For many hunters, the first shot is the most important one. Missing it gives the target awareness, and with that, usually an opportunity to escape. This is especially true for bow hunters for whom, the first shot is usually the only shot because of the length of time it takes to draw and shoot the second arrow.
It is important to gain every possible advantage and make every possible preparation prior to making that first shot. Not to mention the extra effort the bowhunter has to spend to close the distance to his/her target because of the generally shorter range of bows.
This is why finding the best rangefinder for bow hunting is an important task for any archer out in the field.
A rangefinder allows its user to easily gauge the distance to a specific point. This takes a bit of the guesswork out of the process of lining up a shot. Of course, there are other factors such as the angle, the wind, and the target, but having a more or less set distance to work with will ease the burden of estimation that the hunter has to make.
Before making a purchase, however, it’s important to note that not all rangefinders are built the same. In fact, there are rangefinders specifically made for surveying and golf. Picking out a rangefinder specifically for bow hunting takes a bit of doing. Here are a few considerations.
What to Look for in A Bow Hunting Rangefinder
Target Priority Mode
There are two priorities for rangefinders, first and second priority modes. First priority mode refers to rangefinders that will gauge the distance to the first object its sensors will reach.
This makes it ideal for use on a golf course, or when there is an unimpeded view of a target. Second priority can come in different names, depending on the manufacturers.
Examples of these are a distant priority and “brush mode”. These, on the other hand, allow you to range an object that is behind a closer object. So if a branch is in the way of a deer, the reading your rangefinder displays will be that of the deer and not the branch.
When hunting, you can expect to be ranging your target while in cover or while your target is behind some bushes or tall grass. This makes a rangefinder in the second priority mode the better choice.
Though most modern rangefinders will allow you to switch between the two.
This refers to how powerful the lenses are and how they are able to enlarge distant targets making them more visible. For some, the immediate thought would be the higher the magnification the better.
That isn’t necessarily the case for bowhunters. In fact, lower magnification such as 4x is generally preferable for archers. This is because unlike rifle hunters, archers have to be much closer when they line up a shot. Also, holding a rangefinder one handed is easier with low magnification because the image is easier to hold steady.
Objective Lens Diameter
The objective lens diameter plays a big role in how well the rangefinder gathers light. Apart from the quality of the optics and the laser technology the size of the lens will improve the performance. The most popular lens sizes range from 16 to 24 mm.
Usually, the lower the optical power the larger the objective lens diameter/ lens size. Therefore, a rangefinder with an objective lens diameter of 20 mm and four times magnification will allow for perfect ranging between 10 to 600 yards.
The best archery rangefinder must have an ergonomic and durable design. In light of this, you should choose a pocket-size design that is lightweight and ultra-portable. Such a design will be easy for you to bring on a bow hunting expedition.
A rangefinder with a simple one-button will be easy to operate. For durability, you need a rangefinder with an o-ring seal design. This design will prevent debris, dust, and moisture from damaging the device.
Field of View
This is one of the most important qualities of any rangefinder. Field of view various considerably from one long range rangefinder to another. For instance, an 8×42 mm model has a field of view of 377 feet while a 10×42 mm model has a field of view of 341 feet.
A low powered rangefinder provides a larger field of view compared to a high powered rangefinder. A wider field of view provides finer details of the target, such as the tail of a deer slipping through thick brush.
Eye relief is the range of distance between your eye and the ocular lens that gives you a full target picture. High magnification power produces a shorter eye relief. In most cases, eye relief is most generous on low power rangefinders.
High power rangefinders have critical eye relief, which is usually suitable for urgent shooting. Generally, a longer eye relief is necessary for eye glass users and for reducing eye strain and fatigue.
A lot of shots that a bowhunter will take won’t be on even ground. The shots will usually be taken from higher elevation such as tree stands or higher terrain that provides a better vantage.
This will largely change the line of sight reading between the rangefinder and the target. Angle compensation allows a user to get a true reading by providing the horizontal distance between the archer and the target, which is the distance that a shooter will want.
This means that a regular linear reading from a rangefinder might provide a reading of 45 yards while a reading from a rangefinder with angle compensation can give a 34-yard reading.
Reticles refer to the crosshairs or the circle you see when looking through a rangefinder. These are usually either in the form of black lines or illuminated colored lines that are LED lit.
Both have their pros and cons. Black reticles become hard to see when imposed against a dark background. This can make it tough to use when aiming toward shadowed targets or low lighting. LED reticles while adjustable in brightness can be drowned out in high brightness conditions, even under max settings. Also, during darker times, LED reticles might prove to hamper a user’s night vision.
