Should you use a Laser Rangefinder for Hunting? – Use them Wisely!
Rangefinders work by sending a laser beam out to an object and reflecting that light beam back to the rangefinder. The amount of time it takes the laser to reach back to the rangefinder is calculated to determine the distance. Should you use a rangefinder for hunting?
Most laser rangefinders that can be found today will fit in the palm of your hand. They are not bulky or heavy. They can allow you to evaluate the span between objects in your surrounding area quickly and can greatly increase your accuracy when taking shots.
When it comes to the use of hunting rangefinders that you’ll use for bow and rifle hunting, you’ll find people who are adamantly opposed to them and people who are all for them. There are reasons that using a rangefinder can help you on a hunt and there are also ways that they can hinder your ability to be successful. Let’s take a look at both.
How Can Laser Rangefinders Help?
Rangefinders for hunting can be extremely useful in targeting true distance.
What is the true distance?
True distance has to do with shooting at extreme angles. To know what the distance is you have to have a rangefinder with angle rangefinder compensation (ARC).
For example, hunting deer from a tree stand and the deer is at 23 yards (line of sight) and your stand 24 feet high your shooting distance is actually 21 yards. Knowing this distance can make a difference between a kill shot and a miss when you’re deer hunting. Or a kill shot and a marginal one.
The true distance is at shorter distances only important if you hunt with an arrow. For a rifle shooter it won’t really make a difference except when you’re looking at very long distances of several hundred yards!
People who are in long open spaces with minimal markers for a span may need a rangefinder once a target comes into sight. These can help you hit the target with a calculated distance.
You can use a rangefinder to become better at judging distance. If you know that judging yardage is a personal weakness in your shooting, then you should consider buying a rangefinder.
This is not to become dependent on the device, but to teach you how to judge yardage. Once you get used to seeing how far something is at 200 m or 300 m, you will be more easily able to judge that distance. You can slowly teach yourself how to judge these distances with the rangefinder and then wean yourself off if you choose not to use it in the future.
How to Use Them?
There are several methods hunters use when first starting out with rangefinders for bow or rifle hunting.
Range the Surroundings
One popular method is to range all the surroundings at the start of the hunt. This allows a hunter to get set up and range the terrain in the downtime. Once you know your 10 yards, 20, 30, 40, or 50-yard mark you can easily set down your rangefinder and wait for your target to come to the site of those ranges.
If you make a good mental yardage map, once an animal is in sight, you won’t need to touch your rangefinder again. Why would that matter? Well during different stages of a rut, when the deer are moving pretty fast, you are going to want to be able to take your shot quickly.
Range the Approaching Animal
Ranging an approaching animal takes more skill than ranging your surroundings. When ranging to moving animals, you have to have precise movements so that the animal does not detect you. Once you spot your deer, you need to be able to predict the path that the deer is moving while getting a range reading through using the scan mode on the rangefinder.
Range the target and put the rangefinder away so you can aim with your firearm and scope. If the deer stay on course, you can take a shot. But if the deer moves or veers off course, you’re going to have to re-check the range. Especially if you haven’t practiced estimating ranges by eyesight before.
Mark Your Trees
One of the easiest ways to make sure you have the best use of your hunting rangefinder is to make yardage marks on the surrounding trees. This is especially useful when big game hunting from a tree stand or blind.
You’re going to want to make sure you have permission to mark the trees, but once you’re set-up, you can measure from your hunting position and mark each tree with the yardage.
It’s especially important if you’re deer hunting from an elevated stand that you have ARC for your rangefinder. This will make the corrections in the distance calculations for you to be able to accurately mark your trees. If you don’t have ARC, your calculations will be off and that could mean you’re missing easy shots while hunting.
What Can Rangefinders Do?
Hunting rangefinders will not make you a quicker shot. Many times, people fail to do their range checks before setting up and will only measure when an animal comes on the site.
Often hunters say their biggest regrets using rangefinders is that they miss split-second shots by ranging a target rather than firing at it. Don’t let the rangefinder take over your ability to estimate ranges. That would be a devastating blow to your skills as a hunter.
Rather, use the laser rangefinder to validate your range estimates and guesses, specifically for long-range targets. Always try to estimate a distance to a long-range marker or target yourself and then validate with the rangefinder. This will improve your range estimations and not make you dependent on the device so you can take the split-second shots with confidence knowing that you are at least not that far off with the distance you estimated!
There are many more electro-optic devices to improve your hunting success. We touched above on rangefinders designed for hunting that are combining estimating ranges with traditional optics.
In addition to hunting rangefinders, you certainly have a trail camera to help with tracking your game. These have significantly improved in capabilities and come down in price. Many of the latest hunting trail camera models even have cell phone capabilities included so they can send you the latest images taken.
Some scope manufacturers have also started to add range-finding capabilities directly into the rifle scope. These combine the optical excellence of a good scope with the measuring of the electronics to allow you to improve your shooting accuracy.
Sig Sauer has started to design high-tech versions of rangefinders for hunting that send the range data directly to your rifle scope. The reticle of the scope uses a large number of tiny LEDs to guide you in making the perfect shot based on environmental data and distance readings.
We have reviewed the Sig Sauer Sierra 6BDX. Combine such a scope with one of their Kilo BDX range finders for hunting and you have a winning combination for your hunting trips.
There will be many more of the top hunting gear brands that will combine the electronics for estimating ranges with the optical lenses to guide hunting and shooting in different directions. The reduction in size and price of the electronics will make these combinations more affordable and reliable and we’ll be seeing improved shooting quality as the main benefit for hunters and shooters.
Until that happens, we can use an affordable hunting rangefinder to help improve our success at hunting!