During the summer months when we stand flat-footed at known shot distances and fling away at block-style and 3D targets, it seems almost impossible that we could miss on an actual deer. Come fall, however, when a target with a heartbeat walks into range, it's easy to realize how much space there is around a deer.
And then the excuses come.
The most common, of course, all involve guessing the wrong range or choosing the wrong sight pin in the heat of the moment. We've all done it, and provided we keep using the same setups, will probably do it again.
It's bad enough when a buck walks in and lazily munches away on clover or soybeans, giving us more than enough time to go through our shot sequence. But, as the season progresses and the rutting activity heats up, the shot opportunities often happen in a few seconds' time as a grunting bruiser passes through with his nose to the ground and his heart set on finding a new girlfriend.
During this type of encounter, popping a range with a handheld rangefinder and then going through the process of drawing, anchoring and using the right pin or gapping for a certain distance opens up plenty of opportunity for mistakes. Add in a serious adrenaline dump, the pressure of knowing every step he takes brings him farther out of your life, and it's easy to whiff.
The good news is, there are better ranging and sight options on the market. In fact, they are one in the same.
If you take a look at the new sights on the market this year, you'll notice that there are quite a few rangefinding options. This is a category that is growing, and while there are plenty of bowhunters — especially whitetail hunters — who feel that it's unnecessary, eventually they'll realize that there are benefits to this style of sight that can't be ignored.
But first off, as with any new technology, they need to be understood. A good rangefinding sight takes a bit of setup work. If you follow the directions closely, it's a pretty simple process provided you know your arrow weight and your bow speed. Both can be figured out at your local pro shop in a short session.
After that, it's a matter of choosing the sight that best suits your needs.
The best sights are those that take the guesswork out of shooting. Finding one that does this better than the Oracle from Burris is not an easy task. This is because the Oracle, which is push-button activated at full draw, instantly calculates exact shot distance and then projects the perfect aiming point.
In other words, as soon as a buck trots in, you can draw and settle. Provided you can keep your head together enough to push the button (which is mounted at the front of your grip), you'll see the 20-yard reference pin light up and then the aiming pin for whatever distance the deer is at. Both glow green and adjust to ambient light, meaning whether your shot happens in the first minute of legal shooting light or at high noon, you'll be able to see your pins clearly.
The Oracle is designed with second- and third-degree axis adjustment as well, and features a built-in inclinometer. That means that if you're 21 feet up a tree on the edge of a bluff and buck is dogging a doe downhill from your stand, you won't have to think about adjusting your aiming point due to the steep angle. That matters — a lot!
The machined-aluminum sight is also designed without a lens or scope, so that your sight window stays clean no matter what mother nature throws your way. It's also built with vertical pin alignment, providing a better aiming experience than a rack of horizontal pins which obscure a good portion of your target and can contribute to right or left misses.
This all adds up to a higher degree of accuracy in the woods, which is the goal of choosing the best sight possible. But, is it necessary when most shots in the whitetail woods are under 40 yards?
Expanding Your Range
Most bowhunters have a set limit for how far they'll shoot at a deer. That's a good thing, but also causes a lot of us to only practice out to that max distance. Anyone who has shot farther ranges for fun or to truly hone their skills knows that those sub-40-yard practice sessions are valuable, but not as valuable as the 80-yard sessions.
This is because when you are used to aiming at nearly the distance of a football field, that 25-yard shot in the woods seems almost too easy. The Oracle allows you to dial in to those longer distances and work on your form and shot execution where even a slight deviation in form will throw your point of impact off quite a bit. There are few better ways to get really good than that.
And even if you never plan to shoot past a certain distance in the woods, consider the fact that occasionally a follow-up shot opportunity occurs on a mortally-wounded deer. If that buck you hit in the paunch stops to look around at 65 yards, you're much better off being able to take a second shot and perhaps put him down much more quickly. If you don't have the pins or the experience, that isn't going to happen.
Rangefinding sights like the Oracle allow it, and even if it's a once-per-decade occurrence, it's worth it to be able to do things correctly.
Rangefinding sights may seem unnecessary for everyday bowhunting uses, but they are changing the way we practice and hunt for the better. The best bet, of course, is to choose a good one and then start practicing with it now. By the time the season opens, you'll be good to go at ranges that were previously unthinkable.