I hear different things from different people. When I call for the target, should I be looking at the trap or should I be looking somewhere out in front of the trap?
You should never place your eyes on the trap. Putting your eyes on the trap arm as you call for the target runs contrary to the available research on sports vision, yet opinions to the contrary abound.
We use two general types of vision: peripheral vision (or ambient vision) and central vision (aka, foveal focus or central focus). We must engage both to perform at a high level. Our peripheral vision is powerful in its ability to initially acquire a moving target. Acquiring a target with our peripheral vision allows us to smoothly transition to our central vision. If, instead, a shooter places his eyes on the trap, the target will beat the eyes, thus producing a panic impulse, causing an abrupt and inefficient movement of the shotgun.
Once the target is acquired by the peripheral vision, the shooter must feed the brain high-definition target information by contracting the eye muscles and applying acute focus. Research also shows that athletes whose “length of gaze” on the target with their central vision just prior to and through interception outperform athletes with a shorter length of gaze. This final gaze (focus) immediately prior to and through target interception is referred to as QE or Quiet Eye.
So, instead of putting your eyes on the trap, establish a visual pick-up point some distance away from the spot where the target will first appear. This visual pick-up point is also called the “foveal anchor.” Focus very widely out to a distance beyond that of the target line. As the target appears and you acquire the target with your peripheral vision, tighten the eye muscles to focus on a spot on the target, the “focal point,” and watch the target break. By leveraging the power of both the peripheral and central vision, you will acquire the target earlier, have more efficient gun movement and experience a stronger visual connection with the target.