How to Estimate Distance without a Rangefinder

How to Judge Distance without a Rangefinder

To Range or Not to Range

A laser rangefinder is an absolute necessity for compound bow shooters. Whenever possible I implore you to range the distance of any animal. This is especially important over flat ground and long distances.

That being said, all bowhunters must learn to judge distance without the aid of a rangefinder. When hunting in heavy timber, bucks can appear and disappear quickly, so you need to be ready for fast action. The majority of my trophies were taken on the fly with no time to range. Learning to judge distance without a rangefinder is something that can be easily practiced at home. Here are some techniques.

Practice Makes Perfect

Set your target in the weeds at an unknown distance, and then shoot from random yardages without ranging. After your first shot, verify the distance with your rangefinder. Do this exercise at every practice session and your distance-judging abilities will increase rapidly.

When you’re hunting in the woods you can take advantage of the vast amount of downtime by guessing random yardages of distant trees or rocks, and then verifying the distance with your rangefinder. This is both a fun and productive way to kill time afield.

Another exercise is to figure out the farthest distance you can throw a fist-size rock (it’s usually 40-50 yards). In the field, ask yourself if you could hit a certain object with a rock. Your brain already knows, through muscle memory, how far you can throw a rock, so you can pretty much gauge whether or not you could hit something with a rock by just looking at it. Then use that estimation as a reference. This method is surprisingly accurate.

Judging distance can be especially difficult over longer distances and flat ground. In these situations try using the twenty-yard addition method. You already know what 20 yards looks like, so you can figure out longer distances by finding a spot 20 yards away, and then another spot 20 yards beyond that until you reach your target. Keep adding 20-yards until you reach the target. It works!

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