The archery range finder category has grown and evolved in recent times. In the past, it was sometimes better to opt for dual purpose rangefinder that could be used for archery and hunting. Now optics manufacturers have produced a variety of well-designed rangefinders specifically suited to the bowhunter.
What Features An Archery Range Finder Should Have
As an archer, you often find you are hunting in thick brush or cover as you stalk your game. An archery range finder must be able to discriminate between targets in line of sight. For example, an archer finds a deer behind some dense brush and branches. In the distant priority mode, The archery range finder is set to ignore all the branches, bush and trees as targets but only range to the deer in the background
The ‘first priority mode‘ is the complete opposite. This, for example, separates foreground target from all possible background targets in line of sight. A golf rangefinder uses this target priority mode when selecting flagstaffs on the green from background trees or brush. Nikon calls their target priority “first priority” and “distant priority”, Bushnell calls theirs “Brush” mode and “Bullseye” mode. These manufacturers produce rangefinders that you can easily switch between target priority modes.
Archers want sufficient magnification to track small animals. But because archers are often targeting larger animals such as deer at relatively close distances they need an archery range finder that does not have too much magnification. In these circumstances, higher magnification could lead to hard to follow moving targets with a reduced field of view.
The ideal magnification for an archery range finder is 4x. Some dual purpose rangefinders use x6 but in archery situations, this can lead to shaking while holding the device with one hand. With a bit of practice, however, this can be overcome. For archery, however, x4 seems to be the sweet spot for magnification.
Bow hunters are often high in a tree stand waiting for the game to wander by. In the elevated position, the angle between the archer and the animal can be large. This can affect the true horizontal distance to the prey. A normal range finder would simply read a line of sight distance to an animal. But an archery rangefinder with an angle compensation feature might read the horizontal to the prey at a distance 5-10 yards less. It is this angle compensated distance the archer wants to use when making the shot. Angle compensated mode is also very useful when hunting in mountainous terrain because of the corrected range it provides even when aiming uphill or downhill.
Angle compensation Feature By Manufacturer
- Nikon calls their angle compensation I/D for Incline/Decline
- Bushnell calls their ARC which stands for Angle Range Compensation
- Leupold uses TBR for True Ballistic Range
- Simmons call their version Tilt
Backlight LCD Screen
An archery range finder that employs lasers produces a coherent invisible narrow beam of light. They are part of the spectrum of light invisible to the human eye. They are, however, subject to normal scattering conditions that can be expected in foggy, hazy or rainy conditions. The amount of reflected light from a target depends on these factors as well as the target size, its reflectivity and glare. Distance is calculated by timing the difference in laser pulses sent and those received from the target and knowing the fixed speed of the light.
All rangefinders have one or more reticles which display a crosshair or other design. The reticle’s centre is the aiming point you see when looking through your rangefinder display. Many have LCD displays and crosshairs that appear as black lines superimposed over the target you want to range. It can be difficult with this type of reticle to distinguish a target against a dark background or in low light conditions.
LED Illuminated Reticles
Some rangefinders have red LED illuminated reticles instead to overcome this difficulty. There are rangefinders that adjust the LED brightness automatically depending on the ambient light. Also, some have a manual override adjustment which can be handy to suit the individual’s eye sensitivity to light. Even though the brightness of the LEDs is adjustable, in very bright conditions these bright LED’s can still be hard to see as they are lost in the strong ambient light.
Also, when your eyes are accustomed to lower light levels, say at dusk or dawn, these red LED reticles can impair your night vision. This can happen even when the brightness is set to the lowest setting. The same goes for any other displayed range and control information in the display.
In summary, the best option is a rangefinder with a backlight LCD screen. This gives you the ability to view your information in most lighting conditions.
Compactness and Lightweight
Compactness and lightness are a real consideration when choosing an archery range finder. The archer can have a considerable amount of kit to carry, so weight matters. Also being compact it means the rangefinder can be held in a pocket, by a lanyard or belt attachment and be easily accessible.
Sometimes hunting gives you very little time to act from the moment you spot a moving target to the time it disappears from view. So having a rangefinder that is easy and quick to operate is a sound choice.
Ideally, your rangefinder should have a rugged waterproof construction that will not fail if you dropped it or it falls in a puddle. It should have a grip surface for easy holding even with one hand. Many rangefinders are in fact weatherproof against showers etc. But you will find that fully waterproof kit with cost you more. A good practical carrying case can also help to protect your rangefinder so ensure it comes with a good carrying case.
Rangefinders are often quoted with a maximum range but this is a bit artificial to the hunter in practical conditions. The maximum range is a theoretical number based on a large highly reflective target in ideal weather conditions. But in practice, hot air movement on a warm day, scattering in foggy or misty conditions, pollution haze and glare all affect the usable range these devices can be used at. A practical useful range to spot a deer, for example, would be one-half of the maximum range. And on smaller prey, you might be looking at one-third of the maximum range.
