…the problem was he had been left eye dominant all along, but when he was shooting with his peep sight he always closed his left eye, thereby allowing only the right eye to sight his aim. But when he started shooting a recurve, both eyes remained open and his left eye, the farthest away from the arrow, was doing all the calculations.

To shoot a traditional bow instinctively and with any repeatability, you must have your dominant eye over the arrow when drawn. This means a right handed shooter must have a dominant right eye, and vice versa for left handed archers. Without this hand-eye coordination, you may never be able to shoot a traditional bow well.

To find your dominant eye, simply stand in one place and look at a single object. It can be a lamp, clock, door knob or the top of a telephone pole. With both eyes open and staring at the object, point your finger at the object. Close your right eye and see what happens. If your finger moves to the right, you are right eye dominant. If your finger stays on the object, then you are left eye dominant. Try it a few times to make sure you know which eye is dominant. Now you will know if you should shoot left- or right-handed, and which bow to buy.

Excerpt from The Traditional Bowhunter’s Handbook

Follow Up

I received several letters about last week’s tip, Dominant Eye. The tip was really to help a shooter determine which of their eyes is dominant. The letters below detail another way to determine dominant eye, and how (or why) some folks are able to shoot cross dominant.

Galen B. wrote: I pick a spot and then, using both hands together to make a hole between my thumbs and index fingers, I extend my arms and look at the spot through the hole. Then I bring my hands back to my eye and that will be my dominant eye. Clear as mud I’m sure. Thanks for the tips!

Michael B. wrote: While everything that was said was true, it should also be pointed out that there are several of us shooting non-dominant eye. I am one of them. I am right handed and right eye dominant and shoot right handed. I will probably switch to left handed because I have a terrible case of target panic. I pluck the string about 1/4 of the time when I shoot right handed. This was most probably caused by starting out with too heavy of a bow. I’ve taken lessons and learned to shoot a traditional bow (although not super successfully) all with the purpose of trying to overcome my target panic. It wasn’t until I started shooting left handed that I overcame it. A 45 year problem solved by a change in which hand I use.

Don’t get me wrong, learning to shoot cross dominant is not easy. You HAVE to shoot instinctively. There is no using the point of aim method at all. The point of my arrow is 45 degrees down and to the left of the target. I practice every day for at least an hour. I took my first deer after 9 months of daily practice. I caught the flu and was unable to shoot for a couple of weeks, and it took about a week to regain my accuracy.

I am not alone in this cross dominant thing. Fred Bear shot the bow left handed, but he was right eye dominant. He had a partial amputation of one of the fingers on his right hand, so it was either draw left handed or only draw with two fingers of his right hand. Everything else he did right handed, including shotgun shooting.

Glenn St. Charles was another cross dominant shooter. He told me that he started shooting left handed due to a snap shooting problem. That’s where I got the idea to try it.

I would advise anyone who wants to try it to give it a go. I would also advise that you have a qualified instructor get you started on the right path. I am fortunate that one of my best friends, Bill Lee of Seattle, was there to assist me. After studying Kisik Lee’s book Total Archery I knew what the proper form should look like. After 10 minutes of lessons Bill said, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

My point in writing all this is to give others hope if they feel they’re facing a shooting problem that is insurmountable. Give it a try.

Robert L. wrote: This is great advice for beginners, or those who have a problem with cross dominance. Anyone who has that problem, and has been shooting for a while–even a beginner that is serious about archery–may already know this. I trained my right eye to become dominant over the years, and now it is automatic for my right eye to “take over” when I’m hunting or target shooting. Still, as I stated, it is wonderful advice and bears repeating.

Bob L. wrote: While I agree that the best way for someone to learn to shoot is to have the arrow under their dominant eye, it is possible to do it the other way. For the first few years that I was shooting my traditional bow, I didn’t know that you were supposed to coordinate the hand and eye. Being left eye dominant and very, very right-handed, I had a rather long learning curve.

What I learned to do was to concentrate on the knuckle of my left hand, which lines up under my dominant eye and allows me to line up my shot as though I have the arrow there instead. When I went to Rick Welch’s school to work on my shooting I told him about my cross eye dominance and he said that he had successfully taught many people to shoot that way. We worked on improving my skills with my cross eye dominance and I believe I have come to a very comfortable and accurate way of shooting.

Had I known about the eye dominance factor, and how important it was, when I began shooting a traditional bow I may well have started buying left handed bows. But after I became the proud owner of several right-handed bows, I decided that I needed to learn to successfully shoot them instead of selling all of them and buying left handed bows.

I know the learning curve can be a little bit long, but it has worked for me and I’m sure it could for others too.

Love your magazine and your online articles.

Lou C. wrote: While I would agree that it is optimal to have archers shoot with the hand that matches their eye-dominance, archers can (and do) shoot with their opposite bow arm. They have developed many ways to force their otherwise non-dominant eye into a dominant eye by closing their natural dominant eye, using an eye patch, etc. Telling readers they MUST shoot with the hand that matches their eye dominance could drive some archers away from archery because they may just feel too uncomfortable shooting with their off hand (weaker) side.

Thank you though for pointing out the importance of making sure that the arrow is drawn under the dominant eye. Now some archers may choose to force a non-dominant eye into a dominant eye to avoid having to change from right hand to left hand, or vice-versa.