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Bow Mounted Range Finders

Updated on September 4, 2013

Bow Mounted Rangefinders Improve Archer Accuracy

As a seasoned bow hunter, I know the importance of accurately estimating the distance to your target. As the effects of gravity take over, your arrow will drop more quickly as the distance to your target increases. This is known as arrow fall.

The trajectory of an arrow is pretty flat for shorter shots, say within 20 yards. As that distance increases, an archer actually needs to aim above their target, so that the arrow fall allows the arrow to drop back onto the target. If a bow hunter incorrectly estimates the distance by as little as 5 yards on a 40 yard shot, then they will most likely have a clean miss.

Even worse than missing their game all together, the potential exists to wound their game, never to recover it. This is a scenario that every responsible hunter strives to avoid, and why correctly estimating the distance to their target is so important. Know your range, and stay on target!

Archery Rangefinder
Archery Rangefinder

Electronic vs Non-Electronic Archery Rangefinders

Which one is right for you?

Many hunters make use of hand held laser rangefinders. These do a fine job and I have used them myself for many years. There are draw backs to using a hand held model though. The additional movement and potential noise associated with picking up a rangefinder, ranging the target, and placing the rangefinder down may alert the game animal to your presence. This can spoil your shot before you ever have a chance to take it. In addition, game animals are often moving, and their distance changes once you have ranged them. A great solution for these problems is to use a bow mounted rangefinder.

There are high tech electronic and low tech non-electronic bow mounted rangefinders on the market today. Each of these have their own strengths, benefits, and drawbacks. Which one is right for you? Well, that depends upon which state you hunt in, if you are hoping to land in the Pope and Young record books, and what your budget is. Let's explore these further.

Dead-on Rangefinder
Dead-on Rangefinder

The Dead-On Rangefinder

Low cost, simple, but effective...

The Dead-On Range Finder

The Dead-on rangefinder is a low cost, simple but effective solution. When I say low cost, I mean under the $20.00 mark.

It attaches directly to your current bow sight, and uses a concept called 'bracketing'. It has a series of fiber optic pins. A pin at the bottom is marked 'Belly Line', and the remaining pins are set at different distances and marked for 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yard ranges. By aiming and placing the belly line pin on your game's belly, you then look to see which distance pin is resting on top of your game's back. The pins are all pre-set at different spacing intervals that equate to the approximate size of your game's body at the different marked distances. By 'bracketing' your game with these pins, you can get a pretty close approximation of the distance to your target.

These pins are configurable depending upon the type of game that you are hunting. For example, a whitetail deer's belly to back measurement will be different than that of an elk, or a turkey. There is an included configuration guide that assists you in determining which holes the designated pins should be placed in, depending upon what type of game you are hunting. It is a simple concept, but it is tested and proven to be effective.

As mentioned previously, it is a low cost device, and that is one of its biggest benefits. Another huge benefit is that it is legal for hunting purposes in all 50 states, since it is a non-electronic device. Electronic devices on bows are not allowed for hunting within most western states in the U.S. If you are a trophy deer hunter, then have no fear. A trophy whitetail harvested with the Dead-on rangefinder is still eligible for the Pope & Young record book, based on the Rules of Fair Chase. The Dead-on rangefinder also works well with single pin, adjustable bow sights.

As far as drawbacks go, this device is not 100% accurate. Since it is based on the bracketing concept, it gets real close to estimating the proper range to your target, but it is not exact. This is due to the fact that the size of game can vary within the same species. A mature whitetail buck will have a different belly to back size than a typical whitetail doe. One other minor drawback is that it requires reconfiguration of the pins if you are going to use it to hunt a different species of game. If you are hunting in an area where deer and turkey are both in season at the same time, you can't use it reliably to estimate the distance to a turkey, if it is presently configured for deer. Yes, this is a minor drawback, but something that should be considered based on your hunting habits.

