Trying to find the best rangefinder for bow hunting was tough work. I guess I’m what you would call an “ol timer” when it comes to adding archery gear to my kit. I started shooting about thirty years ago, before compound bows were even commonplace in the bowhunting arena.
Although I love shooting traditional, I do pick up a compound and crossbow for hunting. As a responsible hunter, I want as quick and clean a kill as I can manage. So, I went on the hunt for the best bow hunting rangefinder. The research was a bit painful; below I’ll unload the best I found on the market today.
Before I got started I had to ask and answer some questions so I could filter my research. Before you make your purchase make a list of all your requirements, imagine yourself using it and figure out what you need. Here is what I started with…
Are you hunting open country or in the forest?
Line of sight, angle, slope, and obstructions are all things to consider before purchasing your rangefinder. If you’re using a rangefinder with higher magnification or you’re doing a lot of glassing you’ll want to consider a tripod.
If you’re seeking range at long distances you need a clear line of sight. Some range finders offer farthest target priority so you don’t get a false reading from incidental foliage in the way.
Are you hunting dusk and dawn or mostly during the day?
If you’re hunting when it’s a little darker out or in a forest where light might be low you might consider a rangefinder with a larger objective lens. A larger lens will let more light in, but will be a little bigger and heavier.
Are you willing to pack a little extra weight or is weight a concern?
Anything you add to your kit adds weight of course. If you’re doing backcountry hunting then weight starts to be a real concern, every ounce counts. The weight range for rangefinders is pretty minimal. They’re all under a pound some as low as 4.4 ounces and some as heavy as 9 ounces.
Do you want an optical, LED or LCD?
Some range finders just give a reading on the optics and some have an LED or LCD. One with an LED will be brighter and easier on your battery life and will be more adjustable. This is something else to consider in low light conditions.
What is your budget?
You may have heard, spend twice as much on your scope as you do your rifle. You don’t have to spend that much on a rangefinder, but don’t ruin the hunt because of junky equipment. If you go low, expect less, or be willing to make certain sacrifices such as magnification or weight or durability or waterproof or overall quality if you go too cheap.
All rangefinders have microprocessors built in to do all the computing. In general, they are good to go for the job, but the software might start to get cheap on lower-priced devices. This could start to give you false readings and possibly no readings at all.
Don’t go beyond your limits, but don’t get a piece of junk either or you’ll blow the hunt and regret it, all the prep time gone because of a cheap device.
Will you be hunting in all weather conditions or just preferred conditions?
Some rangefinders will be seriously affected by rain and fog to the point of being useless. And some rangefinders will be waterproof and battle the elements with you till the end.
Will you be in a ground blind, tree stand or stalking?
If you are hunting from a stationary position a nice feature to have on a rangefinder is scan mode. This allows you to click on the rangefinder button, hold it down and as an animal moves the rangefinder will continue to adjust the reading.
Another nice thing with scan mode is you can lock on an animal, hold the button down and rotate your rangefinder to where you’ll get a clear shot, get your reading and get set.
Tips for top performance
- Keep good batteries in the device
- Carry extra batteries just in case
- Carry a microfiber cloth and cotton towel to keep the device clean
- Keep the device, lens, and receiver clean at all times
- Carry it in the carry case and keep it cushioned
- Don’t carry any rangefinder around dangling on a wrist strap
- If taking long readings take the same reading multiple times for verification
- Take readings from hard objects close to your target
- Practice before season with your rangefinder
- Practice on critters before and during season
- Take readings and manually verify accuracy
- Learn the limitations of your rangefinder
- READ THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL!
Tips to help you hunt
After you get settled in, take readings in your hoped-for direction of travel. Mark these down in your notebook and be ready. You might not get a chance to take readings if you’re looking the wrong way and when you look back Mr. Buck is walking his way into your shoot zone.
