The Vegas Shoot: Behind-the-Scenes
at Archery’s Largest Indoor
Tournament! The Vegas Shoot: Behind-the-Scenes at Archery’s Largest Indoor Tournament!

Growing up in archery is fantastic. You meet great people, travel around the country, and enjoy your beloved sport in many cool places. One of those places is the world’s largest indoor tournament, the Vegas Shoot.

This winter’s trip marked my eighth Vegas visit. However, this time was different. In previous years I competed in the Recurve Championship division, and had practice time to spare. I’m now in a new stage of life: I’m an adult with a job. After graduating from Texas A&M University, I started working in August for the Archery Trade Association. I feel fortunate. I never thought I could have a job that let me enjoy my archery passions as part of my work.


This photo features the Vegas Shoot’s main hallway. This is where archers check in at registration, review target assignments, and view the day’s posted scores. The hallway also leads to vendor booths for archery gear.

Arrival/Practice Day

After landing in Las Vegas in February, I grabbed my suitcase and bow case, and took a taxi to the brightly labeled Southpoint Casino and Hotel. When arriving on a practice day, you have two options: You practice a lot before leaving for the event, or you practice a lot the day you arrive. I chose the first option, which provided plenty of time to check in, visit fun vendor booths, find my target assignment, and check in at the registration desk. I then spent time with friends I hadn’t seen all winter.


Successful first day in the books! This photo features archer Heather Koehl’s bow and target face.

Day One

My first day of competition put me on the shooting line at 3 p.m., which I liked. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, watched a few friends shoot, and bought some equipment I could carry home with me to avoid paying shipping costs.

This year the NFAA designated our shooting locations with “deck of cards” themes. I rolled up to the “Hall of Hearts” about 25 minutes before my shooting time. That gave me ample time to stretch and install my target face. During my two practice ends I introduced myself to my target mates for the next two days, Demetrio Mascarenas Jr. of Illinois and Carrie Lin of Washington.

Carrie and Demetrio never stopped smiling, and were a pleasure to be around. I almost want to say that’s because we were shooting in “flights” instead of the Championship division, which is reserved for world-class shooters. If you drop a few points in the Championship division, you’re out of the money. With flights, you can still win something even if you have an off-day. I liked the change of pace. I could enjoy some camaraderie while walking down and scoring my shots, and then be serious while focusing on my form when shooting.

I shot a 266 the first day. That wasn’t too bad, considering that I was averaging around 275 in practice, and really hadn’t practiced much indoors. I knew I could shoot higher, and also knew what I could do to improve the next day.


Heather Koehl (center) finished up the second day at the Vegas Shoot with a celebratory selfie with target mates Carrie Lin (left) and Demetrio Mascarenas Jr. (right).

Day Two

The recurve flights had another fantastic shooting time the second day: noon. I wanted to watch the female Recurve Championship line, however, so I didn’t get to sleep in because their line began at 7 a.m. If you want to shoot great scores someday, I urge you to watch shooters in the category ahead of you. You’ll learn a lot about your shooting, and enjoy some great inner talks regarding your goals.

As noon approached on Day Two, I grabbed my equipment and headed to the Hall of Hearts. I then repeated my routines from the previous day with warm-ups and stretching, and then shot better than the first day! Here’s a shout-out to my co-workers who came to watch. It felt great to know the people I work with support my endeavors.

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to Carrie and Demetrio. Everyone is reassigned to new targets for the last day, based on where their scores ranked. I had a great time, and knew they would finish strong on Day Three.

But this is also where I had one of those “Really?” moments. My 270 and 266 scores put me on the bubble. I’d be at the bottom of Flight 2 or the top of Flight 3. If I’d been atop the third flight, I could have won some money, but that didn’t happen. I had one more 10 than the five other archers with the same score, which landed me among the last of Flight 2. Even though I couldn’t get within reach of any money, at least I could still shoot.


Heather Koehl poses with bow in hand, happy to finish with her highest score out of the three days at the Vegas Shoot.

Day Three

And shoot I did. I awoke the next day at 7 a.m., even though my line wasn’t until 9 a.m. Maybe my body was still on Central time. After grabbing a small breakfast, I walked to the Hall of Hearts a final time. My shooting felt a little slower throughout the day, but somehow I scored higher than the first two days with a 274. Even so, my shooting had a bit of a “so-so” vibe to it, which justified grabbing an Oreo milkshake afterward! It’s all about self-indulging rewards, right?

My 274 score also pushed me up seven places, which was nice. It feels good to shoot your highest score when most people are shooting their lowest scores the final day.

Afterward, I hung out with friends and enjoyed my vacation time in Vegas.

Sin City Wrap-up

As an archer who has enjoyed a whirlwind of adventure in the sport, I found shooting among those who shoot just for fun to be icing on the cake. You can be as competitive as you want, but you should also enjoy the experience. I met many great people that weekend, and I’m glad I reconnected with many friends I’ve met through the sport.

As archery’s outdoor season begins, I want to keep up with archery and my work. Archery is a big part of my life, and I look forward to the fun and adventure that lies ahead in work and on the range.

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