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    In the Swing

    Senior Eyes Get New Life

    After successful cataract surgery, columnist Bryan Bilinski reports, “My left eye is now 20/20, and I am now 20/15 in my right eye.” (Photo/Dave Veldman)
    After successful cataract surgery, columnist Bryan Bilinski reports, “My left eye is now 20/20, and I am now 20/15 in my right eye.” (Photo/Dave Veldman)
    What a dichotomy. In my previous column for UA, I discussed shopping for a 12-year-old’s first shotgun. Now I am lamenting over the fact that our eyesight, so crucial to shooting well, may negatively change as we age. As the years roll by, many of us have already experienced that our ability to focus on moving targets is not as sharp or distinct as we once experienced. Been there, done that. If you consider yourself a “senior” in our wing shooting society, listen up.
    Bryan Bilinski owns Fieldsport, purveyors of fine guns and renowned wing shooting instruction, based in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the country’s leading shotgun fitters and shooting instructors, Bryan is credited with introducing sporting clays to the United States.
    Bryan Bilinski owns Fieldsport, purveyors of fine guns and renowned wing shooting instruction, based in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the country’s leading shotgun fitters and shooting instructors, Bryan is credited with introducing sporting clays to the United States.

    Simply declared, you cannot hit what you cannot see. If you have crested the middle-age mark in life and your scores on sporting clays, trap or skeet have been gradually slipping over the past few years, you might be blaming lower scores or fewer birds on simple aging issues known to affect us all. Regardless of how hard we try to beat Father Time, we are all on a downward slope of health and fitness, no matter how much time we spend at the Y.

    I am approaching retirement age and have been patched up by so many talented surgeons over the past 25 years that I have lost count. However, as a wing shooter, the last wake-up call was devastating. First, I had my left shoulder totally resected last November. The recovery time is long and slow and unfortunately requires a lot of meds to keep the pain cycle in check. After a lot of physical therapy, come spring, I was feeling pretty good and hoping it was time to start shooting clays again.

    I located my mothballed prescription shooting glasses, picked up my very unloaded bird gun, planned to start practicing some gun mounts in the living room and … what the heck? Everything I looked at through the front window was out of focus, fuzzy and covered in a yellow tint! What just happened?

    An urgent appointment with my old friend and optometrist, Dr. Marc, exposed the tale of woe. His first question, after a comprehensive eye exam, was, “Have you had any surgeries lately?”

    Check.

    “Well, Bryan, you have a condition called medication-accelerated cataracts. To make matters worse, the cataract film in your dominant shooting eye is worse than your nondominant left eye.”

    “Ugh! What does this mean, Doc?”

    “Well, two important points. We can no longer enhance your visual acuity with new prescription lens glasses, and, unfortunately, your left eye will soon become your dominant eye because of the cataract imbalance.”

    “Doc, please say it isn’t so. This diagnosis is the kiss of death to a wing shooter.” Gloom and doomed? Great news – not anymore. Medical science has advanced so far today that the cataract lens can now be painlessly removed and a new lens implanted by laser technology. How, I have no earthly idea.

    “If all goes well, within a few months you’ll have 20/20 vision or better for the rest of your life. Goodbye prescription shooting glasses forever.”

    Wow, I bought in, lock, stock and barrel. Two surgical sessions later with a most gifted Dr. Brad at the controls, and the rest is history. Eureka, my left eye is now 20/20. Dr. Brad even went to school on the shape of my left cornea before he implanted and enhanced the implant on my right, dominant eye. Unbelievable! I am now 20/15 in my right eye.

    Surgery was on a Thursday with a follow-up exam the next day. You can probably imagine my first question to the good surgeon.

    “When can I shoot clays again?”

    With a chuckle he said, “This weekend.”

    “What!”

    Dr. Brad said, “The eye is the fastest healing organ in the body. Your new lenses look great. Go get ’em.”

    So … there is hope for the aging wing shooter’s eyes.

    Almost in testimony to the fine work turned in by doctors Marc and Brad, I won a side-by-side sporting clays tournament one week later.

    The target edges were sharp, I could focus with alacrity, and the clays looked the size of trashcan lids.

    After the tournament, I softly said to myself, “You can’t hit what you can’t see!”

    Have a question about wing shooting or shotguns for Bryan to answer? Please send it to fieldsport@fieldsport.biz.


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