February 08, 2023
Precision means a lot in bowhunting. A shot that goes awry by only a few inches can end your hunt in misery, so every bit of exactness is vital. Aside from using a super-tuned bow, an accurate shot comes down to aiming well and following-through correctly. These are the cornerstones to shooting consistency.
The best way to aim a bow and follow-through, is to bear down on the aiming spot while allowing the sight pin to float smoothly in a revolving motion — until the shot breaks by surprise. Your focus should then remain with the target until the arrow strikes it. If this is done the same way each time, precision will follow.
Staying relaxed and focused on the sight pin in relation to the target is essential to this process. Any visual distraction will cause a loss in concentration and the shot will come apart quickly. This is why a bright, distinct aiming reference is so important.
This leads us to today’s bowsights. With so many options available, what offers the most precision? Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as we’d like, because every bowhunter has different tastes based on sight-picture preferences and hunting applications.
However, by examining the pros and cons of each style of bowsight, you can begin to distinguish what may work best for you. Pin diameter and leveling capabilities (a column in itself) can play a role in precision, too, as can the sight’s overall ruggedness and reliability. Let’s review some of the fundamental differences and traits in today’s bowhunting sights, and then see how they stack up based on overall performance.
Multi-Pin Fixed Sights
Fixed-aperture sights with multiple pins are the cornerstone of the bowhunting industry. They are simple, rugged, and provide multiple aiming references, so as game moves rapidly from one place to the next, you can act quickly by ranging the distance and choosing the right pin to cover the shot. In this regard, they are highly versatile.
However, this versatility can also be a curse. With multiple aiming beads in the sight window, there can be “clutter” and a jumbled sight picture. For some archers, this means too much confusion and a loss of aiming focus, as now one must visually scramble for the right pin before engaging with the target. After months and even years of shooting a multi-pin sight, the process of “counting pins” and selecting the right one should become second nature. Nevertheless, some archers never do it well each time, particularly when a big buck or bull is in view, which causes missed shots.
Single-Pin Sliding Sights
This configuration mirrors a tournament archery sight for maximum precision. With a movable up-and-down aperture, the sight pin can be adjusted for incremental shooting distances, allowing for dead-on aiming without the need to hold slightly high or low when distances are irregular.
The single-pin sight also shines when the shooter is under pressure. There’s only one aiming bead, so it’s impossible to use the wrong pin. Also, with less clutter in the sight window, it’s easier to get on target and begin aiming. These are all huge bowhunting pluses.
The potential downsides are that these sights are notoriously heavy, bulky, and equipped with all sorts of moving mechanisms that can sometimes come lose, rattle, and otherwise make the sight less reliable. This, of course, depends on the sight’s brand and engineering.
When examining any bowsight, be sure to grab hold of the aperture housing and attempt to wiggle it from side to side. If it flexes by applying mild pressure, avoid it for hunting purposes. Such models are usually more of a liability than a help in the deer woods.
Moveable or sliding-type sights with multi-pin apertures are considered “hybrids.” With this style, you can use the top or bottom pin as your “floater,” then aim dead-on after dialing in the yardage mechanism. However, in those fast-moving bowhunting scenarios, you bypass this micro-adjustability and use the sight just like an ordinary fixed-pin sight. Simply range or estimate the shooting distance, select the right pin, and then aim accordingly. In this regard, it gives you the best of both worlds.
No one can tell you this. However, after 30 years of bowhunting and using all sorts of sights, and collecting feedback from good bowhunting friends, here are my thoughts regarding the positives and negatives of each bowsight design.
Multi-Pin Fixed: This sight is unbeatable in terms of reliability, which is huge for me. I do a lot of crawling through chaparral and sage, and I’ve found sights that incorporate a lot of moving parts tend to cause dependability issues. Precision is important, but so is knowing that a sight can hold its zero under tough conditions. The worst thing ever is to have an ultra-precise sight that ruins a 30-yard shot because of a flimsy design.
Five and seven-pin sights are popular for Western hunting, but they drastically increase the “clutter effect.” To manage this type of sight picture, you’ll need to be methodical in counting each pin as it glides across the target, then select the right pin. If not, you’ll inevitably go with the wrong pin when the pressure is on.
Single-Pin Slider: When you acquire the target with just one aiming reference, it’s clean, fast, and refreshing, and the ability to dial-in the aiming bead to an exact distance is another major plus. All these traits make this style of sight very precise. Additionally, using a single pin is ideal for archers with poor vision — simply because it’s natural for the eye to gravitate to a single aiming reference.
The chief downside to this sight style is found in its lack of speed, such as when a buck or bull dashes away unexpectedly and you must reset the sight for the correct yardage. This can cause added motion, time, and strain on a shooter’s nerves. Some well-practiced archers are good at improvising in these scenarios and can aim low or high as needed to make the shot. But sometimes this aiming compensation goes beyond what is comfortable, especially if the shot distance has changed significantly.
Hybrid Multi-Pin: These sights can do it all! A standard three or five-pin aperture can handle ordinary shooting distances, while the bottom pin can be dialed-in to a precise distance. Archers who can’t tolerate pin clutter should consider a two or three-pin aperture, to lessen the confusion at the moment of truth.
As a great remedy to all this, Spot Hogg offers its Triple-Stack sight system. This unique product provides a single-post design with three individually micro-adjustable aiming dots. This cleans up the sight picture considerably, compared to three horizontally mounted posts. You can set the aiming dots for 20, 30, and 40, or 25, 35, and 45, or whatever, depending on your preference and bow speed. It also comes with yardage “pointers” for each pin, and when using the appropriate yardage tape, it gives constant yardage updates for each aiming bead as the dial is turned.
I have not hunted with the Triple-Stack yet, but the system appears to be a sensible solution to the pin-clutter problem. You can choose any of the three aiming beads as your designated “floater.” However, after shooting the sight for a while, the top pin is my preference, particularly at long-range targets since it offers the least-obstructed aiming bead.