What’s an Archery Shoot-off?

Ties are made to be broken, and we don’t mean the awful necktie your aunt gave you 10 years ago. We’re talking about nail-biting, photo-finish archery ties that highlight stout competition. What do you do? You have a good old-fashioned shoot-off. Get your arrows ready, because the pressure is about to get intense.

In National Archery in Schools Program competitions, a shoot-off is only used to determine the first- and second-place finishers. Any lower ranking will stand as a tie, with both archers receiving the same award.

Archers must be poised and ready to go at any moment during the tournament. If you don’t show up for your shoot-off, you’re automatically assigned the lower rank, and the other competitor wins the tie. The archers then shoot five arrows at a target 15 meters away. That’s a lot of pressure for youngsters, but it shows archers at their toughest.

How do the “big kids” handle it? Here are some yell-at-the-screen-worthy shoot-offs that will make you want to add archery competitions to your gameday viewing.

3-D Shoot-Off, 2018 ASA Classic Men’s Open Pro

At this year’s Open Pro shoot-off, Dan McCarthy challenged reigning champion Levi Morgan for his crown. Photo Credit: BowJunky Media Youtube


In 3-D competitions, archers shoot at targets that resemble various animals. The targets are set at varying distances, and have scoring rings on the body that range in point value.

A 3-D shoot-off lasts six rounds. The archers move down the line to shoot each target, with each station a different distance from the “animal.” The six rounds end when each archer has shot once at each target. The archer with the highest score for all six targets wins.

At this year’s Open Pro shoot-off, Dan McCarthy challenged reigning champion Levi Morgan for his crown. What was at stake? A historic 12th shooter of the year title for Levi Morgan. Morgan and McCarthy had their share of perfect shots, but Morgan held onto his crown despite a great challenge from McCarthy.

Olympic Shoot-Off, Archery World Cup, Antalya 2018

This shoot-off came down to a measurement to determine which archer’s 9-point shot landed closer. Photo Credit: World Archery Youtube


In Olympic match-play competition, archers shoot three-arrow groups called “ends.” The high-score holder of each end gets 2 points for winning that end, while the loser gets 0. A tie results in a 1-1 split. The match winner is the first to earn 6 points. If a tie results after five ends, the archers go to a one-arrow shoot-off. The archer with the arrow nearest the center wins.

The 2018 Archery World Cup took spectators for a crazy ride when it came down to exactly that: a shoot-off for gold between Russian champion Ksenia Perova and Korean champion Chang Hye Jin.

Consider: You’re about to battle for Olympic gold, something you’ve dreamed about your entire life. Now consider the bad weather. You’re not only battling your opponent, you’re battling strong winds on a beach in Turkey. The video of the matchup shows strong ocean breezes whipping the flags. Now imagine trying to shoot 70 yards at a target 4 inches wide.

Even so, this shoot-off came down to a measurement to determine which archer’s 9-point shot landed closer. That drama turned into a dream for Perova when she clinched the gold after a whirlwind (literally) shoot-off.

Vegas Shoot, 2018 Freestyle Open Championship

This year the underdog outlasted the leaders of the pack. Photo Credit: NFAA


The Vegas Shoot is archery’s Super Bowl, and for good reason. It brings out the best of the best, and gives recreational archers a chance to run with the big dogs. At this competition, archers shoot three arrows at a 40-centimeter target 20 yards away. Then they score and retrieve their arrows, releasing 30 shots per round. Much like bowling, a perfect score is 300. Unlike other competitions, compound and recurve archers compete together using the same targets. The rules are simple: Be the best longer than anyone else. But is that so simple?

This year the underdog outlasted the leaders of the pack. Bob Eyler won the Vegas Shoot with three perfect shots. If you’re betting against the odds, what better place to do so than Vegas?

Shoot-offs prove that archery competitions can be close and intense. When you pit the best archers against each other, their talent creates high drama. Shoot-offs give archers one last chance to show their grit and prove why they deserve their rank. Working “overtime” for your gold makes it that much sweeter, and watching the chase is a bonus for every spectator.

If you want to ace a shootout yourself, put in the work at your local archery range.



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