A Rangefinder in the Workplace

by Phil Kirner, Check Cruiser Washington State Dept. Natural Resources

   It’s not often a new tool comes along that cruisers will incorporate into their day-to-day activities. I was recently exposed to a laser rangefinder, and wondered how this relatively inexpensive, binocular-sized tool would work for me. The rangefinder is an optical unit that emits an energy pulse that is reflected back to the receiving optics.

   My agency asks me to shoot, at minimum, one or two trees on all cruise plots for merchantability. The initial cruise plots were a little different when trying to include this instrument into my plot procedures. Once I established a pattern, I began to notice that the plots where going a little faster and I had a tendency to shoot more than just a couple trees. I found that if I moved to a particular location just off the plot, I could see most of the trees in the plot. I would then measure the trees with very little movement. What I was saving, was the time it took me to walk back and forth to the trees, to measure the distance. Installation of baselines (if needed) and the distances between plots. With the model I used (Bushnell Compact 600), the minimum distance is 15 yards and the maximum is 600 yards, with an accuracy of 1 yard. I’ve loaned it out to other cruisers to play with, and on those particular days I really miss the time and footwork that it saves me. Most cruisers in my agency use a laser rangefinder in their daily operations.

   You can purchase a few models for prices ranging from $200.00 to $400.00. They are available in most hunting supply catalogs or stores. As with all good things, sometimes there are down sides. These rangefinders only work in yards, so you must convert to feet. In heavy brush, a rainy day, or fog they tend not to work so well – the laser reflects off water droplets. Another factor is that they don’t correct for slope. The target must be as horizontal as possible. After using one for several months now, the disadvantages are offset by the timesavings and the footwork. I have found the rangefinder very useful. Perhaps someday, technology will combine elements from this and other useful tools to produce one tool for cruising.

Originally published January 1999

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