a convenient option at a low price.


  • BaK-4 roof prisms
  • Tripod mount
  • Diopter adjustment


  • Image quality not as good
  • More expensive than some options

Vortex Optics Crossfire HD

The price of Vortex Optics Crossfire HD varies, so check the latest price at

Factors to Keep in Mind While Buying

1. Roof Prisms vs. Porro Prisms 

Porro Prisms
Porro Prisms

The prism system in binoculars is used to correct the orientation of the image and allow for a more compact design.

There are two primary types of prisms used in binoculars: roof prisms and Porro prisms. Roof prisms are more compact and typically result in a more durable and waterproof pair of binoculars.

Porro prisms, on the other hand, are typically less expensive and can provide a wider field of view.

All other things being equal, porro prisms are generally considered better for hunting, but that’s only because they tend to have a wider field of view. 

If you’re able to find a pair of binoculars with roof prisms that have just as wide of an FOV, then it no longer matters much.

2. Binoculars Are for Finding Animals, not Seeing Details

Binoculars Are for Finding Animals, not Seeing Details

It’s essential to remember that binoculars are primarily used to find and identify animals, not for detailed observations.

Therefore, the clarity and brightness of the image are crucial factors to consider. However, the level of detail that can be seen is limited by the binoculars’ magnification and objective lens diameter.

This is one reason why it may not make sense to get more magnification. Not only will they probably be more expensive, but you’re getting functionality that you don’t really need.

You can always hone in on the target with a spotting scope or a riflescope after you’ve found it. 

3. Technology Is Great, Until It Isn’t

While advanced features like image stabilization and rangefinders can be beneficial in certain situations, they can also add to the cost and weight of binoculars.

It’s essential to consider whether these features are necessary for your elk hunting needs or whether a more basic pair of binoculars will suffice.

The same is true of binoculars that offer autofocus. If you’re used to relying on auto-focus and then it happens to run out of battery or malfunction at a critical moment, you might lose out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

4. Field of View Can Be More Important Than Magnification

The field of view is the area of the landscape that is visible when looking through the binoculars.

A wider field of view can be more beneficial than higher magnification when trying to locate animals in dense vegetation or heavily forested areas.

A narrower field of view can make it more challenging to find animals, even with a higher magnification.

5. The More Magnification, the More Stabilization Required

The More Magnification, the More Stabilization Required

The more magnification you have, the shakier your image is going to appear when you’re going handheld. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to identify animals.

For this reason, I usually recommend some form of stabilization, be it a tripod, arm brace, or something else.

If you’re only using 8x binoculars, then you should mostly be alright just by anchoring your elbows on a horizontal surface or against your body.

Once you get to 10x and 12x, though, even that might not be stable enough to keep the binoculars still for you to look through them for extended periods of time. 


What Size Binoculars Are Best for Elk Hunting?

The most popular size binoculars for elk hunting are 10×42. This provides a good balance between magnification and field of view, making it easier to spot and track elk from a distance.

If you’re in a more open area with few trees, you might be able to justify 12x, and if you’re in a densely forested area, consider 8x.

What Binocular Magnification is Best for Hunting?

Most hunters prefer a magnification of between 8x and 12x for hunting. Higher magnifications can be difficult to stabilize and may lead to shaky images.

Lower magnification doesn’t offer as much benefit over your naked eyes. That said, don’t be afraid to get the magnification that works the best for you.

Are 10×42 Binoculars Good for Elk Hunting?

Yes, 10×42 binoculars are a great choice for elk hunting. They offer a good balance between magnification and field of view, making them ideal for spotting and tracking elk at moderate distances.

What Is Better – 10×42 or 12×50?

This depends on the situation. 10×42 binoculars offer a wider field of view, making them ideal for spotting and tracking animals in most types of terrain.

12×50 binoculars offer higher magnification, which can be useful for spotting animals at greater distances or in more open terrain.


For the most part, you’ll want to stick between 8x and 10x magnification on your binoculars. If you want to learn more about binocular specs in general, I have another article here on Hunting Mark reviewing all the numbers.

That said, there are a lot of other options and opinions out there, so I’d encourage you to consider all of the options I’ve got above to see which is going to be the best overall fit for you and your hunting style.

Yes, hunting elk is hunting elk no matter who’s doing it, but every hunter has their own style and preference as well. Happy trails!

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