One or Both Eyes Open
By Guest Contributor, Jimmy Tippetts (Slim Jim)
When shooting a compound bow, do you use one or both eyes? This topic has been discussed many times, but everyone has different experiences and preferences. There are a lot of variables that come into play while taking aim and trying to hit that bullseye. Wind, rain, light, and pressure to name a few, can affect your shot placement. After this read hopefully some of the information from my personal experiences will help those that are contemplating shooting with both eyes open but are nervous to make that commitment.
For many years I shot with one eye open and it worked well with many animals harvested but many misses as well. Some of those misses coming from a punched shot. Punching a shot comes from trying to make the shot go off as soon as your sight pin reaches it’s mark, and you hit your trigger (forced). Nowadays, since I’ve been shooting with both eyes open, I rarely punch a shot. My personal preference is to shoot with both eyes open and in this article, I’ll explain why.
Your dominant eye has a huge factor in all of this. We all have a dominant eye and you will need to establish whether you are right or left eye dominant. Once you know this it will help with your decision on how you’ll shoot. One way to check what is your dominant eye, is to take both of your hands held out in front of you and create a small triangular hole with thumbs out and fingers overlapping the top of your other hand like in this photo.
Now find an image to focus on like the motion detector that I used in my photo. Once you have something to focus on, close your left eye and focus on your image. Then do the same with your right eye. Whichever eye sees the image fully is your dominant eye. If you are someone just starting out, I’d recommend sticking with a right-hand bow if you are right eye dominant. Or a left-hand bow if you are left eye dominant. If you have been shooting for a while with opposite hand and eye dominance that’s ok too. Being ambidextrous will help if your dominant eye is opposite your hand.
If you are opposite eye dominant you might want to try using an eye patch or something similar while keeping both eyes open. Some people can shoot both eyes open without the use of an eye patch having an opposite dominant eye/hand but that will take some time shooting and adjusting anchors, along with a lot practice. Another thing that you can consider doing if you don’t want to wear an eye patch is to try half squinting. This is where you lazily let your non-dominant eye lay half way closed without squinting. I will sometimes use this method myself when there are poor lighting conditions.
Squinting is something that doesn’t work well for me. A tense facial expression tends to make other muscles at full draw tense as well and sometimes anticipation of the shot. Shooting with a surprise break in our shot is what we all strive for. To get a clean break in your shot, everything needs to be relaxed including your eyes. At full draw, the only muscles that I have engaged are my draw arm scapular muscles (shoulder blade). I’ve noticed that when I have tense muscles in other places like my hands, shoulders, lower back, and even facial muscles, my groups suffer. When I close one eye (squint), my facial muscles tense up, this is one reason that I shoot with both eyes open.
The other reason I shoot both eyes open is that I can let my pin float. Learning to let your pin float is very important if you want to have success with your shooting. When shooting with both eyes open, you’ll notice a “ghost pin” or “double pin” in your view through the peep. This is normal, and if you are not sure that you are using the correct pin, trust me you will be, unless of course you are opposite eye dominant. Just close your non-dominant eye for a second and I’ll bet your pin is right on target. This “double pin” image will keep you from trying to micro adjust the pin on the bullseye and thus allowing you to “float”. When I focus on the target, I begin to slowly squeeze the trigger the entire time I’m pulling back tension. (Back tension or resistance release aids can help achieve the surprise in a shot.)
Something I like to do, is shoot about a dozen arrows at the beginning of every session with a resistance release, then switch back over to my trigger release that I use for hunting. At the end of my shot sequence when the shot breaks, my bow arm stays in upright position, seeing the arrow all the way through my sight to its mark. I keep my bow hand relaxed making sure not to flex or grab my bow. There is something about making that perfect shot that goes off on a surprise that cannot be explained until you have done it.
Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with shooting one eye open, in fact, many professional bow hunters and archers shoot with one eye open. I am in no way trying to tell anyone they should change, but to give each way some consideration and see what works best for you. I have personally found that my shooting is better, consistently having tighter groups when shooting with both of my eyes open. In these two pics of groups at 80 yards, the first one is with one eye open, and the second one is with both eyes open.
As you can see the first one has about an 8” group, and the second one has about a 4” group. Not much of a difference but if you are a perfectionist like myself that is a dramatic difference.
For those that shoot with one eye open, there are two things that I used to always try and remember while shooting that helped me. When there is zero to very light winds, I would focus on the pin and give at least two seconds after sitting on a target before I would begin my shot sequence. If it is windy or there is some pressure (a contest, hunt. etc.) try focusing on the target, that way you’ll let your pin float, otherwise you are more prone to punching the trigger. If you train your brain to float and relax ALL muscles at the break, your groups will tighten up.
Shooting both eyes open might not be for everyone, but if you are interested or even contemplating trying it, give it a shot (no pun intended) and stay with it. I think you might be happier with your long-term results. If you are someone that is having problems with trigger panic or just punching the trigger way too often, give both eyes open a try, you won’t regret it!
You can discuss this article or ask Slim Jim questions here.