by Joe Byers
Crossbow equipment packages typically include a scope with multiple reticle markings, which can be just as confusing as a multi-pin setup on a compound bow. A red-dot sight with a single dot reticle is ideal for the new archer, hunting in early season when cover is thick and visibility minimized, in low-light situations, and for bowmen and women who wear glasses or may have difficulty seeing multiple reticles clearly.
Last fall, I set up a crossbow with a red-dot sight with a single dot reticle for a deer hunt in the Great Plains. In these wide open spaces, one might think that multiple sight marks would be preferable for long range shots, however, whitetails there, and in most places, migrate to the thick cover of creeks, ravines, and river bottoms.
I posted in one of these locations and friends put on a drive that pushed a 140-class buck into the heavy cover of a flood plain. The buck appeared for mere seconds as it approached and the red-dot sight with a single dot reticle made concentrating on the exact spot incredibly simple. The savvy buck moved through a patch of thick cedars exposing it’s vitals for just a second, yet sufficient exposure for a lethal, double-lung shot.
Red-dot sights usually have little or no magnification, which allows the hunters to see the targeted animal and its behavior plus a choice of a red or green dot for added definition. Additionally, many models offer a rheostat to adjust the brightness of the dot to ambient light. This may seem to be of minimal importance, yet bright sunlight can greatly diminish a red dot at midday while a brilliant aiming point can be distracting in low-light conditions.
One Dot- Multiple Ranges
With a 20-yard sight in, a hunter can concentrate on the low shoulder shot without calculating yardage out to 25 yards, where most hunting action takes place. “I try to convince new crossbow hunters to keep their shot at 30 yards or less,” says Todd Brumley, Publisher of Crossbow Magazine. “A lot of guys want speed and distance from their crossbows, but they don’t realize all the things that can change at longer ranges.”
Data from the Bench
If you like systems that are simple and uncomplicated, the one-dot sight can work for you and here’s how easy it is. I set up a TRUGLO® red-dot sight on a new Horton Legend Crossbow (about 330 fps), one of the easiest installations I’ve ever done. After popping the included rings on the picatinny rail of the bow, I found the scope shot nearly dead-on at 20 yards and the scope adjustments worked exactly as listed. Three arrows later, I was precisely striking at 20.
Of course, this data will change with variance in bow speed and arrow weight, but crossbows shoot exceedingly flat out to 25 yards. My research has shown with a variety of bow and arrow combinations that a 20-yard zero will place an arrow five to six inches low at 30 and the drop-off increases disproportionally from there. I once used this red-dot set-up on a deep-timber elk hunt. I zeroed the bow at 30 yards and planned to adjust the dot placement for 40 and 50 yards, a system that I quickly adapted. If you are a person who gets buck fever, a red-dot sight can greatly simplify the aiming process. Shaking knees are another story.
Using a ballistic rifle target measured in inches for easy calculations, I shot again, hitting the dime-size bull’s eye ¼ inch low. Next, I moved the target to 15 yards and using the same Easton FMJ, 425-grain arrow to control variables, struck ¾ inches higher. Finally, I moved the target back to 25 yards and, continuing to shoot from a bench rest and hit 2 ¾ inches below the 20-yard zero.
From a hunting perspective, this data means that if you aim dead center at a deer’s heart at 20 yards and it suddenly comes five yards closer; you’ll take out the top of the heart. Conversely, a deer that moves five yards farther or if your estimate of range is five yards off, that 20-yard aim will still catch the buck in the pumper. If you hunt deer during the rut, this aiming latitude is critical since rutting bucks seldom stand still.