The Leupold Vendetta is the high tech option in the bow mounted rangefinder market. It uses a non-visible laser to accurately calculate the distance to any target between 10 to 70 yards away.

Accuracy is its biggest strong point, and there is nothing else on the market that can beat it from that perspective. It is simple to use once it is configured. You calibrate it to your 20 yard sight pin. Then you simply draw your bow, aim at your target with your 20 yard sight pin (no matter what the distance to your target is), and depress the activation pad on your bow grip. The laser will determine the distance to your target and provide a reading on the LED display. You then just switch to the proper range pin, and let your arrow fly with confidence. You can even hold down the activation pad to range game that is on the move and changing distance for an accurate distance reading. There is no need to reconfigure the device if you want to hunt a different type of game.

There are a few drawbacks to this device that will restrict many hunters from using it.

The first is cost. It sells for as little as $239.00 currently, but that price still makes it restrictive for many hunters' budgets. This makes the Leupold Vendetta a premium archery accessory that is typically just used by avid bow hunters.

The second drawback is legality. The Vendetta is not legal for hunting in all 50 states. Most of the western states do not allow it. It is legal for recreational shooting in all states, but the device mainly appeals to hunters. You should check on your state's local hunting regulations before you attempt to hunt with this device.

A third drawback is that a trophy deer harvested while using a Leupold Vendetta is not eligible for the Pope & Young record books. This may not be a concern for most hunters, but there are some trophy deer hunters who aspire to some day be entered into that record book. Pope & Young has their Rules of Fair Chase, which specifically disallows electronic devices on bow.

A fourth drawback is that it is not recommended for single pin sights. These type of sights get dialed in to the distance that you will be shooting. In order to use the Vendetta with a single pin sight, you must draw the bow, range your target, let your draw down, dial in your sight pin to the appropriate distance, and then draw again and shoot. This is not a very fluid process.

Lastly, some people may find it difficult to install and configure the Vendetta. There is a process that you must follow to calibrate your 20 yard sight pin to this rangefinder. An included alignment guide and visible laser mode assists with this process. There are also a number of YouTube videos that explain and demonstrate the process. These videos helped me out a lot, and I highly recommend them. I believe that I would have been very confused and struggled without being able to see this process with my own eyes first.

Bow Mounted Range Finders for Sale

There are two bow mounted range finders mentioned in this lens. They are the Leupold Vendetta and the Dead-on Range Finder. Both of these mount directly to your bow.

The Vendetta is an electronic version and the Dead-on is a non-electronic version. They both have the pros and cons, their strengths and weaknesses. Read all the details in this article to determine which one is right for you.

Leupold Vendetta Rangefinder for Bow
Leupold Vendetta Rangefinder for Bow

The Leupold Vendetta is like a high powered scope for your bow. The laser range finder technology gives you exact distance to your target, while you are at full draw. There is no more guessing at which sight pin you should shoot from. Eliminate misses and injured game with the Leupold Vendetta.

 
Dead - On Range Finder Bow Hunting Range Finder
Dead - On Range Finder Bow Hunting Range Finder

The Dead-on range finder is a non-electronic range finder for your bow. It uses the concept of bracketing to accurately determine the distance to your target. It is cheap, easy to use, and legal in all 50 U.S. states for hunting.

 

Conclusion

I recommend you weigh out the pros and cons of both the electronic and non-electronic models of bow mounted rangefinders in order to determine which one is right for you. I think the main decision will come down to which state you live and hunt in. If you live in a state where the Leupold Vendetta is not legal, then you can discount it right away unless you are going to use it for target shooting or 3D archery.

I am partial to the Vendetta, because it is legal in my state, and its accuracy is unmatched by any other device. Once it is configured, shooting with it become second nature. I used to never attempt shots that were close to 40 yards and beyond, because I lacked confidence at that distance. With the Leupold Vendetta, I have the confidence to shoot that shot now, and it has opened up more shooting opportunities for me.

