Range Card: Something You Should Know

Hunters who remain stationary while afield may find a range card useful. A range card is a sheet of paper that includes concentric 180 degree arcs to help quickly estimate range then relate trajectory and wind drift to range.

Some rifle ranges and archery ranges have range markers or panels. With such range markers you can determine precisely how far you are sighting-in or practicing. You can also see whether other targets are closer or farther than your sight-in target; no range estimating skills required. Those range markers certainly are convenient.

Then you go hunting. Does your hunting site have range markers? Probably not. What if you must quickly estimate the range to your quarry? And what if your quarry is at a distance other than the distance you sighted-in? Your quarry may not be directly to your front like the targets in you lane at a rifle or archery range. Wouldn't range markers be even more convenient at your hunting site than at your shooting range so you could quickly determine the range to your quarry? Yes, range markers at your hunting site would be convenient. But range markers at a hunting site are not practical because you cannot predict where your quarry will appear.

Try A Range Card

Range markers at your hunting site would be nice but are not practical.Imagine walking around each of your hunting areas installing range panels. The farther your hunting area extends, the more you would have to walk about to set out range panels. You would disturb your game also. No, setting out range markers would not be practical for even one hunting area without considering multiple hunting areas. Instead, varmint hunters, predator hunters, turkey hunters, bowhunters, and other hunters who remain stationary while afield may find a range card useful. A range card is actually printed on a sheet of paper. It has a series of concentric 180 degree arcs that represent various ranges on which you can draw a sketch of your hunting site as it would be seen from above. The primary purpose of a range card is to help quickly estimate range while hunting with minimum game-frightening movement. It also includes spaces to organize information such as trajectory, aiming holds, and wind drift as it pertains to your hunting site. 


​You could sketch your hunting area on a range card upon arrival while actually hunting, but sketching the hunting area and filling in the information should be included with your preseason scouting and preparation. While filling in a range card, you will be inclined to study your hunting area intently and consider likely directions game will approach or likely places game will appear. Your range estimating skills will improve during preseason scouting if you take time to carefully estimate or measure the ranges to various features within the area while you draw the sketch. A previously completed range card will help you mentally review your hunting area the night before the actual hunt while committing it to memory. While hunting, your hunting companion can refer to the range card to describe the location of game to you.

Are you convinced that a range card may be useful? You will want to learn how to fill in a range card if you are convinced. Print a blank range card for each location you will scout.Bowhunters, predator hunters, turkey hunters, and others who are concerned about camouflage may want to print range cards on brown or green paper.

Instructions to fill and use a range card are provided further down on this page. First, let's take a closer look at the range card before you fill it in. The small middle circle represents your location at your hunting site. The 180 degree arcs represent whatever range interval works best for your hunting activity. For example, an eastern United States groundhog hunter may designated the widest arc as 250 yards. A muzzleloading rifle hunter may designate the same arc as 100 yards; 600 yards for a western prairie dog hunter; 1000 yards for those who like to shoot at extreme ranges; or 50 yards for a bowhunter or turkey hunter. Whatever range you choose for the widest arc should be evenly divisible by five because there are five bold arcs. You may designate the ranges in meters instead of yards if you like. Each of the intermediate arcs represents an intermediate range. For instance, if the widest arc represents 500 yards for your hunting activity, the smallest bold arc would represent 100 yards, the next larger bold arc 200 yards, then 300 yards, and 400 yards until you are out to the 500 yard arc again. In this case the fine solid arcs would represent 150 yards, 250 yards, 350 yards, and 450 yards. The dashed arcs would then represent 125 yards, 175 yards, 225 yards, and so on. The range card includes blocks at the left end of each solid arc to write in whatever range you designate that arc. Other blocks for each arc provide space to write in trajectory and wind drift at that range, to number features or targets, and to describe features or targets.

Some clock directions are shown to help you orient the range card and plot features. The "12:00" (12 o'clock) line will represent your view straight ahead at your hunting area. Space is provided near the top, left corner to describe the location of each hunting area if you keep a range card for more than one area.

Wind speed and wind direction should be filled in on the day of actual hunting because you do not know what they will be until that day. A small circle is provided near the upper right corner to help you visualize wind speed and direction. The smaller circle at the center of the wind circle represents your location.

In addition to a printed range card for each hunting area you will scout, take a clipboard, graphite pencils, an eraser, a ruler, a magnetic compass, and a binocular or spotting scope. A laser rangefinder (LRF) is helpful for measuring the various ranges. If you will hunt from a portable treestand, take it too so you will have the correct perspective when you draw your area sketch on the range card. A set of colored pencils or fine-tip markers will come in handy later. Rifle hunters will need a trajectory table for their ammunition later also.

Pre-Season Scouting

Fill in most of your range card at your hunting site while scouting. First, Post yourself exactly where you will hunt.

