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Do You Need A Specialized Range Finder For Archery Or Bow Hunting?

Bow Hunting Equipment There comes a time when people in any hobby or interest - photography, golf, hunting, etc. - decide that they need to get serious and invest in the right tools to do the job. There also usually comes a time when they go WAY past that point and start collecting every shiny new gadget around - but that's a different article. Next to the hunting implement itself, a good laser range finder may be the single most useful piece of equipment a hunter could have in the field.

The market is primarily made up of general use or golf range finders, with a large subset of range finders for the hunting market. Very often they're the exact same model internally, just in a different shell or with some camouflage finish. Often, not even that. In many ways, the needs are the same - accurately, quickly, and simply judge the distance of a far-off object.

Archery users and bow hunters need a range finder, perhaps, more than any other type of hunter. A rifle hunter can afford to be a few yards off in range estimation, as the bullet won't drop that much more over a few yards. An arrow isn't like that; there simply isn't the room for error when bow hunting. And in the end, it's about hitting the target and achieving your goal in the most effective, humane way.

To serve the archery and bow hunting market, manufacturers such as Nikon have developed dedicated range finders. Unlike their general purpose or rifle hunting cousins, these range finders generally only work out to about 100 yards. They include logic that will compensate for highly angled shots and the differing characteristics of the shot (an shot won't behave the same from 20 ft up in a tree stand on a 60 degree versus as a flat shot from ground level). But is a specialty item like this worth it?

An archery/bow hunting-specific range finder is all that some people may need

Obviously, no one is taking 200 yard shots with even the most powerful crossbow, so long range capability isn't a concern while bow hunting. Now it may be a big concern to the bow hunter who also uses a rifle (or even just plays golf, but that's another topic). But just focusing on the act of bowhunting, the typical 100 yard range limit of most dedicated bow hunting range finders would be fine.

Also, in many states, hunters are restricted to using shotgun slugs for deer and other game. Ohio is one such example. Even with modern rifle-barrel shotguns and sabot slugs, it's exceedingly rare to take a shot over 100 yards. If your hunting territory is filled with dense cover and not many fields or other open areas, then you may not have many shots over 100 yards even if you can use a rifle.

This is a different question than if you need ANY kind of range finder

Note: I didn't ask 'do you need a range finder for bow hunting'. The answer to that is a resounding YES! Being 5 or even 10 yards off on a 150 yard shot with a flat-shooting .270 Winchester probably isn't all that big of a deal. You'll probably still hit a vital area. But make even a 5 yard error with a bow and that once in a season - or lifetime - shot could be gone forever. Or even worse, a majestic animal gets wounded and wastes away, dying in pain hours later. As hunters, we owe it to the animal and ourselves to do everything possible to ensure a quick, ethical kill.

After all, a 10 yard mistake on a 200 yard rifle shot is only a 5% error. For a 30 yard bow hunting shot, that's a 33% mistake. And distances don't always look the same in early morning fog or in dense cover or from the height of a tree stand. Either practice with your bow - a LOT - under realistic conditions (in a tree stand, early morning and midday, various angles, etc) to become better at range estimation or get a quality range finder. Better yet, do both.

Why a rifle or general purpose range finder may be best for archery and bow hunting

But a range finder can be used for much more than just lining up that shot, as critical as that may be. You may want to range various landmarks around you or get a distance on an out-of-range animal that's headed your way. Maybe you want to map out or scout things along a trail or how far your other stand. Maybe you're just curious.

Fortunately, many rifle models will meet the needs of archers and bow hunters as well as even the best dedicated archery/bow hunting models. Here are two things to look for in a rifle model to make sure it will meet your needs as an archer or bow hunter:

  • Angle mode - this will 'do the math' for steep angled shots, like in a tree stand
  • Reasonable magnification - anything more than 6x would be too much at short distances

Make the right choice for your needs

If you are strictly a bow hunter or shotgun slug hunter that won't ever pull the trigger on an animal over 100 yards, then by all means consider one of the fine models of bow hunting ranger finders, such as the Nikon Archers Choice. This model includes the angle compensation and other key features from one of the premier manufacturers of sporting optics.

If you see yourself possibly needing a longer range model for rifle hunting, scouting, curiosity, or any other reason, consider a full-featured rangefinder such as the Nikon RifleHunter 550. It's only about $30-$50 more than the Archers Choice but can range out to 550 yards. It has pretty much the exact same functionality aside from max range. In fact, Nikon uses the exact same instruction manual for both models!

A quality rangefinder is easier than ever to own and is an essential part of your hunting toolkit. Whil a dedicated archery range finder may work perfectly well for many people, a more versatile full-range rangefinder may be better suited for most hunters. The extra premium - and sometimes there isn't even much of one - is usually worth it for the extra range. And yes, you may just want to have something that works for the golf course as well!

For more on hunting range finders of all types, check out http://www.huntingrangefinderreview.com.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION:The Contributor has no connection to nor was paid by the brand or product described in this content. By Sam F - Sam F. is a budding writer who just returned to the corporate rat race after nearly a year as a stay-at-home dad, an amateur baseball umpire, and overall good guy!