Setting bowsight pins is a personal decision, not unlike loading a dishwasher. Just because I’m very specific about the way I arrange plates, bowls, cups and silverware in my dishwasher doesn’t mean I think you must do it the same way.

When it comes to setting the yardages on a fixed-pin bowsight, if you have system that works well for you, then I say don’t change it. I strongly recommend the KISS principle of “keep it simple, stupid,” so if you have a successful method, then stop reading. However, if you aren’t quite satisfied with the results you’ve been getting when targeting whitetails and other big game, then I have a suggestion for switching up your bowsight yardage setup.

Let’s assume you shoot a five pin bowsight. If so, chances are very high that you arrange the pins in the following manner: 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards. Is this wrong? No. That said, there’s a reason why I don’t, so let me explain my system and then you can choose to ignore, modify or adopt it.

On my five-pin bowsight, I arrange my pins for 15, 25, 30, 35 and 40 yards. Immediately you’re asking, “What about ranges beyond 40 yards? Do you use your 40 pin and then aim on a buck’s backline, or even higher?”

No. I won’t shoot beyond 40 yards at an animal. Period. As a Midwest whitetail bowhunter, I think the chances of a deer moving at 40 yards and farther when an arrow is in flight are too great to justify risking a shot. I don’t care if it’s a Booner whitetail feeding totally relaxed, broadside, in a brassica field at 50 yards on a dead-calm afternoon — the buck wins, I lose, and the arrow stays on my string.

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FYI/fact: During my 45-year career of bowhunting whitetails, the longest shot I ever attempted on a deer is 25 yards (one animal). Not counting that deer, my longest shot had been 20 yards (two animals). The vast majority of my whitetails have been arrowed from 10 to 17 yards.

Okay, so why do I arrange my pins for 15, 25, 30, 35 and 40 yards?

I like a 15-yard pin because the vast majority (95%) of my shots come from 10-17 yards. I don’t have to think about aiming a bit low with a 20-yard pin for closer shots; I put the 15-yard pin on the spot I want to hit and then release the string. On my top pin, I prefer a large .029-inch-diameter green fiber-optic because it’s the brightest in low light for my eyesight. Experiment with what pin size and color works best for you, but I’d bet my best whitetail property that the same is true for you.

My remaining four fiber-optic pins vary in color (25 red, 30 yellow, 35 red, 40 green) and they are smaller in diameter, .019 inches. I like the smaller pins for longer range because they cover less of a target’s bull’s-eye.

You’ll notice the yardage gap between my top two pins is 10 yards, then 5 yards for the remaining pins. The reason is this system does a better job of tracking an arrow’s trajectory; arrow drop becomes greater at longer ranges, regardless of your bow-and-arrow setup. I draw only 54 pounds, and with a relatively modest draw length of 27.5 inches, and a heavy arrow/broadhead combo. With my specs, it’s critical to know the exact distance to my target at distances greater than 25 yards or I’ll strike too high or low.

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I’ll gap shoot — bracket the bull’s-eye or an animal’s chest between two pins — for 27 yards, or 33 yards, etc., and I’ll make a killing shot. I’d rather bracket with two pins that are only 5 yards apart than 10 yards because it allows me to be more precise with my aiming. FYI: I also have and hunt with a compound that features a bowsight with only three pins; I have those set for 15, 25 and 30 yards.

This summer I encourage you to experiment with setting your long-range pins in 5-yard increments instead of the more common 10-yard increments. It works for me and I think it will for you, too.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>