This refers to the maximum distance that a rangefinder can read. Though this really isn’t of significant importance to bow hunters as it isn’t likely that an archer will be lining up a 150+ yard shot in the field.
However, knowing how far you can accurately gauge an object may come in handy as you get a better feel of your surroundings.
All the above factors are capped on price, no matter how appealing the features of a certain rangefinder are; if you cannot afford it, it means nothing to you. The higher the price, the better the device and the more convenient it will be to use.
Each person, while making a purchase decision, should only analyze those products that are in the range which she/he can comfortably afford. However, if it is not urgent, you can analyze all and if you fail to meet the budget postpone the purchase decision.
Top Reviews of Best Rangefinders
1. Nikon Arrow ID 3000 Rangefinder
Dimensions: 3.6 x 1.5 x 2.9 inches
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Range: 6 – 550 yards
Specific features: It has a large ocular lens of approximately 18 mm, provides a continuous measurement of 8 seconds so that you can scan an area and pick the distance of various objects within the vicinity
Best use: Bow and crossbow hunting
The Nikon Arrow ID 3000 Rangefinder is a class 1 rangefinder that has a power output not exceeding 0.0975 mW. It has a range compensation capability which makes it ideal for a variety of hunting environments. It easily ranges a target due to its long eye relief. In most of the cases eye relief is conversely related to magnification, the higher the magnification, the shorter the eye relief.
It works well in low light conditions. Depending on the surrounding; you have the option of whether to use the first mode or the distance target priority mode by clicking and holding the range button. Also by holding down the range button you can also switch between games and settle on one for example, when you have a herd of animals, and you need to select one.
If the lens protective cover cannot pop off the lenses, you can use your hand to put it between the rangefinder and your palm, but normally it should open with ease. The purchase also includes a neck strap and a waterproof neoprene case and is backed by a 2-year warranty.
- Single button operating system
- Provides horizontal distance when ranging either in an inclined or declined position
- Long eye relief of 20.3mm
- Uses Tru-Target technology to remove any doubts while shooting
- Uncluttered LCD screen display
- It sometimes fails to read small objects on first focus
Related: To avoid running out of power while in the wild, it is wise to have a backup battery just in case the one in the rangefinder becomes dim. Among the batteries; you can buy the Viridian Lithium Tactical Battery. They have a shelf life of almost 10-years, and they can maintain power up to 3-month of inactivity.Check the price on Amazon
2. Bushnell G-Force DX Laser Rangefinder
Dimensions: 3 x 1 x 2.9 inches
Weight: 8 ounces
Range: 5-1300 yards
Specific features: It ranges to a maximum of 1300 yards on various modes depending on which device you are using it on, has a bow mode, rifle mode, and a regular mode
Best use: Bow hunting or rifle hunting
The Bushnell G-Force DX Laser Rangefinder is the new device that has been enhanced by the second generation extreme speed and precision processor to achieve high speeds and great accuracy. It is a class 1 laser with a 0.5 mW power output. It has an accuracy of a ½ yard and a display precision of 1/10.
It delivers bright clear images even in low light conditions due to the vivid display technology. It has a metallic body which is armored with rubber for a firm grip. It is among the best rangefinders which can give a reading in dense fog conditions since it is resistant to both rain and fog.
The optical lenses have a protective coating that prevents it from getting scratched, thus in case it gets fogged up, you can use a piece of cloth to remove the shade. You can only change the focus adjustments by turning the objective lens. It can range in either bull’s eye or a brush priority. Bull’s eye priority means it ranges the object which is near and in the brush mode, it ranges items that are farthest.
- Variety of brightness settings
- Easy to switch between modes
- It has built-in threading to use with a tripod
- The metal casing offers an added protection
- It is a 100% waterproof and the lenses have a water repellant coating
- It only has one illuminated display reading
- Hard to read, especially in conditions of bright light
- In the darkness, the light from the illuminator can blind you and hinder you from having an accurate focus
- The range button also changes the modes; this can be confusing for first users
Related: When going out for a hunt, you may be required to carry many items like the climbing system, water bottles, the bow, arrows and many more items. To make your experience desirable, you ought to look for a good backpack bag to enable you to carry your hunting gears as well as be able to take your meat home conveniently. The ALPS Outdoorz Traverse EPS is among the best bags that can withstand the rough, wild conditions. It is made of heavy duty material which is waterproof.Check the price on Amazon
3. Leupold Rx -650 Rangefinder
Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 3 inches
Weight: 10.4 ounces
Range: 6 – 650 yards
Specific features: It is designed for long life service since it is made from high-quality materials, though it does not range in 1-foot increment
Best use: Bow and rifle hunting
Leupold RX-650 Rangefinder is a rangefinder that measures in either meters or yards. It is made of hard plastic, and it has a rubber grip cover to enhance stability. To achieve focus with the rangefinder, you press the ranging button once, and if you want to use scan mode, you just press and hold down the button.
