How To Use Compound Bow Sights: The Complete Guide

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Hunting with a bow requires you to have a steady hand and sight that you can rely on.

While traditional archers rely on instinct and proper form to land their arrows on targets, hunters who want absolute certainty often turn to compound bows with modern sights.

These will give you the greatest certainty that you’ll put an arrow through that buck.

However, there are so many different sights and they can look like overcomplicated mechanical blobs to new archers.

Using a compound bow sight is easier than you might think.

But first, let us first discuss what bow sights actually are, their types, and why having a bow sight can be helpful and then get into how to use compound bow sights.

What Are Bow Sights?

Bow sights are items that can be mounted on your bow to improve your aim.

Much like rifle sights, they provide a fixed point you can use to align your eyes, bow, arrow, and the target.

(Note that there is no such thing as a bow scope. Unless you’re using a crossbow, that is!)

Typically, this fixed point is one or more pins, typically with a glowing dot you center on your target.

The core technology of a bow sight is quite simple. It gives you a point that shows where your arrows will ultimately land.

While shooting arrows, everyone wants to hit the bullseye and a good sight helps you achieve this goal.

A clean kill is always satisfying and targeting the small vital zone on a game animal can be difficult without using a bow sight.

Type of Compound Bow Sights

Bow sights come in various types.

Almost every compound bow sight uses pins to help you aim. However, the ways these pins are used can differ significantly.

These types are explained below.

Fixed Pin

Fixed pin sights have the pins rigidly mounted to the sight body so you cannot adjust them.

The design is quite simple with fixed pins of different colors locked into a place to provide aiming points at various distances. It’s also a durable design.

Fixed Pin sights are very easy to use and simple to install, which makes it popular among the new bow hunters and those who are hunting on a budget.

However, this can take quite a while to get used to because the pins may not align with your selection of arrows and draw weight exactly.

Fixed pin sights are rare nowadays, so chances are you’ll have be using a moveable pin sight.

And, while many fixed pin sights have a single pin, many hunters prefer to use 3 or 5 pins so they have aiming points for multiple ranges1.

Trophy Ridge Volt 5 Pin Best for Beginners Easy to Use

Moveable Pin

As the name suggests, moveable pin sights such as the Trophy Ridge Volt 5 have pins that can be manually adjusted, unlike fixed pin sights.

The pins can be adjusted for distance so you can manually adjust the sight for a target at a certain distance or compensate for changing up your arrow’s spine.

The sights with moveable pins typically come with a slider for different presets of distance. Some can be fine tuned as well.

However, a low-quality moveable pin sight may lose its settings if knocked about in the woods. And the fancier ones can have confusing adjustment systems.

Apart from that, this type of sight is a good choice for most archers.

Pendulum sights

When you’re hunting from a tree or a hilly landscape where you’ll be hunting at a sharp upward or downward angle, then pendulum sights can be the best option for you.

Pendulum sights have a single pin placed inside a weighted sight bracket that swings slightly to compensate for aiming at an angle.

The drawbacks of using a pendulum sight is that you have to sight them in for a specific distance. They won’t help you compensate when taking aim at a farther target.

Target Sights

Target Sights are precision bow sights with a single pin that are designed to be used at the archery range, not while hunting.

They’re great for dialing in your shot perfectly so long as your target stays exactly the same distance from you.

However, they’re expensive and not designed to handle the type of rough handling a hunting bow will experience. Plus they typically lack any form of illumination.

How to Use Compound Bow Sights Properly

Let that you know what a bow sight is, let’s get into how to use one.

  • The first thing you need to do with a bow sight is to install it. You’ll have to mount it to the bow’s riser. This is generally an easy process explained by your sight’s manual. If you’re having difficulty installing your sight then a bow shop can help you out.
  • Remember to focus on proper form and posture. The best sight in the world cannot compensate for a sloppy shot. Your form needs to be on point, with proper posture and a consistent anchor point.
  • Head out to the range to sight in the bow. Every manufacturer has a different sighting-in process.
  • To actually use the sight, you draw the bow to full draw. Align the tip of the pin in the center of your target by moving your entire upper body at the waist. Don’t move your hands around because that’ll disrupt your form!
  • Test the sights at various distances. Generally you want to start at 20 yards, then go to 30 then 40 yards. Make sure you can hit the bullseye at every range. Also, be bold and try out a various combination of the settings that you have on the sight.
  • Hit the practice range enough to be familiar with your sight. Once you get the hang of it, shooting with a bow sight will be no problem at all.
Garmin Xero A1 compound Bow Sight auto ranging

Tips for Using Bow Sights Perfectly

  1. Drawing to the same anchor point every time is vital. If your string hand moves to a different position every time you draw, you’ll never be consistent.
  2. Make minimal adjustments when sighting in your sight. Be patient when adjusting your sight or you’ll waste time going back and forth.
  3. Focus your eyes on the target when aiming with a bow sight and let the aiming dot center itself on the target2.
  4. Many hunters find that using a peep sight on your string helps improve accuracy3 even farther.
  5. Not all sights will work for everyone so try out several different styles before taking a sight out for a hunt!

Conclusion

Bow sights aren’t absolutely necessary if you’re a traditional hunter who likes instinctive shooting.

But for compound bow hunters who want to land every shot right in the vitals, a good bow sight can be quite an important item.

However, they aren’t a way to cheat yourself out of having to practice your form.

They’re one part of a system that works together.

Put in the hours and you’ll find that a good bow sight will help you drop that buck with a perfect shot!

Resources

  1. https://forums.bowsite.com/tf/bgforums/thread.cfm?threadid=469589&forum=2
  2. https://www.bowhuntingmag.com/editorial/ask_askwinke062010/310203
  3. https://www.bowhuntingmag.com/editorial/tactics_bh_sight_0409/310476

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