  • Describe the location of your hunting area on the "Location" line near the upper left corner of the range card so you can reference the range card to your hunting area. Name it after the nearest town, the farm you have permission to hunt on, the closest road, or whatever works for you. GPS coordinates work well also.
  • Decide what range will be represented by the outer arc. The range represented by the widest arc will depend on your hunting activity, the depth of your hunting area, and the effective range of your bullet, shot, or arrow. Make it a range that is evenly divisible by five. Unless you printed a range card with the ranges already filled, write that range in the farthest left block on the "Range" line.
  • Label the ranges in the blocks at the left end of each solid arc if you did not print a range card with the ranges already filled. Label the bold arcs first in the "Range" blocks. Then label the light arcs.
  • Looking over your hunting area, select an easily distinguishable reference feature straight ahead within maximum range represented by the outer arc of your range card. Use a compass to find a magnetic direction if there is not a distinguishable feature. Note the magnetic direction on the "Magnetic Direction" line near the top of the card.
  • Orient the range card so the "12:00" line is pointed toward the reference feature you selected or in the magnetic direction.
  • Shoot a laser range to the reference feature if you have a laser rangefinder. Estimate the range if you do not have an LRF; you can pace the distance or estimate it more precisely later.
  • Draw a simple sketch of your reference feature at the intersection of the "12:00" line and the arc that represents its range. Draw the sketch small enough so it does not clutter the range card. Using a graphite pencil so you can erase and redraw it on the correct arc if you estimate the range more precisely later. The sketch does not have to be fancy; only you have to know what it represents.
  • Designate the reference point sketch with an "R". Follow the nearest arc in either direction and write a "R" in the block on the "Feature Number" line. Write a short description of the reference feature in the tall block at the bottom.
  • Locate the closest easily distinguishable feature close to your position. It does not have to be directly in front of you but it must be within the 180 degree area represented your range card. Place one edge of your ruler in the small circle that represents your position. With the "12:00" line still pointed at the reference feature you selected earlier, pivot the edge of the ruler on the small circle, point it at the close distinguishable feature you just selected, and draw a line on the range card along the ruler toward the feature.
  • Shoot a laser range or carefully estimate the range to that feature. Draw a simple pencil sketch of that feature along the straight line you drew on or near the arc that represents its range. Number this sketch "1". Follow the arc, write a "1" in the "Feature Number" block, and give that feature a description.
  • Working outward to the maximum range represented by the widest arc, sketch a few other distinguishable features in the same manner. Sketch the closest features first. Use the ranges of those closer features as a scale for estimating the ranges of farther features. Number each sketch you draw and write its number in the "Feature Number" block at either end of the range arc. You do not have to draw a sketch at every arc and you do not have to fill in every "Feature Number" block. Too many sketched features will clutter you range card.
  • Sketch linear features such as game trails, streams, roads and other useful details such as burrows, roosts, and dead space relative to the features you already sketched. Sketch dead space with a crosshatched pattern.

You are almost done. You can fill in the wind speed and direction on the day you hunt because they will probably be different then anyway. The remaining blocks can be filled when you get home.

Back At Home

You could redraw your sketches neater on a blank range card at home if you would like. If you have not already, print the blank card on green or brown paper for better camouflage. Use a green colored pencil or fine-tip marker to sketch vegetation; use blue to sketch water, black for man-made objects, brown for exposed soil, gray for boulders. Orange is good for numbering the features you sketched.

Describe your rifle or shotgun load on the "Load" line beneath the "Location" line near the upper left corner. Write your rifle's muzzle velocity on the "Muzzle Velocity" line.

Trace the arc that represents the zero-range of your rifle with a green pencil or marker if you are a rifle hunter. Shotgun and rifle hunters should trace the arc that represents the maximum effective range of their ammunition with red. (Be reasonable.) Trace the arcs that represent the ranges of each of your sight pins with the appropriate color if you are a bowhunter.

Filled range card

Filled range card

Shotgun hunters and bowhunters, you are done filling in your range card. Rifle hunters, you still have a few blocks to fill. Produce a trajectory table from a ballistics program or visit the Factory Ammunition Trajectory Tables page to see examples of common factory ammunition trajectories. Round to the nearest 1/10-inch and copy the trajectory numbers into the "Trajectory" row of blocks of the range card on the left side below the appropriate range arcs. Designate the sight-in range with an "X". Designate the trajectory above the line-of-sight (LOS) with a "+" and designate the trajectory below the LOS with a "-". If you will use the click-up / click-down method of trajectory compensation, fill in the "Adjustment" line with the appropriate number of clicks for the corresponding range. Go to the Click Adjustment Table page to determine how much each elevation click is worth at various ranges. Divide the trajectory at each range by the click value taken from the Click Adjustment Table and round to the nearest whole click value of your riflescope.