A 2-year warranty covers the purchase. It uses a black LCD screen display to report measurements. It has a battery life indicator on the screen to help you keep a watch on your battery usage and change when appropriate. Its screen is clutter free since there are minimal settings which require adjustments and thus the display reports only the range.
It has no screen display adjustments for low light situations. It has only one illuminating laser, and it is mostly best for use during the day since it does not have any twilight capabilities.
- Highly durable and waterproof with multicoated optics
- You can scan an area by holding down the button
- It has a single control button
- Very simple to operate since majority of settings are fixed from the factory
- Offers crystal clear images
- It has no tripod mount bracket
- It does not have a target or angle compensation mode
- It only offers a straight-shooting line to the target
Related: Using the right arrowhead on your arrow is also a determinant factor on how effective your shot will be, the G5 Outdoors Montec Broadhead is a preference for many hunters since it is easy to screw without any assembling requirements. They have a diamond cut sharpness, and they are made of steel.Check the price on Amazon
4. Nikon Aculon AL11 Laser Rangefinder
Dimensions: 3.6 x 2.9 x 1.5 inches
Weight: 4.4 ounces
Range: 6 – 550 yards
Specific features: It has an actual field of view of 6.0 degrees, an exit pupil of 3.3 mm, and an eye relief of 16.7 mm
Best use: For gun and bow hunting as well as target shooting
The Nikon Aculon AL11 Laser Rangefinder has diopter adjustment function and a single or continuous ranging function of up to 20 seconds. It has high-temperature tolerance with ranges from -10 to +50 degrees Celsius.
It is one of the smallest rangefinders in the market that uses the most standard measures of yards and meters in its ranging function. It’s smaller than most of the smartphones.
Due to its size, it’s a take everywhere rangefinder. It has a wide objective lens measuring around 20 mm. Its long eye relief gives it a bright field of view. To ensure there is proper use the battery; it has an auto power shut off function which keeps it on for a maximum of 8 seconds.
It is programmed to range the target which is at the farthest end which makes it ideal for hunting since hardly will you get a target on a plain ground. This means it can also bypass obstructions.
- It ranges up to 650 yards accurately
- Its optics are multi-layered
- Easy to read LCD screen display
- Single button operating system making it ideal for hunting
- It is water and rain proof
- No brightness control features
- No angle compensation in its measurements
Related: A good bow with wrong arrows won’t deliver the accuracy required to bring down your target. Carbon Express Maxima Red Arrows are among the favorite suite for hunters because they have dynamic spine control and blazer vanes. They are made from hi-tech carbon which enables them to fly better and shoot consistently. They shoot straight and come ready to use. You only need to cut to the appropriate draw length.Check the price on Amazon
5. Wildgame Innovations Halo Ballistic 600 Range Finder
Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.5 x 2.5 inches
Weight: 11.2 ounces
Range: 600 yards
Specific features: It has a precise of +/- 1 yard and measures the slope of a shot
Best use: Good for bow hunting
Wildgame Innovations Halo Ballistic 600 Range Finder is a good hunting device which is worth the money. A one year warranty covers the laser rangefinder Purchase. It measures in both yards and meters. You can use the rangefinder with your glass on since it has a good eye relief. It has different modes like with or without an angle. It gives you the distance and its respective angle depending on the activated mode.
It easily accounts for slope through its angle indicating technology. Its display is not readable in a low light environment but benchmarking with devices in the same price range it scores better. The condition is made worse by the lack of any self-illuminating features; it relies on natural light to show the readings. Changing between modes is easy.
Its body is covered with silicone rubber material for a secure grip as well as protects it from harsh conditions. The purchase comes with a cleaning cloth and a carrying case. It is water resistant though not entirely waterproof, thus handle it with care while using it on a rainy day. It has positive/negative one-yard accuracy.
