Using a Rangefinder

If you are a hardcore bowhunter, you probably own a rangefinder.  Heck, you might own several of them. There is no question; over the last several decades, very few things have helped bowhunters fill the freezer faster than the ability to know the exact distance to the animal they are shooting at.

The problem is many of us still miss animals. Sometimes it is because we have buck fever; other times it is because we still can misjudge the distance to an animal with a rangefinder. Sometimes in a hurry we range a twig in front of a buck instead of the buck. Other times we forget about ranging all together when we are in the heat of the moment and shoot over or under a deer. Below are a few things you can do to increase the odds of hitting what you are aiming at when under pressure.

Even though we all own a rangefinder, the truth is when we are hunting and a buck is all of a sudden in front of us, we don’t always have time to pick up our rangefinder and hit the button, so we guess. To eliminate the guesswork every time you climb into a tree, pick out three or four trees or landmarks of some kind that are near you and get an exact distance from you to that object with the rangefinder. Over the course of the evening, keep repeating the distances to those locations in your head.

At the moment of truth, even if the buck is a few yards from the exact spot you ranged, you have a good starting point because you know the distance to a tree or bush near him.

If you are bowhunting on the edge of a field, place a few sticks out in the field in a vertical position. Drive the sticks into the ground and make sure they stick out above the grass. Then use your rangefinder to get an exact distance to those sticks. In an open field, judging the distance to a deer can be difficult.  Having markers in the field can really help you make the shot.

Try practicing in your backyard without a rangefinder. Take a few shots without it. Take a walk in the woods and stump shoot with judo points and estimate the distance to the stumps the best you can. Over time, you will become better and better at judging distances in the field.

You may think this isn’t necessary when you own a rangefinder but often we don’t have time to get out a rangefinder and hit the button when hunting. When a buck is chasing a doe, sometimes we have two seconds to draw a bow and take a shot. Being good at judging distances without a rangefinder is a skill all bowhunters should practice.

Checking the distance to trees or markers with a rangefinder and knowing how to properly judge the distance to an animal without a rangefinder can help all of us be more successful in the field.

About the Author: Tracy Breen is a full time outdoor writer, consultant and game dinner speaker who often discuss how he overcomes cerebral palsy. Learn more about him at