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 Sights and Rests

So you found a bow you like and figured out what arrows to shoot, but you’re not confident enough to go out into the woods with only your instincts to guide your shot and your practice on the range is evidence that’s not a good idea.  What now?  How are you going to ensure you make the critical shot?  Look no further than the accessories available to the modern hunter. 

                Sights and rests are two of the most crucial accessories for those who do not choose traditional bow hunting methods.    Again the list of products and suppliers for both of these items is nearly endless all of which require consideration based upon ones shooting style.  The key element in choosing each of these accessories is quite simply which one works for you?


                The categories for the different types of sights are varied depending on your perspective on what sights are important. There are about seven different types of sites that are available, but this article will only focus on the basic and most used.  Sights like the laser, scope sights, red dot and 3-D while useful are not as popular or have other issues that make them less desirable for hunting.  The most frequently used types of sights include the fixed pin sight, moveable pin sight and pendulum sight.

                Fixed pin sights are a series of pins that can be arranged to designate different ranges.  The fixed pin sights come in a variety of styles usually containing several pins with colored heads inserted in a track.  The pins can be adjusted for different ranges  (usually in multiples of 10 yards each).  Fixed pin sights can have up to seven pins allowing for a wide range of settings and most work best when used with a peep sight.  While the pins can be set to any yardage the shooter desires multiple pins can be somewhat cluttered when viewing through a peep site, especially when the pins are set for only a few yards difference.  This can cause some overlapping in pins and make it hard to see or located the correct pin and line it up with your target.     

                Moveable pin sights typically will consist of a single pin that is used for all ranges.  The pin can be adjusted to a specific range with a quick turn of a knob or other simple gears before each shot.  This type of sight provides a less cluttered view but also allows for yardages that the fixed pin sight cannot.  As with the fixed pin sights these are often best used in conjunction with a peep site.   However if your target is constantly moving you may have to make several adjustments before taking your shot. 

                Pendulum sights may not be as popular as fixed or moveable pins, but have a unique characteristic that makes them valuable for the tree stand hunter.  While tree stands have helped hunters to be more successful, the sometimes sharp downward angle has caused some issues with targeting.  Pendulum sights were created to help resolve this problem.  Pendulum sights use a single pin on a hinge that compensates for the downward angle of your bow.  As the angle of bow points downward the sight makes the appropriate adjustment.    Since pendulum sights were developed to help compensate for the angles of elevated shooting their reliability for longer shots or shooting from the ground, where the bow is more level, decreases dramatically. 

                Additional sights such as the laser sights , scoped sights, red dot and 3-D are available but have not gained a lot of popularity among bow hunters due to specialty purposes, complications or inefficiencies in these sights.  For example laser sights failed to target the game properly when a branch would impede the laser. 


                Most sights are made from either aluminum or plastic to prevent adding additional weight to your bow.  Modern pin sights are usually surrounded by a guard or ring to prevent the pins from being bumped out of position during your trek into the woods and back. Pin sights are used in coordination with a peep sight which come in a variety of shapes and are placed between the strands of the bowstring.  When at full draw the shooter can look through the peep site to locate his pin and then place it on his intended target. 

Some of the latest technology has introduced the fiber optic pins to the bow hunter’s arsenal.  Fiber optic pins gather external light and focus it toward the pin head allowing the hunter to more easily locate the necessary pin to target his prey.  While the this new technology certainly can be advantageous in the early morning and late evening hours of hunting hunters should always be conscious about making a quality shot as well as state regulations regarding legal hunting hours. 


                Some sights may incorporate the following additional accessories or they may be optional depending on the sight you may be looking to purchase, but they are worth mentioning because they can add additional value by increasing your accuracy. 

                Bubble levels ensure that you have not applied torque (rotation) to your bow as you draw it back.  Changes in form will always have an effect on your shot and in the heat of the moment when staring down at the big buck you may not be aware that you’ve twisted your wrist in order to get off a quick shot.  Bubble levels help ensure that your bow remains level.

