Love Hiking? Give Field Archery
a Try! Love Hiking? Give Field Archery a Try!

Whether you want to feel like Princess Merida, Katniss Everdeen or Robin Hood – or just love a beautiful hike through the woods – field archery might be your game.

You might have read our recent article on the National Field Archery Association. They offer one type of field archery game, while World Archery, the sport’s international governing body, offers another option, using the same fun principles (you’re hiking outdoors while shooting your bow), but with slight changes to the types of targets and challenges.

This five-article series explains everything from basic information to equipment needs to prepare for a field archery event, which is usually in the format of a local tournament. When you try a field archery “shoot,” you’re really just competing against yourself, and it’s a very casual environment – you can wear your jeans and flannels, and be comfortable as you try this fun archery game.

Field archery is shot on varying terrain with angled targets, none of which are ever set up the same way. In fact, you’ll feel like something is new each time you shoot!

What follows are basic concepts you’ll need to know when attending a field archery event.

Practice, Day 1 and Day 2

In most field archery events, you’ll have two days of scoring, and sometimes an optional practice day (or a few practice hours before the event starts); field archery shoots are usually held over a weekend. The practice day usually provides one or two targets at every distance you’ll shoot, in 5-meter increments. These will be laid out on an open field, and you must obey safety commands and shoot on a timer. This allows archers to ensure that their bow is hitting each of the distances correctly before walking onto the official field archery course.

The first day of the shoot usually consists of 24 targets, which the tournament organizers intentionally set out at unknown distances. That’s right, unknown distances! You need to know how to gauge distances without the aid of electronic devices like rangefinders. There is only one major rule: You cannot tamper with any part of your equipment that isn’t standard manufacturing. This day is all about hiking around, finding the distances on your own, and having fun with your fellow archers. The second day consists of another 24 targets, this time at marked, or known, distances. This usually features more challenging uphill and downhill shots, as well as farther shots.

So, let’s get to know the target styles and distances.

Uphill and downhill angles are part of the fun of field archery! Photo Credit: World Archery

Uphill and downhill angles are part of the fun of field archery! Photo Credit: World Archery

Target Sizes, Distances and Classifications

First, you’ll notice the target face sizes are noted in centimeters, while the distances to the target are in meters; that’s because World Archery uses the metric system for measurements in field archery, just as they do in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This event has a unique setup. The targets are similar to Olympic-style target archery, but with a score change and a slight color change: yellow for the center two rings, and black throughout the rest of the target. Instead of rings going from 1 to 10 points, this is 1 to 6 points, with the 6 ring being the “X” ring of the target and outward from there.


Four sizes of this target are placed at varying distances, with each at specific shooting distances based on their target face size: 20-cm, 40-cm, 60-cm and 80-cm. The smaller faces are set at closer distances, while the larger 60- and 80-cm faces are placed at longer ranges.

To find out the distances you will shoot, you must determine which style of bow you’ll be shooting: Recurve, Compound or Barebow. (By the way, the World Archery Field Championship is the only event at which this organization awards a World Champion title for barebow archers. How cool is that?) So, after debating which style to shoot, you will shoot a set of distances associated with that type of equipment.

You will know where to stand because red and blue stakes in the ground mark the locations at each target. Blue represents the barebow stake, and red indicates the recurve and compound stakes. Unlike target archery, where you place one foot on either side of the shooting line, in World Archery-style field events, you must place both feet behind the stake.

Last but not least, you need to know how to shoot an end (three arrows for score). You’ll get three minutes to guess the distance you’re shooting, and shoot your three arrows at each target. The 20-cm and 40-cm faces will be positioned as individual targets.

Shooting at smaller target faces can be challenging, but it’s a lot of fun! Photo Credit: World Archery

Shooting at smaller target faces can be challenging, but it’s a lot of fun! Photo Credit: World Archery

When it’s time to shoot 20 and 40 centimeter target faces, archers take turns shooting them. Since archers shoot in groups of four, and need to take turns, there’s a convenient system of determining who goes first: the first two archers up to the stake are labeled as “A” and “B” shooter, with “A” standing on the left side of the stake, and “B” standing on the right side. Those archers will shoot the targets as shown on the diagram below. The same is true for the “C” and “D” archers, but they will shoot after A and B are done. To simplify, just know that if you’re up first, you are the AB line and if you are up second, you are the CD line, and you shoot the 20 and 40 centimeter targets as labeled in the diagram below. For the 60-cm and 80-cm faces, it is only one target face, and it’s a large one, so when it’s your turn at the stake, just aim for the middle!

20 face

We hope this provided some insight to World Archery-style field archery events. This type of shooting is fun, exciting, challenging AND gives you the peace and relaxation of a beautiful hike in the woods. If you’re ready to try archery for the first time, the best place to start is your local archery store. And if more field archery is what you want, our next article will discuss the specifics of learning to judge distances without help from a rangefinder. This is a vital skill for this game, so don’t miss out!

About the Author: Heather Koehl was the Alternate for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Archery Team, and is a competitive archer at Texas A&M University. Heather has competed in target and field archery at the international level.

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