As a bowhunter, having the right bow hunting sight is crucial for accuracy and ethical kills. With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming trying to determine which sight is best for your needs. In this definitive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about choosing the perfect bow hunting sight.
From fixed-pin to adjustable, pendulum to multi-pin, I’ll share the pros and cons of all the major types of sights. You’ll learn key factors like sight leveling, pin spacing, sight frames, and more so you can confidently pick the best model. I’ll also provide specific product recommendations in each category based on my own experience and feedback from fellow archers.
Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or just getting into bowhunting, you’ll find all the details required to upgrade your accuracy and tighten your shot groups this season. So let’s get started and find the ideal bow hunting sight to have you placing arrows right where you aim!
- Fixed-pin, adjustable, pendulum, and multi-pin sights each have advantages and limitations to consider
- Match the sight to your hunting style and needs based on factors like pin adjustment, sight leveling, target distances, etc.
- Quality optics, strong construction, tool-less adjustments, and fiber optic pins are useful features to look for
- Field test sights and practice extensively before relying on one for hunting situations
- Invest in sights designed for hunters, not casual target shooters, for optimal performance
Fixed-Pin Bow Sights
As the most common style of bow sight, fixed-pin models feature pins in a fixed position that can’t be adjusted left or right. The pins are set to various distances, usually starting around 20 yards.
I started out hunting with a fixed 4-pin sight from Trophy Ridge. It was great for hunting situations under 40 yards, like treestand setups or ground blinds. I sighted in the 20, 30, 35, and 40 yard pins during practice. In the field, I would estimate distance and use the pin set for that range.
The benefits of fixed sights are their simplicity and durability. There’s no need to fiddle with knobs or make adjustments once sighted in. The pins don’t lose their zero, even after getting bumped around during transport.
However, fixed sights do have limitations. You can only have a few pins before they clutter up the housing and obscure your target at longer distances. They also require more precise range estimation to choose the right pin.
I’d recommend a fixed-pin sight for hunters who take shots within 40 yards. They excel for hunting situations with consistent distances, like a treestand overlooking a food plot.
Some top fixed-pin sight options include:
- Trophy Ridge React Pro 5 Pin: Great balance of affordable price and durable design. The React dampening system reduces pin oscillation for steadier pins on the target.
- Spot Hogg Hunter Hogg-It: Premium sight with wrap-around guard and .019 fiber optics on the five pins. Micro windage adjustment helps tune broadhead accuracy.
- Cobra Boa: Ultra-lightweight carbon fiber frame with glow-in-the-dark shooter’s ring for fast target acquisition. The Boa uses a titanium pin with a compact .010 fiber.
Adjustable Bow Sights
Adjustable sights feature pins you can manually move left and right to align with your arrow’s point of impact. This allows you to precisely dial them in as you sight-in your bow at various distances.
After growing frustrated with estimating distances and not always having the right fixed pin, I upgraded to a Black Gold Ascent Verdict adjustable 5-pin sight. Now I could move each pin to match my true point of impact out to 60 yards.
The benefit of an adjustable sight is the ability to precisely dial in your pins at any distance. No more guessing which pin matches a given distance. You also gain much finer accuracy for distant shots beyond 40 yards.
The downside is adjustable sights require more tuning and practice to sight in properly. The pins can vibrate out of position over time so occasional re-tuning is necessary. They also cost more than comparable fixed-pin models.
I recommend adjustable sights for bowhunters comfortable tuning their equipment and who take longer distance shots or hunt varying terrain. Excellent adjustable sights include:
- IQ Sight Pro Hunter: Micro click adjustments and harmonic dampeners make tuning a breeze. The Retina Lock alignment system speeds target acquisition.
- HHA Optimizer Lite Ultra: Tool-less design adjustable from 20 to 80 yards. Mixed pin sizes and large level help quickly get dialed in.
- Spot Hogg Fast Eddie Double Pin: Ultralight and compact single-pin adjustable sight perfect for treestands. The double pin provides two references per yardage.
