by Jessica Taylor Byers
On January 22, 2013, I received my first bow from my husband. We had never visited a shop to look at bows together, but he knew I was RH (right-handed) so picking up that RH bow on my birthday felt natural. P.S. It was the best gift ever, in case you need an idea! I've been RH my whole life, so why would I shoot a bow any other way? Well here I am, 5.5 years later, and my first hunting season as a left-handed archer is quickly approaching. This has raised a LOT of questions across my platforms. Let me take a minute to address a few of them!
WHY DID YOU MAKE THE SWITCH?
A year ago in the summer of 2017, I attended a class to become a certified NASP instructor, with the intention of visiting local schools and shooting with younger kids that haven't joined the world of social media. It was during this certification course (within the first hour, in fact) that I found out I am left eye dominant. I couldn't believe it! They went on to say that you should always shoot with your dominant eye, which I had heard before, but I thought to myself, "I've had a lot of success shooting RH so I'm fine." Truth is, I was scared! I couldn't imagine making the switch at all, and quite frankly I would've been crazy to switch less than two months before hunting season. After talking to a handful of well-known, respectable individuals in the industry, I took their advice by making the switch once my season was officially over. I have found that 90% of the archers I've watched and looked up to over the years all shoot with their dominant eye, and I couldn't help but wonder if I'd be a better archer if I followed in their footsteps. As soon as I returned home from my Australia/New Zealand trip in June, I got to work! I have shot my bow almost every day since I got back to the states and you could say the journey is going well so far!
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS YOU'VE NOTICED SINCE SWITCHING?
While my muscles are much weaker on my left side and I get shaky after only a handful of arrows, there are a few things I've noticed that remind me I've made the right decision.
- Peripheral Vision. The use of peripheral vision wasn't an option when I shot RH because my left eye would always take over. Losing my peripheral vision while hunting (due to having to close my left eye) made it tough because I couldn't process my surroundings at full draw. Furthermore, for the first time ever, I'm able to watch the flight of my arrow from the time it leaves my bow. Man, that is a beautiful thing to see!
- Strength. We are physically stronger with both eyes open. Depth perception is also improved when the brain receives information from both eyes; as you can imagine, this is extremely important when bow hunting!
- Less Tension. The simple squinting of your eye at full draw requires the use of many small muscles in your face. This creates tension in your body, rather than shooting in a relaxed state. Tension is the enemy when you're trying to be consistent.
- Accuracy. Since fully making the switch less than two months ago, I've already accomplished my first Robin Hood, something I hadn't experienced in over 5 years of shooting bows. I do not think this is a coincidence. I am also grouping extremely tight for someone that's essentially starting completely over.
- Correcting Bad Habits. My RH draw cycle has never been great, but it worked. My follow through also needed some attention. Since switching to LH, I've been able to start with a clean slate and correct these bad habits.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION EASIER?
I actually had a follower reach out to me and give advice to speed up the transition. Here's what I can tell you from personal experience, as well as his advice to me.
- Don't switch in the middle of your season. January-February is typically the start of offseason for most people and a great time to transition. I had to wait until June because of my month-long trip across the world in May; otherwise, I would've been 100% lefty much sooner.
- Start by getting a cheap LOW POUNDAGE bow to pull back every day. Another option is to get an AccuBow, which is what I use in the gym or on the road when I can't shoot. This will help to introduce your muscles and build/maintain strength. Start small, even if that means a 30-pound draw weight. I started around 35-38 pounds which was tough to swallow when I can pull 55 pounds shooting RH. Be patient and build slowly.
- Start training your brain to control the new side using the same dexterity as your previous side. Attempt daily tasks using your dominant eye's side. For example, train yourself to eat, drink, slice veggies, drive, brush your hair, and brush your teeth using that side. Another technique is to play catch with someone or bounce a ball against the wall, but only throwing and catching with that same hand. These activities will speed up the process.
- Increase your hand strength by purchasing a hand gripper so that you have the better small muscle control for releasing an arrow.
WILL YOU EVER SHOOT RH AGAIN?
That's a tough one to answer. It would be silly to say that I'll never pick up a RH bow again, but for now, I want to immerse myself in the world of being a southpaw shooter. I find comfort in knowing at any point I can go back to what I've known, but I also don't want to use it as a crutch. I have already broken down my latest RH setup so it's not even ready to hunt this season. Cheers to being all in, whatever you do in your life!