Rangefinding Sights For Bowhunters

Rangefinding Sights For Bowhunters

Stop missing in-field shots you could be making

It was mostly an observation mission, but I knew there was a chance that the blizzard raging across northern Oklahoma might get the deer up and moving. The public-land soybean field in front of me, largely blanketed in white, looked like a solid place to start building a hunting plan, so I tucked in behind a deadfall for the evening.

After staring into a freezing north wind for two hours, I caught movement through my binoculars. I thought he was a mule deer at first, because his antlers came straight off of his head. If that wasn’t cool enough, he had several nontypical points sprouting off of both main beams. When the buck hit 80 yards, he turned and charged into range which caught me off guard. Two does had sneaked into my corner of the field, and the buck was dead-set on checking out their potential girlfriend status.

All of the pre-ranged clumps in the field suddenly lost their significance as I panicked and guessed at the distance to the buck. When he stopped, I settled and watched as my arrow zipped below his belly and buried into the snow. In a lifetime of bowhunting public land whitetails, I’ve never shot at a deer sporting such a unique rack. And had I had time to range him he’d likely be at the taxidermist now...

bowhunter clipping release onto d-loop
Knowing exact shot distance every time you draw the bow – at the range or in the treestand – is a great way to avoid missing.

The ones that get away stick with bowhunters and have the tendency to push us into a reflective place.


Why We Miss

And reflected I have. There are so many times while whitetail hunting where the shots occur at the 20-yard range, and they work out pretty well for most of us. It’s always when the action unfolds in an eye-blink, or the buck takes a secondary trail and now is 37 yards instead of the expected 25, that things go wrong.


It’s during those encounters we are most prone to make mistakes because we are operating from a state of subtle panic, and usually on only partial information. This, I’m convinced, is why several manufacturers have jumped into the rangefinding sight game.


bowhunter at full draw with Burris Oracle mounted to bow for target practice
Bowhunters miss deer and other game most commonly through misjudging shot distance, choosing the wrong pin, or gapping incorrectly. The right rangefinding sight can eliminate all three.

The idea that you can range at full draw is a new one, but will likely become more standard as these offerings end up in the hands of more curious bowhunters. The thing is, to be efficient in the field, you have to either be an ace at estimating distances or have up-to-the-second yardage readings right before – or during the shot.

While many of us can get pretty good at estimating yardage on our home turf, that skill tends to lose some of its value when we travel to hunt. Sometimes it’s as simple as going from a field edge to a river-side bluff that can throw our yardage game off. And if it gets off enough and our encounters don’t allow us to dig out our handheld rangefinders, we’ll whiff, or worse – wound a deer. Depending on an individual setup, this might take being off by 10 yards, or only a couple. Either way, avoiding the guessing game is a good idea whenever possible.

Know The Range, Make The Shot

The rangefinding sight I’ve messed around with most is the Oracle from Burris. What makes this sight a great choice is that it’s built differently than much of the competition. For starters, not only does it project a constant 20-yard pin for a frame of reference, but it also instantly projects a pin for whatever distance you’re ranging at full draw.


This means whether your target is at 33 or 83 yards, the Oracle will give you an exact pin to use. This eliminates the most common excuse for missing with traditional sights – using the wrong pin. It also alleviates the need for gapping, another common strategy that can lead to whiffing in the field.

Burris Oracle ranging target
With a built-in inclinometer, lens-free aperture, and ability to project a pin for any yardage, the Oracle from Burris is a great sight choicefor bowhunters.

And because the Oracle will allow you to aim exactly where you need to at any distance, you can take your target shooting to ranges you might never have thought of as possible before. The ability to shoot well at 50-plus yards at the range is a major confidence booster that not only brings a new level of enjoyment to target practice but will also make you more lethal in the woods on shots of all distances. That’s not nothing.

The Oracle also features a built-in inclinometer for all up- and down-hill shooting, is backed by a killer warranty, and – while this not seem like much, it is – doesn’t rely on glass lenses in the sight housing like many of the rangefinding options on the market. In the pro shop when you’re checking this sight out, that won’t seem like a big deal, but when you get into the woods and it starts raining or you’re hiking through wet cattails to get to your stand, it will.


A clear sight aperture with well-defined aiming points is the foundation of making good shots in the woods during low-light periods or when the action is fast and furious. You don’t want to have to aim around a dirty or rain-specked lens. Little details like that can make – or break – a hunt.

Conclusion

Missing stinks, but it happens to all bowhunters. You can make it happen less if you pick up a rangefinding sight like the Oracle. Just be sure to practice quite a bit to get used to it, and then the function and operation will become second nature every time you draw. At that point, you’ll find that encounters with whitetails and other critters become less of a finger-crossing exercise and more of a foregone, short-blood-trail conclusion.

Recommended for You

Smaller and lighter, sub-gauge shotguns are making a resurgence in the turkey woods. Guns

Sub-Gauge Shotguns for Turkey Hunting

Larry Case

Smaller and lighter, sub-gauge shotguns are making a resurgence in the turkey woods.

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Putting The Porro Back in Quality Binoculars Optics

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Quality at the Right Price

Joe Arterburn - May 28, 2019

Steiner Predator AF Binoculars: Putting The Porro Back in Quality Binoculars

Companies in the outdoor industry know how to get our attention. We know, it might seem cheap, but SHOT Show

Booth Babes from the 2012 SHOT Show

PH Online Editors - January 18, 2012

Companies in the outdoor industry know how to get our attention. We know, it might seem cheap,...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Cheeseburger Poppers

Cheeseburger Poppers

David Draper shares his recipe for making delicious cheeseburger poppers with wild game in this edition of "Fare Game."

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 11: Wheelgun Buffalo

Host Craig Boddington lays claim to hunting more than 100 Cape Buffalo over the course of his 40 plus year career, but he never took one with a handgun. That changed in South Africa when Craig faced down "black death" with a magnum wheelgun.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 10: Snowbound Chamois

Host Brittany Boddington gets more than she bargained for on what turned out to be a grueling, snowbound and extremely physical hunt for chamois in Romania's Carpathian mountains.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Looking for a great gun for the young hunter in your family? Here are eight favorites. Guns

8 Great Youth Guns Designed for Growing Hunters

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 18, 2016

Looking for a great gun for the young hunter in your family? Here are eight favorites.

Dream of a job in the hunting industry? Here's the inside scoop on some of the most coveted positions in the outdoors. Stories

17 Dream Jobs in the Outdoor Industry

Kali Parmley

Dream of a job in the hunting industry? Here's the inside scoop on some of the most coveted...

I have never felt that camping trailers at least the Hunting

The Ultimate Hunting Trailers

WA Staff

I have never felt that camping trailers at least the "house on wheels" variety that most...

See More Stories

More Bowhunting

Pack up these new must-haves for archery season. Bowhunting

New Backcountry Bowhunting Gear Essentials

Jace Bauserman - August 30, 2019

Pack up these new must-haves for archery season.

Learn the difference between the first, second, and third axis and whether or not you need to make these adjustments for bowhunting! Bowhunting

Does Your Bow Sight Need Third-Axis Adjustability?

Jeff Johnston - September 19, 2018

Learn the difference between the first, second, and third axis and whether or not you need to...

Somehow, year after year, bows continue to get better. This season was no exception as the top Bowhunting

Exciting New Bows for 2015

Andrew VanLaningham & Eric Conn - September 03, 2015

Somehow, year after year, bows continue to get better. This season was no exception as the top

See More Bowhunting

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.