Learning how to judge distance during a hunt is critical for the correct shot placement especially when it comes to archery hunting, but it has its importance in firearm hunting as well for distances over 200 yards. Do you need a rangefinder for hunting?
Rangefinders allow you to calculate distance and improve the accuracy of your shots. You will especially find them helpful as you practice calculating the distance through intuition, but you may want to learn how to take shots without a rangefinder over time. Nothing beats your own gut instinct.
If you’d like to learn more about hunting with a rangefinder, keep reading as we cover how to use them for the maximum effect in hunting.
Rangefinders Act Like Training Wheels
We do think that rangefinders serve their purpose when hunting, and many hunters prefer to have one. However, you don’t want to depend on them entirely. You will face scenarios in hunting where you don’t have the time to pull out the rangefinder and calculate distance. The moment requires immediate action.
We wouldn’t consider them a silver bullet. They could be useful out in the field, but nothing beats using your own intuition to calculate distance. Think of a rangefinder like you would a pair of glasses. Sure, you could use glasses, but it would be much better to use your own eyes. That gives you a good analogy for how you might see a rangefinder.
You might pick up a rangefinder to start practicing guesstimations of the distance. Over time as you see the differences in the accuracy of your guesses, you can learn to make the guesses on your own. This is how I use rangefinders because I like to be totally self-sufficient when hunting. I don’t want to depend on a technology that has a battery because what do you do when the battery dies?
How to Practice Distance with a Rangefinder
While out in the field, take guesses of the distance to specific objects. For example, guess the distance from your treestand over to a specific rock. Take another object like a tree and guesstimate the distance. You might also look at the distance to the treeline since deer often hide near the edge. After you make each guess, pull out the rangefinder to see how accurate you were.
Over time, you will learn how to calculate the distance accurately without the need for a rangefinder. That would be the point of a rangefinder in my opinion. This skill is invaluable in hunting. We find this the optimal result, but it takes practice with a rangefinder to pull it off. You may also decide that you would like to continue using a rangefinder even after, which would be fine, but we would recommend learning how to make the guesses on your own since this is a crucial skill for shot placement in hunting.
I have known plenty of hunters who don’t use a rangefinder, but they can be helpful. That becomes the key selling point.
Why Would You Want to Use a Rangefinder?
I honestly would think of a rangefinder as more of a “nice-to-have” type of thing especially after you learn how to tell the range yourself. I’ve known plenty of hunters who would shoot without them. Hunting with a rangefinder will make things easier, however, especially if you bow hunt.
Some of the biggest reasons that you may want to use a rangefinder include:
- Accurate understanding of distance
- Preparation before the hunt
- Learn your yardages accurately
- Eliminates the guesswork
- Reaches up to 1,000 yards
The reasons above outline some of the biggest examples of why someone would buy a rangefinder. Knowing how to accurately calculate distance in your head often comes with practice. You grow in accuracy calculating even without the technology after practicing with it. That matters because you won’t always have the time to pull out the rangefinder. The motion and noise could spook your prey.
Every hunter should develop his skills so that the rangefinder becomes excess. Think of it as wearing a pair of glasses. You see more clearly with your glasses on, but nothing beats using your own eyes to see clearly.
You Don’t Need a Rangefinder—But They Come in Handy!
I’d find it worth the investment because of how it trains you to calculate distances in your head. Let’s say that you go out duck hunting. You can use the rangefinder to determine the distance to the decoys. The beauty in hunting comes from how you can hunt with the bare minimum—take a simple bow or firearm and enter the woods. You don’t need anything else.
You can make it increasingly more complex if you want, but you don’t need to spend a dime on a rangefinder. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Being up in the treestand, you can misjudge the distance due to the angle. A rangefinder lowers the risk that you would wound the deer without taking it home. No ethical hunter wants to wound a deer.
Where a Rangefinder Works Best
In the open fields and edges of fields, a rangefinder becomes a priceless tool when hunting because of how you don’t have as many landmarks to pinpoint the range. The woods reduces some of its advantages to the more seasoned hunters because of how you can use landmarks in the woods and memorize the distances.
Another time where a rangefinder makes sense comes from those who move stands a lot. You don’t have the convenience of calculating distance without one.
What I dislike about a rangefinder comes from the extra step before the kill—you need to pick up the rangefinder in between grabbing the bow, and this increases the risk that the deer might run off. The less I have between me and shooting the deer, the better. Seize the moment before it escapes.
Many hunters talk about being in a fast-paced scenario where you can’t pull up the rangefinder to measure the distance. You want to spend as much time waiting with your weapon to strike.
How to Tell if You Need a Rangefinder for Hunting
I put together this example chart to help you decide if buying a rangefinder makes sense for you. If you answer yes on over half, then you may want to buy a rangefinder:
|Do you like to hunt simply or with a few extras?||X|
|Can you accurately pinpoint the range without technology?||X|
|Would you feel bad if you missed your shot?||X|
|Do you hunt in the field?||X|
|Are you bowhunting?||X|
|Will you take shots at over 25 yards when bowhunting?||X|
|Will you take shots at over 200 yards with a firearm?||X|
I ask the bowhunting question on bowhunting because of how, generally speaking, I find rangefinders especially useful in bowhunting.
Going for a Rangefinder
If you wanted a rangefinder, I wouldn’t advise against it. However, I would tell you to buy wisely. Consider what it does before you buy. You don’t need to buy a rangefinder over $150 because all rangefinders work the same way—they calculate distance. They perform a simple task that doesn’t require a huge investment.
The rangefinder that I would recommend is the TIDEWE Hunting Rangefinder. It’s relatively affordable and is waterproof and made for bumping around in the rugged wilderness. For the cost, you would have a hard time finding a better one.
Get an instant reading to grab the weapon and take your shot. The other excellent mark about this rangefinder comes from how it uses a magnet instead of velcro for opening—that noise can make or break you out in the field.
In fact, looking at the features, it shows you one of the reasons that you wouldn’t want to simply grab a golf rangefinder. They weren’t designed for the same purpose, and they may prove harder to use.
Are Rangefinders Worth It?
A rangefinder will be worth the cost, but you may want to practice making the calculations in your head. Hunters should seek self reliance because this sport began in self reliance. You don’t want to depend on technology to take your shots. How much you’d be willing to spend on one will depend on you, but I wouldn’t personally pay too much for one.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t, but it depends on what you want from a rangefinder. The return on investment drops significantly with the more you pay.
Is There a Difference between Golf and Hunting Rangefinders?
Golf and hunting rangefinders serve different purposes, and because of that, you may dislike using a golf rangefinder for hunting. As mentioned before, hunting rangefinders include features that make them more valuable to hunting. For example, a magnetic opener to keep from the loud noise of velcro out in the field.
Golf rangefinders may not add those important features because it has no value in golf. The golf rangefinder differs in that they use first target priority mode. This ignores distractions like distant trees, golfers and animals. Hunting rangefinders, on the other hand, will use distant target priority mode.
Rangefinders for Hunting
Many hunters see rangefinders as more of a nice-to-have type of technology. Some say they wouldn’t go out without one, but I wouldn’t call it a must. Rangefinders do have their use and value, but I wouldn’t depend on them too much. They can eliminate the uncertainty of guesstimating distances, but you may want to learn that skill for better hunting.
The one benefit of a rangefinder comes from how it can make your hunting more ethical. You take fewer shots that may only wound an animal but not kill it.