- It is a multi-purpose rangefinder since golfers, and rifle hunters can also use it
- Water resistant, and it has a carrying pouch
- Place to attach a carrying strap
- Its small design makes it easily portable
- It has a scan mode and allows for a constant ranging
- The focus knob is at first very tight, and it may require you to use both hands to get it turned on; it, however, eases with time
- It does not give precise, accurate measurements since the figures are rounded off rather than have all the readings
- It has no mounting or threading hole for use with a tripod
Related: To avoid losing your arrows as well as increase efficiency in usage, you need an arrow carrying kit. Their designs are many, but over the shoulder, design offers a better drawing angle. G4free Archery Deluxe Back Arrow Quiver is among the preferred quivers by hunters. It can hold up to 30 arrows and is made of durable canvas material. It’s deep enough to hold long arrows.Check the price on Amazon
6. Bushnell Truth ARC Laser Rangefinder
Dimensions: 3.8 x 1.4 x 2.9 inches
Weight: 5.9 ounces
Range: 7 – 850 yards
Specific features: The rangefinder has high-quality optics with HD clarity, however, does not use the ESP2 technology
Best use: Best suited for bow hunting
The Bushnell Truth ARC Laser Rangefinder offers crystal clear images due to its power. You can get a clear shot while hunting since it uses a technology that detects any barriers that may cause interference with your arrow before it gets to the target.
If it senses a block, it sends a message ‘not clear’ and when correctly focused, it shows a ‘clear shot’ message. It also employs the ARC angle compensation technology and gives accurate horizontal readings from 7 yards and onwards. It turns off after just the right time amount of inactivity; this helps in saving the hard-to-get CR2 batteries it uses.
Its LCD screen is not responsive to light levels which make it hard to read the measurements in conditions of low light. Range Focusing is achieved by adjusting the eyepiece lens. It is water and rain proof. The purchase includes a neck strap, batteries, and a carrying case. Its screen displays the amount of life remaining in a battery, and it is compatible with a magnetic attachment system if a mounting need arises.
- One button operation
- A two-year warranty protects the purchase
- Lightweight and easy to carry around
- Simple to operate
- It fogs up quickly due to lack of nitrogen charged chambers
- It features a Perma-focus eyepiece, since there is no adjustable diopter, if the factory settings are not accurate, it may be hard to focus it correctly
- It gives too many readings, making the screen look cluttered
- It has no brush and bull’s eye target priority modes
Related: While hunting in the woods, especially if you are using a bow, you might be required to be close to the target so that you can have an accurate shot. Being too close to the target game might be dangerous, and this calls for a safe cover. You can use the Summit Treestands Viper SD Treestand to achieve the required elevation off the ground. You can use it while standing or seated since it has a padded seat with a backrest.Check the price on Amazon
7. Crenova LR600 Golf Rangefinder
Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.4 x 2.9 inches
Weight: 11 ounces
Range: 4 – 656 yards
Specific features: It has a view angle of 7.2 degrees, eye relief of 16 mm, and an objective lens of approximately 21 mm
Best use: Good for golfers, race cars tracking, bow hunting, and a wide variety of applications especially by sports people
Most of the rangefinders on the market are multi-purpose, with the capability of being used while playing golf or in a hunting mission. The Crenova LR600 Golf Rangefinder is the best bet for golfers and sports people. It can easily measure the flag distance with precision.
It is highly durable, dependable and it has a rugged construction. It has a speed mode to enable it to track objects moving at a very high speed. It has a built-in pin finder technology to pick out the flagstick when obscured. It works well, but not perfect in fog conditions.
The high power enables the golfer to plan the swing well and acquire precision. It has a first target priority mode for ranging the closest object in focus, but in case the flag is obscured by something the distant target priority mode comes in handy. The speed mode offers tracking capability of fast-moving objects.
- Adjustable focusing eyepiece
- Multilayer coating for bright clear images
- LCD screen
- It has 20 seconds continuous range finding capabilities
- Tilt intelligence capabilities
- Since it’s primarily made for golf, it does not account for elevation changes
Related: Your rangefinder device requires being stored in a pleasant place where it is protected from bruising and scratches. The Clicgear Valuables Storage Bagis the ideal carrying bag that is convenient for both hunters and golfers. It can easily be attached to the golf cart or the backpack. It is made of waterproof material, and it is a good value for your money.Check the price on Amazon
Point and Release
At the end of the day, there is no replacement for the ability to eyeball a distance. Still, however, having a good rangefinder by your side will make the shots you have to make that much easier.
The right rangefinder will be dependent on your needs, preferences and budget. When you do find the right one, you definitely won’t regret it.