Pendulum Bow Sights
Pendulum sights have a weighted pendulum that allows the vertical pin to pivot back and forth. As you tilt your bow upward or downward, gravity causes the pendulum to automatically rotate the pin to stay on target.
After taking up bowhunting in steep terrain, I added a pendulum sight for uphill and downhill shots. Now when I needed to shoot at a steep angle, the pin would remain aligned with the target no matter the slope.
Pendulum sights excel in hilly areas where you are often shooting at large angles above or below you. They remove the need to estimate how much to shift your aim point. The pendulum auto-adjusts the vertical pin orientation based on gravity.
The downside is pendulum sights are more specialized. They still require horizontal aiming adjustments. And they can bounce back after the shot, delaying your ability to see arrow impact.
I’d recommend a pendulum sight if your hunting area has significant elevation changes that require angled shots. Some excellent choices are:
- Trophy Ridge React Pro Pendulum: Affordable pendulum sight with multiple brightness settings for the fiber optic pins. Includes adjustable level for precise bubble leveling.
- Apex Gear Covert Pro: Micro-click windage and elevation adjustment with 1.8-degree right/left compensation for angled shots. The internal dampener reduces pin oscillation.
- IQ Bowsights Micro 3rd Degree: Three independently floating pendulum pins allow you to align all three pins on target, even at extreme angles.
Multi-Pin Bow Sights
Multi-pin sights combine benefits of both fixed and adjustable designs. They feature multiple pins in a fixed horizontal spacing that you can adjust vertically.
After gaining experience, I upgraded to a multi-pin sight with 7 pins adjustable from 20 to 80 yards. Now I could quickly reference the needed pin for any expected distance yet still fine tune each pin as I practiced.
Multi-pin sights provide the simplicity of a fixed sight with the tunability of an adjustable model. You gain pin references for a wide range of shot distances without a cluttered pin housing.
The compromise is that multi-pin sights are bulkier and more expensive. There’s also the learning curve of understanding which pin matches each distance. This can slow reaction time while hunting.
I recommend multi-pin sights for experienced shooters that want both speed of fixed-pins and the accuracy of micro-adjustable settings. Top options include:
- Black Gold Ascent Verdict: A great balance of precision, durability, and ease of adjustments. The LED light illuminates low light conditions.
- CBE Engage Hybrid: Pin slider allows you to quickly select the needed pins while stowing the rest. Micro windage gang adjustment tunes entire pin housing.
- Spot Hogg Grinder: Bombproof metal housing and innovative helical pin design make this sight ideal for harsh hunting conditions. The double pin design provides two alignment points.
Sight Leveling and Windage/Elevation Adjustment
A key factor for any bow sight is the ability to precisely level the housing and make windage and elevation adjustments. This ensures your pins align vertically even as you tilt and rotate the bow.
I learned the hard way just how crucial sight leveling is for accuracy. My first sight lacked a level and my pin would appear way off when I drew back. Adding a high quality level and tuning my windage and elevation dramatically improved my grouping.
Look for sights with bubble or laser levels that allow you to quickly check alignment and dial-in adjustments. The level needs to be easy to see at full draw.
Tool-less windage and elevation knobs speed up tuning while in the field. I prefer click-adjustments for precise control over my point of impact.
High end target sights use gang adjustment where turning one knob moves all the pins together. This maintains their spacing while tuning vertical position as a group.
Sight Frame and Housing
An overlooked aspect is the strength and design of the sight frame and pin housing. As your sight gets bounced around during travel, you don’t want pins getting knocked out of alignment.
I learned this the hard way when my first plastic sight developed spider cracks after a few seasons of hunting. Once the housing flexed, my pins would shift and require constant re-tuning.
Today I only use metal sight frames, preferably from machined aluminum or lightweight magnesium alloys. This provides maximum structural integrity to prevent pins shifting under vibration.
