Many archery instructors recommend closing one eye during beginner courses to prevent beginners from developing eye dominance issues. On the other hand, in competitive archery events such as the Olympics, archers shoot with both eyes open.
If you are a beginner archer, shooting with one eye closed can help you sight the target better and clearly. Many archery instructors tell beginner archers to shoot with one eye closed at first.
However, being reliant on this technique can be detrimental to your performance in the long run. With one eye closed, you may see the target clearly if you try hard enough, but you may not see the entire arrow route.
Aiming accurately, being aware of your surroundings, and knowing the route of your arrow are only some of the essential things you should remember if you want to excel in the sport. You can do all these when you shoot with both eyes open.
Hence, as you start to get the hang of the sport, you are encouraged to shoot with two eyes open.
To help you better understand the science behind this topic, you will encounter some scientific terms in this article. These terms, such as eye dominance and depth perception, will help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of shooting with one eye closed or two eyes open.
Which eye do you close for archery?
Knowing which eye to close during archery depends on a few factors, such as eye dominance, hand dominance, and how you shoot.
According to a study published in 2011, eye dominance is associated with handedness. Approximately 70% of people’s dominant hand matches their dominant eye. For the other 30%, this is not the case.
In archery, eye dominance affects your accuracy and how you shoot, meaning if your right eye is your dominant eye, you should be using a right-handed bow to see the target from the perspective of your right eye.
However, you don’t have to worry if your eye dominance does not match your hand dominance. For instance, if you are right-handed but your dominant eye is your left eye, your first option is to use a left-handed bow because it matches your dominant eye.
The other option is to wear an eye patch over your dominant eye—in this example, your left eye. By doing so, you will be training your non-dominant eye to aim for the bow.
Furthermore, if you are starting to know how to use a bow and aim with sight, it’s better to close your non-dominant eye. This way, you can focus on the target and your technique. The same principle goes if you are aiming along the arrow.
If you’re unsure which eye is dominant, try doing some eye dominance tests. You can also shoot while closing each eye at a time and decide which eye you’re comfortable opening while doing archery.
As you get familiar with the sport, equipment, and technique, you need to get used to shooting with two eyes open.
Moreover, intuitive aiming means that you’re not using a sight on your bow or don’t aim along the point of your arrow. When you shoot instinctively, you learn to aim at your target by relying on repetition and muscle memory.
To successfully shoot instinctively, you should consider keeping both of your eyes open while shooting. Closing one eye helps you focus on your target better, but since you’re not fixated on a target during instinctive shooting, you have no reason to close one eye.
Why is eye dominance significant in archery?
If you decide to shoot with only one eye open, you should know which of your eyes is dominant. Eye dominance is critical when it comes to accuracy in archery. Some people only have one dominant eye, which means the dominant eye works harder than the other eye to focus on your targets.
Eye dominance determines the perspective from which you see an image. For instance, if your right eye is dominant, you are more likely to close your left eye to get a clearer view or sight.
However, when you leave both eyes open, you can see the view from your right eye’s perspective, while your left eye adds details and depth perception to the image and widens your field of view.
If you shoot with only the non-dominant eye open, it may be difficult for you to aim at the target accurately. When you shoot with the non-dominant eye open, your aim will land to the left or right of the target, but most likely not in the target.
How do you know which eye is dominant?
To know which of your eyes is dominant, you can perform simple tests at home, such as the thumb or hole-in-the-card test.
The thumb test is relatively easy as it only requires your thumb. To do this test, you need to extend your arm in front of you and put your thumbs up in your line of sight. Then with both your eyes open, focus on a distant object and ensure that your thumb aligns with the thing.
Lastly, close one eye at a time. Your dominant eye keeps your thumb directly aligned to the object while your other eye is closed.
Another type of eye dominance test is called the hole-in-the-card test. You need a piece of paper or a card for this test.
In the center of the card, cut a hole approximately 1.25 inches in diameter. Next, extend your arm and hold your card in front of you. Look through the hole to focus on a distant object, and then close one eye at length.
