Bowhunting season might be over, but that doesn’t mean you have to hang up your bow for the next several months. In the offseason, target archery is a great way to have some fun and keep your shooting skills sharp at the same time.
Many competitions have divisions designed for bowhunting equipment, too, so you don’t have to dive into the specialty gear target archers often use. You can use the same bow, sight, arrows, and release that you carry to the woods. It’s a cost-effective way to become a better hunting archer.
Depending on the competition format, you’ll need multiple arrows set up identically with field tips — no broadheads — so they all fly exactly the same. A Vegas round, for example, requires you to shoot three arrows at a time. Other types of rounds require you to shoot four or five arrows per end. (An end is a round of scored shooting that’s done before everyone goes to the target to retrieve arrows.)
Always plan to have with you at least twice the number of arrows required per end. A quiver attached to a waist belt is the best way to hold and organize your arrows for competitions.
When you go bowhunting, you might take one or two shots at most. Or you might not shoot at all. If you can consistently hit the vitals area on a deer — about the size of an 8-inch pie plate — you’ll be successful. But in a tournament, you’ll have to shoot your bow 20, 30, 60 or even 120 times, depending on the format. And the bull’s-eye can be the size of a silver dollar or a 50-cent piece.
To be able to shoot a lot of arrows accurately, you should consider reducing the draw weight on your compound bow. Shooting 60 arrows from a 70-pound bow can be rough on your shoulders. Most bows are capable of adjustments within a 10-pound range. A bow that’s labeled 70 pounds, for example, can likely be adjusted down to 60 pounds. To adjust the draw weight, you turn the bolts connecting the limbs to the riser. Clockwise turns increase poundage. Counterclockwise turns decrease it.
Every bow is different, but typically, one full turn of a limb bolt causes about a 3-pound adjustment in draw weight. You can check the draw weight using a draw-weight scale as you adjust your bow to make sure you don’t reduce the poundage below the rated minimum weight.
Getting started in competition archery begins with finding leagues and/or tournaments in your area. Start by checking with your local archery pro shop. If the folks there don’t hold their own events, they probably can steer you in the right direction.
Archery 360 has an extensive database of places to shoot. Search for locations near you here.
You should also check with the major tournament organizations, including:
- USA Archery
- National Field Archery Association
- Archery Shooters Association
- International Bowhunting Organization
For young people, there’s also:
These organizations and others offer competitions for indoor target archery, outdoor target archery, field archery and 3D archery. Here’s a quick look at each.
- Indoor Target: Archers shoot 30, 45 or 60 arrows at bull’s-eye targets at 20 yards.
- Outdoor Target: Archers shoot 72 arrows at bull’s-eye targets at 50 meters.
- Field: Archers shoot up to 120 arrows at different-sized bull’s-eye targets at varying distances, in a course laid out in a natural outdoor setting.
- 3D: Archers shoot varying numbers of arrows at three-dimensional foam animals spread out through a wooded course.
Competition archery usually is an individual endeavor, although there are some team events. But expect to shoot with a group at a tournament. Groups are created according to target assignments. Basically, you’ll be grouped with the competitors closest to you on the shooting line.
The members of a group score one another’s arrows and work to resolve disputes before judges are called.
If you’ve never tried shooting in an archery competition, maybe this is the year to give it a chance. It’s sure to improve your archery skills, and don’t be surprised if you feel the same rush of adrenaline that surges when you’re in a treestand, drawing back on a trophy buck.