Archery – Which eye should you close when shooting?

This was my first question at my first archery class. I asked the coach which one was the right one to close. Since I saw people closing different eyes I was absolutely confused. Some even seemed to have both eyes closed since they were doing their best to focus on the target. You can imagine my surprise when my coach answered the question.

The truth is NONE. Neither your left nor your right. Most professional archers shoot with both eyes open. There are some archers that choose to close the non-dominant eye, either choice have different benefits and problems. It is all up to you.

Keep reading to know more about the differences between closing one eye or non. But most importantly, you will learn how to identify your dominant eye.

Advantages of shooting with both eyes

You might wonder why most archers shoot with both eyes open, and why coaches preferred to teach them this way. There are several reasons for this; first of all, it produces the widest field of view available. You should always know your surroundings at all time, be aware if there is anyone about to get in the way of your shot.

We used to practice in a huge university, next to their football fields. One day we saw a ball pass right in front of our targets. Two of the most experienced archers screamed “Stop! Bows down!” Thankfully the were paying attention to the entire shooting range, because a kid came after the ball, just a few seconds after the ball appeared. Having both eyes open, for me, can save lives.

Another important point of having both eyes open is about eye fatigue. Training requires shooting for several hours, since competitions will last also for hours. Your muscles must get ready, but also your vision. With such a big load of work for just one eye, your sight will get tired and you might have a little headache. Of course, some archers feel a lot more comfortable with one eye closed, so it is something you must try. In my personal experience, I got a horrible headache by the 6th round of shooting.

Another thing to keep in mind is your depth perception. Some studies showed that having one eye closed reduces your perception of the depth of field. This means that it won’t be that easy for you to calculate the distance from the target.

Watchout when shooting with both eyes open

It is true that for most people it will be uncomfortable at first. Mainly because shooting with both eyes open makes you lose focus on the sight of your bow, since it’ll be on the target. That is uncomfortable when you’re getting started but trust me, it is for the best. Most people overcome this discomfort in the first week. Just be patient.

What is the Dominant Eye?

Few people are aware of which one is their dominant eye. When shooting anything, from guns to archery, it is extremely important you are aware of which one is your dominant eye. In simple words, it is the eye where your brain relies the most to construct the image. This one is also called “The strong eye”, normally it is the same one as your dominant hand. But there are exceptions to this rule, for example, I’m right-handed but my basketball coaches trained me to be ambidextrous. I am able to do everything with my left hand, but I rather and tend to rely on the right one. At my first archery class, imagine my surprised when they test me, and it turned out my dominant eye is the left one.

How do I know which one is my dominant eye?

This is a simple experiment, just don’t cheat. First make a small hole to look through by placing your outstretched hands together, thumbs overlapping, and open palms like in the picture above. Then, with both eyes open focus on an object that fits in that hole and look at it through your hands. Once you visualized the object, without moving your head or hands, close your right eye; then open it and close the left one. You’ll notice that the object stays in the same place with one of your eyes and disappear with the other. The eye that keeps the object in the hole, the eye that doesn’t modify your view, that one is your dominant eye.

There is also a video from a doctor explaining the step by step on how to do it yourself.

Does my dominant eye affect my shooting?

Yes, it does. I was instinctively shooting with the right hand, and when they tested me, they told me to start shooting with the left hand. Since my view of the target will be based on my left eye, my arrow released from my left side to avoid any mistakes or movement. Regardless of your decision between shooting with both or one eye open, you must shoot with the same hand as your dominant eye. In my case, I hold the raiser with my right hand and pull the string with my left hand, this means I am a left-handed archer.

Closing the Non-Dominant Eye to shoot

Some archers decide to close the non-dominant eye to shoot. Like I said before, you can do this if you feel comfortable. It is not my recommendation, but it is still a choice. There is an old saying “If it is not broken, then don’t fix it”, I am not really a fan of this phrase because I believe there is always room for change and improvement. But if you have already learned to shoot like this, there is no problem keeping it that way.

Nevertheless, if you are about to learn or if you’re in your first years, I strongly recommend you to challenge yourself and learn to shoot with both eyes open.

Pros of shooting with one eye closed

  • It allows you to have the sight a little more present in your view when focusing on the target.
  • It keeps distractions away from your field of view.

Cons of shooting with one eye closed

  • Eye fatigued. Like I explained before, your dominant eye will carry a lot of job for the entire practice or competition.
  • Headache. Some people experience this like me.
  • Loss of depth of field. This is a huge problem if you’re hunting or moving around different targets.
  • Reduced field of view or peripheric vision. A huge problem if you’re afraid of someone getting in front of you.

Now you know how to determine which one is your dominant eye and your shooting hand. Remember it is very important to be aware of this before you begin your archery training, that way you won’t train with the wrong hand.

Having said that, I think the most important part, is that you know the differences about shooting with one or two eyes. I have made my recommendation very clear, since I am afraid of someone crossing my line of fire when I release the arrow. But the most important thing is that you have all the information to make up your mind and train to become the best archer you can.

Now test yourselves and start practicing.

Happy Shooting!