On reflection my shooting season had been, even by my standards, indifferent. I seemed to have been missing far more birds than I should have. So I was definitely feeling mawkish in February, in my mind the bleakest month of the year.
In March, when the winter finally started loosening its frigid grip, I decided to get the ladder out and do something about the TV aerial in readiness for the digital switchover. Having got back to ground level I made the mistake of trying to lay the ladder down myself. It suddenly took on a life of its own and, after plummeting to the ground, bounced back up and gave me an almighty whack across the head just above my right ear. I staggered back and leant against the wall, too stunned to even swear at the evil thing. Pale-faced, I went indoors and inspected the damage. I had a sore lump above my ear but no broken skin, no unconsciousness. I had got away lightly.
As if by magic…
A couple of days later on a bright and cheerful spring morning, I was out with the labs when I spied a bi-plane flying along. Being a bit of a plane buff I squinted into the morning light to identify it when, as if by magic, the bi-plane was replaced by a monoplane. I suddenly discovered I was seeing double and a quick hand over one eye test showed the sight from my right eye was also very blurred. Remembering that blow to my head I was queuing up at the GP’s surgery in no time.
Within two hours of seeing the doctor I was presenting myself to the Northampton general hospital eye casualty unit. It took a while but what a job they did on me.
My eyes were examined minutely, tested and photographed until finally a young, competent doctor told me what she had found: “Mr Wright, I can find no damage to your eye from the accident but you do have blurred vision and the beginnings of a cataract. The cataract will grow and become a nuisance in the future but I cannot tell you how long that process will be. In the meantime go and see your optician and get your eyes tested as I believe you will need some distance glasses.” Her deadpan delivery only helped send shivers down my spine.
I was stunned to be told I had a cataract (I’m only 61), but on a positive note I was relieved to hear there was no long-term accidental damage to my eye.
I duly went to have an eye test. It had been 18 months since my last eye test and my prescription for reading glasses had not changed for over three years. What the optician found though was a surprise to both of us. The distance sight in my right eye had deteriorated so badly that, in his opinion, my left eye had become dominant. However this would be immediately rectified with new prescription glasses.
Regular eye tests can help you greatly improve your shooting.
Saddened by the news that I would have to wear glasses all the time, I felt I was officially becoming old. Then it suddenly dawned on me. I had finally found the answer to my indifferent shooting season. Unknowingly I had been sighting with my left eye. The right eye deterioration had been gradually absorbed by my left eye. By shooting with both eyes open I had unwittingly been shooting to the left of everything. No wonder right to left crossers and quartering birds were unscathed.
What a difference those new glasses have made to my life in general and shooting in particular. The first time I went to my local monthly clay shoot I got straight into the shoot off. This was a first for me and even though I didn’t win, I felt like a winner. It was no fluke either because I’ve done it twice more since. It seems that the majority of pigeons I aim at also crumple satisfyingly each time I pull the trigger.
I have had to alter my shooting technique a little. I have to move my head more to the left and right to pick up birds within the lenses of the glasses rather than picking them up in ‘normal’ peripheral vision. This in turn means I mount the gun a little later. I also find I am using my upper torso more by turning to deal with the birds, rather than waiting for them to come to me. It’s made my whole shooting stance more fluid and better balanced.
So my advice to anyone over 50 and especially to those over 60. Don’t wait for a bang on the head like I did. Go and get an eye test now.