Bow Basics: How to Improve Your Sight Picture

Bow Basics: How to Improve Your Sight Picture

Have you ever put your sight pin on a target or deer and observed more movement than you would see in the hula skirt of a Hawaiian dancer? Many archers share this common dilemma. Having a poor sight picture can be caused by improper bow setup or a problem in your form. Once you identify the difficulty, correcting it is easy.

Let's look at some of the typical equipment flaws that can cause excessive sight movement. In an attempt to get more arrow speed, many archers shoot more poundage than they are capable of handling. With too much poundage, an archer will rush the shot process and not allow the pin to settle in before executing the shot.


If you question the amount of draw weight you are using, reduce it by 4 or 5 pounds and take several shots. The results will give you the answer. Remember, slower hits are much better than fast misses.



As I conduct archery schools across the United States, the most common problem I encounter is too long of a draw length. When this occurs, the archer has to over-extend the bow arm in order to maintain the forward pressure. The shoulder is no longer in a set position and is being held by too much muscle tissue, which then causes movement.

If you question your draw length, shorten it by half of an inch to 1 inch and note if there is an improvement.


One time, after setting up a new bow, I decided to go hunting for some "freezer meat." I positioned myself along the edge of a field and waited until a young doe came running from the nearby timber. As it stopped in the field less than 20 yards away, I quickly drew my bow and released the arrow.


To my dismay, I shot an "air ball." Knowing I could hit a quarter at that distance, I suspected something was wrong with my setup and decided to go home.

On the practice range I confirmed that I could still hit a quarter-size target, so I tried a much quicker shot like the one I took at the doe. "Air ball!"

I discovered I had the peep height set too low. On a quick shot, I was looking over the peep rather than through it. The peep height should be placed so the pin naturally lines up in the correct position. To do this, draw your bow and close your eyes before you come to anchor. If it is in the proper alignment, the pin housing will be centered in the peep when you open your eyes.

The peep and pin size can also be a critical issue. When an archer has difficulty seeing the deer or sight pin, forward pressure on the bow is lost, resulting in excessive pin movement.

The larger peeps are better for shooting in lower light conditions. I like the peep to be big enough to frame the sight housing, which should give adequate shooting light without sacrificing accuracy.

Glowing sight pins are my first choice, because they are easier to see with secondary vision. The primary vision should always be on the target. If an archer has to search for the sight pin, forward pressure is lost and a poor shot will follow.

Two flaws in form can also disrupt a good sight picture. One is over-aiming, which occurs when the archer attempts to get and keep the sight pin on a particular spot. This inadvertently reduces the amount of forward pressure on the bow arm and increases pin movement.

Instead of reducing pressure, increase the pressure and the movement will stop. Keep in mind that when shooting a deer, the kill zone is not the size of a golf ball. Instead, it's the area of a volleyball and you can't miss that! Just put the pin on and shoot a strong shot.

Most deer hunters are affected by a second issue in form, which involves punching the trigger. When this happens, quite frequently there is a premature movement in the bow arm, just before the trigger is activated.

Most "punchers" have no intention or willpower to change. If you are one of them, you can still be a fairly good shot by following simple guidelines: Let the pin float on the target and then pull the bow apart — pushing the bow arm forward and pulling the release arm back — while punching the trigger at the same time. The difficulty is that you have to trust your form and not rely on the sight pin.

With a steady sight picture, shooting accurately becomes much easier. Your confidence in the shot will increase and your arrow groups will tighten. On every shot, tell yourself, "Pull the bow apart and shoot!"

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