Bowhunting Basics IV: Rangefinders

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Previously we discussed the basic gear you’ll need to start shooting and enjoying all archery has to offer. But before you get really serious about bowhunting live game you’ll need a quality laser rangefinder. In archery, small discrepancies in yardage – anything from three to five yards, depending on arrow speed – can lead to big misses. In the back yard you can easily step off distances, one step equaling about a yard, to get started. In hunting this obviously isn’t possible.

As you become more experienced you’ll no doubt discover your range-judging skills improving (unmarked-yardage 3-D archery tournaments are a fun and exciting way to hone these abilities), but in the beginning you’ll be hard-pressed to differentiate 25 yards from 35 – especially under pressure when faced with your first big-game animal. Modern laser rangefinders make this easy, correlating an aiming point in the viewfinder with the target, clicking a button and noting the distance on the LCD readout. Most modern units also automatically provide compensated range for sudden drops in elevation (such as shooting from an elevated treestand) to take the guesswork out of steep uphill and downhill shots, which normally require aiming low to compensate for geometric angles.

By now you should have started practicing to kill, setting up a treestand to simulate real-world hunting scenarios (climbing onto the roof of your house works in a pinch, so long as your neighbors won’t become alarmed), and even purchasing rubber blunts or Judo Points (small-game heads equipped with spring arms to keep arrows from burying in leaves or grass) the same weight as your field points/broadheads to practice shooting in the field. This is called stump shooting and is a great way to hone your shooting skills and range-judging in an atmosphere that’s more enjoyable than plunking arrows into a soulless foam target. I use these stump-shooting sessions as dress rehearsals, donning the standard camouflage clothing I will wear in the field, as well as packs, safety harnesses, binoculars and all the rest to assure nothing interferes with a smooth shot. 

There’s much more to learn, of course, and in my next series of blogs, we’ll begin addressing the finer points of basic shooting form needed to advance into the role of a deadly bowhunter. But learning new skills is also where all the fun in archery and bowhunting lays. The important thing to remember is bowhunting’s now accessible to all, young and old, big and small, thanks to modern technology and the efficient equipment it has spawned.