Best rangefinders for hunting
Have you ever been hunting, and was unsure of whether or not to take a shot because you didn’t know the distance to the target?

I think it’s safe to say a lot of hunters been in the exact same situation.

Fortunately, for the hunting community rangefinders exist, and in recent years have become way more affordable than they used to be.

When it comes to choosing a rangefinder, you will typically find, that they fall into one of 2 categories. Those made for golf, and those made for hunters.

In today’s article, we’ll focus primarily on rangefinders made for hunting. We’ll discuss why you should have one, how they help, what features to look for, and end with 5 suggestions for the best rangefinders for your money.

Quick Comparison

Rangefinder Quality Our Rating
Tectectec ProWild Hunting Rangefinder B
Vortex Ranger 1000 Rangefinder A+
Bushnell Team Primos Rangefinder A
Bushnell Scout DX 1000 ARC Rangefinder A-
Nikon 8397 Aculon AL11 Rangefinder B+
 

Why You Need A Rangefinder

When you spot your prey, it can be relatively difficult to judge longer distances with just your eyes.

At longer distances, shot placement mistakes become way more probable. If you make a mistake you can cause undue suffering to the animal, and as hunters, we always want to make sure we make an ethical shot, or even worse you completely miss.

This is where rangefinders come in.

Modern rangefinders are designed to be easy to use. Pretty much point and shoot and a number is displayed on a small internal LCD screen.

Rangefinders work by emitting an invisible laser light to a target then counting the time via an internal clock until the light returns. Generally, the calculated distance is pretty accurate, usually within +/-1 yard. Rangefinders tend work best and give more accurate readings on hard reflective targets like rocks.

Beyond giving the distance, many rangefinders on the market will tell you the true horizontal distance. This is particularly important to bow hunters as the true horizontal distance will compensate for variations in both terrain and angle.

Long uphill and downhill shots such as those taken from a treestand can actually be less distance than if they were on level ground. Significantly affecting both the velocity and drop of your projectile.

What To Look For When Choosing a Rangefinder for Hunting

Now that you know why rangefinders are useful and how they can improve your hunting, we’ll discuss the various features available on rangefinders and which ones you should be on the lookout for.

Types of Range Finders

One of the first things you need to know about rangefinders is there are several different types beyond laser rangefinders. I’ll discuss each one below.

Optical Rangefinders

Optical rangefinders use mirrors to measure distance, which is then displayed on a dial. The mirror images are rotated by the dial until one is superimposed on the other creating one image.
The dial then determines the reading distance.

Optical rangefinders are often on the cheaper side but can be a pain to use in the field if you are not used to them. If you’re looking to go cheap, an optical rangefinder will work just fine, but it does have a learning curve.

Infrared Rangefinders

These rangefinder work similar to laser rangefinder in that they both emit a light to measure distance. The difference between the two is that the IR rangefinder uses triangulation between the emitter, the detector, and the point of reflection to calculate the distance.

These rangefinders are also on the cheaper side and usually have a pretty decent battery life.

Laser Rangefinders

Laser rangefinders, like mentioned above, use a small invisible light to reflect off an object and calculate the time it takes to receive the reflection, then calculates the distance based on return time.

You will find that older laser rangefinders have a tough time measuring objects in low light settings since it requires reflection to work. However, newer more modern models have features to negate this problem.

Also as mentioned above, laser rangefinders will usually include some form of finding true horizontal distance. Some models also include ballistic information for rifles to show how far your bullet may drop.

Laser rangefinders tend to be more expensive, but are easier to use, and more precise.

Range

One of the most important features of any rangefinder is right in the name, The range. How far will a rangefinder measure?

Rangefinders meant for rifles will typically have a maximum range of between 600 and 1200 yards.

While archery rangefinders will typically have a maximum range of about 800 yards. Models made specifically for archery will typically be accurate to within fractions of a yard up to about 150 yards.

Optics

Most of the features you will be looking for in a rangefinder can be placed under the optics category. There are a number of features you will want to be on the lookout for. I will go over the most important and tell you what each one means so that you can make the best buying decision when it comes to selecting a rangefinder for hunting.

Target Priority

The first thing you need to know is target priority. Rangefinders typically operate in one of 2 modes. Either first priority or second priority.

First priority mode is the default mode for rangefinders made for golfing. In first priority mode, a rangefinder will read the first object in it’s path. This is typically good for golfers when you want to measure how far the flag is. Not so good when you’re out in the woods.

