At 48, I found myself dealing with a new piece of equipment - reading glasses. They were regularly misplaced, and easily broken. I bought them in bulk and stored them in vehicles, the bathroom, in my shop, and in the garage.
I recalled grumblings of other archers, older than me, that the sport had lost its appeal. Some quit, while some switched to shooting traditional equipment where they focused on the target and shot instinctively, rather than trying to pick a blurry sight pin.
The little white lies didn't register with me until I felt those same frustrations. I can see my target in the distance fine; actually anything beyond "arm's length" is easily focused on, but the sight pins were blurry and had an odd, crescent-shaped glow high and left of each pin. Adding to the issue of clarity was my problem with acquiring the target in lowlight conditions quickly enough to place my pin correctly.
Bowhunting situations are usually very fluid, and they typically occur at times of low light. Those situations share little comparison to shooting at the range on a nice day. I couldn't shoot with my reading glasses on, and I couldn't see well enough to shoot accurately without them.
The sum of my 2013 hunting season was zero. The Midwest drought, and subsequent EHD outbreaks, had something to do with it. But that obviously wasn't the whole reason for my lack of success. At the conclusion of the year, my confidence was just as fuzzy as my sight pins. I now understood the reasons for those white lies. Something had to change. I didn't want to stop shooting the equipment I worked hard at to shoot well, but I needed help understanding what options were available to me.
According to my family's optometrist, Dr. Terry Carney, the reason for all these issues was presbyopia. Like it had done to me, it will affect most persons by their fourth decade in life. When you begin extending your arms to read your new issue of Bowhunter, you may be suffering from the same fate. The medical world believes that this age-related condition is caused by the thickening of the lenses in your eyes and a resulting loss of flexibility.
This has nothing to do with nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism that can require you to use glasses at a younger age. Those conditions are related to the shape of the eye. Presbyopia will eventually affect persons with those pre-existing eye issues, too.
I sought equipment advice from my friends at BB Archery in Raytown, Missouri. I trust them, and I knew they had stocked many of the products that I had researched. They installed a peep sight from Specialty Archery Products in place of the aluminum peep sight I've used for years. The Verifier peep system they installed was created to help correct my symptoms.
This is one of two systems developed by this company to aid archers and bowhunters with vision problems. The Verifier uses a lens that screws into the peep housing that's tied into your string. The tiny lens in the string performs similarly to your reading glasses, and lenses of different magnifcations are available to let you focus on things (sight pins) closer to your face.
To select the correct lens, I used a tool that Specialty Archery Products provides to their dealers that holds the selection of peep lenses and allows you to look through them for comparison.
You hold the peeps to your eye and focus on the fiber-optic pin in the handle extended at arm's length, just like when you're shooting. It's important to focus on the target and pin to select the lens that allows you to see both the target or sight pins clearly. There is going to be some compromise. I obviously wanted to see my sight pins more clearly, so I sacrificed my target view slightly to achieve that. The selection tool lets you make the best choice that minimizes the discrepancy.
Specialty's Clarifier peep system is designed to work in conjunction with a second scope lens. This peep system is designed to use both lenses to clear the target picture. I've installed this system on a target bow, but it isn't my preference for hunting. With the Verifier peep installed, I could now focus the selected pin on my target again. So I turned my efforts towards seeing my sight better in low light.
The Verifier peep comes in two diameters. Based on my study, a person in their 60s will require three times more ambient light than a person in their 20s. This is caused by the aging eye's weakening of the muscles that control the pupil. The pupil size actually decreases as we get older. The smaller pupil size is also less responsive, and weaker pupil muscles struggle with changes in ambient light. Thus, the bigger peep opening lets me see the target easier in low light.
When I typed in "affects of age on our eyes" in the search engine, I found dozens of sites that gave me information. I also consulted Dr. Carney, who helped me understand some of my concerns related to my sight-picture issues. It was apparent to me that the yellow pins on my sight were nearly worthless on early morning or late-evening hunts. I could see the fluorescent-green pins best during those times, and the red pins were a distant second. My research led me to a site that did a study on which range of color was most easily perceived and identified by older drivers. That study found that green/yellow hues were the most easily processed by their participants. Maybe I was onto something.
