By Michael Deming
Trophy hunting requires a lot of patience, dedication, and most importantly, top quality optics. Being dedicated and committed to sitting behind a set of optics for hours on end looking at every nook and cranny on a mountain several miles, is going to require great optics. If you are ill equipped for this type of glassing session, your eyes will soon begin to hurt and you will more than likely move on. Ten power binos just aren’t enough to really glass well at these longer distances and a spotting scope becomes very fatiguing on your one eye over time. All of these downfalls equate to failure in a glassing session unless you get lucky.
There are a few manufactures who have put out some 15 power binoculars which definitely improve your odds and Vortex is one of those companies. The Kaibab HD 15X56 binos have been out for several years now and have helped many trophy hunters turn up that trophy of a lifetime. New for 2014 is the Kaibab 20X56 binocular and that additional 5X power makes a huge difference when you are looking at really long distances, which is very common for sheep and coues deer hunters.
These binoculars have been built on the same frame as the 15X binos which have already proven themselves time and time again. We got our first look at a prototype while hunting Aoudad in West Texas in 2013 where they were being field tested. The difference between the 15’s and the 20’s during our morning glassing sessions was the difference of determining if the sheep were rams or ewes even without the use of a spotting scope. We were glassing at over two miles away and it was obvious that these high powered optics would be a much needed asset in my glassing arsenal.
Some additional tweaks were required for the finished binocular which rolled out at the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (S.H.O.T) show in 2014. The Sportsman’s News team has had a pair in hand since January and have used it heavily through all the winter range scouting, shed hunting season, and early 2014 hunts and have proven to be one of the most valuable pieces of glass in our arsenal.
This roof prism binocular is relatively compact considering that they are such high power. They are equipped with premium HD (High Density) extra-low dispersion glass which provides extremely good resolution and color fidelity even in low light. The Dielectric Prism Coatings is a multi-layer prism coating which makes for bright, clear, and color-accurate images. The XRPlus multi-coating provide a high level of light transmission. The ArmorTek coatings on the exterior lenses make for an ultra-hard, scratch-resistant coating which protects extremely well against scratches. They come with a center focus adjustment knob which is very large and very easy to adjust even with gloves on. The locking dopter is on the right barrel of the binoculars and once adjusted locks into place to assure a quality focus each and every time. The roll up eye-cups have several set stops, making it very simple to get both eyes set with the appropriate eye relief even with little or no light to work with. Eye glass wearers will usually get the best eye relief in the totally down position. I personally recommend using them in the completely down position even when not wearing eyeglasses. This provides you the greatest field of view and although it might take some getting used to initially, you will become a better glasser because of it.
Because the binoculars are such high power, it is highly recommended that they be used with a tripod. Vortex includes the tripod adapter with each binocular, so this isn’t an additional charge. The quick release setup on this tripod adapter is probably one of the most convenient I’ve ever worked with. You can mount the base plate for your tripod onto your quick release and attach the mounting bracket onto the binos. This allows you to leave the quick release attached to your tripod and your glasses around your neck or in you pack. Set up your tripod and just place the binos onto the tripod because of the design of the quick release. For those of you guide types that like to attach the binos to the tripod and just carry them over your shoulder, you can screw the tripod adapter direct to the mounting bracket which gives you an extremely rigid mount capable of just about anything. These binoculars on a tripod open up a whole new world of glassing without breaking the bank. During all of our testing, these binoculars have performed extremely well. When comparing them to your ten power binoculars in low light, they obviously suffer a bit just because of the double power. However, we found that the majority of times when we were sitting down for a multi-hour glassing session, it was when the sun had been up for a while and the animals are settled in for the day in the shade. The comfort provided by using both eyes instead of one for a spotting scope gave us the ability to spend many hours in each area turning up trophies. The added comfort and time spent equates to one thing; success.
Not everyone is a big game trophy hunter like we are and many folks just like to observe the animals and birds in their natural habitat. The birding community will savor the edge to edge clarity and color fidelity these high powered bino’s provide.
Manufacture suggested retail price on these are $1,699, but are much less at Sportsman’s Warehouse. The Vortex Kaibab 20X56mm binoculars are the Pro’s Picks for this month and a purchase you will be very happy you have made. As with all Vortex Optics, they are covered by their VIP unconditional lifetime warranty which we feel is the best in the business.