Whether range estimation
falls under the heading of art or science is still open to argument. In any event, its
a heckuva lot more difficult than many seem to think and requires plenty of dedicated
practice before anyone really becomes truly adept at it. Those who spend lots of time
outdoors - farmers, cattlemen, forest rangers - are usually pretty decent judges of
distance. So are golfers and varmint hunters. Unfortunately, too many big game hunters dont
seem to realize what theyre up against when they try guessing how far a particular
animal is from where theyre crouching when afield. Light, color, size - there are
all sorts of variables that can influence hunters range estimates, and do when they
arent aware of them.
For example, almost
everything seems closer than it is on a bright, sunny day. Conversely, when skies become
overcast and surroundings dull down, no matter what you look at - animal, mineral or
vegetable - it will appear to be farther away than it is. On the other hand, an animal
thats skylined, especially when the lights behind it, seems a lot nearer than
Then, theres the
matter of size: Are you looking at a larger-than- average critter way out there or a
not-quite-full-grown beast thats closer than you think?
When shooting uphill or
downhill, particularly at steep angles, animals tend to look farther away than they are.
They appear to be more distant when viewed from or near ground level too - something to
keep in mind when trying to crawl closer to a trophy pronghorn out on the plains.
Well, no matter. Such
problems need no longer plague anyone. Some clever Bushnell engineers have come up with a
neat, pocket-sized, weatherproof, electronic rangefinder dubbed the Yardage Pro. Not quite
4 inches long, a shade over 3 inches tall and only 13Ú4 inches wide, it weighs less than
.5 pound and comes protected by a black nylon pouch fitted with a belt loop and a snaphook
to attach to a neck loop (also included) if desired.
lithium type), the Yardage Pro incorporates a 6x scope, a laser generator and a mini-timer
that not only counts the micro-seconds it takes for a laser beam to reach a target, bounce
away from it and return but also immediately converts that tiny slice of time into yards
or meters in accordance with the Yardage Pros settings.
When conditions are
favorable, a Yardage Pro can measure distances as close as 15 yards or as far away as 930.
According to a company spokesman, the Yardage Pros readings are normally accurate
within one yard (meter) plus or minus. However, its maximum range depends on a number of
conditions over which an operator has no control. Like all electronic rangefinders,
bright, sunny days
reduce its maximum range
while dull, gray days can extend it. The reflexivity of a target as well as its color and
size also affect its efficiency. When directed uphill or downhill, a lasers reach
can be shortened. Despite such limitations, my field experience with one to date has
convinced me that the Yardage Pro is far superior to the human eye.
Complicated though its
innards may be, a Yardage Pro is simple to operate. There are only two controls: a Power
button and a Mode button.
The Power button is
located on top of the rangefinders body, at its extreme rear, just where an operators
index finger falls naturally when raising the instruments scope to the eye.
Depressing the Power button briefly turns the mechanism on and triggers a liquid crystal
display that appears on the scopes lens. The display features the abbreviation YD or
M (yards or meters) in the upper right, a batterys silhouette at the bottom (more
about that later) and a reticle in the middle that resembles a crosshair with its center
When that empty crosshair
center is aimed at a target - animal, landmark, whatever - and the Power button depressed
again, the distance, in yards or meters, flashes above the crosshairs and will remain
visible as long as the pressure against the button is maintained. Once the latters
released, the display will hold for six seconds, then disappear.
When the Power button is
held down for three seconds or more, the word SCAN will appear on the left side of the
display. As long as the Power button remains depressed, bursts of laser pulses will
continue to be generated and the distance to every target centered in the crosshairs
gap will be registered above the reticle in rapid succession.
Situated on the left side
of the little rangefinder (with the Yardage Pro aimed away from the operator) the Mode
button permits the operator to select either yards or meters as the unit of measure. It
also controls the 150 setting.
When in that mode, the
Yardage Pro wont measure any distance shorter than 150 yards, which should be a boon
to hunters operating in wooded or brushy country and who want to avoid interference from
limbs or branches when aiming the Yardage Pro at distant targets. Once the Yardage Pro is
turned on, the operator presses the Mode button once and 150 will appear in the lower
right side of the display.
As a rule, a battery
contains enough power to energize about 8,000 measurements. When its energy begins to
wane, the battery symbol at the bottom of the display will warn the operator. There are
two dashes inside the batterys stylized silhouette. When they begin to fade, the
battery needs to be replaced.
A Yardage Pro is not only
waterproof, but should it fall into water, it will also float. It is supposed to operate
just as accurately during rain and snowstorms as it does when the atmosphere is clear and
dry. I wasnt able to check those foul weather claims - there hasnt been any
moisture around for so long Ive forgotten what snow or rain look like - but the
stubby rangefinder certainly does float, by golly. A large basin was filled with water and
the Yardage Pro dropped in. About two-thirds of it submerged. There were never any air
bubbles visible at any time. After an hour, the little rig was pulled out of the water,
dried off and appeared none the worse for wear. Taken outside, a few quick ranging tests
proved it was working as effectively as ever.
All in all, Bushnells
miniature rangefinder is a pretty impressive performer. Simple to use, compact and darned
near weightless, it proved reassuringly accurate when pitted against another electronic
rangefinder and a manually operated, split-image model. This year, its lenses are also
protected by Bushnells Rainguard antifog coating that repels rain, sleet and snow.
Suggested retail is $567.99. Its covered by Bushnells Limited Lifetime
Warranty, of course. - Al Miller