Rangefinders in second priority mode will ignore objects in the front say branches and will read objects behind them.

For instance, if a deer is standing on the other side of a tree, the rangefinder will ignore the branches on that tree and measure the distance to the deer.

Because of this, rangefinders that operate in second priority mode are the better option for hunters.

Reticle

All laser ranger finders feature a reticle. A reticle is the crosshair you aim with when looking through your rangefinder. Some reticles are black lines that you superimpose over an object you want to range. This type of reticle is often hard to see in low light conditions or against dark backgrounds.

Other reticles appear illuminated because they are actually made up of LEDs. However, this can be a problem in super bright settings like during mid-day, and can be so bright they ruin your night vision. The LEDs are adjustable, but you should be aware of this limitation.

The best option is to get a black line reticle with an option for backlighting. The backlighting will eliminate the issue of not being able to see in low light or against dark objects. It is also dimmer than the led option. Pretty much giving you the best of both worlds.

Magnification

When trying to range your target, magnification will help a great deal, so that you can actually see what you are trying to range. Magnification typically ranges from 4x - 8x but higher ranges are available.

The major problem with magnification is the more you increase the magnification the more field of view (f.o.v.) is lost. This can make locating your target more difficult. Especially if the target happens to be moving.

Angle Compensation

Another term for angle compensation is true horizontal distance which I covered above briefly. This is an important feature for both rifle and bow hunters. Probably more important for bowhunters since arrows tend to lose velocity a lot quicker than a bullet.

Angle compensation will give you the true distance of a target whether you are shooting uphill, downhill, or other extreme angles. Some models do not have this feature. Make sure to be on the lookout for this feature. This is definitely a feature you want to have unless you like figuring out the shooting angle by hand and potentially wasting a shot.

Lens

When you are looking at optics on a rangefinder, one thing you should consider are the lens. The surface of the lens on a rangefinder is coated with a special chemical coating to help reduce glare and maximize the amount of light transmitted to your eye.

Typically there are four coatings lenses can come in. Coated lenses have one size coated, while fully coated lenses have both sides coated. There are also multi coated lenses as well as full multi coated lenses. These lenses will allow a decent amount of light through and improve picture clarity but do come at a high price point.

Design and Ease of Use

The last section I want to cover is design and ease of use. When I say design I don’t mean the overall look of the unit, but more it’s size and shape.

Bow hunters are already carrying a number of things with them quiver, bow, backpack, and other small accessories, you don’t want to also have to lug around a large range finder. The better option is to find one that will fit in your pants pocket.

As for ease of use, I will say this. The most important features a rangefinder can have are the angle compensation and being able to just point and shoot. Some rangefinders come with a novel for instructions. While having a bunch of other features is great such as the ballistic report, it is not a needed feature.

When you spot your prey, you don’t want to have to waste time flipping through a manual to figure out how to use the thing, because chances are your prey won’t wait on you to figure it out.

Best Rangefinders For Hunting Reviews

Rangefinder Quality Our Rating
Tectectec ProWild Hunting Rangefinder B
Vortex Ranger 1000 Rangefinder A+
Bushnell Team Primos Rangefinder A
Bushnell Scout DX 1000 ARC Rangefinder A-
Nikon 8397 Aculon AL11 Rangefinder B+

Tectectec Prowild Hunting Rangefinder Review

With the Prowild Rangefinder from TecTecTec hunting has never been easier. This rangefinder is not only capable of measuring distance with pinpoint accuracy up to +/- 1 yard. You can also measure the speed at which your target is moving.

The Prowild is capable of measuring up to 540 yards at 6x magnification. The Prowild has a multilayered lens, making reading easy and is proven to be waterproof. To go along with everything else the Prowild is completely portable weighing 6.5 ounces and small enough to fit in a pocket or your hunting bag.

PROS

  • Comes With Case and Laynard
  • Waterproof
  • Affordable

CONS

  • No angle correction
  • Black reticles makes reading hard during low light conditions

Vortex Ranger 1000 Rangefinder Review

If you are looking for something a little more powerful, check out the Vortex Ranger 1000. This rangefinder is wrapped in a protective rubber casing with a textured design that helps to not only protect the rangefinder but helps you hold onto it more securely. Even when wet.

