Don’t Guess, use the Best Rangefinders for Bowhunting
Those perfect shots are indescribable moments. You raise the bow, draw the arrow, and as you release it, everything comes together. You know the shot will hit true while it’s still in the air.
It might seem like something mystical, but those shots are actually the result of smart hunting strategies. One of those should be using a rangefinder. A good rangefinder doesn’t just measure distance. It let’s you prepare to use your bow as effectively as possible.
Before you choose a model, figure out what you need from your rangefinder. We’ve put together guide below to help you do that and followed it with reviews of our favorite models that cover a wide range of situations.
Our Top Bowhunting Rangefinder Picks
Rangefinders with Angle/Tilt Compensation
Halo XL450-7– “The great value earned it the top spot”
Nikon Arrow– “TruTarget technology make this a winner”
Bushnell The Truth– “A great choice thanks to ClearShot technology”
General Hunting Rangefinders
TecTecTec ProWild– “Continuous scan mode is a real benefit for bowhunters”
Bushnell Bone Collector– “A rangefinder for rugged situations”
What rangefinder features does a bowhunter need?
Lens and magnification
The kind of bow you use makes a big difference when you’re choosing a rangefinder. It helps determine exactly how much range you need.
If you use a crossbow, you most likely take shots from about 50 yards. If you use a compound bow, you’re probably looking at a maximum of 40 yards.
Considering these yardages, maximum sight range isn’t the only factor you’ll want to look at. Each individual component is one piece to knowing how your rangefinder will work. For instance, you also want to think about the lens and magnification specs carefully.
Every rangefinder comes labeled with a set of numbers. The first number represents the amount of magnification. The second number is the size of the lens. If your rangefinder is labeled “6 x 32,” for example, it magnifies by six, and that the objective lens is 32mm.
The greater the magnification number, the better precision you have when you find a range.
Increased magnification does come with a con, though. The greater the magnification is, the less space you’ll be able to assess at one time. You have to decide whether the trade off is worth it for you.
The second number, the objective lens size, gives you an idea of how well your rangefinder will perform. The larger the lens number, the more light is brought into the unit. This makes it easier to see. Like with the magnification, this comes with a downside. The larger the objective lens, the bigger the rangefinder is in general.
In other words, you sacrifice compact size and light weight for stronger performance.
Obviously accuracy is a big deal, especially for hunters. It’s not just important to successful hunting, it’s an ethical imperative too. Plus, broadheads aren’t the cheapest. The newest rangefinders come equipped with the latest technology and innovations. This includes their ability to give accurate readings.
Like any other piece of equipment, there are expensive models as well as more economic options. Even cheaper products should give youaccurate readings to about one yard.
What about the advertised accuracy rates of rangefinders? It’s important to note that these rates are determined under optimal conditions. You may find there’s a significant variation in accuracy when you’re out in the field—especially if conditions are heavily compromised by weather or lighting.
The advertised accuracy (or inaccuracy) of a rangefinder may also not be applicable to your specific use. Your rangefinder has been tested at 1,000 yards and has between one and five percent inaccuracy, but what if you’re using it at 50 yards? You should expect your rate of inaccuracy to be less.
Ease of use – one click and quiet
A rangefinder can have all the necessary features, but if you can’t figure out how to use it, it won’t do you any good at all. The same is true if it makes too much noise.
Make sure you know whether you can change the unit-of-distance output. If you usually work in yards and the rangefinder only reads in meters, it’ll be off. Some models have a feature that allows you to move back and forth between imperial and metric.
Some rangefinders are equipped with just one button. This makes them simple and fast to use. Of course, a rangefinder that comes with more buttons probably also has more options and greater versatility.
There are also rangefinders that allow you to select multiple points of measurement. This means you can toggle between identified objects in your view. All of these factors contribute to a smoother process.
You may also find there’s a learning curve to a new rangefinder. That’s to be expected with any piece of new equipment. It’s worth doing some practice with your rangefinder in the off season to get a good feel for how it operates.
Tilts and elevations calcs – great for tree stands
The “tilts and elevations calculations” function determines angle compensation for shots. This is sometimes called a ‘shoot-like’ distance. You’ll also get a “line of sight” distance.
When you’re up in a tree stand, you need additional calculations to determine how far away your target is. You need the height of where you’re sitting plus the horizontal distance between you and your target to know the true range.
This calculation becomes your shoot-like distance.
Having a ‘tilts and elevations’ function is invaluable if you’re doing any shooting that involves angles, like from a tree stand.
Waterproofing, armor and camo
Don’t bother getting a rangefinder that isn’t water- and fogproof. Think about it—when you’re out hunting, it’s frequently during early morning hours when condensation is higher. Rain is no reason to cancel a hunting trip, either.
You want to be able to use your rangefinder in all weather conditions.
Just because a rangefinder claims it’s waterproof, doesn’t mean you should submerge it in the first pond that you come to. But, it does suggest that a light shower won’t hurt its function. If a rangefinder doesn’t claim to be weather-resistant, move on.
While it’s important to have lenses that resist moisture, you also want something that comes with armor. Armor comes in many different types of material but is often a silicone skin.
Not only will armor help protect your rangefinder from unexpected weather, but it’ll also help absorb shock from an unexpected fall. We’ve all slipped over or set our belongings down too roughly–or even dropped something out of a tree stand. With armor, you can have a little extra peace of mind.
This may bring camo-patterned rangefinders to the forefront of your selection as well. There’s no reason to deck yourself and your equipment in camo only to spook a quarry with your rangefinder
Keep it close – tethers
Many rangefinders come with a tether or utility clip. This can be a great way to keep the rangefinder close in your stand. It also makes it easier to carry.