Take readings off of hard objects near your target for better accuracy. Rangefinders today are great, but reading off of a hard object as opposed to Mr Buck’s fuzzy gut will for sure give you a more accurate reading.
This probably goes without saying, but keep your rangefinder ready at all times. Even if you took readings right when you got settled in you never know what those critters might decide to do. How many times have you been looking and expecting one direction when they come up behind you?
When taking a reading on a critter try to keep your buck fever down, don’t be too shaky. Modern rangefinders do a great job and all but some shaky hands can make it hard for them to do their job.
If you’re hunting with a buddy and they are calling range make sure they are using your rangefinder if that’s the one you’ve sighted in all your gear with. Accuracy comes with consistency and using the same gear counts.
Best Rangefinder for Bow Hunting Reviews
1. Vortex Optics Ranger 1800
The Vortex Ranger 1800 is probably the best of the best. I’ll never need to range at 1800 yards with a bow but with this rangefinder, I won’t need two, one for bow hunting and one for rifle hunting. You can get accurate readings in best conditions off reflective objects at 1800 yards, but the specs on the website say deer at 900 yards.
It has a rugged design but is still lightweight, waterproof and temperature resistant. You’ll get readings by the yard increments through your 22-millimeter objective lens magnified at 6x.
If you’re looking for a rangefinder for any ranger anywhere under any conditions with any shooting instrument the Vortex Ranger 1800 is it.
2. Nikon 16224 Arrow ID 3000 Bowhunting Laser Rangefinder
There’s no coincidence this rangefinder is second on the list. When Nikon put their tech-heads together to work out what a bowhunter needed in a rangefinder they did a great job putting this one together. This rangefinder is made for bow hunters!
You’ll get a true range regardless of angle from or to your intended target. You can opt for first or farthest distant target priority, clearing up a messy field of vision. The design is small, lightweight, fits in a shirt pocket and comes with a shoulder strap instead of a wrist strap. The front protective cover easily pops down with one hand operation. It will range out to 550 yards in one-yard increments, giving you that pinpoint accuracy you need.
The Nikon 16224 weighs in at a little over a quarter of a pound and is waterproof as well as temperature resistant. All range finders have trouble working properly in rain, heavy fog and snow, but this is probably the best out there to handle those conditions.
If you want a rangefinder to make you a better bowhunter this is the one!
3. TecTecTec ProWild
The ProWild rangefinder comes in three options. Option one ProWild has a speed mode and is accurate out to 300 yards. With option two, ProWild S you lose the speed mode but gain angle compensations measurements. And with option three ProWild 2 you lose speed mode and angle compensation measurements, but gain accuracy out to 1,000 yards.
If I were strictly spot and stalk or ground hunter I would seriously consider the ProWild S rangefinder. It’s got a rugged build and is just under half a pound.
4. WOSPORTS H-100
The WOSPORTS H-100 comes with two options and two price points. The one listed here offers a speed scan while the slightly cheaper model does not. The speed scan mode is a fun feature if you wanted to work on moving target shooting. I haven’t honed that skill yet but I’ve seen videos of people shooting dove with bow and flu flu arrows. Having a continuous scan mode is a handy feature for ranging a critter on their approach.
The ultra-clear, multi-layer optical lens with 6x magnification is accurate out to 1,000 yards with +/- 0.3-yard accuracy. The WOSPORT H-100 weighs in at just under a half a pound and is still small enough to fit in a shirt pocket.
5. Leupold Vendetta 2 Archery
A bow-mounted rangefinder, what a great concept! It’s not there yet though. I wanted to include this since it did come up in my research. You can look up almost any of the bow-mounted rangefinders and find different problems with them. I think it’s a great idea, but still has a lot of bugs.
The bow-mounted rangefinder is still only legal in about a quarter of the country anyway. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on for the near future.
So, that’s what I found for the best rangefinder for bow hunting? There are some real hunks of junk out there. If you need a rangefinder and am looking at ones under a hundred bucks just wait and save up some more money.