There are different types of rangefinders that serve different purposes. Therefore if you are a rifle hunter, you should buy a rangefinder that’s best suited for longer ranges (this is even more important if you hunt in the wide open west). If you’re archery hunting, you dont really have a use for a rangefinder that has a max range of 500+ yards because you wont be shooting that far. The purpose of your rangefinder is one thing you need to consider before buying a rangefinder. If you dont, you can end up buying a rangefinder that will not serve your needs right, and the last thing you want is to end up buying something that doesn’t suit your needs. Not only will it not help your hunting, it will cost you money. We don’t want this to happen to any hunter, and we want to make sure that every hunter gets the best rangefinder possible for their money, no matter if they are rifle hunting or if they are looking for the best rangefinder for archery.
Some buy a rangefinder for the purpose of bow hunting, rifle hunting or birding. For instance, if you are a bow hunter, consider getting an appropriate rangefinder for the task. Nikon Company is well known to produce rangefinders that are more than adequate for archery hunting. So, once you figure out what you’re going to use your rangefinder for (rifle or archery) it will make it a lot easier to pick out a unit. We will cover rifle hunting rangefinders later, but we are here to talk about the best rangefinder for bow hunting. If you’re looking for more hunting stories or hunting gear reviews, find them here.
We are assuming that you already know what a rangefinder is. If you’re unfamiliar with them, they work like this. You have a handheld unit that you use for hunting. You take out the unit and look into the recticle (it’s kind of like looking into a pair of binoculars with just 1 lens instead of 2), and the equipment send out a laser beam that is supposed to bounce off your target. The beam bounces off your target (assuming you’re pointed in the correct direction) and returns to you, using some calculations to determine how far the animal is away from you based on the time it took the beam to travel there and back. One thing you need to be careful of when using these is that you are pointed at your target – a range isnt any good if you get the range of a tree or bush nearby your target. In my mind, a rangefinder is way more important for bow hunting than it is for rifle hunting. The reason that I feel this way is because of typical deer and elk terrain. I don’t know about you, but it’s not often that I was standing on a flat piece of ground, within range of a deer that was on that same flat piece of ground and simply pulled my bow back to a 35 yard draw and successfully took down a deer. When I’m out hunting for deer, it’s in a tree stand, or doing a typical spot and stalk – meaning that I’m at the top or bottom of a hill, and the deer is below or above me. Due to this change in angle, you also need to change the distance of your draw. The last thing you want is a near miss like the one shown in this video below.
The main reason that we differentiate our archery rangefinders from the units that are used for hunting is because of one thing: ARC, or Angle Range Compensation. Angle Range Compensation will help you calculate how much you need to draw back on your bow to hit a target that is above or below you (like when you’re in a tree stand). In my opinion, it’s totally necessary for bow hunting, and you want to get a unit with a good ARC calculator or else you’ll regret it after you follow the instructions for draw on your bow and you watch your arrow whiz over your targets back. There are a few ways to calculate ARC, by hand and with your rangefinder. We will talk about doing it by hand first.
Calculating ARC by hand
Of course, there’s always the option of calculating how much compensation you’ll need by hand. The formula is something you should remember from high school – the Pythagorean theorem. If you dont recall (I dont blame you) it’s used for calculating sides of a triangle when you know the length of two other sides. For instance, if you’re sitting in a tree stand imagine yourself at the top of a triangle. The first measurement you will take is one from your stand to the ground below you – thats one side of your triangle. The next measure will be to your target, and will be the long side of your triangle. You can use the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the bottom leg of your triangle using the forumla a^2 + b^2 = c^2, where a squared is your distance from the top of your stand to the ground, and b squared is the distance from your stand to the target. This is also called the riflemans rule, and if you want to see the trajectory calculations and application, there’s a good wikipedia article. Even though you could “technically” do this by hand, it’s better to get the best rangefinder for archery and have that equipment do it for you. We all know that if you waste time when you have a shot, you wont have a shot anymore.
Thankfully, you dont have to calculate ARC by hand as many units now come with built in calculators. Now I’ll be the first to admit that if you take a lot of your shots at close range, you probably wont get much use out of this sort of technology. Shots at ranges that close wont really have that much of an adjustment that you’ll need to make to your shot and shot distance. Typically, rangefinders with ARC are needed more in the western part of the united states due to the varied terrain and the spot and stalk style hunting. This is where I hunt, and I will tell you that a lot of my shots come from the top of a ridge shooting down into a field or further down the hill where my target has stopped to feed for a few minutes. Typically, these shots are between 40 and 80 yards, and there’s always a fairly significant adjustment that needs to be made after I range in with my rangefinder. Thankfully, this saves me a lot of frustration as I dont frequently miss like I did before I got a rangefinder.
Here are the 5 best rangefinders for archery hunting
Nikon rifle hunter 550
This is a rangefinder made by the Nikon Company. It is among the best units for archery hunting, despite its name (rifle hunter). They have built in incline and decline technology that allows a hunter to shoots angles up to 89 degrees uphill or downhill. Technology like this will help you avoid coming home with a story about how you saw this huge 5 point white tail buck that you shot at and didn’t calculate the angle right and missed, while the buck trotted away out of sight. A hunter can focus objects up to 550 yards but it actually ranges in to more than 600 yards. The optics are very clear making it easy to find that huge buck and range in on it. What makes the Nikon rifle hunter 550 even more convenient to users is the fact that it is light weight and fairly small and can easily fit in your pocket. An archery hunter can easily carry it around during the whole process. It is very quick to range and the glass is clear enough to take perfect shots. The battery life is enough to sustain a hunter through the archery hunting process. This rangefinder therefore has proven to be the best rangefinder for archery. All its features just work perfectly fine. You will not regret going with this rangefinder to the woods for hunting.
