Where is your visual focus when you are at full-draw, ready to release an arrow? Are you looking at you bow sight’s pin, or at the target?
Most bowhunters shooting a compound bow have three objects to their visual aiming system – the peep sight, the bow sight, and the target. The human eye will use these objects for alignment and aiming, but the eye cannot focus on all of these objects equally. It is natural for the human vision to have limited focus – If I stretch out my hand to arm’s-length I cannot focus on my fingertips, while at the same time focusing on a wall that may be 10 yards past my fingers.
But before we get to the bow sight’s pins and the target, it is worth noting that the peep sight further affects our eyes’ ability to focus at particular distances. “Diffraction” is a scientific principle that has to do with light, vision and focus. What you need to know is that because of diffraction, a larger peep sight will have a shallower depth of field (the ability to simultaneously focus on objects at different distances is lessened), whereas a smaller peep sight will have a larger depth of field (the eye will more easily be able to focus across objects at various distances).
At this point you might be thinking, “I’ll just use a smaller peep sight and focus on both my sight pins and the target.” A small peep sight will lessen the focusing disparity, but you’ll likely still have some difference between the clarity of the sight and the target. Additionally, a smaller peep sight limits your field of view, and allows less light to your eye, making it harder to see the target some lighting conditions – two things that you don’t want to deal with in a hunting scenario.
Alright, science lesson over.
So what do you focus on – the bow’s sight pins or the target downrange? Have you ever paid attention?
I just returned from Indianapolis. I was there with Elite Archery, assisting people in taking the “Shootability Challenge”. Over the course of three days I talked with dozens and dozens of shooters. I informally asked numerous shooters what they focused on when they shot a bow, and while the results were mostly split, I would say a slight majority said they focused on their sight pins. That’s how I used to shoot, too, but now I focus on the target and my shooting has improved.
Why Focus Matters
I think it’s often natural to focus on a sight pin. The mental process of, “Put this pin on the target, and that’s where my arrow will go,” can lead us to focus on the pin. But…
That’s like trying to drive a car by looking at the steering wheel.
Don’t drive by looking at your car, don’t walk by looking at your feet, and don’t shoot by looking at your bow. Focus on the destination (the target) and your arrow will follow.
Another pitfall of focusing on the sight pin is that the minor movements in your bow are amplified, which can lead to target panic. You inevitably end up trying to over-correct the movement and quickly fire off a shot as the pins intersect with the bull’s-eye. However, when you focus on the target’s bull’s-eye, it’s easier to let the pins “float” and you have less anxiety about being “on target”.
It Works, Try It
When you combine the old driving lesson “you go where you look” with the fact that less pin-focus = less apparent movement = less anxiety, then I feel that you have the most accurate and comfortable way to shoot.
Focus on the target, allow your pins to be blurry, don’t fight the “float” of the pins, and your arrows will go where you are looking. It may feel odd at first, but try it for a few weeks and see how it works out for you.
Target focus is great, but you do have to pay attention to other visual indicators on your bow. You want to make sure that your bow is being held level, so you’ll need to check your sight’s bubble-level, and you also need to ensure that you are lining up your peep and sight consistently each time. Thankfully, while the human eye is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time, the human brain can interpret what is in the periphery of that eye. I can focus on the target, while almost subconsciously lining up my sight housing in the peep sight, keeping tabs on my sight’s bubble-level, and noting where my pin is on the target.
Finally, all of what I have proposed is what works for me. I know that there are plenty of extremely accurate shooters that focus on the sight’s pins. I also wonder certain levels of vision impairments – nearsightedness, for example – affect these different aiming philosophies?
What’s your take?