There are many times when I'm given research material, told how pieces of complicated equipment operate and given scientific theories associated with products and simply think "thanks, what's the MSRP?"
It's an information age, and we sometimes lose sight of the fact that behind the wealth of scientific information and operational details , there's a considerable amount of pure old-fashioned empirical testing. And as the signs cleverly hidden throughout old Wendy's commercials spoofing research used to say "testing proves testing works." Actually, it's probably more accurate to say "testing will prove if your product will work."
That was brought home to me yesterday as I wrapped up a two-day visit to Bushnell. Yesterday's product sessions covered a variety of new products for all sorts of hunting. A large part of those presentations covered the many types laser rangefinders offered by Bushnell. Having used them for more than a decade for everything from golf to fishing and hunting, I never really think much anymore about how the work involved in creating what I generally consider the "gee-whiz" technology of rangefinding.
Sometimes, familiarity with Bushnell's products worked against my fully appreciating just how much range finder technology has improved since my first tests more than a dozen years ago. Honestly, I didn't think all that much of the technology when Bushnell's Jordan Vermillion decided the best way for me to realize the potential of accurate and affordable rangefinding was to try it. I was handed a Bushnell laser rangefinder at the PGA Merchandise Show, and told "go try it and let me know what you think".
After using a laser rangefinder, I quickly learned things about my ability to judge distance. First, I wasn't very good at it. Second, while I underestimated the distance to something, I was worse at judging my ability to deliver something (in this case, a golf ball) accurately to that distance with any accuracy.
It sent me back to the practice range, having provided a good bit of humility and the incentive to work to improve my game. With accurate information of both, it wasn't hard to separate physical abilities from fantasy abilities.
In fact, I became an outspoken advocate for rangefinding technology.
That's not fundamentally changed in a dozen years, and Bushnell's Jordan Vermillion, who celebrated a seventeenth anniversary with Bushnell this week, has always been one of the people I've considered my source for accurate information when it came to optics, lasers and distance calculation technologies.
Until yesterday, however, I've never had the opportunity to see how some of the gee-whiz technology was tested. Turns out that "real world" testing was done in what is decidedly the real world.
Rather than head into Bushnell's research laboratories, we piled into a van and headed for a public park across town. That park's most visible feature was a wooden tower approximately 75 feet high. From the top of that somewhat threadbare-looking tower, we could look at miles of uninterrupted Kansas landscape. It was a heckuva vista.
And a great place to do a lot of rangefinder testing. To check Bushnell's ARC compensation feature, a fairly extreme angle down into the trees around the tower got the job done. But you needed to move down a couple of levels to get readings from heights roughly equal to most treestand heights.
(Top) Bushnell rangefinder expert Jordan Vermillion points out a distant object to writer David Draper. When Draper hit the object- a sizable house (below) it was just over 1,300 yards. That distance was then verified by multiple readings using a variety of rangefinders. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.
To test object discrimination through a variety of cover, from trees to underbrush, you only need to look down or around. Personally, I disliked the looking down, preferring to look off at distances that didn't remind me how much I dislike heights.
Going through the actual hands-on testing- in the same location where Bushnell experts tested their products before they were released to consumers - helped me gain a better understanding of how to operate the technology. It also gave me a much-increased appreciation for all the technology that's now affordable to almost anyone.
The technology in hunting equipment today represents a miniaturization of equipment and the reduction of complicated mathematical calculations to simple aim, press and shoot simplicity.
Distances and compensation numbers are then displayed with accuracy guaranteed to a single yard-or better. Some of Bushnell's rangefinding equipment report with a confidence accurate to one-tenth of a yard. For those of us who shoot, that's plenty accurate. And at distances that far exceed most of our abilities and equipment.
This week, I've seen new products that have convinced me that we're living in the best of all times for being an outdoor enthusiast. Equipment's never been more reliable, more capable -or more affordable. And we'll talk more about some of that gee-whiz technology in the future.
In the meantime, and, as always, we'll keep you posted.