Also, while magnification helps to see smaller targets in the display at a distance, this does not change the limitation of the rangefinder to read an accurate range in practical conditions. Bear in mind that the better and more expensive rangefinders use high-quality multi-coated anti-reflective optics. This is to increase light transmittance and aid clarity of view in otherwise poor visibility even with increased magnification.
LASER RANGE FINDERS SPECIFICALLY FOR BOWHUNTERS
We include here a collection of selected archery range finders we have chosen because they offer specific advantages to bow hunters. They also range in price and quality. We try to indicate the best value for money where possible.
1. BUSHNELL THE TRUTH WITH CLEAR SHOT LASER RANGEFINDER
The unit does not have a target priority mode setting like some Bushnell models have. However, the device is not waterproof nor is it fog proof so care must be taken using it in inclement weather.
RANGING PERFORMANCE 7-850
- Magnification x Obj Lens: 4x 20mm
- Sizes: in/mm 1.4 x 3.8 x 2.9 / 36 x 97 x 74
- Weight: oz/gr 6.0/170
- BatteryType: 3-Volt CR 2 (incl.)
- ClearShot Technology: Yes
- CONX Technology: No
- ARC Modes: Bow
- Targeting Modes: ClearShot
- E.S.P. 2: No
- Rain-Guard HD: No
- Water/Fog Proof: No
- Range: 7-850 yds Reflective
- Ranging Performance: 850 yds
- Tree Ranging Performance: 600 yds
- Deer Ranging Performance: 200 yds Rangefinder Accuracy:+/- 1 Yard
- Rangefinder Accuracy:+/- 1 Yard
- Price Versus Performance
- Carrying case, battery and neck strap included
- Pocket-size ergonomic design
3. BOW HUNTING RANGEFINDER – NIKON ARROW ID 5000
- Display Black LCD
- Magnification: 6x
- Weight: 6.2 oz
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 4.4″ x 1.5″ x 2.8″
- Max Range: Reflective – 600 yds
- Angle Compensation: Yes
- Battery: CR2 Lithium
- Warranty: 2 Year Limited
5. NIKON ARCHER’S CHOICE MAX LASER Archery Range Finder
The Nikon Archer’s Choice MAX Laser Rangefinder w/ LCD display has a First Target Priority Mode to allow you focus on targets as small as a fence post in order to get an accurate distance measurement. This could help you catch that deer walking through a field.
It also includes a Distance Target Priority Mode that displays the range to the farthest target.
In addition, it features Nikon’s advanced ID (incline/decline) Technology that automatically compensates for various inclines or declined up to an incredible +/- 89 degrees!
Active Brightness Viewfinder
Also, it has bright, multicoated, optics with proprietary, anti-reflective, coatings providing high-resolution images combined with the Active Brightness Control viewfinder that provides improved light transmittance. It’s also equipped with new technology that detects the brightness of the target itself and automatically adjusts the reticle to either a grey LCD or an orange LED for maximized visibility and contrast.
Nikon’s Active Brightness Control technology allows fast reads against virtually any background during the toughest lighting conditions. This unique technology automatically selects either a grey LCD display for lighter conditions and backgrounds or a unique, bright orange LED display for darker conditions.
Fast and accurate, the Archer’s Choice MAX includes a 28% larger ocular and 23% wider field of view compared to prior models for fast target acquisition. Nikon’s Tru-Target option allows the user to choose between two settings, First Target Priority or Distant Target Priority modes. This archery range finder features Nikon’s legendary multicoated optics, water- and fog-proof rugged durability, and pocket-sized portability. This rangefinder includes a silent technology case.
- Five- to 200-yard measurement range
- 0.1-yard increment reading
- 0.1-increment reading in ID mode
- m/YD viewfinder display
- 6X magnification
- 7.5 (real) and 43 (apparent) angular field of view
- 18.3-millimeter eye relief
- 21-millimeter objective diameter
- 3.5-millimeter exit pupil
- 4 diopter adjustment
- Measures 2.9 by 1.6 by 4.6 inches (W x H x D)
- 6.9-ounce weight
An archery range finder can have a wide selection of features. They range from the very simple to the very complex and vary in size and cost.
Keep in mind most laser rangefinders will only range targets accurately out to one-third to one-half of that of manufacturer’s maximum quoted distance under less than ideal conditions.
The simpler the device is to operate, the less you need to remember. Also, this simplicity will get your quicker results.
An Ideal archery range finder will have 4x magnification. Rifle hunters will definitely benefit from purchasing a rangefinder with magnification starting at 6x.
High quality, coated optics, wide Objective Lenses, and large Exit Pupils sizes all help. This ensures the greatest possible transmission of light through the rangefinder to the user’s eye for the clearest view.
There is no doubt that having an archery range finder will improve your accuracy in selecting the correct amount of holdover when shooting either a bow or a rifle.