Using a bow sight to effectively take down a target is an essential archery technique. It’s one of the defining features of freestyle recurve or Olympic-style archery sports. Like most bowhunting skill training, the more you practice and get a feel for this piece of equipment, the easier it will become.

When you look at a picture of a bow sight, it appears to be quite a complicated piece of equipment. That’s why researching all the bow sights out there is very essential, like the helpful reviews that can be found at Point Optics. Nothing could be further from the facts, however, because after a bit of practice, shooting a target using a bow sight will become second nature to you.

To use a bow sight properly, the shooter must look through the hole when the bow is drawn back, centre the round pin guard, and then choose the appropriate pin for the correct yardage (distance in yards/meters). Getting to know a bit more about the bow sight might be a good first step.

What is a Bow Sight?

A bow sight is an archery device. It’s mounted on the riser of the bow (the middle portion). It helps you to aim your arrow and shoot a target effectively. It is similar to the bead sight at the end of a rifle barrel and is especially helpful when shooting over longer distances.

Most modern compound bows come with some kind of bow sight. It can be used in conjunction with a quality arrow rest and a kisser-button or peep-sight hole. Though it is possible to shoot a target without using a sight, a feature of the four recognized original bow styles (barebow; bowhunter; longbow; historical), adding a bow sight to your recurve or compound bow when hunting can lead to better accuracy.

Some bow sights have a basic design:

Diagram 1

And some are extremely sophisticated:

Diagram 2

The bow sight in diagram 1 is an example of a straightforward fibre optic three-pin composite bow sight. Other features include twin-pin tracks and a Lexan pin guard. The two pins can be positioned up or down in their tracks for correct elevation (vertical) adjustments or screwed in and out of their mounting bracket for windage (horizontal) adjustments. It’s a highly functional sight, easy to learn how to use, and sufficient for most bowhunting requirements.

Diagram 2 is a good example of a complex bow sight. It has many additional features such as aluminum machining, individual pin adjustments, and anti-vibration.

Types of Bow Sights

Don’t be overwhelmed by the large selection of bow sights on the market. Don’t be too hasty in purchasing a bow sight if you’re a beginner, take time to do some research. You can skip any products designed for the target competition market, field archery, and target archery. As most sights are of the fixed-plate design, you also don’t need to worry about dovetail mounts either; most hunters prefer the reliability and simplicity of a fixed-plate.

Fixed-Pin Bow Sights: The most common and popular sight choice of bowhunters. A fixed-pin bow sight usually has 3 – 5 pins. Each pin can be set for a particular distance (top pin for the closest distance, lower pins for further distances). When the pins are fixed in position by tightening, the bow is ready. This set up is an uncomplicated procedure, easy to learn, and simple to use in the field.

Most bowhunters set the fixed-pins for predictable distances of 5 – 10yards/4.5 – 9.1metres. When the pins are set, shooting a target at the known distance is smooth sailing. Say the target is 30yards/27.5metres in the distance; you sight the bow by placing the pre-set 30yards/27.5metres pin on your target and loose your arrow.

The sight will do all the compensation for you, such as changing the arrow’s trajectory towards the target. It’s not always that straightforward though. It can be tricky if you are unsure how far away the target is. For example, if you are shooting from a raised position, through bushes, or over uneven ground, estimating the correct yardage is not so easy.

The more pins your bow sight has, the easier it is to set each one to a predictable distance. This doesn’t mean that the target is going to be so helpful as to stand exactly at one of your set distances every time, but the more practice you have, the easier it will become to compensate for the intermediate distance between pinpoints.

If your target is 25yards/22metres away, most fixed-pin shooters quickly learn how to split the difference and hold their aim between the two pins. This is known as gap shooting.

Movable-Pin Sights: Instead of having multiple pre-set pins, the movable-pin sight only has a single pin. This single pin has to be adjusted before each shot. There is a system of worm gears, levers, and brackets that slide the sight housing smoothly up and down. This allows the pin to be adjusted for any required distance in a few seconds.

