a 3-pin sight on a bow

Choosing a new sight for your hunting bow can be a little intimidating. With all the options, how do you decide what features you need and want? Visiting your local archery shop will make a world of difference, as you will be able to handle the sights and make a decision that is right for you.

Multiple pins

By far, the most common hunting sight is a multiple-pin sight. They come in three-pin versions, up to as many as seven pins. In general, archers set pins in 10-yard increments. With the speed of today’s archery equipment, there really is not much arc to an arrow from five to 20 yards. Therefore, most archers set the top pin for 20 yards. If you are comfortable shooting up to 40 yard maximum, then you only need a sight with three pins: 20, 30, and 40. That way, you won’t be tempted to take a longer shot, when you aren’t comfortable doing it. If you are an accomplished archer, a sight with 5 pins might be to your advantage — adding 50 and 60 yard pins. For me, a green pin shows up the best in low light conditions, like inside a ground blind. I like my 20-yard pin to be green, 30 to be yellow, and 40 to be red.

One pin adjustable

Gaining popularity every year, the adjustable one-pin sight will make sense for some hunters. It completely eliminates the possibility of using the wrong sight pin you get with a multiple-pin sight. If you hunt a trail, a food source, or a water hole, you know the distance the deer will likely be if there is a shot. You can set the sight to the distance you want, and forget about it. With the sight being just one pin, you can set it for the exact yardage you want. If need to shoot 34 yards, then set your sight to exactly 34 yards and aim in the middle. With a multiple-pin sight you have to hold your 30-yard pin a little high to shoot 34.

Some archers have a tough time aiming at something other than the bull’s eye. Holding the 30-yard pin above what you are trying to hit can be a struggle for some. The single pin adjustable eliminates that. The only real disadvantage of a one-pin sight is what happens if the deer shows up somewhere other than where you expected? Will you have time to use a rangefinder, adjust the sight to the new yardage, and shoot before the shot opportunity passes?


Technology has created some incredible things, as we now have sights with built-in rangefinders. With the simple push of a button, the optic tells us the yardage, and the sight pin to use. If you like multiple-pin or single-pin sights, there is an electronic sight for you. The IQ Define is a multiple-pin sight, with a built-in rangefinder. You set up the rangefinder to your 20-yard pin, draw back, and put the pin on the target. Push the button located on your bow grip, and the yardage will come up on the screen in your sight. Then choose the correct pin and make your shot. It’s a lot less movement than using a separate rangefinder.

The Burris Oracle and the Garmin XERO are basically one-pin sights. When you activate the rangefinder, it lights up the sight for you to use. The Burris has a vertical row of sight lights, and the one that lights up is the one to use. The Garmin has a lens in it, and basically works like a red-dot scope on a firearm. When you push the range-finding button, the aiming dot shows up on the lens as your aiming point.

Challenges to consider

All three of these sights are amazing, however, there are a couple challenges. With technology comes price, units can top $1,000, and you are at the mercy of the battery life, especially in cold weather.

Make sure you adjust your sight using your rangefinder. You will be using your rangefinder when hunting, so sight in your bow to the rangefinder readings. Sometimes the rangefinder will read slightly different than actual measured distances, especially beyond 50 yards. Sight in your pins to what the rangefinder is reading. That way, if the rangefinder says 40, then you know your 40-yard pin is set to the rangefinder.

Today’s archery fear is extremely high quality. No matter which type of sight you choose, all will do the job of getting you on target, but some will fill your specific needs better. Do your research, and choose the type best for you.

Tim Watts

Tim Watts has competed in archery tournaments for over 30 years and has represented Canada at world championship events. He is also a bowhunter. Reach Tim at mail@niteowldev.com.

Originally published in the Nov.-Dec. 2020 edition of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine.

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