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Shooting Your Bow With One Eye Versus Two

by Bill Winke   |  September 8th, 2011 10

I will start out by saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Don’t mess with a winning formula one way or the other. However, for those who are just starting out and looking for some input on which method to use, here are some suggestions shooting your bow with one eye versus two.

There are few things more important during the shot than your sight picture. And there are few things that have more influence on your sight picture than your eyelids. Sounds crazy, but you have several options here: you can shoot with both eyes open, with your non-dominant eye fully closed or with your non-dominant eye partially closed (squinted – that is what I do).  Here are a few tradeoffs to consider when deciding which style to choose.

There is no question that shooting with both eyes wide open produces the widest field of view, but there is a potential downside. If your aiming eye is not significantly more dominant than your other eye, your eyes will fight to determine which one controls the sight picture. The result: as situations change, your sight picture will change too.

Dominance becomes an even larger problem when the light is low and the restriction of your peep sight slightly diminishes the acuity of your aiming eye.  At times like this, it is very common for the non-aiming eye to seize total control of the sight picture. When that happens you’ll miss by a mile. You can learn a lot about visual acuity and dominance by practicing under low light conditions for a couple of days.

This the way Randy Ulmer shoots. In fact, when he competes he uses a blinder for his left (non-dominant) eye. His goal is to eliminate all possible variables in the sight picture, and by simply closing his non-aiming eye while shooting, he removes it from the equation. Sure, he gives up some field of view, but he says that he is so focused on the pin and the target that he really doesn’t want to be distracted by anything on the periphery of his sight picture anyway.  He doesn’t consider the lost field of view to be a negative.

This is the way I shoot. I have found a good compromise by squinting my non-aiming eye.  This permits a fuller field of view while greatly reducing the acuity and possible dominance of the non-aiming eye. A possible lack of consistency is my only concern with this style of aiming but I have done it for 20 years, so it just happens naturally now.  I never even think about it.

It will work fine as long as you always squint the same. Ulmer states that at tournaments he has seen shooters whose aiming style changes as they get tired or when they’re under pressure.  When your sight picture changes, your accuracy has the potential to change too.  So if you use the squint method, you have to be more diligent to be sure you are doing it the same on every shot.

There are a lot of ways to aim, and my choice is but one of them.  In the final analysis, consistency is the key to all aspects of archery and aiming is no different.  After you’ve experimented to find the best aiming style for you; keep it exactly the same on every shot.  Be conscious of your eyelids; these simple shutters can have a major effect on your accuracy.

  • Bob Romanowski

    There is a fourth choice. " Dominate eye closed" That's what I do. I'm right handed and left eye dominate. I have always felt uncomfortable shooting left handed, so I chose to shoot right handed (with gun and bow) using my right eye. I just close my left eye.

    • isiah

      that is how I am..I used to be right eye dominant but then my eyes switched…and now I am left eyed dominant….when I shoot my bow I shoot right handed and close my left eye completely, I just have to make sure and keep it closed the whole time or it will mess me up

    • Cameron Rollins

      I just found out yesterday that I'm left eye dominant and I shoot right handed. I then shot left handed all day and it just felt….odd!!!! I can't change. I love my right handed bow.

  • Andy Rohn

    Bob- I think it was assumed that "Dominant eye" refered to the aiming eye.

  • Jack Galligan

    Hi Bill, Really enjoy your,and my hero Randy Ulmer's insight. Here's a slightly different way, a few years ago, I had a cataract in my right dominate, couldn't tell which eye I was looking at the target with. The solution was a red dot of a material used for printed circuit layouts called rubielith. I placed it on my glasses inline with my left eye such that when I was at full draw, my right eye saw the pin and target and my left eye saw red and and the feild of view around the target, or deer. Shot 3D this way for years until I had the cataract repaired, I'm 76 now and starting to have these problems again. I going to go back to the red dot for deer season, and maybe even for 3D after hunting season.

