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Ask The Instructor: Eye Shift

Question: While shooting sporting clays with a low gun, should the eyes alone shift when moving from the hold point to the pickup point? Or should the head move so the nose is pointing at the pickup point and the eyes remain centered?

Answer: Proper shot execution requires acute visual focus and a head and muzzle that are synchronized with the target through the break point. Movement to a target must include an acute visual fix on the target, together with a brief period prior to shot execution when the head is quiet and synchronized relative to the target. There is plenty of science behind this statement, chief among them being Joan Vickers’ text, Perception Cognition – The Quiet Eye in Action. In this book, Vickers chronicles how the eyes of elite athletes operate during sports activities in which they must intercept a moving object. A summary can be found at

So what does this mean for the clay target shooter? If possible, use only the eye muscles to move the eyes to the visual pick-up point. Your peripheral vision is exponentially more effective at initially acquiring targets than your direct vision. Turn the head only to the extent necessary to settle your eyes on your visual pick-up point. If it’s necessary to move the head to position the eyes on the visual pick-up point, keep your head as synchronized as possible with the body and target throughout the move and execution of the shot. One of the most destructive errors shooters commit is moving the head down to the gun at the end of the stroke. This upsets and interrupts the flow of information about the target to the brain. Acute focus, a quiet head and a quiet muzzle will feed the brain the high-definition imagery it needs.

I always say, “If the camera is quiet, the brain is seeing a clear image.” Minimize head movement. If the head and gun are synchronized with the target at the break point, the quality of the image will be sufficient to break the target.

Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at

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