Hitting your mark is perhaps the most important part of your archery journey. Whether you are shooting for competition or hunting you will most likely use a sight to aid in your accuracy. Archery sights can be peeps, lines, pins, scopes and reference points on the bow. No matter the sight they are adjusted for each bow and archer. There are types of competition archery where no sights or reference points are allowed. The sport of hunting is where sights are used regularly.
There are a few types of sights most commonly used including moveable pin, fixed pin, pendulum and digital. Moveable sights allow you to dial in your sight for the exact yardage for your shot. However if the animal moves after you have set your sight and drawn it can be hard to readjust. Most moveable pin sights operate on a lever that you move up or down based on the closeness of the shot. There is a tape with yardages on the side of the sight so accuracy can be dead on – even at odd markers like 43 or 32 yards. This will help hunters most when they are stalking an animal and waiting for a perfect shot to open up. A deer is bed down in the brush just 38 yards ahead. After ranging it out with your rangefinder you set the sight to just under the 40 yard mark. Once the buck rises you are able to take your shot and hit it dead on. The downside of moveable pin sights is when shooting on moveable prey. If your target moves after your bow is drawn back you need to release your draw in order to adjust your sight. This can happen if the animal jumps up from a bedded site and runs to the left 20 yards, or perhaps you have them walking in to your stand and you want to be ready for the perfect broadside shot.
Fixed pin, or multi pin, sights have multiple pins that are pre-ranged. These will typically do yardage markers like 20, 30 and 40 yards on a 3 pin sight. This gives the archer a good estimate of a target location once the general range is detected. These sights can be adjusted in the field but do take tools and time so adjustments without firing practice arrows is not recommended. Some multi pin sights allow the addition or subtraction of pins. Once you sight in your pins you will be able to hold the pin on target for any of the set yardages and float in between two pins for an odd shot. The multi pin focus can help with the moveable target as you can select which pin you are aiming with dependent on the distance. Some people are great at judging distance and others, like me, might need a little guiding in the right direction. A good practice is to range out a few spots – think trees or large rocks that won’t change in size drastically with the seasons – with your rangefinder so you can understand the yardage of your shooting zone. When the right opportunity comes in you may not have time to take a measurement and having estimations will help you pick the right pin to use.
Pendulum sights are best for shooting from an elevated position such as a tree stand. These sights are not commonly used today but have great advantages when shooting at a down angle. The pendulum moves allowing the trajectory of your arrow to remain flat and not over/under arc your shot based on the downward angle. Digital sights are the newest to hit the archery scene and include advantages such as auto ranging and exact target lighted pin placement. These will take most of the guesswork out of your shot.
Once you have chosen the sight type you wish to use it is time to mount it on your bow and sight in. Most sights will attach to the rise in a similar fashion but be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions in order to protect the sight and bow from damage. Sighting in will vary based on the bow sight selected and the average yardage the archer wishes to shoot. Trial and error is to be expected while sighting in a new bow and allow yourself some time before a competition or hunt in order to get the adjustments right. Trying to get your bow sighted in one day can alter your shooting pattern based on the muscle fatigue you may encounter and the need to start over the next practice session could be realized.
For moveable pin sights start with the pin at 10 yards and shoot and move the sight until you are consistently hitting dead center. Do not take one good shot but rather your grouping is centered on the target. If you are ever dangerously off target with a shot after an adjustment do not continue shooting until you have made a correction. Continue the process until you have marked all of the yardages on your sight that you wish to be able to quickly range at in the field. Remember that when sighting in you need to follow the arrow. This may feel counterintuitive but when you are hitting down and left you need to move your sight to the left and down. Make small adjustments as to not overcompensate and pay attention to how much your move the sight. If you start with your arrows hitting down and left in the outer ring and after adjusting they are hitting almost centered but still too low you will know to move the sight down further and to the left just a tap more.
Sighting in a fixed pin sight will be similar in the approach but different in the pins. Start with the top pin and shooting at 10 yards. Make slight adjustments and move back toward 20 yards. Once you are consistently shooting at 20 yards you are ready to move on to the next pin. Step back to 30 yards and move the second pin, typically around 1/8-1/4” below the top pin, in place and begin shooting. Move the pin up or down for hitting high or low but if you are hitting left or right you may need to adjust the frame of the sight left and right and re-approach your 20 yard pin as well. The pins can be set to distances you prefer but typically you will find them set at 10 yard increments. Multi pin sights can come with as little as 1 or as many as 9. The next pin might be set to 40 yards but will be a little further apart than the 20 and 30 yard pins. This is due to the lowered velocity of your arrow the further you shoot.
Pendulum sights are one of the easiest to sight in. These are designed for shooting from an elevated position and you truly only need to range from about 20 yards out. On level ground shoot at a target and adjust until you are consistent. When you go into the field you will notice the pendulum sight will swing to keep it level with your bows position. Digital sights do not need sighting in just the same as a rangefinder works right out of the box.
Although hunters might disagree on what type of sight is best to use it would be hard to find a hunter who disagrees with the fact that sights will help you consistently make more accurate shots. Sights also allow you to keep focus on a smaller target area. Simple use of peep sight can make the focus area too large in some cases. The biggest reason for using bow sights is the humanity. When you are more precise with your bow you will be able to take down the game with an accurate kill shot. Take what you will and use what you want but always remember to practice safety when sighting in your bow and using your sights in the field.