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Many hunters will tell you that a rangefinder isn’t necessary for hunting. These folks usually recommend that you learn to estimate distances without a rangefinder.
Learning to estimate distances is a skill you can learn over time and with practice, but a rangefinder can help you learn to identify distances naturally.
We think a reliable rangefinder is an excellent tool for many situations, particularly for hunters facing longer shots and bowhunting, which requires precision and accuracy.
A rangefinder calculates the distance an object in the crosshairs is away from the hunter. A rangefinder will have an LCD display that will quickly show the distance to the target so that a hunter can get the proper trajectory. The device emits a beam of invisible light to determine the exact distance a target is from the hunter.
Some range finders simply tell distance, while others can perform more complex calculations to compensate for the shot angle. Manufacturers design rangefinders to work within a specific distance for the highest accuracy. You will find that a rangefinder will be useful in many situations.
Judging distance by sight is an important skill and one that most hunters will learn to do with practice. Most experienced hunters can accurately identify distances of 100 to 200 yards, but certain conditions can make even these estimates a challenge. Examples include wide, flat spaces, rough terrain, and weather conditions.
One of the best reasons you should use a rangefinder is to ensure clean, ethical kills. Knowing the distance between you and the target accurately will improve the accuracy of your shot and ensure that an animal isn’t simply wounded.
Some people are just not good at estimating distances. Whether it is because of vision problems or something else, a rangefinder is an easy solution to gauging the distance of a target correctly.
Bow hunters benefit from using a rangefinder because of the inherent difficulty in calculating the drop an arrow experiences during a shot. A small difference in estimation can greatly affect a shot's accuracy. Most bow hunting is done at distances of less than 100 yards, so the bow hunter won’t need an expensive option.
A rangefinder is magnified to help you quickly find a target. The typical magnification is between 5x and 8x magnification. More magnification provides a closer view, but also reduces the field of view and can make tracking moving targets more difficult. We recommend a magnification of 7x for rifle hunting and 5x for bowhunting.
Hunters that might use a rangefinder from a tree stand or when hunting in canyons should look for models with some type of true horizontal distance. These rangefinders will help you adjust for the differences in the distance caused by angled shots.
Laser range finders are becoming more common because they offer more accuracy and faster response times than the typical infrared rangefinder. The price of these designs has declined in recent years, and many excellent models are available between $150 and $250.
Rangefinders are frequently seen on golf courses, allowing players to gauge distances more accurately to help determine the club that will be most appropriate for the shot. Rangefinders for golfing are similar in many ways to those intended for hunting, but there are a few differences.
Golfing rangefinders are typically built to be more robust, requiring more expensive parts. This is because a golfing rangefinder might get used for several hours a week, while a hunting rangefinder is likely to be used for only a matter of minutes during hunting season. Rangefinders for golfing tend to be more expensive than hunting rangefinders.
The optics are slightly different between golfing and hunting rangefinders. Golf courses rarely feature shots that are over 350 yards, so golfing rangefinders are dialed in for accuracy at shorter distances. They are also likely to have less magnification since the distances are less. For hunting, a rangefinder is most appropriate for shots that are over 300 yards, and hunters need to know the distance to a target far beyond that distance.
Golfing rangefinders will have features specifically for golfers, such as slope angle and flag or pin lock-on. This feature is not legal in tournament play, so it can usually be turned on and off. Hunting rangefinders often provide a true horizontal distance that does not turn off.
Battery life is also a factor, with golfing rangefinders using more expensive batteries and offering features for reducing power consumption. Rather than the more costly CR series of lithium batteries, many hunting rangefinders use the more common 9v battery. Since hunters will only use the device for short periods of time, a 9v battery is an economical choice that provides a long battery life.
A rangefinder works by emitting a beam of light. That beam of light returns to the lens after it strikes an object. The target must be somewhat reflective for a rangefinder to report a distance accurately. Rocks are typically the best option for gauging the range, while deer and other animals are more difficult to get an accurate reading from. Trees and brush fall somewhere between an animal and a rock for reflectiveness.
The best way to use a rangefinder is to identify a location in which you are watching and gauge the distance well before a shot. In this way, you can make corrections to your rifle scope if needed and be prepared for a clean shot.
A rangefinder is often of less use when stalking prey because it requires time to get the distance, which animals will often use to spook and run off.
A rangefinder is not an essential piece of equipment on every hunt or for every hunter, but a tool with a purpose. Many bowhunters will use a rangefinder regularly to help adjust for distances and get better results. Rifle hunters that use rangefinders tend to hunt in wide open spaces where getting close to animals is exceedingly difficult, and longer shots are needed. Hunters that hunt from most tree stands and in dense woods will have limited use for rangefinders since most shots will be fairly short distances.
A good rangefinder is an excellent way to teach yourself to judge distances accurately and to hone the skill so you won’t have to rely on a rangefinder in future hunts. They are also helpful when hunting in steep terrain where angled shots can be affected by distance and gravity.
We believe that a rangefinder is one of the ways that hunters can be responsible by helping to give hunters a clean kill and prevent wasting resources when an injured animal runs off and can’t be found. As an added bonus, a rangefinder can give you something to do when you are sitting in a tree stand waiting for the perfect buck to amble by, even if you don’t need the tool for making the shot.
For a blog about the Best Hunting Binoculars, we have that too!