Do You Need to Relearn to Shoot Your Bow?

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What’s more important in archery, eye dominance or dexterity? The author changed hands, and is shooting better than ever

At one time, there was a big question in the archery world: Shoot with your dominant hand or your dominant eye? I learned how to shoot a bow right-handed because I’m right-handed. But I had problems shooting accurately from the start. Double vision at full draw plagued me and wreaked havoc with my groups. I’m left-eye dominate, and that always took over while aiming.

I grew so frustrated that I spent a whole summer training myself to close my left (i.e. dominant) eye. It worked … eventually. But it turns out that wasn’t the best solution for me. It was simply a temporary fix for a much bigger issue.

Are you shooting the wrong bow? (Dylan Connally photo)

Making the Switch

Fast forward to 2012. I was tired of not enjoying archery and not being able to see through my peep during the first and last bits of legal shooting light. I finally tried shooting left-handed (with both eyes open) in order to use my dominant left eye.

It felt weird for a while. Learning to pull the trigger with my left hand was easy. The tougher things were the little ones that required repetition, like nocking an arrow, clipping my release and practicing hunting scenarios. Those were all an adjustment, and they took practice and time to perfect.

Fortunately, all that effort was worth it. I could see the target better than ever before. And instead of closing one eye, I could leave both eyes open. My archery performance improved dramatically. Now I don’t lose the field of view. I see clearly at full draw. And when looking through a small peep, my sight picture is no longer blurry.

If this is something you want to try, you can safely practice many of these things indoors (like strapping on a release), and integrate the rest naturally into your shooting practice.

Eyes Opened

Mark Hayes, the design engineering manager at Mathews Archery, also believes in this strategy for fixing eye dominance issues. “Now that we’re looking through smaller peeps at smaller sight housings, having both eyes open is a really big deal,” Hayes says. “First, for light gathering. And second, you can clear things up a little bit better. If you close an eye, your pin is clear [but the target isn’t]. You can’t focus on both at the same time with one eye closed.”

Before making the switch, I couldn’t see clearly, even when using peep clarifiers and the like.

“Closing an eye to shoot strains your face muscles,” Hayes says, noting that this will lead to fatigue and poor form. “So, just wear an eye patch or something, right? That’s not a good solution. Sure, it would work, but you lose so much field of view.”

Not to mention that the target still isn’t in focus. “It’s critical that you have a solid anchor-point, light-gathering, and that both your pin and your target are clear,” he says. “And that can only happen if you have both eyes open.”

Using your dominant eye is the way to go when shooting a longbow or recurve, too. Yes, truly instinctive shooting requires no sights. But it’s still important to use your dominant eye, especially if you shoot both compound and traditional rigs.

For me, I now keep both eyes open and line up my pin with my dominant eye. I’ve sacrificed the dexterity that comes with using my dominant hand to shoot, but exchanging it for better accuracy was absolutely worth it.

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