It was mostly an observation mission, but I knew there was a chance that the blizzard raging across northern Oklahoma might get the deer up and moving.
The public-land soybean field in front of me, largely blanketed in white, looked like a solid place to start building a hunting plan, so I tucked in behind a deadfall for the evening.
After staring into a freezing north wind for two hours, I caught movement through my binoculars. I thought he was a mule deer at first, because his antlers came straight off of his head.
If that wasn’t cool enough, he had several nontypical points sprouting off of both main beams. When the buck hit 80 yards, he turned and charged into range which caught me off guard.
Two does had sneaked into my corner of the field, and the buck was dead-set on checking out their potential girlfriend status.
All of the pre-ranged clumps in the field suddenly lost their significance as I panicked and guessed at the distance to the buck.
When he stopped, I settled and watched as my arrow zipped below his belly and buried into the snow. In a lifetime of bowhunting public land whitetails, I’ve never shot at a deer sporting such a unique rack. And had I had time to range him he’d likely be at the taxidermist now…
The ones that get away stick with bowhunters and have the tendency to push us into a reflective place.
Why We Miss
And reflected I have. There are so many times while whitetail hunting where the shots occur at the 20-yard range, and they work out pretty well for most of us.
It’s always when the action unfolds in an eye-blink, or the buck takes a secondary trail and now is 37 yards instead of the expected 25, that things go wrong.
It’s during those encounters we are most prone to make mistakes because we are operating from a state of subtle panic, and usually on only partial information. This, I’m convinced, is why several manufacturers have jumped into the rangefinding sight game.
The idea that you can range at full draw is a new one, but will likely become more standard as these offerings end up in the hands of more curious bowhunters. The thing is, to be efficient in the field, you have to either be an ace at estimating distances or have up-to-the-second yardage readings right before – or during the shot.
While many of us can get pretty good at estimating yardage on our home turf, that skill tends to lose some of its value when we travel to hunt. Sometimes it’s as simple as going from a field edge to a river-side bluff that can throw our yardage game off.
And if it gets off enough and our encounters don’t allow us to dig out our handheld rangefinders, we’ll whiff, or worse – wound a deer.
Depending on an individual setup, this might take being off by 10 yards, or only a couple. Either way, avoiding the guessing game is a good idea whenever possible.
Know The Range, Make The Shot
The rangefinding sight I’ve messed around with most is the Oracle from Burris. What makes this sight a great choice is that it’s built differently than much of the competition.
For starters, not only does it project a constant 20-yard pin for a frame of reference, but it also instantly projects a pin for whatever distance you’re ranging at full draw.
This means whether your target is at 33 or 83 yards, the Oracle will give you an exact pin to use. This eliminates the most common excuse for missing with traditional sights – using the wrong pin. It also alleviates the need for gapping, another common strategy that can lead to whiffing in the field.
And because the Oracle will allow you to aim exactly where you need to at any distance, you can take your target shooting to ranges you might never have thought of as possible before.
The ability to shoot well at 50-plus yards at the range is a major confidence booster that not only brings a new level of enjoyment to target practice but will also make you more lethal in the woods on shots of all distances. That’s not nothing.
The Oracle also features a built-in inclinometer for all up- and down-hill shooting, is backed by a killer warranty, and – while this not seem like much, it is – doesn’t rely on glass lenses in the sight housing like many of the rangefinding options on the market.
In the pro shop when you’re checking this sight out, that won’t seem like a big deal, but when you get into the woods and it starts raining or you’re hiking through wet cattails to get to your stand, it will.
A clear sight aperture with well-defined aiming points is the foundation of making good shots in the woods during low-light periods or when the action is fast and furious. You don’t want to have to aim around a dirty or rain-specked lens. Little details like that can make – or break – a hunt.
Missing stinks, but it happens to all bowhunters. You can make it happen less if you pick up a rangefinding sight like the Oracle. Just be sure to practice quite a bit to get used to it, and then the function and operation will become second nature every time you draw.
At that point, you’ll find that encounters with whitetails and other critters become less of a finger-crossing exercise and more of a foregone, short-blood-trail conclusion.