As you gaze at wild game through the sights of a firearm or bow, you have probably noticed that your eyes naturally behave a certain way. It could be that you instinctively close one of your eyes without even realizing you’re doing so or why. This behavior is as result of having a dominant eye, which plays a big part in your shooting skills.
Eye dominance is a phenomenon that comes up frequently in shooting sports, but what exactly is it? Although many of us have one eye that is stronger than the other in terms of vision, that is actually not the root of eye dominance. The prescription from your optometrist or the corrective lenses you wear play no role whatsoever in determining which eye to keep open when firing. Instead, eye dominance exists on a neurological level. It is actually a better developed optic nerve that creates a dominant eye, and not all optic nerves are created equal.
When it comes to shooting, be it a long gun, handgun, or bow, determining your prevailing eye can be useful to improve your overall skills. Being a right handed shooter, for instance, does not make you right eye dominant. There are plenty of people who are left eye dominant despite being right handed (or vice versa) which creates a situation known as cross-dominance.
For shooters that are cross-dominant, it is sometimes suggested that you shooting from the same side of your body dominant eye. In some cases, it is tough to make this transition once muscle memory is created. The key is to pursue what is most comfortable for you, both visually and physically, grasping and taking best advantage of the way your eyes operate.
If you cannot overcome muscle memory to transition to the opposite side of your body, it is possible to basically trick your eyes in order to better utilize the non-dominant eye. This can be done by covering your dominant eye with something as simple as a speck of dirt on your shooting glasses. The comfort you may gain from this in terms of being able to use the dominant side of your body will on some level compromise your overall vision, however, by lessening binocular and peripheral vision. This means your sight may not be able to react and focus fast enough to get a shot off in the case of fast, erratically moving game such as dove or pheasant.
Most hunters prefer to keep both eyes open until the time to fire arrives, at which point the dominant eye is then closed and the trigger pulled. This is useful on stationery and slow moving game, but could cost you a miss with any major movement as that split-second during which you close your dominant eye could cause you to come off target. With a shotgun, this isn’t as big of a deal as it would be with a rifle where just a few inches can make the difference between a kill shot and a complete miss.
Something else to keep in mind is that keeping both eyes is useful when it comes to what takes place after a shot is fired. Your dominant eye will determine the location at which aim and fire, but your non-dominant eye will be observing what happens after the shot. That includes processing visual data such as where your arrow went, which you could miss if only one eye is being utilized. Having both eyes open also helps you get a quick idea of the direction in which your quarry fled.
In order to determine your dominant eye, locate an object that is at least 10 feet away from you. Raise your arm and make a circle with your thumb and index finger, using both eyes to position it so you can see the object in the center of the circle. Close one eye at a time and watch to see what the image does. If the object on which you are focused displaces out of the circle when a certain eye is closed, that is your dominant eye. Another method is to follow the same steps but instead of closing either eye, draw your hand slowly back towards your face. You should find that your hand will reflexively favor your dominant eye.
Typically people will find that they are right eye dominant while others may have no dominance at all. If the latter applies to you, stick to shooting from your prevailing side and try keeping the corresponding eye or both eyes open. In a perfect world, your eye dominance should dictate from which side of the body you shoot, but it doesn’t always work that way for everyone. Even so, the better acquainted you are with how your own eyes work, the better your shooting will be in the end.
Take time to experiment with eye dominance in order to find your own personal comfort zone, best enabling you to hit your mark each time you pull the trigger.