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To kick off our series on the topic of ranging and ethical shooting, we're dialing back the clock all the way back to 1990. Now I know a lot of us don't exactly consider 1990 to be that long ago. After all, it was a great year: The first McDonalds in Moscow was opened, the Hubble Telescope was launched into space, East and West Germany were unified once again and Driving Miss Daisy won best picture (I never saw it but I'm sure it's at least bearable). Do you know what wasn't around in 1990?
The laser rangefinder.
It wasn't until 1992 that Leica first introduced the laser rangefinder, a relatively high tech device for it's time that would radically change both bow and rifle hunting forever. If you owned a Leica Geovid 7X42 binocular/rangefinder combo, you were doing alright--they retailed for $5,000. In 1996, Bushnell introduced their 400 Yardage Pro, a rangefinder for the common man, offered at $349. This was truly the game changer.
Buy a swimming pool or a range finder? The $5K Leica.
Now I know that man has been using bows and arrows since the dawn of time and that Carl Caveman probably had some epic stalks in persuit of that trophy wooly mammoth. Can you imagine the bar stool stories back when it was open season on sabretoothed tigers, mammoths and bison? Fast forward--way forward--to 1992: Suddenly John Q. Rifle Hunter wasn't resorting to simply "eyeballing" his target, trying to guestimate how many football fields were between him and his game. Bow hunters now had the option to know exactly which pin to use, instead of comparing their target's distance to the landmark they had hopefully walked off--or worse--couldn't really see in the early morning light. Prior to the laser rangefinder, hunting by stalking always left the hunter with an estimated range to target and even when they had the opportunity to walk off a range and mark it subtly in a blind or stationary scenario, improvised clover leafing and other variables often left their range marks useless. The handheld rangefinder changed all of that.
The modern rangefinder is a bit more sexy than Jessica Tandy
And so with precision came confidence and presumably fewer mistakes. Hunters became confident with their shots when the biggest variable of all was eliminated. The bow hunter that practiced religiously at home with his 3D target at 40 yards would look through the eyepiece and know exactly where to put that pin when it read "47yds." The rifle hunter who had sighted in his 30-06 at 200 yards now new exactly where to place the cross hairs when the rangefinder indicated 375 yards. Hunters found friendly yardage on shots that they might have guessed were out of range, and the responsible ones now avoided long shots that were now verified out of their comfort zone.
The reality of hunting, particularly bow hunting, is that you don't always have time to use your range finder. Hell, a lot of archery folks choose not to use them, relying on their eyes and experience instead. Should you choose to use one, you'd best be very well prepared for the shot that doesn't allow for that luxury...in a surprise scenario, by the time you get that thing out, turn it on, and zero in, that elk is often long gone. But for all of those instances when you do have time, nothing inspires confidence like knowing exactly how far you are from your target.
But at the end of the day, the wooly elephant is definitely still in the room: If you know with certainly how far your target is, then what truly defines an ethical shot? And how do you prepare for those?
Next week we'll talk to a few First Lite pro staffers, as well as some outfitters and guides and find out how they define ethical shooting.
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