Whenever I’m looking for a new piece of gear to take hunting u make sure that I’m not wasting money on the item and that I’m not wasting space in pack that can be better utilized by some other piece of equipment. I don’t want my pack to be too heavy but I also don’t want it to have a bunch of stuff in there that never gets used. In short I want to carry with me exactly what I need and nothing more. This obviously gets tricky but I think I do ok when I’m out hunting.
One area that I’ve noticed can really take up a lot of space and not provide a lot of value is the wrong rangefinder. I’m not saying all rangefinders are bad and not worth the money – that’s not true at all. What I am saying is that if you buy the wrong rangefinder, it will just take up space and weigh you down. I spent a lot of time looking for the best rangefinder for hunting when I was looking for a new rangefinder. The answer isn’t as cut and dry as I would have liked because there are so many on the market and have so many different features depending on your needs. Maybe focusing on the best rangefinder isn’t as good of an idea as finding the one that best meets your needs.To do that, we need to sift through all the features that are common on different rangefinders and figure out what ones do meet our needs. First, you need to start with what type of hunting you do most often.
Archery vs Rifle Hunting Rangefinders
One of the biggest differences in terms of rangefinders has to do with the features that the unit come with. There are rangefinders with angle compensation systems (though each manufactured calls them something different). What the angle compensation tools do is help hunters try and determine the actual distance the animal is away from you, while accounting for you being above or below the target.
Example: Lets say you’ve found a group of elk and chased them over a ridge. You move to the top of the ridge and have a peek over, and you can see them about 40 yards down the ridge. If you were to put your bow in and pull back for a 40 yard shot – you’d miss and the arrow would go below your elk, who would then run off. This is because since the animal is at an angle below you, that changes the distance you actually need to be at to hit the elk. Now, an angle compensation tool will help you determine what pin to use in this situation (It should be about a 36 yard pin). That way, you can head back to the truck hauling elk quarters, instead of with a near miss story.
Now, these features aren’t really worthwhile if you dont hunt archery, as you wouldn’t use them much (if at all) if you were rifle hunting. However, they do cost quite a bit and could be a great thing to pass on if you’re not interested in bow hunting.
What Max Range Do You Need?
Another feature that needs to be considered to find the best rangefinder for hunting is the maximum range of the unit. If you typically do most of your hunting from a tree stand, you’re not really going to need a rangefinder with a 1,000 yard + maximum range – you wont be able to see that far through the trees even if the unit you bought had the capability to do so (and even then, you couldnt be sure you were ranging in your target and not a tree). I havent done much hunting in the trees like that, but a friend of mine that took me out had a rangefinder that had a max range around 600 yards, and said that it was more than he would ever need.
I live in the west and hunt a lot in Wyoming, so when I’m out hunting for antelope, there could be a couple hundred yards between me and the antelope when I first see them and when I can actually figure out a way to get on them close enough to get a shot off. A rangefinder with a maximum distance of 800-900 yards was something that I found a lot of value in when I was looking for a new rangefinder.
Good glass is what will make or break your rangefinder. Getting good glass with good coatings is crucial to helping you get the best picture you can while ranging in your targets in the field. Good glass will make the picture on your unit clear when you’re ranging in that white tail that’s 440 yards away. A clear picture will do a lot of good in helping you determine what shot you need to take and how to get close enough to take that shot.
As one of the guy’s I’ve hunted with before says “dont skimp on optics – you’ll pay for it in the end”. I agree with him wholeheartedly, and think that you should get the best rangefinder that suits your needs and that you can afford. They are expensive, but they arent worth the constant missing that having a low quality rangefinder could set you up for.
Other Things to Consider
We’ve gone over what we think are some of the more important things to consider when looking for a rangefinder. Those arent the only things that come with a rangefinder, so there are a few more things to consider when getting a new rangefinder.
Personally, I think 6x a great magnification level and will suit about 90% of hunters. That level of magnification will help you easily see a target clearly at 500+ yards, and will help you get a good eye on the size of the animal as well as the sex of the animal. Keep in mind that a rangefinder doesnt make it easier to range in your target with more magnification – it just makes the target easier to see through the viewing window.
Size, Weight and Hand-Feel
One thing that doesnt often get considered when making a rangefinder purchase is the hand feel. What I’m talking about here is how the unit fits in your hands, and how easily that you can operate the unit with just one hand (as that is what you’ll probably be doing a lot). If the unit is uncomfortable or difficult to operate with just 1 hand, then you probably wont end up using it often as you’ll find that it’s more trouble than it’s worth and stop using it because of that.
While they are minor concerns, size and weight should also be noted. Most rangefinders weigh pretty close to the same amount, with the difference between the lightest one and the heaviest one not being more than 1/2 a pound. Not significant, but still something to consider. Every pound helps when you’re quartering out elk over 3+ miles.
Rangefinders come with a lot of bells and whistles, but typically they arent usually that heavily used when you’re actually out in the field. Get a rangefinder with the highest quality optics you can afford, and you should be fine. If you’re looking for the best, check out our top 5 list on the home page.
Now, those are just some of the things we look at when we are thinking about the best rangefinder for hunting. What are you looking for in a new rangefinder?