Simply stated, I try and avoid any and all gimmickry when it comes to my equipment. After all, the more stuff you add to your gear, the more chances there is for something you’ve come to rely on to fail when you can least afford failure. And so, for years I avoided using a bow sight that has an electronic light that can illuminate the pins.
There are many reasons for this. For one thing, they are not legal in all states, and since I travel to many states each deer season the thought of having to change sights to meet different state regulations turned me off. For another, many of the lighting systems found on the sights of even five years ago were pretty cheesy. And up until last season I was doing a fair amount of filming for TV, which means you can’t shoot unless there is enough camera light, making lighted pins moot.
Then, a couple of seasons back, I was hunting a favorite spot when a really, really big 8-point walked within five steps of my stand just as it was barely light enough to make out his shape against the ground. Wow, was he big! He hung around my stand for several minutes. At one point he was 20 yards off and all I could see was the outline of his antlers and that white throat patch. There was no way on earth I could see my pins well enough to even think about shooting. I know how big he was because I saw him a half hour later at a hundred yards. At least a 150, maybe more. Right then and there I decided to set up a bow with a lighted pin sight and see how that would work.
What I have found since that time is that having a lighted pin can help you under certain circumstances. In others when I thought they would be a great help, they didn’t work all that well.
Lighted sight pins will definitely help you when hunting from the darkened interior of a ground blind.
When do lighted pins work best? I’ve found their best use is when hunting from a darkened ground blind or sitting in a tree stand where I am covered up in a cave-like hole of dark branches. It may be bright outside, but in the darkened blind without the light to brighten your pins, your sight will be nothing more than a big black blob, and aiming is all but impossible. Where legal I will always use them in a ground blind.
What about during the first and last few minutes of daylight? This is when I thought they would be most helpful in keeping me from letting big bucks walk past at these critical times – just like happened on that morning two years ago.
However, in the past two seasons I have been very surprised by the fact that I have found this is not necessarily the case. Here’s why. Today’s fiber optic sight pins are so good at soaking up light that they are usable in much dimmer light than ever before. I’ve found that they allow me to make shots at reasonable distances in light that is very dim. When it is so dark that the fiber optic pins are no longer bright enough to use yet I can still see deer walking past within shooting range, when I turned on my sight light the deer’s body was nothing more than a dark blob and it was very, very difficult to precisely pick a spot on his chest to aim at. To me, taking a shot under these conditions would have been unethical.
What about lighting up your current sight’s pins? There are some add-on sight lights for those who want to try and attach them onto their bow’s riser or the sight frame and use them with their existing unlighted bow sights. I have tried several of these and, in every case, found them wanting simply because I could never get them attached securely while shining the light directly onto the sight’s top pin. I am sure some of you have done this successfully, but it has never worked for me.
There are many quality bow sight manufacturers who make bow sights with built-in sight pin lights. The TruGlo Brite-Site Extreme is but one example.
Like all things electronic, without power a sight light is useless. That’s why, just like I do with a laser rangefinder, a spare battery for my sight light is always in my hunting pack. I start the season out with fresh batteries, but you know how it is. Cold weather can bleed a battery dry, and switches can get tuned on accidentally – like in your bow case.
I’m also one of the OG’s – Old Guys – out there hunting. Being closer to 60 than 50, my eyes are not quite what they used to be. I am near-sighted and need to wear contact lenses when I hunt. That means when I extend my bow arm to shoot, my sight pins now are just a tad fuzzy. Not bad, just a tad. So when I use large-diameter fiber optic sight pins of at least .029-inch and hit them with a sight light in dim light, they glow enough that they sort of “blob out.” Again, precisely placing them on the “X” ring on a deer’s chest becomes very difficult when this happens. So now I use smaller-diameter, .019-inch pins instead. It makes a difference.
Because all our eyes see things differently, I would recommend that before you buy a bow sight with built-in sight light that you check it out at your local archery pro shop or look at the ones your hunting buddies have. Take them out on a bow in the dimmest light, turn them on, draw the bow and see what they look like through the bow’s peep sight. Can you see them clearly? Can you see the target clearly as well? Will they help you make the shot, and not give you the false confidence that can result in a by-guess-and-by-golly arrow launch?
Whether or not using lighted pins will help you is an individual call. I’ll still use them at times, but never rely on them totally. I’d love to hear about your experiences with them. Why not drop us a note here at www.bowhunting.net and let us know how they work for you?