Shooting With Both Eyes Open - July 2009

Question: I close one eye when shooting, but friends tell me to keep both eyes open. I have tried that but can't make it work. Is it crucial to keep both eyes open? Can I be just as accurate shutting one eye as those bowhunters who keep both eyes open? -- Kris Chad Haggerty, Kennewick, Wash.

I think I answered this question in a previous Bow Corner, but I will hit it again and provide another perspective because this is a very common question.

When I shoot with both eyes open, I see two sight pins. Subconsciously, I know which one to use (the one on the left, in my case). My eyes are of nearly equal dominance so my situation may be different from yours. I hunted that way for a few years, but after doing some low light practice, I realized that I had to make a change. When the light was low, the peep reduced the visibility of my dominant eye enough that the non-dominant eye took over and that caused me to shoot way to the left. I decided the wide field of view I got with both eyes open wasn't worth the risk of sketchy low light shooting.

For the record, I now squint my non-dominant eye. Therefore, I get the best of both worlds. I get the benefit of a fuller field of view when shooting at game so I can time my shots for openings. And I get the restriction necessary when shooting through a peep in low light so that my non-dominant eye doesn't take over.

Some great archers, such as Randy Ulmer, always close their non-aiming eye to eliminate any possibility of interference. In the rest of this section, I will elaborate on the trade-offs of the various aiming styles.

As stated, the main reason to keep both eyes open when aiming is so that you have a wide field of view. This makes it much easier to monitor the progress of the animal as it approaches your shooting lane as well as other animals in the area that might move into the sight picture unexpectedly. If the target animal is walking, it really pays to keep both eyes open at least until you start placing the pin on its chest.

The greatest potential risk to aiming with both eyes open is the chance of getting a mixed sight picture caused if your eyes are nearly equal in dominance (or worse yet, your left eye is dominant and you're shooting right-handed). This is especially troublesome as the light wanes at the end of the day and the peep sight further restricts light to the normally dominant eye causing the non-dominant eye to control the sight picture.

I spend many evenings leading up to the season shooting right at last light to make sure that my aiming and sighting system works well in these conditions. I recommend you do the same. If you have access to a range near your home, make a point of shooting several evenings right at the end of legal shooting time (in most states it is a half hour past sunset). If you get a mixed sight picture, squint or close your non-aiming eye. You may also learn that your peep sight is too small or that your sight pins aren't bright enough. It is better to learn this while practicing when you can still do something about it rather than when you find yourself aiming at the buck of a lifetime.

If you see two pins when you aim with both eyes open, you should squint or close your non-dominant eye to keep from creating confusion. However, if you choose to squint you need to do it the same way every time. I normally squint my left (non-dominant eye) because my eyes are of nearly equal dominance.

Closing your non-dominant eye altogether is the most precise way to aim because it removes any doubt about which eye is in control. One hundred percent consistency is the result. This is the method preferred by Full Draw columnist Randy Ulmer. Randy is arguably one of the best with a compound bow that ever lived so it is hard to argue with his perspective.

The key, as usual, is practice until you find the system that produces the best combination of visibility and consistency for you.

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