August 25, 2020
There’s a time for complexity and a time for simplicity. When the buck that’s been haunting your trail cameras (and dreams) for weeks is about to be broadside in a shooting lane, care to guess what time it is?
A bow sight, at its core, is a pretty simple device. It’s little more than a housing that holds an aiming point. When properly calibrated and aligned, it should help point your arrow in the proper direction.
Nevertheless, bowhunters are humans, and humans tend to make things more complicated than they really need to be. Such is the case with sighting systems. I prefer to follow the time-honored notion of simple is as simple does. It works for me, and I’d wager it’ll work for you as well. So let’s cut to the quick here and run down some popular sight options, along with this bowhunter’s opinion on where to best put them to use.
It will come as no surprise to those who know me that the fixed-pin sight is my go-to for the majority of my bowhunting needs. The reason is simple. Literally.
DESIGN: The fixed-pin system is the most basic and simplistic of all bow sights. (That is, unless you count instinctive shooting or, perhaps, gap-shooting as a sighting system … which I don’t. I consider each of those an art.) A fixed-pin setup features multiple pins that are adjusted for yardage.
WHERE TO USE IT: If you’re a die-hard whitetail hunter who’s going to spend most of your time hunting from a stand or blind in the East or Midwest, I see no reason to complicate things. Get a solid, fixed-pin sight that you like, and get to know it well.
The number of pins you choose is up to you, but I’ll make ample fun of you for choosing more than three. In most cases, two will do the job admirably. Today’s compound bows are plenty fast. No matter what you may read on Facebook, the vast majority of bucks are killed at distances under 30 yards.
ONE TO TRY: I look for a sight that’s made mostly of aluminum with .019 pins. I like a level on the bottom of the housing to help me correct bow torque. Aside from that, I don’t need much else except a fair price. The Custom Bow Equipment SL4 (custombowequipment.com) fits the bill. It’s highly adjustable and rock-solid. At about $130 it’s not a cheap sight, but it will last as long as you need it.
Adjustable Single Pin
There’s something beautiful about a well-tuned arrow in flight, especially when it hits where it was aimed at long range. This is where adjustable single-pin sights can shine.
DESIGN: The way these sights function is pretty self-explanatory. They feature a single-pin housing that’s adjusted with a dial throughout a range of yardages marked on a tape. After the sight is properly set up, simply dial in the yardage to the target, hold the pin dead-on and shoot.
WHERE TO USE IT: The single-pin system is preferred by a lot of Western elk and mule deer hunters. It’s an ideal system for open-country hunts where trees are scarce and cover is scant. Longer-than-average shots are the norm here, and the adaptability of the adjustable pin is beneficial.
That said, the single-pin sight takes some getting used to. You absolutely must condition yourself to range your target and adjust your sight—every single time.
Trust me, that’s sometimes forgotten in the heat of the moment and if that moment is truly hot, you may not have time to make the change. I blew a shot at a dandy whitetail in Kansas a few years back when the buck bolted in on the heels of a doe and I didn’t have time (or the composure) to adjust the yardage on my single-pin sight. If you’re interested in going the adjustable single-pin route, do so now and spend all summer getting into the habit of checking your dial before every shot.
ONE TO TRY: I used Spot-Hogg’s Fast Eddie ($259.99; spot-hogg.com) for several seasons, and it was a pleasure to work with. It’s easy to set up, and the silent-click adjustments really help to dial in the exact yardage.
If fixed-pin setups are reliably simple and adjustable single-pin sights help in situations of widely varying distances, why can’t you have both? Enter the hybrid.
DESIGN: Perhaps the fastest-growing segment of the sight market, these systems combine fixed pins inside an adjustable scope housing. Rather than relying on a single pin for all yardage adjustments, you can set up traditional pin gaps (say 20, 30, 40 yards, etc.) and then use the scope dial for precise aiming at specific yardages in between or beyond the fixed-pin settings.
WHERE TO USE IT: This system can really stand out in the mixed farmland/prairie habitat of the western Midwest. Think Kansas and the Dakotas. In the morning you could be hunting an oak-choked draw with limited shooting distances before hitting a prairie pothole on the edge of a massive cornfield in the afternoon. The versatility of the system allows for quick, familiar shooting with the fixed pins and the ability to dial in for exact (perhaps longer) yardages when needed.
ONE TO TRY: The Black Gold Ascent Verdict ($265.95; blackgoldsights.com) has everything I like in a sight. It’s rugged and made mostly of metal. The area for the sight tape is at a 45-degree angle for easy viewing, the pins gather light like crazy, and the “Dial-of-Death” adjustment knob is as good as it gets. Perhaps best of all, Black Gold offers the sight with a single- or multi-pin scope, and a single-pin scope is available as an accessory. You can try the sight as a hybrid system and change to a single-pin setup if you prefer.