"You're halfway to a cataract, Shawn," Dr. Carney would remind me at my annual appointments. Quite honestly, that scared me when I first heard it. He explained I have a few decades (hopefully) before it becomes a real issue. The development of a cataract is associated with exposure to sunlight. This eye disease also affects the lens in your aging eye. Senile cataracts cause the lens to yellow, or even become opaque, affecting the amount of light that reaches your retina. The yellowing of the lens also changes how you perceive colors. The fix for cataracts is a surgical operation that removes the natural lens and replaces it with an artificial lens. This operation is now very commonplace, and the artificial lenses that are used can also help correct other vision issues.
To modify my sight in an attempt to correct the color issues, I took one of my Spot-Hogg sights and had all the pins changed to fluorescent green. Then I stepped down the pin diameter from the biggest .029" down to .019", and for the longest settings .010". The smaller diameter is tough to see, but at those distances I don't want to cover up my target. The need for clear pins was justified. This sight uses a housing that holds additional fiber wrapped around the sight guard. That "wrap" has a translucent cover that protects the fiber while allowing additional light to reach the longer length of fiber. This combination really makes the pins pop.
The Focal Point
Going into 2014, I was ready to shoot, but I wasn't totally confident. I spent the cold months of January, February and March shooting indoors, tweaking things to meet my style while improving my confidence. I enjoy the challenge of target shooting, but these efforts were implemented to improve my capabilities in hunting situations.
By April, I was itching to test my abilities in the field. Turkey season began on April 1, and I was able to get into the field on the morning of April 5. I tagged my first big tom that morning along the edge of a fog-shrouded riverbottom. I remember seeing my pin floating at the base of the bird's tail as he lost interest in my decoy and had started walking away. I followed up that turkey hunt a month later with a well-placed, bright-green pin sitting on top of a sneaky tom's drumsticks. He quietly worked his way into my decoy set and was broadside when my arrow dumped him right by my blind. I was very pleased with how 2014 had started.
Summer came, and I continued my efforts on the 3-D range in preparation for deer season. I was unsuccessful in drawing any out-of-state tags, so I was focused on a Kansas whitetail or mule deer.
I took off the second week of November, because it's typically a great week to catch rutting bucks pursuing does. This year the weather became a factor, with severely plummeting temperatures slowing down the deer activity. The other thing that age has brought (it's not all bad) is my willingness to spend all day on stand for a glimpse of a good buck. The unusually cold weather was limiting my time on stand, but I didn't want to waste all the work I'd put into this season.
The brutal cold gave way on a Thursday morning. It was 20 degrees before sunrise, and that change triggered an explosion of activity. By midmorning, I'd seen a number of deer, including two nice bucks I hoped would offer me a shot. By now I had beaten my previous morning's curfew, and I could still feel my fingers and toes.
At about 10:30, I heard the rhythmic steps of a deer behind me. It was following the riverbank and approaching quickly. The doe appeared on the trail to my right, and she walked past me with a purpose. She disappeared in the cedars in front of me, and I settled back into my seat. I was just beginning to scan the riverbottom again, when suddenly the doe blasted back through the wall of cedars with a buck in tow.
I swung my bow into the open area below my stand, and waited for my shot as the doe passed by.
When the buck came into view, I framed him in my sight housing and shot as my pin aligned with the trailing edge of the buck's right shoulder blade. It all happened so fast that the deer seemed to be unphased when he stopped behind my location and proceeded to follow the doe into the thicket. I was questioning my own eyes once again. I couldn't confirm the shot, because I never saw the red-coated arrow in the duff below me. My concerns were erased when I heard a crash and a heavy thud. My aim had been true.
What a difference a year makes. ClichÃ©s like "Aim small, miss small" or "Pick a hair," can be cruel when you reach your "reading-glasses" stage of life. I didn't want to find a new hobby, or completely change my shooting style, so something had to change.
I've made the transition, one that age won't let me turn back. And you can do the same. It requires you to research and revise equipment to improve your situation, as well as to invest yourself in the process of change. It's your choice. You can continue to compete and enjoy your time in the field and on stand, or you can lose that focus and resort to telling little white lies.