The day of the coincidence-style rangefinder is quickly coming to an end. Technology trudges onward and with that technology has come one of the most useful breakthroughs in bowhunting since the compound bow. Laser rangefinders may not be sliced bread, but they are the best bet for accurately measuring distance in actual hunting situations.
Most models incorporate a class 1 laser that’s safe to the human eye, yet powerful enough to reach out to objects 100, 400, 600 or even 800 yards away. The accuracy of laser rangefinders is normally plus or minus one yard, making them ideal for bowhunting situations.
Bow mounted laser rangefinder work by casting a beam of light onto an object, that in turn reflects the beam back to the rangefinder. A micro-computer computes the amount of time it took the beam to reach the object and return, then calculates this data into a distance measured in yards.
As you might expect, the reflective qualities of the object being sighted have a lot to do with how well a laser rangefinder functions. A large or hard object such as a rock reflects the laser beam readily, while a game animal such as a white-tailed deer at maximum distances may not provide enough reflective value to determine the exact distance.
On a recent caribou trip, I had the opportunity to work with laser rangefinders firsthand. The experience was both beneficial and disappointing at the same time.
It quickly became obvious that getting non-reflective objects (such as a gray caribou against a fall background) to lock in at maximum distances was difficult. For one thing, it’s difficult to aim the rangefinder accurately at objects several hundred yards away or to lock on a moving object.
More reflective items such as boulders and hillsides, were easier to measure. I also discovered that rain or snow seriously reduced my unit’s ability to function. Even when my rangefinder was operated in the rain targeting mode, getting consistent results proved difficult.
Despite these problems, ranging went smoothly in most situations and at reasonable ranges. Hunters who expect to use a laser rangefinder module out to 400 yards might be well advised to purchase a unit that is rated to 600 or 800 yards. For bowhunting situations, units rated to 400 yards are more than adequate. Laser rangefinders are offered by Bushnell, Tasco, Simmons, and other manufacturers.
Bushnell recently introduced a laser rangefinder designed to mount on a bow. The Yardage Pro Bow measures approximately 2 inches x three inches and weighs a little less than 13 ounces. Rated to 99 yards on highly reflective objects and 75 yards on non-reflective targets, this unique product mounts to the bow above the sight window with the yardage readout facing the shooter.
A remote trigger is mounted so the user can activate the rangefinder while holding the bow or at full draw. The unit can also be used as a hand-held rangefinder. Like other Bushnell rangefinders the unit offers accuracy of plus or minus one yard.
How a laser rangefinder is used is almost as important as the brand or model selected. The value of knowing the exact distance to the target goes without saying, but it’s not always practical to use a rangefinder when an animal approaches and a shooting situation unfolds.
Treestand hunters or those who hunt from fixed blinds have the advantage of making range measurements before a shooting opportunity presents itself. Determine the most likely spots for an animal to appear and take yardage reading accordingly. Commit the measurements to memory and when an animal appears make your shot based on the yardage data you know to be accurate.
Also known as:
-laser rangefinder binoculars
-laser rangefinder module
-bow sights with built in rangefinder
Stalking situations are much more difficult to manage because both the animal and hunter are often moving. When beginning a stalk, I take a range measurement to the animal and then try to determine the location of my final ambush point or shooting location. I then take a ranging measurement to the selected ambush point to determine if this location is close enough to the animal to make the shot.
For example, if the animal is 100 yards away and the ambush point is 60 yards away, I know the animal is bedded 40 yards from my ambush point. Knowing these basic yardages is important, especially if the animal surprises you during the stalk and a quick decision has to be made.