Bowhunting Trophy Whitetails Chap 3
By Bobby Worthington
Jul 23, 2006 – 12:05:00 AM
SETTING YOUR SIGHTS!
My system, refined over years on the range and in the woods, can help you shoot better.
aspect of shot preparation is relevant only to the archer who uses
sight pins, but that includes the vast majority of bowhunters today. I
also will be explaining my system as it relates to the use of an
electronic rangefinder. However, you also can apply these principles to
any other distance-ranging system you might use.
If we could have a
separate pin for every yard of distance, we could simply range the
target, put the appropriate pin on it and shoot. Of course, that is
neither practical nor necessary. With a target the size of a
whitetail’s kill zone and with the trajectory a compound bow’s arrow
has, we have some leeway in aiming. Our goal is to use as few sight
pins as possible and still have an aiming point for every reasonable
The pin arrangement I use, and the one I will outline
here, is a 5-pin setup. With it you can shoot back to 41 yards. I
believe this is a practical number of pins and a practical maximum
distance for most whitetail bowhunters. When a shooter uses more than
five pins, I feel he will have to take too much time to discern one pin
from another in a hunting situation. And, let’s face it: If we are
continually faced with shots out to 41 yards, we are not setting up our
stands correctly. On the other hand, if a bowhunter does not have a
setup with which he can take an accurate shot out to 35 or 40 yards, he
might miss an opportunity at the buck of a lifetime.
shooting distance is up to the individual archer; however, never set a
pin for a distance past your comfortable range. And, whatever you do,
never in the excitement of the moment extend your range past that last
The sight pin-setting system I am going to lay out will work if
you have a setup similar to what most other modern bowhunters use,
shooting a hunting arrow at 235 to 270 feet per second. In this system,
all sight pins except for the first (top) one are set at 5-yard
intervals. Other than these pins, there is only one aiming reference
needed, and that involves shooting with split pins (using the gap
between two pins as an aiming point).
Now, I realize this is no
revelation to most bowhunters. They have a general idea that if the
deer is 25 yards away, they should have a pin set for 25 yards to aim
with. The same is true for 30 yards, and so on. If the deer is
somewhere between two pin settings, the shooter will put the target in
the gap between those pins. However, this is too general a system, and
it has accounted for far too many missed/wounded deer. I have worked
out a better way.
|Author uses five sight pins for hunting. He can shoot whitetails with confidence out fo 41 yards.
Your Most Important Pin
We will start by looking at the first (top) pin. I use a green fiber
optic as my top pin. In the past I used a red fiber optic here, but I
have discovered that green shows up better in low light.
of this pin is very crucial and is an area in which most bowhunters
make mistakes. A large number of “chip” shots are missed each year
because of the wrong setting of the top pin. Most bowhunters set it to
hit dead on or a little high at 20 yards. They do this to try to get as
much yardage as possible out of the pin.
The top pin is the one most
hunters use (or should use) 90 percent of the time. However, many make
the costly mistake of trying to use it to cover distances from close in
all the way back to 22 yards or even more. You should have an aiming
system for shots that are beyond 20 yards, but do not try to use this
bread-and-butter pin for them. If you set the top pin to cover past 20
yards, that will be all it is good for. It will not work for the vast
majority of your shots without some aiming adjustments, which you might
not think about making when the action is fast and buck fever sets in.
how should the top pin be set to be the most effective for a hunter
shooting from a tree stand? From ground level, set the top pin to hit
dead on at a distance of 16 yards from the target. With your top pin
set at this distance, you will find that somewhere between 8 and 14
yards you will hit 1 to 2 inches high, depending on the speed of your
bow. This will be as high as your arrow will hit above the point where
your pin is “looking,” because the highest point of most arrows’
trajectories is reached somewhere in this distance range.
other hand, if you set your top pin to hit dead on at 20 yards, at the
height of your arrow’s trajectory you could hit up to four inches high.
This in itself could cause a problem, especially if you aim for a mid-
or high-lung shot. When we also consider that most deer start to crouch
upon hearing the release of the arrow, we can see why at close range
bowhunters shoot over a lot of deer. All things considered, then,
it is much safer to set the top pin at 16 yards than at 20. With the
top pin set to hit dead on at 16 yards, I will hit from 1 to 1 1/2
inches low at 20 yards: still well within a deer’s kill zone.
the pin in this manner works great in a hunting situation. With my top
pin set at 16 yards, if the deer is standing at a distance of less than
21 yards I simply put the top pin on the aiming spot (more on this
later) and release. That is a no-brainer for the vast majority of my
shots at whitetails In fact, since I began setting my top sight pin in
this manner, I have not shot over a deer or even hit one high at close
range. Give it a try. I believe you will see an improvement if you have
had trouble hitting high on deer inside 20 yards.
To shoot at a
target 21, 22 or 23 yards away, I use the gap between the first and
second pins. At this short distance, the arrow’s trajectory has no
problem covering a 3-yard distance with one aiming point.
|The authors sight pin arrangment, fiving a shooter precise reference points out to 41 yards.
Your Other Pins
have already set the top pin, which, as noted, should be a green fiber
optic. My next pin, a red fiber optic, is set dead on at 25 1/2 yards,
for use on targets at the distances of 24, 25 or 26 yards. The third
pin again is green and it is set at 30 1/2 yards, to cover the
distances of 29, 30 and 31 yards. The red fourth pin is set at 35 1/2
yards, for the distances of 34, 35 and 36 yards. The fifth (bottom) pin
is green and is set for 40 1/2 yards, to cover shots of 39, 40 and 41
yards. You can see my color pattern: Green is used for the even
yardages (16, 30 1/2 and 40 1/2), and red is for the odd yardages (25
1/2, 35 1/2). This pattern is easy to learn and keeps things simple in
Now let’s look at how and why I set the pins as I do.
