As I watched my arrow sail over the back of the biggest deer I may ever have had the chance of laying my hands on, I instantly regretted not taking the extra effort to range the buck. After a brief moment of disbelief and despair, I finally pulled out my rangefinder to see just how bad I had misjudged the distance. A ten-yard difference and a few extra seconds, was the difference between wrapping a tag around the buck of a lifetime and searching for my arrow after the miss. I have been shooting a bow long enough to know the importance of having the exact distance when taking a shot, regardless of whether it is on foam in the backyard or on the animal of a lifetime during a hunt. Summers spent practicing on 3D targets, judging distances, and competing only goes so far when your adrenaline starts to rush, and your heart starts racing from having a live animal is in your sights. What you thought was an easy 40-yard shot turns out to be 50 yards and the buck walks away laughing at your impatience.
Nowadays rangefinders can get a little confusing when you start researching them online. There are however two basic types; handheld rangefinders, these are stand-alone units that are typically 6x and in recent years have turned into hand held computers capable of doing more things than most hunters will ever need. The second category is range finding binoculars. This category comes with a higher price tag but with that you get the convenience of an all in one piece of equipment. As an archer, I typically lean toward a more simplistic style of rangefinder. One that is easily programmed, compact, and lightweight. My two favorite handheld rangefinders on the market right now are the Leupold RX-1200i TBR w/ DNA at $349.99, and the Leica 1600R at $599.99. Both rangefinders are perfect for archers with angle compensation and user friendly functionality. If you also rifle hunt the Leupold would be a better option for you with its ballistics settings and simple push button switching between modes.
The binocular range finding options come down to the Swarovski EL Range 10x42s at $3299.00, and the Leica HD-R 2200 at $2599.99. The down side to both is the size and weight associated with adding the rangefinder mechanics into the binoculars themselves. Another point to consider is that the Swarovski binoculars will not range below 33 yards, making them more suitable to rifle hunters than bow-hunters. For some hunters though, having this all in one package far outweighs the cons associated with them. While I am still recovering from my miss, with time, I know that this mistake has made me a better hunter. I cannot in good conscience promise that this will be the last time that the excitement of an animal in my sight, will keep me from making the same mistake again. I can say though, that before each stalk, I will ensure that my rangefinder will be in my right hand ready for action. So on your next hunt, don’t let 10 yards separate you from that trophy of a lifetime.