Simpler is better in hunting sights.    Two years ago, two friends and I booked an African safari, a literal hunt-of-a-lifetime.  Although I had bow hunted in Africa many times, my friends nearly burst with the excitement of a first trip.  We each used a different brand of crossbow, but I strongly suggested that we each use a red dot scope.  We’d be hunting from tree stands or ground blinds at ranges from 15-30 yards (much like whitetail hunting) and I believed that the simplicity of a red dot scope would improve accuracy at times of great excitement.

Perfect Performance

Hunting with Rassie Erasmus near Ellisras, South Africa, we each had five-animal packages that ranged from small, deer-sized animals to those larger than a moose.  During our five days of hunting, we launched 15 arrows and took 15 animals… a perfect score.

One of my trophies was an Nyala, an elusive spiral horned antelope similar, but smaller than a kudu.  When my shot opportunity arose, the animal was walking toward my elevated hide and I had to make a steep, close-range shot.  With a scope or multiple pin sight, I would have had to alter my aiming system and make a series of shooting decisions in a fraction of a second.  Instead, I placed the red dot on the Nyala’s chest and launched.

Why It Works

If you come from a compound bow background, you know that range is critical in archery and most vertical bow hunters use a series of sight pins to compensate for distance.  If you are prone to buck fever or just get very nervous when a big buck steps out, “pin confusion” can be a real problem.  Also, the deer will probably not be an exact distance which means you must shoot at 17, 22, or 27 yards, “guess-timating” which pins to use.

Today’s ultra-fast crossbows shoot with such speed that calibrating sight differentials at normal whitetail ranges is unnecessary.  For example, we sighted our single-dot scopes at 22-yards.   On the range, the bows shot about two inches high at 15 yards and two inches low at 30 yards using a 400-grain arrow and broadhead set-up.

Hunting is a Mental Game 

Realistic practice is the best preparation for hunting success.  If you are a whitetail deer hunter who ambushes from a tree stand, as most do, you need to practice at unknown ranges from elevation.  If you don’t have a back porch or deck, find a steep hill, and use this red dot method until you have confidence in your ability.

The 22-yard sight-in seemed to be the sweat spot for our crossbows, but you can experiment with variations until you learn the performance of your gear at various ranges.  Should a buck present a shot at 40 yards, aiming at the top of the shoulder will provide a lethal hit, yet you want to practice until you are confident you can make that longer shot 100% of the time.

Multiple Dots

“Red dot” scopes are available in red, green, and blue, especially important if you are color blind or need to shoot in low light situations.  Additionally, sights like the TruGlo Triton 30 mm Tri-Color, offer multiple dot shooting points.  If you hunt field edges, spot and stalk, or head to Wyoming for elk, a multiple dot sight will enable you to shoot more accurately at longer range.

Red dot scopes come with and without magnification.  For most close-range shooting from tree stands and ground blinds, a lack of magnification is a plus because you can see the animal in its entirety and those big antlers won’t be magnified.  As you point the bow toward your game, the animal will instantly pop into view where you can see it clearly and concentrate that glowing dot on the kill zone.

Traditional Scopes in Red

TruGlo also sells 4×32 scopes that look and shoot like standard crossbow optics.  You get a 4X magnification as well as crossbow range readings illuminated in red.  The Opti Speed Velocity Calibrated BDC Crossbow scope allows for adjustments of aiming points to the speed of your bow.  If you are shooting beyond 30 yards, it’s easy to get reticles confused and the illumination helps keep your focus.

Whether you go with the simplicity of a red dot or the illumination of a traditional scope, you’ll be at top performance when “seeing red.”

TruGlo makes a series of red dot and illuminated scopes.  Check them out at

Joe Byers
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