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Rangefinder Technology & How it's Changed the Hunting Industry

Matthew Marley
Matthew Marley|June 1, 2016 9:34 AM

Rangefinders first hit the hunting market over two decades ago. Back then we were excited by new tech on the horizon but it didn't quite cut the mustard. It didn't do what we expected it to do. Most hunters went back to relying on dusky distance practice in their own backyard, with a view to judging range the old-fashioned way. And mostly this did the trick.

Hunters, by and large, love their tech. Yes, you get the few who use a traditional bow and arrows, but the vast majority utilise tech in their game hunting in the way they utilise the smartphone in their pocket during the week in the office: constantly. And given rangefinders are now far removed from the rangefinders of the mid-90s, they are radically changing the hunting industry.

Then & Now: Rangefinders Old & New

Twenty years ago a rangefinder seemed like an exciting piece of kit. We didn't have the gadgets and gizmos infiltrating our lives as we do now, so it seemed like a little bit of magic that we could point and click and know a distance. The problem was, these rangefinders were about as realistic as a kid's plastic wand. Great in the imagination. In reality, you'd be out on a hunt, carrying a cumbersome piece of kit, that often required you disturbing the game by recalibrating, and not very accurate if so much as a blade of grass got in its way. Bad information is worse than guessed information. Hunting frustration.

Rangefinders now are a completely different ball game. The units themselves are considerably more compact so much easier to access, carry and utilise. The processor within them combined with memory storage is now equivalent to what we are used to: fast. Many come with integrated digital accelerometers. They all come with visual displays and a far greater ranging distance as well as faster speeds. Importantly they are more accurate.

What Can a Rangefinder Do For a Hunter?

Hunters are pretty used to being sold tech and the latest gadgets. Game hunting is big business in the US and therefore, it's big money. This means you need to be savvy when it comes to deciding where best to spend your buck. However, this seismic shift in rangefinder technology means that you'd now be positively missing out if you don't have a rangefinder on your next hunting trip.

A laser rangefinder can be the difference not only between a clean kill and a messy one but can be the difference between a successful hunt or not. Novices and inexperienced hunters can lessen the learning curve and score big quickly. But for all hunters, even the pros, using a rangefinder to gauge the distance will significantly reduce the margin of error compared to estimating based on eyesight alone. This means you can take aim, make the shot, and know that the most tricky variable of a hunt has been factored in.

This is particularly important on hunts out west, or on the plains, where distances are large. If you're thinking the elk is 185 yards away but it is in fact 250 yards, that makes a huge difference to your shot. Add in complicating factors like the dusky light that skews distances, or natural hazards causing deception such as rivers or mountains, and chances are your time spent working out distances will mean the elk moved on. Rifles, slug guns, and muzzleloaders are typically sighted at the 100-yard range. But head up to around 200 yards, and the chances of getting the shot accurately where you want it is harder.

Does It Matter What Type of Hunter I Am?

It sure does. Whatever your preferred method of hunting you're going to need something slightly different from your rangefinder. Given hunting rangefinders are no longer marketed as a one size fits all piece of kit, but highly specialized, you're going to need the one that best suits your hunting needs as well as your pocket.

The type of rangefinder you go for will depend on the type of hunting: Rifle Hunting; Bow Hunting; or Target Shooting. Each of these requires a different set of features from the rangefinder. For the Bow Hunter, for example, you need a rangefinder to accommodate the arc of a released arrow as well as likely hunting up or down a steep gradient. This is where you need your tech know-how.

Target Tamers use their expertise to help you narrow down your rangefinder choices. From the Leica 10x42 Geovid HD-B Laser Range Finding Binocular being their top pick for rifle hunters to the Bushnell Scout DX 1000 ARC for bow hunters and the Nikon Prostaff 3i Laser Rangefinder for target shooting, they have rangefinder information pertinent to any hunter. They even go so far as to recommend a good general all-rounder, the Nikon Aculon. They understand the hunter's needs and offset these against rangefinder features and benefits.

Rangefinder Downsides

Rangefinders are only a useful tool for improving your hunting if you take the time and effort to use them accurately. It's worth investing a little time when you have your new gadget to learn it. Then make sure you can carry this new tool easily – the case needs to be accessible, silent to open, and not too snug. Also, be sure you understand the limitations. Rangefinders aren't magic, just yet, so they can't see through thick cover. Also, consider the likely angles encountered on your shoots and decide where you need a tilt-compensated model.

The Hunting Game Changer

Rangefinders, with the best tech of the moment, are reducing the impact of the single trickiest variable in hunting: distance. This means that you're more likely to get the hit you want in the time you want it, making hunting success time and again. And for the nay-sayers, a clean kill is the best kill, and rangefinders make that possible. Hunting and rangefinders are now completely synonymous with each other.
Rangefinder Technology & How it's Changed the Hunting Industry