You will note that I set them at 1/2-yard marks, not whole yards. Let
me walk you through my pin-setting procedure and explain how and why I
do it this way. We will look at the process as it relates to the use of
an electronic rangefinder, as I believe most serious bowhunters today
Starting at 25 yards from the target (using your
rangefinder), place markers at 5-yard intervals back to your maximum
shooting distance. The 30-yard marker will be placed at the distance
where your rangefinder jumps from 29 to 30 yards. The 35-yard marker
will be set at the point the rangefinder moves from 34 to 35 yards. (On
a tape measure, this will be at the 35-yard mark.) Follow this
procedure for all other distances as well.
At this point, many
bowhunters assume they would simply move back to the 30-yard stake, put
a foot against it and set the 30-yard pin to hit dead on. However, this
is not the most forgiving way to set sight pins. Anywhere from 1 inch
past 29 yards to 1 inch before 31 yards, the rangefinder will read
“30.” That is, anywhere in the 36-inch increment of 30 yards a
rangefinder will read “30.” So, if you are shooting at a target that is
30 yards and 35 inches away, you will use the pin set at the beginning
of 30 yards if that is where you set your sight. Instead of shooting at
a target animal that is exactly the distance your sight pin is set for,
you could be shooting at a target 35 inches farther away.
USING THE SYSTEM
With your sight pins set as described in the text, aiming references are:
UNDER 21 YARDS
1st (top) pin
gap between 1st & 2nd pins
gap between 2nd & 3rd pins
gap between 3rd & 4th pins
gap between 4th & 5th pins
5th (bottom) pin
Why This is Better
I know many of you are thinking that 35 inches is not enough variance
to cause a problem, and I agree. However, understand that we are not
only shooting at the 30-yard distance with the 30-yard pin. We will
also be shooting at a target that reads anywhere from 29 to 31 yards on
the rangefinder. Let’s say that instead of reading “30,” your
rangefinder reads “31.” You will still be using the 30-yard pin. In
reality, the target could be up to 71 inches – nearly two yards –
farther away than your pin is set for if you set the pin at the
beginning of 30 yards and the target is at the last inch or so of the
31-yard increment (just under 32 yards).
Of course, you would have
the same variables at any distance, not just at 30 yards. That 71-inch
difference could really stretch out a pin, especially at longer
distances – perhaps even to the point that it could put the arrow too
low in the target. Fortunately, there is a more forgiving way to set
your sight pins.
Measure 18 inches behind each stake and place
another stake or marker there. This is the point at which you should
set your pins to hit dead on. With the 30-yard pin set at the 30
1/2-yard mark, we can cover from the beginning of 29 yards through the
29-yard increment back to the 31-yard distance with the pin only having
to cover 1 1/2 yards closer than the dead-on setting of 30 1/2 yards.
The same applies for the last 18 inches of the 30-yard increment and
all the way back to the last inch of the 31-yard increment. There
again, only 1 1/2 yards beyond the exact sight sighting will have to be
covered with that pin. As you can see by studying the illustration on
page 38, this pin arrangement is far more forgiving than the
traditional way of setting them at even distances, because it uses pins
set in the middle of the ranges they cover.
After you have all of
the pins set at the 18-inch mark behind the stakes, it is a good idea
to double-check your pin settings. I will use the 30 1/2-yard (third)
pin as an example, but all of the pins will be checked in the same way.
to the beginning of 29 yards (the point at which the rangefinder jumps
from 28 to 29 yards) and shoot three or four arrows at this point.
Next, move back to the end of the 31-yard increment (where your
rangefinder jumps from 31 to 32 yards) and again shoot three or four
arrows. If your sight is set correctly, the arrows shot at the
beginning of 29 yards should be the same distance above the target’s
aiming point as the arrows shot at the end of 31 yards are below it.
is another good reason to shoot at these two distances. While aiming in
this manner, you can see the very highest your arrow will hit on a deer
with this pin and the distances covered with it, as well as the lowest
your arrow will hit.
You might have noted that with my system, the
ranges at which you use split-pins aiming are narrower than are those
at which you aim with the pins themselves. There is a good reason for
this. Split-pins shooting involves some guesswork, in contrast to
aiming with a smaller focal point, such as a pin itself. This is why it
is better not to try to cover as much distance with split-pins aiming
as with pin aiming. It also gives you some leeway for error as to where
the exact middle of the gap is.
One last note should be made in
regard to pin settings. With my system they are not gapped evenly, as
you probably are accustomed to. The gaps will look as they do in the
illustration. If your sights are set correctly, the top pin will be
gapped wider than the others, because it is set to be dead on at 16
yards, not 20 1/2.
|Confidence to take a long shot enabled author to take this 11 pointer.
If you hunt from tree stands, after you have your sight pins set from
ground level as outlined, practice a lot from a tree stand at different
heights and distances. Also, practice shooting with the gap between
pins as much as you do with the pins themselves. Most bowhunters
overlook this key point.
we have our pins set properly, it is time to look at where to aim on a
deer and when to release the arrow. That is the subject of our next