                Windage settings are available on some models of sights.  They allow for wind adjustments and are more often used with target and competition shooters, but for the beginning hunter it might be a little over the top.  Making constant adjustments is not the ideal situation when staring down at a prize buck, but if you’re a technology junkie looking for the ultimate sight, like some of us, it is available to you.


                It simply cannot be said enough that there is no right or wrong answer here (or with any other equipment) when choosing what rest to use.  You will find arguments for and against the different types of rests and qualified advocates for each one.  Perhaps the greatest advancements in bow technology  have been the development of the arrow rest which has led to more stable and accurate arrow flight. 

There is one important aspect to keep in mind regarding arrow rests that can make a difference in the choice you make when purchasing a rest, fingers or release?  Because of the dynamics of arrow oscillation some rests are designed specifically to compensate for finger shooters and some are designed for release shooters.  Shooting with a release creates more vertical oscillation than finger shooting which creates more horizontal oscillation.  While you will be able to find rests that accommodate either style of shooting in most (if not all) of the  major rest categories be sure you check with your local provider that the rest suits your shooting style before committing to the purchase. 

                The sole purpose of an arrow rest is to ensure that the arrow remains in proper shooting position prior to the release of the string and maintains the trajectory as directed by the shooter.   There are several schools of thought as to how this can be achieved and again we find that what works for some does not work for others.  The most common forms of rests used today fall into three primary categories: capture, fall away and other or specialty rests.

                Capture rests have quickly become accepted by most new hunters, beginning archers and even some veteran hunters because of their reliability to hold the arrow in position.  Capture rests are designed to maintain contact with the arrow securing it in place until the shooter releases the string.  Capture rest designs have either a multi-point contact (usually three) or complete contact surrounding the arrow with very fine nylon fibers that holding the arrow in position.  Once the arrow is placed on the rest and nocked on the string the arrow remains securely in position despite wind or elemental interference. 

                Because of this type of design however, these rests maintain a constant connection to the arrow throughout the shooting cycle.  Arguably this is a concern for hunters in that the constant contact has the potential to alter the flight of the arrow.  Despite this possibility you can find numerous testimonies of veterans and amateurs how this type of rest has increased accuracy and tightened groupings.  Perhaps the greatest concern (complaint if you will) regarding the capture rest is that fletching has to be constantly replaced due to wear from the contact it makes with the nylon fibers.  Perhaps a small price to pay for making your big buck shot count. 

                The opposite school of thought comes from the group of hunters and archers who use the fall away arrow rests.  These rests are designed to hold the arrow in place until the shooter releases the string.   Once the string has been released the fall away rest “falls away” eliminating contact with the arrow and any potential fletching contact which may alter its flight. 

                Since this rest is designed not to impede the arrows flight in any way it does not secure the arrow in place like the capture rests do.  The potential for these types of rests then is that the arrow may at some point come off the rest whether by shooter error or other element.  Such problems can be problematic while at full draw.  As such, experienced hunters who are already conscious of these issues may find these arguments negligible. 

                While there are other types of arrow rests available they seem to be fading from popularity (mostly because of new technology) or falling into a more specialized market (such as 3D target shooting).  Shoot through arrow rests were a popular type of rest that held the arrow in place and allowed one of the arrows fletching (usually the cock fletch) to pass between the two fork tines that held the arrow in place.  While some of these rests can still be found the development of helical and off set fletching (to create spiral rotation) can be impeded when attempting to pass through the forks of the shoot through rest.  Pressure plunger rests are still available for those who opt for finger shooting.  The pressure plunger rest is primarily designed to reduce the horizontal oscillation of a finger released arrow by applying pressure along the length of the arrow as it leaves the bow.  These too are becoming more obsolete as hunters and archers move toward using releases instead of fingers.

                Whatever your tendencies may be in your shooting style you should be able to find a sight and an arrow rest to compliment it.  It may take some time to find the right combination, but with the variety of sights and rests available to the average hunter you can find the right accessories to ensure you can make that critical shot.

Happy hunting!