North on Hunting: Bucks, bears, hogs within your 'range'

Most outdoorsmen speak of the importance of slowing down your pace on a hunt to improve success, and there's one tool that's become invaluable to me when I decide to ease up on the walking.

Though many hunters still haven't embraced the device, my rangefinder always has a spot reserved in my pack when I'm big-game hunting.

In fact, I have so much faith in mine that I bought my dad one of his own for Christmas.

I'm sure he'll use the rangefinder in part to complement his compound bow, but I suspect most of the use will come while he's big-game hunting with his rifle.

That's how I implement mine. Most of the trophy bucks, bears and hogs I've encountered have entered my territory when I'm hunkered down on a hillside, patiently waiting for hours for that one opportunity to get the shot I want.

Whenever I choose a spot to sit and watch, one of the first tasks I tackle is pulling out my rangefinder and mentally taking note of how far certain landmarks are around me. That way, when that trophy does make an appearance, I don't have to guess distance or where to hold my crosshairs.

Though ranging an animal can be done after you spot it, getting a reading beforehand gives you an edge -- you have more time to make the shot you want to make and you won't have to fumble around trying to get a quick yardage.

And for those still considering if a rangefinder is worth the cost and the weight -- it is.

Cost has dropped and technology has skyrocketed for this apparatus over the past several years.

A good rangefinder will cost between $200 and $400. Most give readings between 600 and 1,000 yards -- much farther than any shot you'd want to take. The one I got for my dad is a small, featherweight Leupold model that offers just as much as the bulkier versions do.

And the best part of modern rangefinders is the ease of use, which is especially important for my technology-challenged old man. Push a button to turn the unit on and another to get a reading on a target. It's that simple.

Hopefully, the contraption gives him the numbers he needs to take down his next wall hanger.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.