How To Sight In A Bow

How to Sight your Compound Bow

Many people who hunt and shoot with rifles are making the jump to bow hunting and doing so with the radically powerful and accurate compound bows. These bows, unlike traditional archery, do not use instinctive shooting as a means of accuracy. 

Instead, we use a bow sight. The bow sight is usually a pin or collection of pins inside a circle that attaches to the bow itself. One of the most interesting things about learning how to sight your compound bow is that you adjust the sight in the same direction instead of the opposite, as you would with a rifle sight. So, if the arrow is down and to the left of the target, you will adjust your site down and to the left rather than up and to the right. 

How a Bow Sight Works

compound bow sight

The sight on your bow is designed to help your accuracy. It does this by using a level to help you recognize when your bow is level with the ground or when it is off. Just this piece can be a huge help when it comes to consistency in your shooting. 

The pins of your sight are there to allow you to take aim at animals at varying distances. You could have a pin that hits at 20 yards, 40 yards, and 60 yards. Some sights, like the one pictured above, also come equipped with a blacklight that makes these pins and sights easier to see. 

Of course, a bow sight is only as effective as how well you have sighted it and how much you practice. 

Sighting Is About More Than the Sight

Tuning

You must also start with a well-tuned bow if you are going to have success in sighting it. If you have a new bow, then you can often ask the shop you buy it from to tune it for you. Otherwise, if you are dusting off an old bow, well, it might be worth learning to tune the bow or having a professional tune the bow.

If you don’t have a tuned bow, you will struggle to sight that bow.

Target

The type of target that you are using is also very important. You want to make sure you have plenty of target area so that you can group arrows, or even if you miss while sighting, you don’t spend all your time looking through the dirt for your arrows. 

Bag targets and hay bales are also better than foam targets for sighting because they offer less resistance. 

Backstop

You might also decide that a backstop is something you want to have included in your sighting setup. At close distances, you can have pass through with arrows, and you will begin by sighting a bow at 10 yards. If you want to avoid losing and searching for arrows, you will want a backstop.

Inconsistent Shooting

While a compound bow can be more accurate and more powerful than traditional bows, they still require the shooter to handle the bow and release the arrow consistently. In other words, things like stance, form, grip, and release on the bow will also affect how well your site is working. 

The sight can only work if you hold the bow and release the arrow the same way every time you shoot.

Sighting Tools

adjusting the sight with allen key

 Before you get started on the process of sighting your bow, you will need to get some tools so that you can do things like measure your range and adjust your site. 

⦁ Range Finder or Tape Measure

⦁ Good Allen Wrench Set

⦁ Large Bag Target

⦁ Masking Tape

Groupings Method

The most common method of sighting in your bow is to use the groupings method. This all starts with first measuring out a distance from your target. At 20 yards, you can use the top pin on your bow site to start shooting. 

If you aren’t sure how your particular bow sight works, refer to the instructions or look it up. Most are setup to 20 yards for the first pin. 

Fire a succession of 3-5 arrows at the bullseye while using the top pin on your sight. 

Note where all of the arrows land. If they are not on the bullseye, then you can adjust the sight in the direction of the arrow, away from the bullseye. This seems counter-intuitive, but it’s how it works. 

If your grouping was up and to the right of the bullseye, you are going to adjust the site, a little at a time, up and to the right. You would think this would send your arrow further up and further to the right, but it has the opposite effect. 

Fire another grouping and judge the improvement. If you aren’t in the bullseye, then adjust consistency. 

Sighting a Bow Without Shooting It

A question you might ask is whether or not you can sight a bow without shooting it. You see, things like lasers are available to help you sight a bow without shooting it. The problem with this is that you do not get the experience of shooting the bow. 

Remember, your stance, form, and release all affect the shot’s consistency and all affect how your sight works. A laser will allow you to line the pins of your site right up on the target and assure the arrow is pointed right at the bullseye; however, this doesn’t account for one of the most important pieces of the puzzle: You.

Summary

bow pointing at a field

If you are going to have success with your compound bow, then it has to be sighted correctly. Even if you are just walking outback to shoot some targets, a bow that is not sighted accurately will just have you chasing arrows all day. 

It’s not just a matter of accuracy either. When you release an arrow, and it darts off toward an animal, you become responsible for what happens next. If that arrow hits an animal’s vitals and kills it quickly, then you have done your job. If your bow is poorly sighted and your shot hits the animal in the lower gut, then you could lose that animal altogether. 

It might run from you and then spend the next couple of days in agony before finally dying. I cannot think of any hunter who would want that to be part of their legacy. So, a properly sighted bow is as much about accuracy as anything else.