Archery Confidence Poll

Many archers are comfortable with shots inside 20 yards. That confidence seems to fade as the distance increases.

At what range does your confidence level drop when shooting your bow?

See results

Bow Mounted Rangefinders on Amazon

Listed below are two bow mounted rangefinders; the Leupold Vendetta and the Dead-on Rangefinder. I have included a few additional archery rangefinders that come highly recommended, should you choose not to go with a bow mounted rangefinder.

Leupold Vendetta Rangefinder for Bow
Leupold Vendetta Rangefinder for Bow

This is the top pick for a bow mounted range finder. This laser range finder mounts directly to your bow riser, and can be activated by depressing a pressure pad that is attached to your bow grip. There is no more guessing at distance with the Leupold Vendetta.

 
Dead - On Range Finder Bow Hunting Range Finder
Dead - On Range Finder Bow Hunting Range Finder

The Dead-On Rangefinder is an inexpensive solution that is legal for bow hunting in all 50 states. It uses the concept of bracketing to estimate distance and help to make sure you are shooting off of the proper sight pin.

 
Bushnell BowHunter Chuck Adams Edition 4x 20mm ARC Bow Mode Laser Rangefinder
Bushnell BowHunter Chuck Adams Edition 4x 20mm ARC Bow Mode Laser Rangefinder

This is a hand-held range finder, but it is designed for bow hunters. It has a 'bow mode' that will adjust the distance based on your elevated tree stand position using ARC (Angle Range Compensation).

 
Nikon Archers Choice Laser Rangefinder w/APG Camo case
Nikon Archers Choice Laser Rangefinder w/APG Camo case

This is a hand-held laser range finder that is ideal for bow hunters due to its accuracy in range determination. This range finder displays yardage in 1/2 yard increments up to 99.5 yards. It is both fog-proof and water-proof, so it can take anything that a diehard bow hunter can throw at it.

 
Simmons 801406 LRF600 RANFIND ATAC 4X20
Simmons 801406 LRF600 RANFIND ATAC 4X20

This is an affordable range finder from Simmons that can determine distance anywhere between 10 yards to 600 yards. This makes it great for the all-around hunter for both bow season and rifle season. It is accurate to within plus or minus 1 yard.

 

How do you feel about bow mounted rangefinders being used for hunting? Should they be legal or illegal in your opinion? Was this lens helpful? We would love to hear your comments.

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    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 5 years ago

      I'm really not sure. I think the animal should be given a better chance than this. However if there is a difference between killing the animal cleanly with one shot as opposed to wounding it, then I'm for it.

    • profile image

      wecomparebooks 4 years ago

      I'm not sure how I feel about this, but nicely done lens nonetheless

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      LEGAL.

    • DustinK LM profile image

      DustinK LM 4 years ago

      I agree with your opening statement. One of the most important things when bow hunting is knowing the range.

      I can spend hours shooting at a target but if I think the animal is 30 yards and its actually 40 I could be in trouble and when hunting it is our responsibility to provide as quick and ethical kill as possible.

      Range finders are a valuable tool for this. Good Lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i feel they should be legal. the dead on range finder wouldn't work in a treestand right?

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 4 years ago

      A Bow mounted rangefinder is a great idea. I used to bow hunt years ago. Knowing the range you are shooting is very important.

    • profile image

      Bartukas 4 years ago

      interesting lens thanks

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      Never shot an arrow so not a good judge but the lens is interesting and break away from guns. Blessed and have a wonderful, safe and happy holiday season and extra special 2013. Hugs.

    • profile image

      habbyworld 4 years ago

      Nice lens. Well worth a read.

    • und3rpa1d lm profile image

      und3rpa1d lm 3 years ago

      I am not using a bow mounted range finder but I encourage everyone to use a range finder. Accuracy is of the utmost importance and this is especially true with bow hunting. Knowing the EXACT distance will increase your confidence level

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