How to improve your visual focus on the clay target
Clayshooting instructor Dr Malcolm Plant offers some top tips
Often my pupils come to me with the request that they need to do something to help them focus on the clay target. So when I am giving a lesson on this, here’s what I run through. (Here’s a run down of the different clay targets and how to deal with them.)
Firstly – let’s talk eye dominance
Most people are either right or left-handed and similarly most have a dominant right or left eye. However it doesn’t follow that right-handers will have right eye dominance. Some shooters are also visually ambidextrous. (Check out this list of the best clayshooting jackets here.)
- More women than men have a mismatch between hand and eye dominance.
- Eye dominance can change, so don’t regard it as set.
Knowing which is your dominant eye is vital to improving focus on the clay target.
How to test eye dominance
Here are three options:
➊ The hole in a card method.
➋ Pointing a finger.
➌ Pointing an unloaded gun.
The last two of these are more helpful if done in the presence of a coach, as quite subtle effects can be seen by a trained eye.
What eye dominance means
- If you are right-handed and right eye dominant or left-handed and left eye dominant, you can shoot with both eyes open, secure in the knowledge that the dominant eye will let your brain know how the gun is positioned in relation to the target.
- Even in this situation, some shooters do like to close the other eye.
- However, if the wrong eye is dominant the gun will be pointing in the wrong direction. The right-hander with a left dominant eye will line up the left eye, the muzzles of the gun and the target, thus placing the shot pattern way to the left of the target.
- The solution is to stop the left eye taking over by closing it, most shooters do this by closing or partially closing (dimming) the eye as the shotgun comes to their cheek.
A useful tip to focus on the clay target
When coaching, I prefer to advise the use of a small opaque spot on the lens of the client’s shooting glasses. The allows the dominant eye to remain open but ineffective, which avoids any tension in the muscles of the eyelids. The opaque spot must be placed on the shooting glasses so that when the shotgun is properly mounted, the offending dominant eye cannot see the end of the gun or the target.
It can be a challenge for a coach to teach a pupil who exhibits matching hand and eye dominance in the more relaxed environment of the practice or training ground, but whose dominance changes under the pressure of clay competition or the excitement of stratospheric pheasants.
Other things to remember to improve focus
- Don’t look at the gun once it is at your cheek and shoulder. All of your attention must be on the target as you pull the trigger.
- Mount the shotgun to your cheek and eye, not to your shoulder. If you are standing correctly with a well-practised gun mount and the shotgun fits you, it will naturally assume the right place in your shoulder pocket.
- Try to keep your eyes as horizontal as possible and avoid canting your head over on to the stock.
This article was originally written in 2015 and has been updated.