  • LukeOZ

    As a boy of 11, some 20 years ago, I started shooting recurves and compounds with my dad. Being righthanded, my parents got me righthanded bows. No one knew I was left-eye dominant. Target shooting was all instinctive, even my PSE compound didn't have sights on it back then.

    The result was that I was terribly inconsistent. I could get a few consistent shots in, then I would have a flier that completely missed the bale and sailed into the back lot. It was terribly frustrating.

    Then after grad school I got back into shooting. First with a pistol, and my pistol instructor had us deternine eye dominance, and I came out strongly left-eye dominant. The light came on. I started shooting the pistol with my right hand, but lining up the sights with my left eye, both eyes open. I bought an air pistol and practiced at home until I got very good at 20 yards indoor with a very small target.

    I went to the nearest archery pro-shop, and demo'ed a lefthanded bow. The biomechanics were so natural–holding the bow in my right hand mimicked the pistol really well. Then the sight alignment came super easy. I was drilling arrows in tight groups within my first half-hour of shooting! It was thrilling, so of course I sought out a good quality left-handed bow. I got a great deal on craig's list, and have really been enjoying shooting. Within a single season of shooting, I've improved quite a bit, feeling comfortable enough to shoot a low-brace bow that is typically considered "unforgiving," and getting tight groups even out to 50 yards when my form is reasonably good.

    So I'm thrilled to have discovered both-eye open shooting. I feel like my cross-dominance is actually of benefit and has made me a natural archery shooter. Wheras I struggle with the rifle, because I shoot it right handed, with my dominant eye closed. I tried shooting lefty, but my consistency went in the crapper.

    With the bow, I found improvement in sight picture using a large peep that is open at the bottom to let in a lot of light. It doesn't do wonders for consistency, but that's already OK, so I don't mind having to work harder on consistency in order to have a better sight picture.

    The big challenge for me has been that my dominant eye is very strong, at about 20/15, but my nondominant eye is weaker, at 20/30ish. So while my sight picture is clear, everything else is blurry, making on-the-fly distance estimation dodgy at best. It takes me what feels like forever to estimate distances. When I take my time, I do well with it, but snap distance judgements tend to be dodgy at best.

    My next goal is to improve my vision in my non-dominant eye through eye exercises or possibly corrective laser surgery.

    Experimenting with vision, sight picture & alignment, peep size, type, and location, eye dominance–these are some of the most rewarding things you can do as an inexperienced archer, in my estimation, because having efficient and repeatable sight alignment, good sight picture, and accurate distance estimation are all critical visual functions in archery.

  • chris

    Lost my right eye during the Iraq war and now have to shoot with my left eye, I'm new to bow hunting and was wondering if i should get a peep sight installed.. i also have no depth perception does any one have any advise? the only thing i can think to help is to put yard markers around my tree stand.

  • matt

    one thing to add is something i experienced recently. it was getting late so i was hunting under low light conditions. i had a doe coming in. i have been shooting with one eye open since i can remember. as she aproached i could see her clear as can be. raised the bow and took aim at 20 yards. i couldn't see anything through the peep. opened both eyes and there she was plain as day. a quick check of the peep showed it was clear. aimed again and again i couldn't make out the deer. so i opened my non dominant eye in a semi squint and could see her perfectly as well as a good sight picture. took the shot and tagged her a half hour later. i believe that having both eyes open lets in more light and will always give a better sight picture than only one eye. try it and see if it makes the same difference for you. i think you'll be convinced to make the change a habit for future hunts.

  • zach

    thanks for information but prefer to shoot with one eye closed and one eye open

  • Craig Sherman

    My dominant eye is my right eye, but I shoot lefthanded. Should I still try to use my dominant eye when aiming? Being a complete novice, it feels more comfortable using the non-dominant eye (left) due to head position, but which will (should) produce the best results? Thanks.

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