At the rear of the movable-pin sight bracket is a small adjustable pointer. It indicates the yardage by using a series of hand-made markings on white tape or a pre-installed graduated scale. Each of these marks will represent a predetermined yardage. (See diagram)

So, if the target is 45yards/41metres distant, you will move the pointer to the 45yards mark on the tape or scale and loose your arrow. The movable-pin sight is different from the fixed-pin sight, as it can be moved to any distance for better accuracy. This is facilitated by the user being able to have as many distance markings as they like, although 5yard/4.5metre to 10yard/9.1metres markings are the most common.

Main Bow Sight Features

Fibre optic technology was designed to convey digital information over distance. The bowhunting industry has found another use for fibre optics: it is used to illuminate bow sight pin tips. This helps to aim the pinpoint with more accuracy in low light conditions. The fibre optic tips clearly stand out. Be cautious about using this technology to excess, as there are some bow sight models that have so many luminous fibre optic cables attached to their pins that it scares off the target!

Bubble levels are found in mid- to high-grade bow sights. This sight feature will help you to keep your bow completely upright when you’re shooting. Although traditional longbow shooters often deliberately tilt their bows when shooting (you will see this being done frequently in movies), compound bowhunters typically need their bows to be upright when they loose the arrow because tilt degrades the horizontal accuracy. There are bubble levels for left-hand bowhunters, usually signified by the letters LH.

Gang adjustments allow you to move the pins up and down, left and right. (see diagram)

Gang-elevation & gang-windage

Gang adjustments can be made for windage (horizontal) right to left or elevation/height (vertical). It gives the bow sight a greater range of settings and makes sighting-in easier. The majority of today’s machined bow sights feature easy-to-use gang adjustments.

If you are not constrained by budget costs, you might want to look into micro-adjust windage and elevation. Instead of loosening the screw and sliding the sight housing into a different position, some sight designs have micro-adjust. This feature allows windage and elevation adjustments by simply turning a knob. This knob is attached to a gear that creeps the sight slowly into its new position. This offers extreme precision and ease of use, but unfortunately has a price tag that reflects its luxury status.

Zero-pin gap describes a sight feature that allows the pins to be squeezed closely together. It’s become quite the buzzword in bowhunting circles. As compound bows have become faster, the space between pins had to tighten. Even though it’s called zero to indicate the accuracy, that’s not exactly possible as the pins are still fractionally apart. If your equipment isn’t built for speed, a standard single track pin bow sight will be just fine and get the job done.

How to Improve Your Aim Using a Bow Sight

Your technique must come first when using a sight. How you stand and your posture are important, but mostly your anchor point needs to be consistent (the place on your face that you draw your bowstring back to meet every time). Using a kisser button or peep-sight hole can help you immensely. Your draw-hand must stop at the same point each time. If you fail to do this, you will see up and down differences in your shot.

You must follow the arrow. This is a good tip to learn when remembering which way you should adjust your sight as it helps you move your arm in the correct direction. It might seem difficult for the brain to comprehend at first, but doing this improves hitting the target.

For example, if your arrows are hitting low, move your sight downwards, and if the arrows are hitting right of the target, move the sight to the right. It may seem counter-intuitive, and many bowhunters struggle to do it in the beginning. If your arrows are hitting too high and you move your sight upwards, the direction you will be moving your arm to centre your sight on the target will be downwards.

Pictures courtesy of Pinterest and IFAA

Try to shoot several arrows before you make any adjustments unless, of course, you are completely off the mark. If your arrows have hit the target, but not where you were aiming at, shoot two or three more before adjusting the sight.

Bowhunting is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world for a reason. It requires agility, cognitive thought, and spatial awareness. With the right equipment and technique, you will be able to shoot your target with great effectiveness. Bow sights are an essential part of the challenge and enjoyment of this sport.