Should you Shoot a Bow with both eyes open?

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Whether you’re brand new to archery or you’re a seasoned shooter, you might be confused about whether you should be shooting a bow with both of your eyes open or not. I started shooting when I was 12 years old and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really learned and understood what eye dominance was and how it affected how I shoot a bow.

If you shoot your bow with your right hand and are right eye dominant (or visa versa) then it would be recommended to shoot your bow with both eyes open for increased field of view. It’s important to determine which of your eyes is the dominant one. If you are cross eye dominant you’ll likely need to close one eye.

How to determine your eye dominance for Archery

I’ll explain more about why knowing which of your eyes is dominant is important in a moment. First lets conduct an easy test known as the Miles Test to show you how to determine YOUR dominant eye. Follow these steps:

  1. Extend your arms out in front of you and form a triangle with your hands open palms facing away.
  2. Center a distant object in the center of your hand triangle (10 or 12 feet away is fine).
  3. Close your left eye, and then your right eye and take note of what happens to the object.

If when you close your left eye (leaving the right open) the object in your hand triangle doesn’t move, then your right eye is dominant. Likewise, the opposite is true, if when closing your right eye the object remains in view then you are left eye dominant

There are a small percentage of people (my wife included) that will do this exercise and the object either doesn’t move or moves very little when closing either eye. This is generally considered to be mixed ocular dominance, meaning that your dominant eye changes depending on the task it is performing.

How Eye dominance affects whether or not you can shoot with both eyes open.

So, now that you’ve undoubtedly tried the Miles test I’ve explained above you should know which eye is your dominant one. I’d be willing to wager you also know which hand is your dominant one. Are they the same, or are they opposite?

A larger percentage of people will have the same dominant hand and eye. However, you may be like me and be cross dominant. I’m a righty and have a left dominant eye.

These days most people teaching archery will agree that you should shoot a bow that matches your eye dominance. Why?

Because it means you can keep BOTH eyes open!

Your dominant eye will automatically take over and allow you to aim through your sight and at the target. This is not the case if you’re cross eye dominant, like me. If I keep both eyes open it causes all kinds of accuracy issues.

Can a Left eye dominant person shoot a right handed bow?

Absolutely. I learned in the old school, on my own. That means I picked up a right handed bow and started shooting. However, without even realizing why, I always closed my left eye when aiming. Later in life I learned that it’s because I’m cross eye dominant. So in my case, I actually can’t keep both eyes open when I shoot.

In theory I would have been better off learning on a left handed bow. BUT, it’s not a requirement. In fact, I’ve shot very well closing one eye my entire life, taking a few trophies in archery competitions even. Also, I’m VERY right handed and I think learning to shoot lefty would have been a struggle for me, you may or may not experience the same thing.

What’s the advantage to Shooting with both eyes open?

With both of your eyes open while aiming your bow you will have a significantly larger field of view. This is helpful particularly when bowhunting, but is also advantageous for target shooting as well. It also takes both eyes for proper interpretation of distance.

There is a downfall though, if your eyes are fighting for dominance it may prove difficult to keep both eyes open, especially in low light conditions. Your eyes could even change dominance while you’re aiming and you’d miss by a country mile.

Alternatives to shooting with both eyes open

So the obvious option if you can’t shoot with both eyes open is simply to close one eye. This is how I shoot. I’m right handed, shoot a right handed bow, but am left eye dominant so I need to close my left eye in order to properly aim. Works fine for me, and it may for you as well.

You could also squint one eye, I’ve heard of some people doing this but I’ve not tried it. Instead of completely closing their “non-shooting” eye they’ll simply squint it in order to force dominance to your shooting eye. Might be worth a try if you find yourself in a situation of cross dominance.

The Bottom Line about Both eyes VS. One

First and foremost, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you’re already an established shooter and you aren’t having any issues, keep doing what you’re doing. On the other hand if you are new or find yourself struggling I would highly suggest changing to both eyes open if you can.

Jason Brooks

I've been involved with archery for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. I've taken part in local tournaments and even 3D course setup.