I do not use a rangefinder for deer hunting (or anything else), but I do have a part-time job where I am tasked with selling them.
Here is what I’ve learned:
I, generally have no interest in things that try to do two things at once. Multiple use tools are usually bad at everything or always broken. I therefore have no interest in range finding binoculars. The rangefinding Swarovski EL binoculars are only able to range distances of greater than 33 yards, which makes them useless for bowhunting.
A low magnification unit gives you brightness and a bigger field of view. Most modern rangefinders are 4-6x.
Modern rangefinders are “water-proof” or “water resistant.” Mostly that means that you should be fine in rain or with some sweat but a trip through the washing machine or the lake will be their doom.
Most take a CR2 battery which will last for so many uses (2 years, say). All that I’m aware of automatically shut off after a short time.
The list of options that you may want include: a red display and angle adjustment. Angle adjustment is interesting for rifle shots made at more than 300 yards and for all archery shooting. I can think of two misses with my bow that may have been hits had I had an angle compensating rangefinder. But now that I hunt over flat land I am not interested in a rangefinder. Were I to hunt hilly terrain, again, I might be interested.
A range finder will have a maximum range, such as 1000. This means that it will range stuff from 11 yards away to 1000 yards away. This the maximum number for ideal surfaces. Leupold’s catalog says their 1000 does 1000 yards to ideal surfaces, 700 yards for trees, and 600 yards for deer. I bet its the same rate of maximum range across all brands.
The eye pieces can be twisted to focus the display (Screw you: Bushnell “The Truth”)
Press the button closest to your eye once to turn it on and then again to get the number. The other button (Screw you: Bushnell “The Truth”) will be the “mode” button to change the cross hairs and angle adjustment mode. One thing that the Leupolds do, that the other rangefinders do not, is scan (try again Nikon). Hit the button once to turn on, and then again and hold it for up to 20 seconds while you change targets.
The best glass in a rangefinder is the glass found in Swarovskis. In my opinion the display is slow and mediocre. There is something to be said for all Swarovski brand optical equipment though. (Deer like stylish hunters.) These also have lifetime warranties. $1000
Apparently the Leica rangefinders are the most accurate and best in fog. I hear that the US military uses Leica rangefinders. If you want to take a several hundred yard shot with a rifle you want a Leica and nothing else will do. $400-800
After the Leica and Swarovski your options are: Leupold RX-1000TBR, Vortex Ranger 1000,
Bushnell blah blah blah (Unless I get paid to promote them, check for links in the side bar, I want no part of Bushnell optics.)
Both the Leupold 1000 TBR and the Vortex have a red display and do angle compensating. The Vortex is either angle compensating (HCD) and giving you the number, or not angle compensating and giving you the number.
The Leupold 1000 TBR, and 800 TBR (with a black display) give you either the rifle angle compensated number, the bow compensated number or the straight number.
With the scanning and all of the other options, and the ease of changing between them, I like the Leupold RX-1000TBR the best. $400
But I would get the Vortex 1000 instead. $400
Lifetime warranty > 1 year warranty
That’s if you want angle compensation.
If you do not want angle compensating, then get the cheapest Nikon or Leupold rangefinder available. I like the Leupolds better, but the Nikons will cost less and do the same thing. Nikon Aculon, Nikon Prostaff 3 $120+