There are three lines to enter bullet wind drift information. Fill all three lines because you will not know which direction the wind will be blowing on the day you go hunting. The "Wind Drift 1" line is for wind drift information for wind blowing from the 1:00, 5:00, 7:00, or 11:00 direction. The "Wind Drift 2" line is for wind drift information for wind blowing from the 2:00, 4:00, 8:00, or 10:00 direction. Line "Wind Drift 3" is for wind drift information for wind blowing from the 3:00 or 9:00 direction. Fill the "Wind Drift 3" line first. Refer to a ballistics program to calculate your rifle's ammunition the wind drift in a 10mph full crosswind. The wind drift for a 10mph crosswind is easy to interpolate for the actual wind speed on the day of your hunt. You could calculate the wind drift for a 1mph crosswind if you like because the wind drift in a 1mph crosswind is also easy interpolate for any higher crosswind. However, the wind drift for a 10mph crosswind will fit better in the blocks than the 1mph wind drift if you round it to the nearest 1/10-inch. (Besides, you can convert the wind drift at 10mph to 1mph if you need to simply by moving the decimal point one place to the left.) Whether you calculate the wind drift based on a 1mph or a 10mph crosswind, note it on the "Crosswind Value" line near the upper left corner. Note the direct crosswind drift for each of the range arcs on the "Wind Drift 3" line. Find the values to fill in the "Wind Drift 2" line by changing the wind direction on your ballistic program to 2:00 (4:00, 8:00, and 10:00 also work) or by multiplying each of the values on line "Wind Drift 3" by 0.85. Find the values for "Wind Drift 1" by changing the wind direction on your ballistics program to 1:00 (or 5:00, 7:00, or 11:00) or by dividing the values of "Wind Drift 3" by 2. Rifle hunters, your range card is complete after the three wind drift lines are filled.

File a second copy of your completed range card if you would like. Laminate it if you believe you will not need to revise it. But most importantly, take a copy when you go hunting.

Bowhunters, turkey hunters, and other hunters who are concerned with camouflage and minimizing movement should commit their range cards to memory. Going over your hunting site in your mind as you commit your range card to memory the day or night before will help you prepared mentally for your hunt. Whether you committed it to memory or not, tape it to the outside of the inner forearm of your sleeve if you are certain it will not mess up your camouflage or interfere with drawing your bow or pointing your shotgun. The foot rest of your treestand is another good place to tape it. Otherwise, fold your range card and place it in a easily accessible pocket or tape it to the inside of your jacket if you must refer to it while hunting.

Hunters who are not so concerned with camouflage and minimizing movements could keep their range card on a clipboard and refer to it directly. Tape it to the top of your portable shooting bench if you hunt with a portable shooting bench.

Using Your Range Card

Filling in your range card was the hard part. Using it is easy.

Upon arrival at your hunting site, orient the "12:00" line toward the reference point or in the magnetic direction you originally selected. Use a pencil (or marker if your card is laminated) to draw the wind direction in the wind circle. You can erase and revise pencil marks if the wind direction changes later. Start at the perimeter and draw an arrow toward the center dot to represent the direction the wind is blowing from. Note the wind speed on the "Currernt Wind Speed" line.

When you spot game, mark or mentally plot its location on the range card relative to the closest feature you sketched. Is the game within the maximum effective range arc you designated for your bullet, shot, or arrow? If it is, bowhunters can aim using the colored sight pin that matches the color of the closest range arc to the game. Shotgun hunters can take their shot when ready.

Rifle hunters must determine which range arc best represents the range to the game. Follow that arc left to the "Range" line. Read the range directly from the block at the end of the arc or interpolate if the game is located between range arcs. Read the holdover required in the block on the "Trajectory" line if you will use the 'hold over' method of trajectory compensation then aim accordingly. Read the click adjustment required to compensate for trajectory along the "Adjustment" line if you will use the 'click up' method.

You must compensate for bullet wind drift if the wind is blowing from a direction other than from you directly to your game or directly from your game to you. Follow the appropriate range arc to the right. Read the wind drift value on the "Wind Drift 1" line if the wind is blowing from the 1:00, 5:00, 7:00, or 11:00 direction as you face your quarry. Use the value on the "Wind Drift 2" line to determine wind drift compensation for wind blowing from the 2:00, 4:00, 8:00, or 10:00 direction. Use "Wind Drift 3" if the wind is blowing from 3:00 or 9:00. You probably used a 10mph crosswind to calculate the wind drifts. Is the wind currently blowing at 10mph? Probably not. Interpolate the bullet wind drift for the current wind speed if it is not 10mph. (Simply imagine moving the decimal point one place to the left then multiply that wind drift value by the actual wind speed.) Now you know how much to compensate for wind drift.


You will become familiar with your hunting area, practice range estimation, and understand your ammunition's trajectory better as you complete a range card. While hunting, estimating range will be much easier if you refer to your range card. Your range card will also help you relate your bullet's trajectory to various ranges at your hunting site. Then you can confidently shoot knowing you are applying the correct wind drift compensation.

Do you believe you will be better prepared to hunt after you complete a range card? Then take a blank range card when you conduct preseason scouting. Include your completed range card with your hunting equipment.

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