Over the years, you are bound to miss a deer or two. Anyone who tells you that they have never missed probably has some ocean front property in Arizona that they can sell you too. Its a fact of life and all part of the experience. Our defeats make the victories that much sweeter. But missing due to an unknown distance is nearly a thing of the past. Today’s range finders are becoming more and more sophisticated and affordable allowing us to increase our chances of success. The days of stepping off distances, flagging or marking 10, 20, 30 yards etc., and laying down unwanted scent are over. But knowing your yardage has an even more important role. One that may not immediately come to mind.
Having an accurate distance does one major thing. It gives you confidence. Sure it has a mechanical value of letting you know what pin to use or how much holdover to account for, but the most important asset is the benefit for your psyche. Confidence helps you to relax, be patient, and wait for the most opportune moment to take the shot. When a big buck is heading your way, and your heart begins to beat in your ears, your mind can be a mess. As you go through your mental checklist, one of the first things that you question is what path will he take? How far is he?
The very first thing I do, once I am in the stand and all my gear is positioned for the hunt, is range check prominent trees, trails, rocks, fence posts, etc. This will reduce the need to range the animal when it comes in, saving time, and movement. By eliminating one more thing to do, you can place more focus on things like body angle and shot placement. Deer will often enter and exit your area so quickly that if you have to spend time determining the range you may miss your opportunity. This is especially true during the rut with bucks chasing does. So by pre-ranging, you can make those quick shots or between range shots with better confidence. It is easier to guess if the deer is two or five yards past the tree ranged for twenty than it is to guess if he is 30 or 40 yards from the stand.
All this being said about the value and importance of a range finder, but does it matter which one I use? The short and simple of it all is yes and no. Today’s range finders are all very close in accuracy on flat trajectories and will serve you well in most hunting scenarios or while target shooting on the range. So then what should I look for in selecting a range finder? Well, I would start by examining your style of hunting and the location and terrains in which you do it. Do you need it for rifle or bow season, or both. What’s the longest shot you can ethically take? Do you hunt mountains or flatland? Range finder manufacturers have introduced an angle compensator technology over the past few years which I have utilized on many hunts. I have used the Bushnell Arc 1000 for several years with absolutely no complaints. It’s weather protective housing, clarity, and versatility to be used with a bow or rifle has aided me on several kills. However, the angle compensation proved to be not as useful for most of my hunts. This is no fault of Bushnell, its just that my style of hunting rarely calls for steep angles. When bow hunting in the mountains of southwest Virginia, the compensator helped tremendously. The mountain slopes often produced steep angled shots which altered pin selection or at the very least holding point. But when hunting benches, ridge tops, and farmlands the angles were rarely steep enough to change the distance by more than a yard or two. I also have a periodic fear of heights that can show its ugly face at any time and so I rarely climb a tree to a height above 15-20 feet. Therefore, I am not manufacturing a steep angle by stand placement.
The old saying “you get what you pay for,” should be remembered when purchasing any item. The higher priced models may offer more options and functions but if these items are not crucial to your style of hunting, than there is no need to shell out the big bucks. I look for quality of construction, weather proof over weather resistant, and clarity to aid in my final selection. I hope this helps you become a more accurate shooter and a more successful hunter.