The shape and guarding of the housing are also important. Deep, wrap-around guards protect your pins and keep them from snagging on brush. Circular housings offer sight windows optimized for pin visibility at all shooting angles.
Finally, choose a sight with a wide range of vertical travel so you can properly position it for your bow’s center and adjust for maximum distance. You want to ensure the sight extends high enough to allow dialing in longer distance pins.
Pin Size, Material and Illumination
Fiber optic pins have become the standard for hunting sights, but pin size, brightness, and construction still vary. You want pins that stand out clearly at dawn and dusk when game movement peaks.
I’ve found .019 diameter fiber optics offer the best balance of brightness and strength. They resist fraying or breaking under field use. Go smaller for ultrabright pins in competition sights.
Look for durable fiber core material like braided fibers over molded plastic. This maintains brightness over years of wear and tear. Kevlar compound cores excel in durability.
For low light, choose pins with the brightest optic fibers to maximize glow. Multi-strand fibers and fluorescent coats also boost brightness. Some sights like the Black Gold Ascent use battery powered LED illumination of the pins.
Finally, glow-in-the-dark pins retain luminescence to see them at last shooting light. Tritium powered pins provide illumination in total darkness for night hunting.
I’ve learned the hard way that you need to practice extensively with a new sight before relying on it hunting. Take time to properly sight it in and get the pins dialed in for your typical shot distances.
Start by bore sighting the sight’s housing to get on paper at 10 to 20 yards. Then fine tune windage at this short distance to center up groups.
Next, setup targets at intervals matching your sight’s pins. Take your time adjusting each pin precisely for its distance. Don’t rush…precision tuning will pay off down the road.
Once dialed in, confirm your pins at ranges out to 60+ yards. Spend time shooting positions you’ll use hunting, like kneeling, leaning, and elevation changes.
Finally, practice regularly to internalize which pin matches each distance. Shooting different angles will also build intuition for using a pendulum sight.
With practice and patience, you’ll gain confidence in your sight and ability to reliably place arrows right where you aim. Spending time upfront prevents frustration during a hunt.
Optics – Pin Guards, Lenses and Clarifiers
High end bow sights may include specialized optics like pin guards, scopes, and clarifiers to enhance aiming. Depending on your needs, optics can help acquire targets and sharpen sight pictures.
As my eyes have aged, I’ve added an HHA OL-5519 sight clarifier to my setup. The small peep hole helps focal vision and eliminates ambient light for a crisper pin image.
Pin guards use a small colored ring around the fiber optic ends to help them pop against varied backgrounds. I find yellow or green guards really make the pins stand out while drawing.
Small diameter scope lenses mounted to the sight provide magnification of the target. I don’t use these for hunting, but some archers swear by them for spotting distant game.
If your eyes struggle to pick up pins due to age or vision problems, optics like clarifiers and peeps are worth trying. But don’t overcomplicate your sight if you can easily see the pins.
After covering all the types, features, and factors that go into choosing a bow sight, I wanted to wrap up with some final recommendations:
- Hunters on a Budget – Black Gold Ascent Verdict or Trophy Ridge React Pro
- Maximum Durability – Spot Hogg Grinder or CBE Engage Hybrid
- Close Shots in Heavy Cover – Fixed pin like the Trophy Ridge React Pro 5 pin
- Long Shots in Open Terrain – Adjustable single pin like the HHA Optimizer Lite
- Hilly or Mountain Hunting – Pendulum sight such as the IQ Bowsight Micro 3rd Degree
- A Little of Everything – Multi-pin like the Spot Hogg Fast Eddie Double Pin
No matter what your needs and budget, there’s a perfect bow hunting sight out there for you. Now that you’re armed with expertise on the various sight options, you can shop with confidence and end up with the model that best fits your hunting style.
Sights tailored for hunters will always outperform multipurpose target sights. Invest in quality optics with bright, durable pins. Take time to properly sight in and practice with your new sight. Following these tips will have you driving tacks through the bullseye and tagging that trophy buck in no time!
Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.