Bowhunters can benefit from participating in competitive archery. When some see competition-style gear that they’re unfamiliar with, however, such as recurves, clickers and long stabilizers, it’s intimidating. Some events, like the Olympic Games, allow only recurve equipment, but most have a wide range of divisions.
Many tournaments offer divisions for archers based on age, gender, experience and choice of equipment. The majority of bowhunters pursue game with compound bows. The two main competitive divisions for compounds are “open” and “bowhunter.” The bowhunter class is designed for bowhunters who want to transition seamlessly from the treestand to the shooting line.
You don’t need a special bow or accessories to compete in the bowhunter class, where equipment restrictions keep accessories limited to those used in the field. In this division, your bowhunter setup will work just fine, and there’s no need to learn to shoot differently. That’s what makes it perfect for hunters just getting into competition.
Typically, in a bowhunter division the restrictions apply only to accessories, not the bow. While most competitors choose to use a hunting bow, some use brightly colored target bows. Participants have the option to use their hunting release or a target-style hinge, thumb-button or tension-activated release. Accessories are often restricted to short stabilizers and sights without magnification.
Major archery organizations have adopted rules for bowhunter class. Field, 3D, indoor and collegiate archery each include a bowhunter class. Before you enter a tournament, it’s important to review the rules because they can vary between organizations and tournaments. If you have questions, call a local club or an archery shop.
International Bowhunter Organization
The International Bowhunter Organization was established to unify bowhunters through tournaments. IBO regulates its hunter class equipment to a compound, recurve or longbow shot with or without sights. A sight shall have fixed pins, crosshair- or circle-style pins without lens or magnification. If circle-style pins are used, all circles must be the same size. A sight may have a rear aperture (i.e., peep sight or fixed rifle-type sight). Sights may not be adjusted after entering the shooting course. Arrows must have screw-in points and at least three feathers or vanes no less than 2 inches long (measured minimum 1.75 inches).
Stabilizers, V-bars, counterbalances or weighted attachments may be attached to the bow as long as these items do not extend more than 12 inches from each point of attachment. (For the purposes of this rule, any device adding length or weight to the stabilizer shall be considered part of the stabilizer and shall be subject to the 12-inch rule.) Unweighted vibration dampeners are not considered to be stabilizers; however, unweighted vibration dampeners attached to the stabilizer are measured as a part of the stabilizer and are subject to the 12-inch rule above. Equipment in this class may be shot with a finger tab, shooting glove or release.
USA Archery promotes the sport of archery across the country. It sanctions indoor, outdoor and collegiate tournaments. USA Archery has a bowhunter division, for which its rules adhere to the compound division of World Archery, with some exceptions including:
- Sight: Any sight pin, ring or dot that is used without the aid of magnification. A lens with zero magnification is allowable. Clarifiers and verifiers will be permitted. No adjustment to equipment is allowed during a round*.
- Stabilizers: A front stabilizer (or a system including quick releases, enhancers and/or weights) may be used, but may not exceed 12 inches in total length from the tip of the stabilizer (or system) to the point of attachment on the front of the riser provided by the manufacturer. A single rear stabilizer or a single counterbalance weight system may be used, with no restriction in length as measured from the point of attachment on the riser.
- *Once the qualification round begins, there will be no further adjustments allowed. Each match during elimination rounds is its own “round” and adjustments can be made after each match.
National Field Archery Association
- Up to five sight pins can be used.
- Release aids are permitted.
- Sight-pin guards and a level are allowed.
- One anchor point is permitted.
- All arrows must be the same weight, length, diameter and fletching.
- Stabilizers less than 12 inches long (from the back of the bow) are permitted.
- Stabilizers, V-bars, stabilizer couplings, and counterbalances can be used.
- No equipment adjustments are allowed during a round.
Archery Shooters Association
Sights — Fixed pins, no limit to their number. Movable sights can be used but must be locked into a fixed position that’s verified by the group before competing. Magnification isn’t allowed in any 30-yard fixed-pin class, but it’s permitted in all 40-yard pin classes. Clarifiers or verifiers in the peep are allowed because they don’t magnify the sight.
Stabilizers — A front stabilizer or a system that includes quick releases, enhancers and/or weights can be used, but cannot exceed 12 inches in length from the tip of the stabilizer (or system) to its attachment point on the front of the factory-provided riser. A rear stabilizer or back-bar system (V-bar) of any length can be used.
Every bowhunter should take a shot at competition because the experience pays off in the field. Competition archery sharpens your skills. It encourages year-round practice, especially if you compete in indoor tournaments during the winter. The pressure teaches you to calm your nerves and shoot well in stressful situations. Both 3D and field archery help bowhunters learn to judge distances and practice in hunting-like conditions. Competing in the bowhunter class means that when hunting season ends, tournament season is just beginning.