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Pros and Cons of Rangefinding Binoculars

Recent technological advancements to rangefinding binoculars can benefit bowhunters in a big way.

Pros and Cons of Rangefinding Binoculars
Leupold’s BX-4 Range HD TBR/W 10x42 ranging binoculars are a great option for hunters inter- ested in streamlining their optics package. Note the dual left/right activation buttons on the binos. (Author photos)

Rangefinding binoculars have been around for a long time, but in recent years engineers have combined quality optical glass, micro-electronic lasers and computer technology to create truly remarkable binoculars that benefit bowhunters. I’ve used a half-dozen brands of ranging binoculars over the past dozen seasons and offer my thoughts here.

Pros

  • The obvious benefit is only having one optic hanging around your neck or on your chest. If you’re using a binocular and a typical rangefinder, you will have to manage both in a way that they are handy and ready to use as necessary.
  • Being able to glass an animal, judge its size, then acquire the range without having to drop your binos and pick up a rangefinder is an advantage. That entire process not only creates unnecessary movement, but it steals precious seconds you may not be able to afford.
  • When glassing game at long range you can quickly evaluate the animal and then take various range readings on it and adjacent landmarks. For example, if there is a large boulder or patch of brush within bow range of the animal, you can seamlessly take the range reading and know if you get to that boulder, you will be close enough to take or wait for a shot. Or, if you need to know how far an animal is from the horizon, it is easily done while you have the animal in sight. There’s no need to try to find that distant, hidden antler tip with a low-power rangefinder.
  • If you get to the final stages of a stalk and feel the need to ditch your pack, you still will need binoculars for the all-important task of relocating the animal, plus a rangefinder to get the distance. With a ranging binocular, you have only one optic to manage as you sneak, or even belly crawl, toward your prey.
ask-bowhunter-rangefinding-binos-inline
This cell phone image shows the range readout on my Leupold rangefinding binoculars.

Cons

  • There aren’t many negatives, but you will find that a ranging binocular is a bit heavier than regular binos. However, you have to compare that weight to caryrying both optics.
  • Using one hand to hold a ranging binocular and range an animal while holding your bow in the other hand does take some practice.

I am currently using Leupold’s new BX-4 Range HD TBR/W 10x42 binoculars and, as you would expect from Leupold, the glass is exceptional, but other features are important, too. The BX-4s have two activation buttons for either right- or left-handed bowhunters, or if you’re also a rifle hunter who prefers left-handed use. Plus, Leupold’s True Ballistic Range feature will give you the correct “shoot for” range on all angled shots, a critical feature for the bowhunter. In addition, several other high-tech features make these binoculars a great choice.

There are occasions when a traditional, vertically held rangefinder such as Leupold’s RX-FullDraw 5 are called for — such as when trying to range through a bow-mounted decoy or in heavy cover. But for the most part, a ranging binocular is the best option for the bowhunter who hunts multiple species of big game in varied terrain. Like any piece of gear, it takes some in-the-field “seasoning” to get accustomed to the process of carrying and deploying these advanced optics. Put in the time, and you might find your days of carrying two optics are over.




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