O-ring seals help to prevent moisture from getting in the unit along with dirt and debris. Because it has o-ring seals, you can be sure you always have a clear picture, since the seals will prevent fog and moisture inside the lens. The lens is fully multilayered ensuring you get a crystal clear picture every time.

The vortex ranger 1000 also features a red display, making it much easier to read both in regular daylight and low light conditions. Along with a crystal clear image, the ranger has a diopter that allows you to focus in all the way up to 1000 yards.

PROS

  • True horizontal display 
  • O-ring seals prevent fog and moisture build up
  • Red display makes reading easy during any time of day
  • Textured patters allows for secure grip, even when wet

CONS

  • A bit more on the pricey side
  • Requires triple tap to range, making it slower than double tapping models in this price range

Bushnell Team Primos Rangefinder Review

The Team Primos by Bushnell is considered by many to be the best archery rangefinder hands down, and it’s not hard to see why.

This rangefinder features a single button making ranging extremely easy. On top of that, the Team Primos is completely rainproof, ensuring you can use it in any condition. One of the great things about this rangefinder is the ARC (Angle Range Compensation) technology from Bushnell. The ARC technology allows instant feedback on your shot clearance by calculating the flight path of your arrow and warning you of any potential obstructions.

This unit features a 4x magnification that allows you to measure up to 850 yards, ensuring you get a perfect shot every time. Along with all the great features already listed the Bushnell Team Primos is lightweight and portable. It can easily fit in your pocket or be stowed away in your hunting pack for later use.

PROS

  • Bushnell's Arc Technology allows for precise shots with a bow 
  • Affordable
  • Rainproof
  • Comes with neck strap, protective case, and batter that allows you to use it directly out of the box

CONS

  • Black reticle makes reading in low light difficult

Bushnell Scout DX 1000 ARC Review

Another product from Bushnell is the Scout DX 1000 with ARC technology. This is a great unit for both bow and rifle hunters. The Scout DX features a 6x lens capable of reading up t 1000 yards.

Thanks to the Extreme speed precision turboprocessor, this model is capable of reading and calculating the horizontal and vertical distance up to 99 yards with impressive speed and accuracy.

It also has two priority targeting modes. Priority one is listed as bullseye, while priority 2 is listed as brush. This unit comes housed in rubber making it both waterproof and fogproof. This ensures you get a crystal clear picture when you need it most.

PROS

  • ARC technology so that all shots taken are accurate
  • Waterproof 
  • Priority 1 and Priority 2 ranging modes

CONS

  • Black reticle makes reading in low light conditions difficult

Nikon 8397 Aculon AL11 Laser Rangefinder Review

Nikon is primarily known for its high-end cameras, but they also produce quite a few great rangefinders as well. Introducing the Nikon 8397 Aculon. The Aculon is probably the best rangefinder from Nikon hands down, primarily due to its optics.

The Aculon has a range of 550 yards and is perfect for both archery and rifle hunters. This unit features a 6x magnification and has a 20mm objective lens, making it the ideal choice for both hunting weapons.

At 5.6 ounces the Aculon is easily portable and also completely waterproof.

Other features of this unit include a push button that allows you to toggle between priority 1 and priority 2 modes as well.

PROS

  • Includes a multilayered 20mm objective lens
  • waterproof
  • Affordable

CONS

  • No ARC or True Horizontal reading capability
  • Black reticle makes reading in low light conditions difficult

Wrapping Up

 

When you are out hunting, knowing how far away your prey is can mean the difference between an ethical human kill and a potentially inhumane kill or a complete miss. 

Rangefinders are a perfect solution to this problem. They are especially important when it comes to bowhunting. 

When selecting a rangefinder for hunting there are a few key features you need to be on the lookout for. A good rangefinder will be simple to use, capable of measuring decent distances, and should have the ability to give you the true horizontal distance. 

Measuring true horizontal distance is a must if you will be shooting uphill, downhill, or at other extreme angles - such as a lot of shots taken from a treestand. 

If you found our guide helpful, please consider sharing this article on social media so other hunters can find this guide as well. 

Thanks for reading, and remember adventure is waiting. 

 

All of my life has been focused on the outdoors. From the days of fishing with my father when I was young, to learning more advanced outdoor skills through the Boy Scouts of America; you could say the outdoors is pretty much my life blood. I enjoy a wide range of activities including camping, survival, fishing, hunting, and bushcraft. I have spent most of my life learning these skills and now I want to pass on my knowledge and hopefully learn even more in return.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here