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One-Eyed Jacks: An Expert’s Tips for Better Scores
One-eyed shooters are supposed to be at a disadvantage when shooting, and that is true if you don’t know the tricks to overcome the problems inherent in shooting with just one eye. In reality, a one -eyed shooter can be just as good a shotgunner as someone shooting with two eyes open. But as with anything, you have to start from the ground up to make it all work. If one element is missing or not executed properly, it all begins to fall apart. The same is true of two-eyed shooters as well.
I see two-eyed shooters missing targets every day, which they shouldn’t. It usually boils down to just one or two small things as to the cause for missing the target. Any one of the following could be the cause, or a combination of them; lack of concentration or mental focus, not focusing the eyes properly, not focusing on the target, standing improperly, not holding the gun properly, looking back at the rib or bead, not mounting the gun properly and not relaxing.
The eyes are what tell the brain what to do. The brain then transmits electronic commands that make our muscle’s react to the input. It is the visual input that is all critical. If you wear prescription glasses when shooting, be sure not to wear bifocals or varifocals. You’re not interested in seeing your sights; you must focus only on the target. Only wear your distance prescription when shooting or hunting. If you wear eyeglasses with a dot or tape on the left lens, take it off. Your better off without it. One of the secrets to being a good one-eyed shooter is starting with two eyes open and then closing the left eye once the target is acquired, you’ll have much better luck. The reason for starting with two eyes open is that you acquire the target much faster, your field of vision is much greater and you have depth perception when you need it most.
For the purpose of illustration, I’m going to be relating things to the stations, and positions on a skeet field. Most shooters would agree high station two and low station five are the two hardest stations on a skeet field. When I started shooting skeet in earnest in 1985, I was shooting high gun, i.e., the gun mounted at the shoulder. I now shoot all shotgun sports, including trap, with a low gun i.e., the top of the butt of the gun below the armpit. I’ll explain why later. The problem was, that if I held the gun barrel parallel to the side of the high house like your supposed to, I couldn’t see the high house. If I held the barrel closer to the high house, I could see the house and window, but when I called for the bird, the bird would end up being way out in front of my gun barrel before I started my swing, and I would catch and pass the target late, past the center stake and end up shooting it late. A bad situation to be in, especially when you’re shooting doubles. Also, when your shooting one-eyed high gun and you wear glasses, your nose bridge on the glasses will block your view to the left if you’re right handed and shoot with the right eye open. I found I had a slight advantage when I switched to a single wrap-around lens glass, it gave me better vision to the left, but it wasn’t the solution. Always wear protective glasses when shooting.
After struggling with it for a few months, and trying different things, I finally realized what was necessary to overcome the problem of picking up the target immediately as it left the window of the house, and smoking it before it reached the center stake. It was a two-part solution, but there were many other related things, which contributed to success. Another important point is that the gun must fit. Many new shooters are unaware if their gun fits them properly, and if you shoot low gun, it’s imperative the gun fit properly. You’ll never succeed in being a good shooter if you don’t have a properly fitted gun. Before you buy a shotgun, make sure the gun shop checks you for gun fit and that they know what they are doing.
The two most important things for a one eyed shooter are, shoot low gun in any type of competition, and start with both eyes open. Back to high station two. With your gun below your armpit, your face isn’t married to the stock. You have freedom of movement with your face and can look in any direction. The gun should still be parallel to the side of the house, with the top of the barrel pointed just below the flight path of the bird. The fore end of the gun should be cradled in the left hand with the index finger pointing forward on the left side of the fore end, or under if that is more comfortable. Your now free to turn your head in the direction of the house. You don’t look at the window; you look at infinity just in front of the window. You create a soft focus with your eyes on clouds, blue sky, trees or whatever is in front but past the house window. If you focus on infinity, your eyes only make one movement to come inward and pick up and focus on the moving target. If you focus on something closer than the house window, like the rib or sight on your gun, your eyes will have to make two movements to catch and focus on the target, which is a micro second delay. You don’t want that. You can even miss seeing the target leaving the house if you’re looking at the rib or bead. Eyes or eye should always focus on the target, nothing else. Speed and proper eye focus is essential.
When you call for the bird, both eyes are open to enable you to acquire the bird instantaneously. When you first see the bird in your peripheral vision, your starting your swing and closing your left eye simultaneously (this takes some practice). Your swinging the gun at the same speed the bird is traveling or slightly faster, and your right eye is focused on the bird. When the gun comes to your face, the gun should be in front of the bird with the proper lead prior to getting to the center stake. A soon as that happens, you should be pulling the trigger. The target should be smoked at or before the stake. Most skeet shooters and even trap and sporting clay shooters tend to ride the target. They fall in love with it and tend to miss it. You have to be instinctive in your shooting and react to the target quickly and instinctively. You have to trust your eyes, or eye, and pull the trigger when it first looks good. You have to learn to trust yourself, don’t think about or measure the target, just do it. You have to develop and trust your natural instinct. It’ll work for you every time. With practice, you should be able to smoke the target twelve to fifteen feet before the center stake. It can be done, you just have to believe it can be done, and consistently while smoking the target, not just chipping it, and you will do it.
