Ask Bowhunter: Is a Rangefinding Binocular Worth It?
January 02, 2018
Q: I'm trying to streamline my hunting setup, and I'm considering going to a rangefinding binocular. I noticed Curt Wells using rangefinding binos in the past. What do I need to consider before I take this leap? Clint E., via e-mail
A: I had some reservations when I decided to make the switch to rangefinding binoculars about six years ago, but I quickly became comfortable with these optics and am enjoying the advantages.
Like any change in equipment, it will require some getting used to. The obvious functional advantage of using a rangefinding binocular is having just one optical device hanging around your neck. You would never leave your binos behind, but forgetting your rangefinder can be disastrous. When you're hunting in the West with a daypack on, you'll obviously put your bino harness on before donning the pack. When you close in on a stalk, or are set up to call and have a critter on the way, you will likely ditch your pack for those final moments. This leaves both your binoculars and your rangefinder on your body, within easy reach, even if you have to adjust your position and leave your pack behind. If your rangefinder is in a pouch on your pack, you're in trouble.
Even before a stalk, when I'm glassing a bedded muley, for example, I use my binos to study landmarks around the buck. With the built-in rangefinder, I can quickly range distances from the buck to the horizon, a nearby bush, tree or boulder, so I know exactly where the animal is in relation to those landmarks. As I close in on the animal's position, I use my binos to scan for the animal and I can quickly range him to see just how far I have to go. There's no fumbling for another device. I hate fumbling.
In a whitetail stand, I've always found it very important to have binoculars ready. I use them to scan the woods, almost like X-ray vision, for incoming deer. I want as much advance notice as possible so I can get ready, or quickly decide if I have to call or rattle at a buck that may be angling away. Additionally, when I make a shot, I want my binos handy so I can follow the animal and look for evidence of shot placement. The biggest change you'll have to adapt to while using rangefinding binoculars is wearing them all the time, whether you're in a treestand or a ground blind. However, you'll be motivated because you absolutely must have your rangefinder available at all times. And finally, when you're hiking into and out of your stand site in the daylight, a fluke shot opportunity may present itself and you can react with no fumbling around. Did I mention I hate fumbling?
If you've used various rangefinders, you know some are better than others. Some are slow, or have problems ranging in tight situations, like between trees, through holes in brush, or in tall grass. The current ranging binos I'm using are the Nikon LaserForce 10x42s, and I've found the laser to be lightning quick and very precise. I can even range through very small gaps by holding the fire button down in the scan mode, and moving the aiming point around until I get a range. And, the optical quality can hang with any binoculars I've had the pleasure of using.
Once you get accustomed to having your binoculars and your rangefinder on your chest at all times, you will feel naked without them. And, no fumbling!