Your dominant eye allows you to see the distant object through the hole in the paper.
Why do experienced archers prefer to shoot with both eyes open?
Shooting with one eye closed may be suitable for training beginners, but for experienced archers, shooting with two eyes open is the way to go. With both eyes open, you will experience less eyestrain or eye fatigue, see the bigger picture, have a better field of view, and estimate distances better.
Experienced archers or bowhunters’ habit of shooting with two eyes open is evident while hunting or during competitive archery events like the Olympics.
Read more to know why you should consider shooting with two eyes open rather than one eye closed:
Experience less eyestrain or eye fatigue
Shooting with one eye closed means that the open eye will take all the strain during the entire hunt or archery session, which could last for hours. In a way, you will be overworking your open eye as it is the only one working to send a clear image to your brain.
As a result, your open eye will experience eyestrain wherein it becomes tired due to intense use. On the other hand, your vision in the closed eye will be blurry at the end of the session or hunt because you have it closed for a long time.
Moreover, shooting with both eyes open will help you prevent feeling discomfort in both eyes during and after a long archery or hunting session. You will also have a wider field of view, but we will discuss that later in this article.
See the clearer and bigger picture
Archery and bowhunting are very visual activities. It would be best if your eyes worked together to see the field and your target with the highest accuracy possible. You can only achieve this if you shoot with both eyes open.
If your eyesight in one eye is worse than the other, both eyes should work together to send the most precise possible image with a broader field of view to your brain.
With one eye closed, you are more likely to see only a portion of the full view, and the target and eyesight will likely be blurry or less sharp.
Estimate distances better
Estimating distances is just as important as knowing where and how to hit your target. Whether in the range or the wild, your target is far away. Fortunately, you can estimate distances better when you shoot with two eyes open.
When estimating distances, you need to know the simple science of depth perception, which is the ability to see things in three dimensions and judge the distance between you and an object.
Depth perception involves a process called convergence wherein both of your eyes see an object from different angles, and then the brain processes these images to form a single image.
Furthermore, when you close one eye during archery and rely solely on one eye, you may have inaccurate depth perception, resulting in less accurate estimates of distances.
You can’t hit your target accurately when you don’t estimate distances correctly. In the wild, this could mean not hitting a prey or hitting it at an unfortunate angle, leaving the prey injured as it runs away to seek cover.
What is the instinctive or intuitive aiming method?
Instinctive aiming refers to the bow sight method wherein you’re not using a sight on your bow or don’t aim along the point of your arrow. You look at your target and shoot. You rely on repetition, muscle memory, and instinct for this shooting method.
Archers, especially hunters, practice the instinctive aiming method for various reasons, such as broadening their horizons and improving their shooting form.
The downside of automatic aiming is that it takes more time to perfect than using sight or aiming along the arrow because you are not using any instrument to help you aim. You rely on muscle memory, repetition, and instinct.
The main goal of instinctive archery is to train your body and mind to be one with your bow and get used to the motions of shooting it. You can shoot and hit your target without overthinking.
Instinctive aiming has a more significant advantage for hunters. In the wild, it’s essential to shoot quickly and efficiently. If you’re already familiar with shooting with your instincts, you look at your target, and you’ll know where to shoot based on your instincts.
If you want to perfect the automatic aiming method, you should first perfect your form. It may be challenging to focus on instinctively aiming when you’re still trying to correct your form from time to time. Once you’ve perfected your form, everything else will come smoothly.
Next, you need to train how to make your shots consistent. You can do this by getting used to the way that you shoot based on your different shooting postures. Practice until you develop muscle memory. As they say, repetition makes perfect.
Lastly, to shoot instinctively successfully, you should consider keeping both of your eyes open while shooting. In doing so, you will have a wider field of view. Since you will not be fixated on a target during instinctive shooting, there’s no reason to close one eye to help you focus on your target better.