Getting into Competitive Archery: Field and 3-D Rules

Do you enjoy traveling and exploring beautiful landscapes? Is a walk in the woods a fun time? Do you thrive on variety? If you answered “yes” to these questions, 3-D and field archery are for you!

Field archery and 3-D archery tournaments add exciting elements that mix things up beyond traditional, Olympic-style competitions. Field and 3-D competitions are held on courses similar to golf. These courses can feature castles, forests or other beautiful backdrops that competitors enjoy in between shooting arrows. Competitors walk through tricky terrain and lengthy ranges to shoot at targets at varying angles and distances. Mastering these skills is called “field craft.”

Here are some basic rules to expect:

World Archery Rules

Check the rules before competing. Photo Credit: World Archery

World Archery is competitive archery’s international governing body, and sets the rules and regulations for international competitions, including some field and 3-D events. Learn more here about the World Games. The World Archery Field Championships are held every two years and include youth divisions.

Most competitive archery events have some form of World Archery rules.

Equipment: Recurve

Archers in the recurve division can use one draw check indicator. It can be audible, tactile or visual, but not electronic. The sight cannot include magnifying or leveling devices, and no more than one sight point can be used. Sights can have wind and elevation adjustments. You can also attach nonelectronic wind indicators to your bow, like a ribbon. Stabilizers and vibration dampeners are also allowed.

Equipment: Compound

Compound-bow competitors cannot shoot bows with peak draw weights exceeding 60 pounds. Sights can have a level and magnifying lenses and/or prisms, and account for wind speed and elevation. The sight can include a scale from the manufacturer, and/or tape with one set of the archer’s sight marks to serve as a distance guide. Sight pins can be fiber optic and illuminated by a glowstick. Archers can only use multiple-pin sights on a marked course. They’re prohibited on unmarked courses.

Equipment: Barebow

Archers can attach an arrow rest to a barebow, but nothing else. Photo Credit: World Archery

Barebows can only have an arrow rest. Sights are prohibited. The bow cannot have anything attached to help the archer aim. Stabilizers and draw-check devices aren’t allowed.

Equipment:Instinctive Bow

Instinctive bow equipment has a riser made of a natural or resin-based material like wood, bamboo, horn, cloth and/or fiberglass. Part of the riser can include metal or carbon/graphic. The riser must be laminated materials or one piece of wood. The bow can be a take-down type. The bow can have a rest, but draw-checks and stabilizers are prohibited.

Equipment: Longbow

Longbows must be in the traditional shape or American flat bow. For juniors and women, the bow cannot be less than 150 centimeters in length. The men’s longbow cannot be less than 160 centimeters in length. Sights or any sight markings are not allowed in the longbow division. Longbow archers must shoot wooden arrows with natural feathers for fletching.


Archers can use an arm guard, chest protector, bow sling, finger sling and quiver (belt, back, hip or ground). Competitors can use prescription glasses, shooting glasses and sunglasses, but eyewear cannot include anything that helps aiming.

Bows cannot include any electronic devices. Archers cannot carry electronic communication devices, including cellphones, headsets or noise-reducing devices. Binoculars and similar optics are allowed to help spot arrows.

Field Archery Targets

Field-archery targets are typically black and yellow, with target faces measuring 20, 40, 60 and 80 centimeters. Smaller faces are set at closer distances, and larger targets are used for longer distances. Instead of rings ranging from 1 to 10 points like in Olympic-style targets, points go from 1 to 6, with the X ring scoring 6.

3-D Targets

3-D targets can be as fun and entertaining as you’d like. Photo Credit: ATA

From bigfoot to big bulls, 3-D archery tournaments feature various plastic-foam targets in all shapes and sizes. The 3-D challenge features varying distances and tough terrain, and knowing where to aim on the 3-D animal to score maximum points. This dynamic competition is fun for archers who enjoy a hunting-based challenge.In 3-D target tournaments, the scoring zones are identified on pictures.

