When I started shopping for a rangefinder to use while hunting, there was so much to learn and I had no idea what sort of things my rangefinder needed to have and what sort of things that I could do without. After a whole lot of research and some learning, I finally found some things that you should look for when you’re ready to buy a rangefinder.
What type of rangefinder do you need?
The first thing is to figure out what kind of rangefinder you need. There are rangefinders for golf, forestry and hunting. While some golf ones may work OK for some hunters, it’s best to just got and get one specifically for hunting. The hunting specific ones will allow you to see through brush and dense trees, while the golf rangefinders are made for wide open fairways – not great when you’re looking for that mule deer buck walking through the trees. Get something specific to your purpose, and you’ll be fine.
RIFLE OR BOW HUNTING RANGEFINDERS
In addition to making sure to get a hunting specific rangefinder, you need to consider the type of hunts that you frequently do. Are you an all rifle hunter or do you hunt mostly with a bow? Many rangefinders can work for either rifle or bow, but there are certain types of rangefinder that will work better with one or the other (mostly for bow hunting). So, if you hunt mostly bow, give a close look at the bowhunting specific rangefinders. They traditionally have more features that are specific to bow hunting, like slope and angle calculation features which will make sure that you use the right distance. A bad angle could cause an arrow to whiz over or under your bull elk when hunting and you may never get another shot off.
Angles, Max Range and Magnification
Some rangefinders have a max range of about a mile, while most fall somewhere in the 400-700 yard range. Do the areas you’re hunting traditionally have over a mile worth of visibility, or is it something a bit less. Where I hunt in the western US sometimes I can see for many miles (especially when hunting antelope). Of course, I’ll never take a shot that far, so I dont really think I need a rangefinder that will calculate distance that far. However, if I did a lot of tree stand or forest hunting I’d wouldnt really consider a rangefinder with a mile range because the forest is so thick that you cant see for a mile anyway.
Magnification will come between 4x and 12x, but most are 4x-8x. The number before the x is how many times larger that big elk will appear in your rangefinder view screen. This will obviously give you a better look at your target, but will take away some from your field of view when looking through the view screen – which can make finding your target difficult.
Angle calculation for your rangefinder could also be important. Instead of talk about why, I’ll tell you about a time I was cow elk hunting in wyoming (with a bow). I had found this group of 4 elk together, two cows and tow calves, walking down a draw and away from my position. Moving wasnt an option, and I had guessed they were about 35 yards away from me. The rangefinder said that I should aim for a 30 yard shot to get the arrow where I wanted it to be. I thought the advice seemed odd, but I followed it anyway. I ended up hitting exactly where I wanted and had I not had my rangefinder I would have used my initial assumption of 35 yards out and watched the arrow whiz over the head of the cow I was after and then watch the group of elk run off. Im sure there are plenty more stories about angle calculation from plenty of other hunters out there just like this one.
Simplicity & Size
One of the things that I really strive for when I’m out in the field is the ease of use. I dont want to be messing with a GPS, a rangefinder or some other piece of equipment and have something that I’m out hunting for walk in front of me and I wont be able to take a shot. Some of the rangefinders are fairly complicated to work, and others have just 1 button you need to press before they can give you a reading. How many times do you want to be pressing a button before you’re able to get the information you’re looking for? It’s not very much for me.
Size is also a concern of mine. I dont want a gigantic rangefinder that will take up a bunch of room in my pocket or pack and be a pain every time I need to get it out and use it. I prefer something light weight and slim that will allow me to hold it easily with 1 hand while ranging a critter out in the open. Having something that is too big or requires too much effort to operate will most likely lead to me not using it often. That will then defeat the whole purpose of getting a rangefinder in the first place.
How much are you willing to spend?
This is probably a big, unspoken concern for everyone. Our rangefinder comparison table has prices from just over $100 to over $1,000. This is a huge cost range, and something that costs as much as a rangefinder shouldnt be taken lightly. Figure out how much you are willing to spend (or how much your significant other lets you spend) then start shopping based on that. Sure, the bushnell rangefinder/binocular combo units are nice, but if you can only spend $250 you may as well not even bother looking at them. Once your budget is set, take all the options that you have that cost less than that and figure out the rangefinder that best meets your needs from there.
There’s a lot to figure out if you’re looking for a hunting rangefinder, but once you figure out how much you can spend and what is most important to you the decision should get much easier to handle. There are a lot of great rangefinders out there and we are here to help you pick the best one.