Laser rangefinders are an incredible tool for bowhunters. Here’s how they can help you make better shots


Perched high in a spruce tree, I heard leaves crunching and spotted a heavy-footed mule deer making his way through the woods to my left. Fortunately, I’d already used my laser rangefinder to capture distances to various landmarks around me, so I knew he was 40 yards away. As the buck continued to approach, I grunted and he stopped, quartering away at 23 yards. At that, I released my arrow and the big buck was down.

To accurately shoot today’s compound bows, you need to know the precise distance to your intended target, and that’s where the modern laser rangefinder comes into play. Here’s how and why you should be using one to help make clean, accurate shots when hunting.



If you hunted with a bow in the early ’90s, you might remember the old dial-up rangefinders. To operate one, you looked through a sight window and rotated a dial until the object you were looking at came into focus, or the two images aligned. The number on the dial would then be the distance to your target. While dial-up rangefinders were fairly accurate, they were cumbersome to use.

What a difference a couple of decades makes. Today’s laser rangefinders are precise, compact and easy-to-use, and they can be adjusted to compensate for variable conditions. A far cry from those early mechanical models, they are loaded with practical features.


While rifle hunters also use rangefinders, they’re a necessity for bowhunting, when a difference of just one or two yards can send an arrow off target. That’s especially so at distances further than 40 yards. By calculating precise distances, laser rangefinders remove the guesswork, allowing bowhunters to instead focus exclusively on drawing and making an accurate shot.

Accurate shots demand knowing the distance

By simply centering a target in the viewfinder and pressing a button, you can quickly and easily determine various distances when you’re on a stand or in a blind. And if you’re still-hunting or stalking game, you can constantly assess changing distances so you’re prepared when an animal steps in to range.


While bowhunters seldom need to measure shot distances beyond 60 yards, it’s sometimes necessary to confirm longer distances as you close in on the animal you’re hunting. For my own purposes, I want a rangefinder that’s capable of accurately capturing distances out to at least 700 yards.

My Bushnell Prime 1800 6x24mm, for example, measures distances out to a mind-blowing one mile. It can accurately read reflective surfaces to 1,800 yards, trees to 1,000 yards, and deer or other big-game animals out to 700. Another reason I chose this particular model is the fact its LCD display fluidly morphs the reticle display between black and red to best contrast with the background I’m viewing.

One of the most useful features on today’s rangefinders is the ability to compensate for angles

Among the many other features available on today’s rangefinders, one of the most useful is the ability to compensate for angles. This feature accounts for varying terrain, providing the true distance to a target on both uphill and downhill shots. This is an especially valuable feature when you’re hunting steep topography, or shooting from an elevated stand. Most of today’s dedicated laser rangefinders also allow the user to switch between rifle and bow modes, providing accurate readouts that account for arrow or bullet drop, as well as the angle and ballistics.

Another great feature on modern rangefinders is the option to adjust sensitivity settings. For example, I can set my Prime 1800 for either brush or bull’s eye mode. As the name implies, brush mode ignores foreground objects such as brush, trees and branches, and instead only provides distances to background objects. As for bull’s eye mode, it acquires the distances of small targets without inadvertently measuring the distance of background objects.

Without hesitation, I would say every bowhunter should be using a laser rangefinder. They’re relatively affordable and reliable, and they’ll increase your odds of making accurate and ethical kill shots—and that’s what really counts.

Alberta bowhunter Kevin Wilson always uses a laser rangefinder.


I’ve seen laser rangefinders such as the Pursuit 850 listed for as little as $100, and the Halo XL600 for just $200. On average, though, most quality mid-class dedicated laser rangefinders will run you between $300 and $400. In that class, a few options worth a closer look include the Bushnell Prime 1800, the Sig Sauer KILO 1600 and the Vortex Crossfire HD 1400.