The Importance of Vision

Oct 17, 2022 | Shooting Tips | 0 comments

Author:  Luther Cutts, Head Instructor (NSCA Level 3), Competitor 

When a baseball player is hitting well, he or she will say they are seeing the ball really well. When the goalie in hockey can see the puck clearly, they are very hard to score on. The rifle shooter who can see the lines on the target clearly and see the tiny particulate matter floating in the air is usually a superior shooter. And the clay target shooter that sees the target clearly and crisply is far more likely to hit that target. Regrettably, our vision is also something we can sometimes take for granted, which can be quite detrimental.

In shotgun sports, particularly when engaging aerial targets, seeing the target clearly provides the maximum detail to our fire control centre, which in turn produces a more precise firing solution for that target. Those who see the target really well and who trust their technique often obliterate the target. Those who cannot see the target as well, or don’t have complete trust in their technique, are the ones who chip targets or miss them completely. Clearly, vision is critical to shooting a shotgun well.

The Canadian Firearms Safety Course, as well as several other sources of firearms safety advice, suggest that shooters should get their vision checked periodically. This does not mean to get it checked when there is a problem – it means every year, you should be visiting a vision care professional. I cannot think of a sense that is more important than vision. They are all important, but in my world, I believe sight is the most important of all these important senses that allow us to interact with the world around us.

We must never assume anything when it comes to something as fundamentally important as our vision. I would like to share an experience I recently had that I hope everyone can learn from, to demonstrate the importance of decisive intervention and not waiting around to see what will happen next.

I was shooting in a large field trial, so there was lots of action – lots of shooting. At the end of the trial, I went back to the area where the winner was going to be announced. There, sitting down, I noticed a small visual disturbance in the lower quadrant of my left eye. I asked my friend, sitting next to me, if there was a small pheasant feather, stuck to my lower left eye lashes. She looked and said no – but there was this persistent shadow at the 5 o’clock position of my left eye.

There was no pain, no flashes of light – there was nothing to suggest this was anything serious at all. In fact, it was the beginning of something quite serious, something that could easily have resulting in the complete loss of vision in my left eye.

I am fortunate that my wife worked in the vision care arm of the medical community. She immediately administered a few tests and realized that this was potentially a very serious problem. It was her opinion that I was experiencing a retinal detachment.

We had two options – go to the Emergency at Rockyview Hospital, the Calgary area hospital that deals with eye surgery, or get in to see an optometrist and get referred to an ophthalmologist. With a six hour wait at Emergency, and then another wait for the on-call ophthalmologist to come to the hospital, we opted to bypass the Emergency ward and instead go to the optometrist. It worked out perfectly. I was in to see the optometrist at 10:00, I got an immediate referral to the ophthalmologist at 11:00. It took him about four minutes to determine that I required emergency surgery, and I was whisked off to the Rockyview. There was a slight delay in getting admitted, as there were no beds available. The operation was completed, and I was in recovery by 5:00.

The nurses I dealt with in the recovery ward were amazed that I got in so quickly. I realized that most people do not appreciate the gravity of a small visual disturbance, and they wait to see if things are going to improve. This delay in treatment often results in irreparable damage to the retina, and the partial loss of some vision.

I have shared this story with my fellow shooters with the hope that everyone will learn that time is of the essence when dealing with vision issues. As we age, the chances of a detachment increase significantly. All the vision professionals I have spoken with do not believe that shooting caused this condition to develop – they are certain it is more a function of age than the results of any sort of trauma. Retinal detachment is a surprisingly common occurrence, and one that grows more harmful with every passing minute. Unfortunately, too many people don’t realize they are in the midst of a medical emergency, and they need to get professional help immediately. I bumped several people out of the line to get into a surgical suite – it was a big deal.

If you experience any changes in your vision, I believe you should treat that as an emergency situation and seek immediate professional help. Waiting to see if it is going to get better may result in permanent deterioration or even loss of vision.