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Gearing Up For Indoor Season

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you need to hang up your archery equipment. Winter signals the beginning of the indoor archery season.

Competing in indoor archery leagues and tournaments allows you to shoot archery year-round. Attending indoor events will improve concentration and accuracy, help you meet new people and keep you at the top of your game.

Here’s a look at how to gear-up for the indoor season:

Get a Tune-Up

Take your bow in for a tune-up to make sure it’s tournament ready. Photo credit: ATA

Before indoor season starts, take your bow in for a tune-up at your local archery shop. Over time, your bow experiences wear and tear. Vibrations cause parts to loosen. It’s important to keep up with this yearly tune-up. A trained bow technician will check the string and cables and make sure everything is in alignment.

Consider New Arrows

Your bow will also need a tune-up if you switch to different arrows for indoor season. “Archers tend to use larger diameter arrows for indoor archery, because they are aiming at a small area at a short distance,” said Jill Ward, the outreach coordinator for the National Field Archery Association.

Competitors often switch to larger diameter arrows for indoor competitions to help catch lines. If the arrow shaft touches two colors or the dividing lines between scoring zones, the arrow gets the higher value. Archers will oftenalso use a larger fletching to help the arrow stabilize faster when shooting new distances.

“If you don’t have a variety of arrows, don’t stress. You will see arrows in all shapes and sizes,” Ward said.

If you decide to stick with the arrows you already have, make sure you have enough. For USA Archery events, you’ll need at least three arrows; for NFAA tournaments, you’ll need at least five. Plan to carry a couple spare arrows. Whatever type of arrows you choose for competition, they need to match and be marked with your initials to comply with the rules.


Make sure you have all the basics before you hit the range. Photo Credit: ATA

If you plan to shoot an indoor tournament, you’ll need some basic gear in addition to your bow and arrows. A bow stand holds your bow when you’re not shooting. A hip quiver gives you easy access to your arrows during competition. Arrow lube and an arrow puller help you pull your arrows from the target face. And don’t forget a pen to keep score.

Depending on the equipment division you enter, some archers choose to use longer stabilizers on their bows during indoor tournaments.“Indoor archery offers an archer the opportunity to really examine the way his or her bow aims,” Ward said. “It allows them to correct any aiming issues without interference from wind or other external factors.”


Depending on the type of bow you plan to shoot, you can compete in several different equipment divisions. The division regulations vary between NFAA and USA Archery tournaments, so always check the rules of your tournament or league before entering.

NFAA tournaments include the largest number of equipment divisions:

  • Freestyle: The division with the least amount of restrictions. Bows can have a movable sight and any length stabilizer. Release aids are allowed.
  • Freestyle Limited: Nearly the same as freestyle, but release aids are not allowed.
  • Freestyle Limited Recurve: Standard Olympic bows. Sights, clickers and stabilizers are allowed.
  • Barebow: Any bow is allowed, including a compound. You can use a rest, level and any length stabilizer. You can also “walk the string.” Sights are not allowed.
  • Bowhunter: Your string finger must stay against the arrow nock and must stay in position below or above the arrow nock. A sight, level and clicker are not allowed.
  • Bowhunter Freestyle: Sights can have up to five sight pins. A stabilizer is allowed up to 12 inches in length. You can use a release aid.
  • Traditional: Bows without wheels or pulleys.
  • Longbow: The string does not touch the bow limb.

Here’s an in-depth look at the equipment rules for USA Archery sanctioned tournaments.

Popular Indoor Competition Formats

The Vegas Shoot is one of many popular indoor tournaments. Photo Credit: Shootingtime

You’ll find quite a bit of variety when it comes to indoor leagues and tournaments. Two of the most common indoor tournaments are the 5-spot and Vegas 3-spot.

In 5-spot archery tournaments, there are five targets on the target face. Archers shoot one arrow at each target from a distance of 20 yards. There are 12 rounds, called ends, for a total of 60 arrows. The center ring has an X and is worth 5 points. A perfect 5-spot score is 300, with 60 Xs.

Vegas 3-spot features 30 arrows shot at 20 yards. Archers shoot three arrows per end, for a total of 10 rounds. In Vegas Round targets, the center ring has an X worth 10 points. A perfect score is 300, with 30 Xs.

At 3-D indoor tournaments, archers shoot at 3-D targets of game animals. For a Classic 600 Round, archers shoot indoor from distances of 40, 50 and 60 yards.

How to Find Indoor Events

Several organizations host indoor events and leagues. The NFAA is the largest field archery organization in the world. NFAA clubs host a variety of indoor leagues each winter, ranging from 3-D, 5-spot and Vegas 3-spot targets.

“At all NFAA tournaments we have a wide range of experience level and skill,” Ward said. “Everyone comes together to enjoy the sport and meet new friends.”

NFAA has active clubs in 49 states, which often have information about local events listed on their websites. NFAA also hosts regional and national events like the popular The Vegas Shoot, an indoor tournament attracting beginners and Olympic champions.

USA Archery and the Archery Shooters Association also have indoor tournament listings available on their websites.

Visit your local archery shop to find information about local leagues and events. Your pro shop experts can also answer any questions about gear.



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