Low gun shooting allows more freedom of movement, which means smoother gun swing and a more relaxed stance and mental attitude. If you feel any tension prior to you calling for a bird, just exhale. You’ll feel your body relax as you do it. Be sure you have the proper mental and visual focus. Don’t go up to a station and hold the gun at the ready position for 30 seconds or up to a minute while getting ready and then call pull because your arms will get tired and create tension that will cause you to be slow or jerky on the swing. Have the gun under your shoulder or at arms length and relaxed. Do your mental preparation, load the gun, bring it to the ready position, exhale if necessary, and then call pull when ready. Don’t stand there all day with the gun in the ready position before you call pull, it’s a big mistake many shooters make.
I see a lot of shooters all in different stances, and most of them are creating some tension in some part of their body, because of their stance. Some of them look like they are preparing for a tank to run into them, or if they’re trying to hold up a wall. It isn’t necessary to take such an unnatural stance to be successful in shotgunning. All that funny stance stuff developed from trap shooting where it really isn’t necessary either. The important thing is to be natural and relaxed. The more you are, the higher you’ll scores will be and you’ll bring home more birds from the hunt and smoke more targets on the course. Do what is comfortable and natural for you. If your taking instruction, listen to and do what the instructor tells you, but after the course, feel free to make slight modifications that make you feel more relaxed and natural, and see what happens. But don’t return to your old self-defeating bad habits.
Earlier, I said you have to start from the ground up, and I mean that. Lets take station two high again. Your feet should be planted under you, no farther apart than your shoulders and either foot should point to one side of the center stake, or where you intend to break the target. Your stance should be natural and comfortable. Your upper body should also face the center stake and be erect. Do not bend over, or hump your shoulders. You rotate your upper body at the waist to a point where the gun barrel is parallel to the house. You are now like a coiled spring with stored energy, waiting to uncoil. You rotate your head to a point where your eyes are looking right in front of the high house. Your eyes are soft focused on infinity a foot to the right of the front of the window. You exhale, relax and call pull. Your eyes pick up the target, as you do, the gun is coming up to your face; your rotating to the right at the waist, and your left eye is closing or now closed. Your right eye is focused on the target, not the sight or rib, and its relationship to the left edge of the horizontal centerline of the upper barrel. The gun is next to your face, you see the right amount of space between the target and the barrel, and you pull the trigger. The target is smoked before the center stake. It’s all very natural and instinctive, and that’s what shooting has to be, in order to be successful, consistent and fun.
If you were shooting station two low house, you would not change your foot position. Your upper body would rotate slightly to the right and the barrel of the gun would be just in front of the low house. You should break the target before or at the center stake. Do not ride the target past the center stake, be instinctive, and shoot the target as soon as you get the right lead. You’ll learn the right lead by taking instruction or by trial and error. I’m not going to tell you, you need three or four foot of lead, because that doesn’t mean anything to a shooter. Everyone’s reaction time, swing speed and moment of inertia are different, so obviously the picture (barrel and target relationship) is going to look different to another shooter.
Whether your shooting skeet, trap or sporting clays, your routine should always be the same. Start from your feet and work up to your eyes and brain and make sure everything is in the proper place and order and that you have the right mental and visual focus. Perform a mental checklist at every station for every target presentation regardless what shotgun sport your shooting.
Feet – always pointed to either side of where you’ll break the target along with the centerline of your upper body pointed at the point where you will break the target.
Upper body – erect, and rotate at the waist to the hold point in front of where the eyes will first pick up the target. Gun muzzle held just below anticipated flight path of bird. Be sure your holding the gun properly.
Head – rotated further to the eye focus point where you’ll first see the bird.
Eyes – soft focused on infinity in front the area where birds will first appear, with both eyes open.
Relax – softly exhale just prior to calling for the bird.
Brain – be sure it is clear, and focused on only one thing, the target.
Call –Exhale, relax and call pull.
Eyes – picks up bird in peripheral vision and focus on it, the eyes will do it naturally. Left eye is closing, gun is swinging and coming up to cheek, gun touches cheek and the correct lead is established, trigger is pulled and gun swing is followed through, and another bird disappears. It could be aliens, but you know the real cause for the disappearance.
It all becomes very natural with a little practice.
If you feel you have a vision problem, and would like to know what can be done to correct the problem, you should see a doctor of Optometry. Linda Joy, the top female shooter in the United States, attends eye-training sessions held by Doctor Richard Glonek in Scottsdale, AZ. She attributes her success in shotgunning to what she has learned and practiced at Dr. Glonek’s facility. I also attended a one week course, and came away impressed and with improved eyesight and reaction time. I was given a training regimen to continue at home. A worthwhile investment. For information on their programs or for an appointment, contact Inez Connor at the facility. It’s located at 10505 North 69th Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85253, Tel 602-483-0711
Skeet is a good way to learn leads, holding points, gun swing, etc. Anything that is learned on a skeet field can be applied to a sporting clay field. With novice shooters, I let them learn the basics on a skeet field, and once they are smoking targets pretty consistently, I’ll take them to a sporting clay field so they can learn more difficult presentations. It has worked very well. Some of my one eyed shooting students have been shooting less than a year, and have taken only six lessons and are shooting sporting clays in the mid-seventies.
Jerry Sinkovec is the director of the Instinctive Target Interception Shotgun Shooting School headquartered in Idaho Falls, ID. It’s a Browning endorsed shooting school. He can be contacted by writing: I.T.I. Shotgun Shooting School, 5045 Brennan Bend, Idaho Falls, ID 83406. E-mail: email@example.com. Tel: 208-523-1545. The web site is: www.itishooting.com He is opening two new school locations in the Jackson Hole, WY area as well as Sun Valley, ID. Classes are also conducted in New Mexico and at Rancho Caracol in Mexico.