Competition Format: Field Archery, Individual

At World Archery Field Championships,archers shoot 48 targets over two days during qualifying rounds. One day features marked distances and the other day features unmarked distances. Archers are ranked by total points earned in the qualifying round. The top 16 archers in each division go to the elimination round, where each competitor shoots three arrows at 12 marked targets for 36 total shots.

The top eight archers advance to the second elimination round, where they shoot three arrows at eight marked targets. The top four remaining archers then advance to the semifinals. The two lowest-scoring archers compete in a shoot-off for bronze, with the top two competing in a shoot-off for gold.

Competition Format: Field Archery, Team

The competition includes both individual and team events. Photo Credit: World Archery

The World Archery Field Championships include a team competition. Teams consist of three archers of the same gender in each division – compound, recurve and barebow. The highest scoring archers after the qualifying rounds in each division make the team. Teams are ranked for elimination matches based on the total score of the three archers selected.

The top eight teams shoot head-to-head quarterfinal matches featuring eight marked targets. Each archer shoots one arrow per target. The top four teams advance to the semifinals. The two teams with the lowest scores shoot off for bronze, while the top two teams go for gold. Semifinal and medal matches feature four marked targets, with each archer shooting one arrow per target. Shoot-offs decide tied matches, with each archer shooting one arrow. The team with the arrow striking closest to the center wins.

Shooting Format

Each target on the course has a red or blue peg indicating where to shoot. Recurve and compound archers shoot from the red, farthest peg. Barebow archers shoot from the blue, closest peg. Archers can shoot while standing or kneeling, but both feet must be behind the peg. Some 3-D shoots place several pegs for different skills levels and divisions.

Archers walk the course in groups of three or four, shooting in pairs. Archers will shoot two at a time, alternating which pair goes first. The pair not shooting will wait behind the other archers at a safe distance. The other archers can assist in spotting the fall or arrows or blocking the sun. Archers cannot discuss the distance of the target until after the target has been scored.

Scoring: Individual Competition

Athletes keep track of their own scores with other archers. Photo Credit: World Archery

Scoring takes place after each archer has shot the designated number of arrows at the target. Archers competing individually in field archery tournaments are allowed three arrows per target, in all rounds. In 3-D archery competitions, archers shoot two arrows per target in the qualification rounds, and one arrow per target in the elimination and final rounds. In team competition, each team member shoots one arrow per target.

In groups of four, one archer is in charge of conduct, two archers mark scores, and the final archers mark arrow holes, if necessary. Archers call out their own scores while the others double-check the score. Designated scorers mark the score on the scorecard.

Arrows are scored based on where the shaft strikes the target. If the shaft touches two zones, the arrow scores the higher value. Do not touch arrows until after all scoring is complete. At the end of the competition, the archer and scorer must sign the scorecard.


Practice is prohibited on competition courses at most tournaments. However, a practice range is set up a day before the competition. Warmup targets are available the day of the tournament.

Click here for the World Archery’s complete rules for sanctioned tournaments.

National Field Archery Association

The National Field Archery Association hosts almost 1,000 affiliated archery clubs from across the United States. The NFAA sanctions/hosts many events nationwide, including several field archery, marked and unmarked 3-D competitions.

NFAA tournaments feature even more divisions and bow styles than are held in World Archery events, making it a popular format for all ages and shooting disciplines. The cub division includes archers up to age 11 and a “master senior” category includes archers 70 and older.

NFAA also has more bow-style divisions that include freestyle, freestyle limited, barebow, traditional, bowhunter freestyle, competitive bowhunter and bowhunter freestyle limited. For more information about equipment regulations for each division, read the NFAA’s guidelines.

Before Every Tournament, Do Your Research

Field and 3-D rules vary by tournament, but most follow variations of World Archery rules. Always study each event’s specific guidelines.

The diversity of field and 3-D archery tournaments makes for fun, exciting and challenging events. With expanded equipment and age divisions for all disciplines, these tournaments can be fun spectator events, and great ways to get into competitive archery.

Visit your local archery shop for questions about nearby clubs and tournaments.






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