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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!"

Apex Gamechanger 5 Pin

Apex Gear is now offering the Gamechanger. This five-pin sight features TruZero pin technology, which minimizes pin gap and increases the shooter's overall accuracy. The sight comes with stainless steel hardware for durability and longevity. It offers ultra-fine windage and elevation adjustment with a second and third axis level with two vertical bars. The sight is extra strong, thanks to the fact it is CNC-machined and comes with Tru Touch, a soft technical coating. The sight is available with .019 fibers.

Price: $119.99

Archer Extreme AXT Driver 1 Pin

Archer Xtreme is a relatively new company that has built a name for itself because of creative products that are built for serious bowhunters. For 2013, they have a new sight called the AXT Driver 1-pin that will surely be a hit. The sight comes with a large Edge Gear Drive that makes adjusting the yardage quick and easy. It also has a yardage indicator and lock, so you can lock the sight in and don't have to worry about the yardage being bumped and changed. The sight also has second and third axis adjustments and it can be micro-adjusted one click at a time. The pin on the sight is razor thin, making it easy to see what you are aiming at.

Price: $149.99

Black Gold Ascent Ambush

Black Gold is offering the Ascent Ambush single pin sight for 2013. Bowhunters who enjoy the simplicity of a one-pin sight will fall in love with this option. It offers a high performance PhotoChromatic shell that is 80 percent tougher and turns color faster than previous Black Gold Models, making it a great sight for low-light hunting conditions. The sight comes with a larger adjustment level, which is easier to see and set. The sight has more range and adjustability than other similar sights.

Price: $180

Cobra Buckhead Double Tine

The new Cobra Buckhead Double Tine single pin is an adjustable one-pin sight that is perfect for the treestand hunter. The sight comes with a metal protected pin and a hood guard, so twigs, branches and debris will be no match. The CNC-aluminum sight has a 1.9-inch housing, a bright alignment ring, and a rheostat light, so bowhunters can hunt until the last minute of shooting light.

Price: $84.99

Field Logic IQ 7 Pin

Field Logic, makers of the Block Target, jumped into the sight market a few years ago with both feet when they introduced the IQ bow sight. The sight was originally available with four pins. They now offer the sight in a seven-pin model for bowhunters who like to shoot for the moon. With seven pins, bowhunters can take long-range shots when practicing, making them more accurate in the field as well. The seven-pin IQ sight comes with the Retina Lock feature, which is a small dot found in the top of the IQ sight that is in line with the pins. If the bow is torqued slightly, the dot will appear distorted. If the hunter is perfectly aligned, the dot will appear inside of a circular housing. This system allows bowhunters to solve torque problems when shooting.

Price: $159.99

G5 Outdoors Optix Rock

G5 Outdoors is again offering their Optix Rock this year. This sight was their flagship sight in 2012 and will likely do well again in 2013. The Optix Rock bow sight has rack and pinion micro-adjust pins for increased accuracy and adjustment and a dual track slot for the pins that eliminates pin gap problems. Pins are available in two sizes, .10 and .019. The sight can be purchased with four or six pins and is available with a L.E.D. rheostat light. The sight is made of 100 percent aluminum and was constructed using state-of-the-art box-way construction. In addition, it has more than two feet of extra bright fiber optical material. G5 is known for making products that are as tough as nails, and the Optix Rock is no exception.

Price: $80

Spot Hogg Spark

Spot Hogg makes wonderful sights and scopes. For 2013, they have a new sight called the Spark. This sight is built for the bowhunter and the target archer. The sight comes with crosshairs that light up and are adjustable, so in low light conditions, the crosshairs can be brighter. In daylight conditions, they can be tweaked so they aren't so bright. The crosshairs are available in a wide range of colors, and the frame is made of lightweight aluminum and has a 1 3/4-inch lens that has an anti-scratch, anti-reflective coating.

Price: $190

Toxonics Fletch Z

The new Toxonics Fletch Z comes with many features Mathews fans will appreciate, like a full-size Harmonic Damper, a gridlock mounting bar and a pin guard. The five-pin sight comes with extra-tough Metaloptic pins, and the sight comes with micro-adjustable windage and elevation.

Price: $115

Trijicon AccuPin

Trijicon has built a name in the gun world for making high-quality scopes that are used by hunters and the military. A few years ago, they entered the archery market with a one-pin bow sight called the AccuPin. This year, they made a few changes to this high-end sight. The sight now comes with a larger, easier-to-see bubble level. The sight has nylon patches on all of its adjustment screws, which makes adjusting the sight quick and easy. The features that set this sight apart a few years ago were the AccuDial and Bowsync technology, which allows the bow to be extremely accurate from a few yards out to 80 yards, yard by yard after a few simple adjustments. Each yardage marker is laser etched into the dial so hunters don't have to worry about a piece of tape coming off the dial. The one pin on this sight is powered by tritium and fiber optics which makes it a great sight in low light conditions.

Price: $459

Trophy Ridge React

Trophy Ridge has been in the business of making great sights for a long time. They really had the creative juices flowing when they developed the new React multi-pin sight. This sight comes with a new pin system called Smart Pin technology. You adjust your 20-yard pin and your 30-yard pin, and every other pin is automatically sighted in out to 60 yards. The sight comes with a tool-less adjustment knob. As the knob is adjusted for the first two adjustments, the other pins are automatically adjusted the right amount so they are dead-on. Along with Smart Pin technology, the React is built with Ballistix copolymer that has the strength of aluminum but is 25 percent lighter. The React comes with a sight level and a rheostat light, and it can be micro adjusted. The React is a five-pin sight.

Price: $159.99

TruGlo Carbon XS

Archery gear made out of carbon is becoming extremely popular. Bowhunters love products that are lightweight, super-tough and built to last. The new Carbon XS four-pin sight from TruGlo is made of carbon composite and weighs less than 3.5 ounces. It is coated in TruGlo's soft feel technical coating called Tru Touch, which makes the sight super quiet. The sight has a micro push-button light, extra-long fully protected fibers, a glow-in-the dark shooters ring and a level. This sight will work for both right- and left-handed shooters and comes with a reversible bracket.

Price: $49.99

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