We have our 5 favorite bow hunting rangefinders here – there is a reason that we have two nikon products in here. We think these are the greatest for archers out in the field, and we dont want to “fluff” our recommendations or lead you astray. These are the best products on the market, and we want to make sure we help you find something that fits your needs.
Leupold RX-1000i TBR with DNA rangefinder
This is a product of the leupold company. Their true ballistic range provides a hunter with extremely accurate ranging information. This is one piece of a standout rangefinder for archery hunting. It has digital enhanced accuracy that allows the hunter to make clear shots. A hunter can range up to 800 yards. The optics are just not clear but impressive. The hunter can set different displays up to the desired results. It is also compacted with incline and decline technology that helps to calculate the correct distance between the rangefinder and the camera. The led display is clear and easy for the hunter to read. The rainproof feature allows the hunter to use it in the rain. It is therefore effective anytime regardless of the weather. However the true ballistic range has to be zeroed to 200 yards. A hunter can still get this product without the true ballistic range function.
Nikon archer’s choice laser rangefinder
This is another excellent rangefinder for archery hunting. It is well constructed with decline and incline technology that allows hunters to shoot at 90 degrees angle. It is light and simple to use for amateur hunters. Its optic is clear enabling it to produce better shots .This rangefinder is suitable for hunters who would not wish to range anything beyond 100 yards.
We really like this nikon archers choice laser rangefinder, and you can read a full review of the product here.
We can not say enough about the Archers Choice. It is easy to read when trying to get a targets distance and displays that number in a huge font on the screen. Though it seems trivial, readability in these units is crucial – there’s typically not much time to adjust when you are drawing your bow to take down a critter and you realize you read the wrong number on your units output. These nikons have the most important number in the biggest text and it’s easy to read. Look, draw and harvest – it’s that simple.
We have our 5 favorite bow hunting rangefinders here – there is a reason that we have two nikon products in here – they are the best in the business at their price point (and yes, we’ve said this two times, but we are trying to stress how good we think nikon units are for bow hunters).
Bushnell Team Primos The Truth
This is a fantastic unit for the price, and the bushnell team primos doesnt dissapoint. Bushnell got together with the guys at team primos and they delivered a product that is great for bow hunters. The unit has 4x magnification, Angle Range Compensation (ARC) and an angle measurement tool that will help you get the perfect shot every time! The unit ranges from 7-850 yards with an accuracy of +/- 1 yard. The unit also has a rainproof cover, which I have found invaluable at times when the weather just is not going my way and the rangefinder can get a little slick and hard to hold. Not with this unit though – the rangefinder is plenty easy to grip and range in with one hand, no matter the weather.
This bushnell also has a great, bright display, allowing you to view all the information easily from up in your tree stand before first shooting light if you spot a trophy white tail buck that you want to take home. Since the product has bushnell optics, they are particularly great lenses and come in very clear when looking through the window. This is a solid option, and comes in at a great price for a rangefinder with this kind of features and capability.
There has been an update to this unit, and we have a full review here. Check it out if you are interested, but know that because this is now an “outdated” model (dont worry, it’s still great) the prices have gone down quite a bit. So take advantage of the lower prices on this unit as soon as you can.
Bushnell BowHunter Chuck Adams Edition
This is another great rangefinder entry for bushnell, and is the predecessor to the team primos version discussed above. Bushnell teamed up with legendary bow hunter Chuck Adams to develop this unit and make sure that they included everything that just about any bow hunter could want. Well, I’m here to tell you that they did not disappoint at all.
This is a great product and was made to help bow hunters increase accuracy when shooting. To that end, it comes with ARC technology and a “shoot like” distance, which is based on shot angle that will improve your accuracy. It has a great “bow mode” up to 99 yards that gives you line of sight, angle and true distance. Past 99 yards though, those features disappear, but the unit is still accurate up to 850 yards off of something reflective, and up to 200 yards on a deer. It has high quality lenses, and 4x magnification.
Much like the team primos rangefinder, this one fits perfectly in your hands, though the coating isnt quite as grippy when you’re out in inclement weather. This unit was made specifically with bow hunting in mind, so they pulled out all the stops and developed a high quality unit that every bow hunter will be happy to carry with them in the field. The icing on the cake for this rangefinder though is the ARC and the bow specific mode. It does everything that you can think about asking it to do, and does it well.
While there are still many rangefinders good for archery hunting, the five above provide the quality and value to the whole archery hunting process. Instead of coming home with the story of missing a nice buck because you judged the range wrong and shot low or high, you can come hope happy and exhausted after spending the afternoon pulling out your trophy. With a rangefinder you’ll know how far you are and can set the right pin and take a good shot at your target. The stories about hunting are great, but it’s much more fun (and filling!) when you come home with something to put on the wall and in the freezer. If you are looking for other range finders check our full guide.