If you have a preferred method, or if your rangefinder doesn’t come with a tether, it’s easy enough to add your own. Whether it’s a lanyard, shoulder strap or belt clip, you’ll have your rangefinder at your fingertips in an instant.
A quick note on eye relief
When shopping for a rangefinder, you may come across the term “eye relief.” This is the distance your eye needs to be from the eyepiece of the rangefinder to see clearly.
Eye relief – usually measured in millimeters – is especially important for people who wear glasses. Without eye relief, glasses would prevent you from looking through the eyepiece. And of course you can’t take the glasses off, or you won’t be able to see well enough.
Every device has a specified eye relief. You can usually find the figure in the manual. Knowing how far away you need to be from the eyepiece will give you the best view possible.
Can I use my golfing rangefinder?
If you also like to golf, you can use your golfing rangefinder for hunting too. Ultimately, it’s performing the same primary function: measuring distance.
However, distance isn’t the only informationthe rangefinder provides you with. Golfing rangefinders usually have golf-specific features, and the inverse is just as true. Hunting rangefinders can give you information pertinent to hunting.
You might miss potentially helpful features by not using a hunting-specific rangefinder.
For example, a golfing rangefinder might be equipped with an adaptive-slope feature not especially useful for hunting, but it might lack a display that’s easy to read in low light. You could also be missing your “tilts and elevations” calculation. Specialty equipment exists for a reason, and we strongly recommend sticking with a rangefinder made with the hunter in mind.
Reviews of Rangefinders with Angle/Tilt Compensation
The Halo XL450-7 is an affordable rangefinder gives fast and accurate readings. The eyepiece is adjustable with just a quick twist. It’s also light and compact.
It’s simple to use thanks to its single-button operation. It measures in both yards and meters. In fact, you can rotate between four modes: yards, yards with slope, meters, and meters with slope.
The included CR2 battery should last you a year or more. With 6x magnification the Halo XL450-7 can range inanimate objects at 450 yards, and big game up to 350 yards.
One feature that makes this model unique is the scan-mode option. It works well even if it’s pointed at a moving target. This makes it great for a beginner or anyone who’s never used a rangefinder before. With a host of features to fit the price tag, it’s a great value.
What we liked:
- Twist-adjustable eyepiece
- Light and compact
- Single-button operation
- Four measurement modes
- Scan mode
- Great value
- No lanyard
Like the name suggests, Nikon designed this rangefinder with bowhunters in mind.
That means they made it durable and effective and capable of calculating shoot-like distances. Plus, it has single-button operation, which is important for a hunter.
The Arrow is lightweight at only five ounces, but it still manages a 20mm lens and a range up to 650 yards. Of course, this is great for still hunters, but it’s not a bad choice for a stand hunter who hunts a lot of different spots either.
Tru-Target technology allows you to easily move between a “first target priority” and a “distant target priority.” This feature is good for busy backdrops that can make picking out your target difficult.
The screen display is uncomplicated and easy to read. The 4x magnification means you see a significant amount of landscape through your rangefinder—an asset for many when bowhunting. You’ll be able to identify your target quickly and act accordingly.
Finally, it comes with a neoprene case and a strap that helps keep the rangefinder protected and close at hand, another great feature for still hunters. It also has a solid two-year warranty.
What we liked:
- 650-yard range
- Tru-Target technology
- Easy-to-read display
- Neoprene case and strap
- Two-year warranty
- No manual
Bushnell The Truth
First of all, The Truth has an incredible range of 850 yards. This should be more than enough for any bowhunter and will even serve you well if you also take advantage of rifle season. Even if you don’t need the long range, any bowhunter can benefit from the speed and precision.
Equipped with “ClearShot” technology, this rangefinder gives you immediate feedback on whether or not your shot will be a success. We can’t emphasize this feature enough. It saves you broadheads and keeps you from making any unethical shots.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the rangefinder for the night hunter. The display has no illumination and along with the black text, it’s not great for use in the dark.
The 4x magnification provides a wide field of vision. Weighing in at just over five ounces, this rangefinder is lightweight. Both of these things are good for hunting food plots. The 20mm objective lens and anti-slip grip make it even better for long stints in a stand.
What we liked:
- High 850-yard range
- “ClearShot” Technology
- Magnetic compatible
- 4x magnification
- Anti-slip grip
- No screen illumination
Hunting Rangefinder Reviews
The ProWild is a great addition to your gear. It’s incredibly versatile but still manages to come with an affordable price tag. It has a continuous scan mode, advanced-speed technology, and a range over 500 yards.
This rangefinder is durable and compact. It’s accurate to within one yard, and it’s also water-resistant, so you won’t need to worry about foggy lenses or bad weather. This makes it effective in tons of different conditions.
It’s important to consider that the display is not backlit and the text is black. You may have difficulty reading it in the dark. This is another rangefinder best suited to daytime hunting.
This model is lightweight and portable and comes with a lanyard and case. It’s protected, but also easy to reach for when you’re sighting your target. It even has a low battery indicator so you can rely on it even on long stints in the stand.
What we liked:
- Low price range
- Continuous scan mode
- Advanced-speed technology
- Accurate to within one yard
- Lanyard and case
- Low battery indicator
- No screen illumination
Bushnell Bone Collector
The Bone Collector is great for bowhunters because it has a versatile range of 10-600 yards and accuracy to one yard.
This rangefinder is rugged and tough. The camo finish is especially nice. It’s great for heavily wooded environments, especially ones with a lot of moisture. Unlike a lot of models, it has a backlit display. If you hunt a lot at night or in bad weather, take a look at this rangefinder.
It’s also small and light and designed to be used easily with one hand. The 4x magnification and 20mm objective lens are more than adequate for bowhunting purposes.
What we liked:
- Versatile range
- Accurate to one yard
- Camo finish
- Backlit display
- Usable with one hand
- Small battery compartment