Tips on Sighting in Compound Bows

by Robert Preston
Compound bows use multiple pins at different lengths for aiming.

Compound bows use multiple pins at different lengths for aiming.

Compound bow sights are a basic method of sighting in a bow that allows for shooting over a wide range of distances. Two or more pins are attached to a bow, then sighted in at the range to be accurate at specific distances. Once the pins are properly sighted, a hunter can estimate the distance to his target in the field and adjust accordingly to score a hit.

Bow Basics

A consistent shooting mechanism is essential for accurately sighting in a bow then using it in the field, as inconsistency in your routine will lead to inaccurate clusters. The bow should be held in an extended arm, and strung with a string which can be comfortably pulled back without causing strain that causes the lead arm to move around. If you can not pull your string back while remaining stable, a lower pull string is required.

Pin Distances

Determining the right distances to sight your bow in at depends on what you are hunting. The best way to sight in a bow is to determine the average distance you will be shooting at, then sighting in pins so that this distance is in the middle of the shortest and farthest pin on the bow, so you have a range when in the field.

Test Shooting

You should not rely on a single bow shot to determine in which direction the pins on a sight need to be moved when sighting in a bow, as a simple error in the release can alter the shot. Instead, fire a cluster of three arrows, then determine the average position of the arrows. This will more accurately represent where your sight is currently aligned.


Once a cluster has been shot and averaged, you must compare where the shots you took landed to the target you were attempting to hit. To make an adjustment to the pin, by first loosening the nut on the pin then moving it, you want to move the pin in the direction that you need to move the target to meet the actual point the arrows are hitting. If your arrow cluster is centered 2 inches right and 1 inch below your target, you would move the pin slightly right and down.

Shooting Between Pins

Hunters use multiple pins on a bow to ensure that they have their bow sighted at a variety of distances; however, you can't sight in every distance or your sight will become an unreadable cluster of pins. Instead, pins should be used to denote every 10 to 15 yards of distance. When shooting in the field at a target that is between two pins, the hunter picks a point between the pins on either side of that distance, skewing toward the distance the target is closer to.

Photo Credits

  • Men bow shooting. Amateur competition in the sanatorium image by Igor Zhorov from Fotolia.com