Meridian Star

December 20, 2013

How to deal with eye dominance

By Otha Barham / Outdoors Editor
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Now that you have determined which is your lead (dominant) eye, (see last week's column) how can you use that information if you are a shooter?

    If you are right handed and your dominant eye is your right one, all is well with your shooting. However, check the end of this column for an option that could benefit you. Same goes for left handers with left dominant eyes. But if your dominant eye does not match your dominant hand, you need to ensure that this minor problem does not become a major one, as it did with me, when I missed a trophy buck at spitting distance.

    I am right handed and left eye dominant. I discovered this in my 20's following a history of mediocre shooting. I developed temporary blindness in my right eye and was forced to use my left one, thus shouldering my rifle or shotgun on the left. Suddenly my shooting improved measurably. I tested my dominance and discovered my condition. Many folks have this “cross dominance” so don't feel handicapped.

    In my case, I went to the the dove fields often and shot many times to teach my left shoulder/arm to get comfortable. Then my right eye regained sight and so I began shooting right handed again sometimes. I became ambidextrous and what an advantage that is! Especially to dove shooters who can divide the shoulder punishment.

    Ambidexterity sounds terrific, but there are elements, almost requirements, that lead to success. The very obvious one is to force the “off” eye to substitute for the dominant eye when sighting with the “off” eye. Here's how. Use a scope. When looking through a scope, only the eye that aligns with the scope will be used for sighting; that is placing the crosshair on the target. Regardless of which eye peers through the scope, the scope itself utilizes that eye for sighting and all is right with the world. This is why I so easily became ambidextrous. The catch here is forcing the off shoulder and arms to lift and point your gun. The answer is practice. Be determined. Don't give up after a few tries. Persist.

    I have fun with thrown targets at gatherings where manufacturers ask writers to try out new shotgun models. When I notice someone watching, I break a target right handed and then one left handed. If they ask questions I do a little subtle bragging while touting the advantages of shooting both ways.

    A solution to cross dominance when using a shotgun (with no scope) is to cover the dominant eye with a patch, or stick a tab onto your eyeglasses, leaving you with only the eye you want to use available. This latter trick is used sometimes by crossdominant shotgunners shooting thrown clay targets. These two ideas work well, but violate the practice of leaving both eyes open when shooting at game. Here, just realize something has to be sacrificed and using only one eye is better than risking “cross-firing.”

    Let's take a real life example. You are right handed and right eyed. You are seated against a big white oak tree and have called a gobbler half the morning. He has toyed with you until you are calling him uncomplimentary names through clinched teeth. Your gun's butt lies high on your right thigh with the barrel across your left knee. The rascal appears hard to your right. Having planned for such an occurrence and practiced your moves, you wait until the devilish bird moves behind a tree, change the gun around and mount it to your left shoulder while squinting your right eye shut, sight down the barrel and when that sucker steps out you end his little game. Get your wife on the cell phone and tell her to start making the dressing.