Yukon are known for their night vision riflescopes and thermal imaging equipment, which I've reviewed in the past, but as with most optics manufacturers, when you look through their catalogues you find many other interesting products. Anthony from Yukon Optics NZ has just introduced Yukon binoculars to the New Zealand market, so I thought I'd take a look at them.
Based in Vilnius, in the Baltic state of Lithuania (not too many kms from the border with the former USSR), Yukon optics has established manufacturing plants in a number of countries, including Scotland, the USA, and China. They now supply their optical goods worldwide.
Similar to Steiner binos, the Yukons have "bat-wing" flaps that eliminate glare, and the effects of wind on the eyes.
There are several models available in Yukon's binocular line-up, but it was the "Point" range chosen for NZG&H to review, a couple of which have 56mm objective lenses. I was looking forward to glassing with these during low light conditions. I was also keen to have a close look at Yukon's 8x42s. as this magnification is one of the most useful and versatile for New Zealand hunters over a wide range of disciplines.
FEATURES OF THE YUKON POINT
The obvious difference between the Point 42mm and 56mm binoculars is their physical size - the 56mms weigh in at 1.23kg (45oz), whereas at 640g (22.6oz) the 42mms are just half the weight. Both are rubber armoured but there are differences in their ergonomic design, the 56mms having slightly better palm grips and thumb supports. The other major variation is in the focusing rings and eyecups. The 42mm has a chunkier adjustment and lacks the standard twist-up eyecups. Both designs feature "batwings" on the objective cups, which are excellent for arresting stray light and glare, or for preventing wind and rain from affecting your visual experience.
Left: Something for everyone - the Yukon "Point" range is extensive. Right: Powering up - the view through the 8x42s (top) and 15x56s (above).
Another nice addition to the Yukons is the magnetic objective lens caps. Normally caps on my optics hit the rubbish bin pretty quick, but I found these very good to use as they are functional, snug fitting, and not a hindrance that flaps around in wind. Point binoculars feature a centre focus mechanism that is smooth, easy to use and has very little backlash. The range of latitude is also large, so they will suit people with a wide range of eye types, as well as those who wear prescription glasses.
Optically the Yukons feature reasonable quality ВАК 4 lenses that provide high image quality over 90% of the visual field. There is a small amount of distortion in the last 10% of the viewing field, along with some field curvature errors, but given the price of these binoculars I would not lose any sleep over it. The binoculars show true to life colours extremely well thanks to the TRUE COLOR™ multi-layer lens coatings. This is important for hunting binoculars where you are often looking for very subtle colour changes, like trying to pick out a deer against a background of dry or brownish scrub.
Resolution and the definition of lines or edges are also important traits to look for in a pair of binos. Clearly defined edges allow you to differentiate between two similar objects at a good distance, such as a clump of tussock and a tahr standing behind it. The Point binoculars did this well and I was able to clearly pick out wallabies against a grey background during the field test.
The binoculars come with a comfortable neck strap, a protective bag. and an easy to read booklet for each particular model.
With my nephew over from Aussie it was a good opportunity to get out for a hunt and obtain another opinion on the Yukons. Michael was pretty keen to knock over a few of the rabbits plaguing the South Canterbury area, using my .223 that he'd taken a fancy to.
With a strong north-west wind blowing it was going to take a bit of skill to connect with the long distance shots, but he was really looking forward to the challenge and enjoying the hunting freedom we have here in New Zealand.
Most of the rabbits were tucked away out of the breeze and initially they seemed few and far between. Looking out over our chosen river flats with the 8x42s however, it wasn't long before we started spotting them among the clumps of matagouri on the downwind side. We cleaned up four or five with the .223 and Michael read the wind well, shooting out to 400 yards at times. While he was searching for more targets to present themselves, I grabbed the Point 15x56s out of the truck and started glassing further up the hill into some of the bush and scrub clad gullies. I hoped to see a wallaby in one of the clearings but was surprised when a red stag with a malformed antler walked out of the scrub, right into the clearing I was looking at.
Mike, visiting from Australia, glassing for wallabies with the 15x56s.
"Mike, quick, grab your rifle and come with me!" I said. I also dug the shotgun out of the truck and a handful of buckshot as back up. During our stalk. I kept an eye out for the stag with the 15x56s but found that although excellent for long range spotting, as we closed in on the animal's position the field of view became extremely narrow. At this point we changed to the 8x4 2s and carried on until we reached a vantage point slightly uphill and out of the swirling wind. From here we could overlook the whiteywood gully into which the stag had now disappeared.
Despite their budget price the Yukons have excellent colour definition, making it easy to spot animals in the tussock at extended ranges.
Searching the surrounding area was easy with the 8x42 Points - optically they are pretty good and brightness was not an issue in the failing light. After some time I muttered the words, "I think the wind's buggered us." Right then the stag appeared as bold as brass on our ridge about 70 yards away. Michael quickly raised the rifle and at the shot the stag dropped behind a flax bush and rolled down the hill. By now we were enveloped in darkness so we returned the following day to retrieve the stag and shoot a few wallabies on the way in. (You'll find a photo of Mike and the stag in my "Hydration" feature in this issue.)
With the 15x56s in hand it didn't take too long to spot a few "roos" in the bright sunlight and Michael dropped a good sized one with a shot to the neck from the .223.
The 15x56 Yukon Point binos seem more suited to longer distances or spotting type work and they can be hard to keep still, especially if there is a bit of wind or you are breathing hard. A better option for general hunting would be the 10x56 Points. These binoculars, although heavy, give you the best of both worlds with a magnification level that makes them easier to hold steady and a very bright, clear objective lens. If you want a lighter model and a larger field of view I would go for the 8x42s.
“OVERALL THE ENTIRE YUKON POINT RANGE IS A REASONABLE OPTION FOR THE BUDGET CONSCIOUS HUNTER OR SHOOTER.”
As with all optics it pays to find some examples and check them over carefully to ensure that their quality and useability meet your personal standards.