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How to Shoot: 3D, Field and Outdoor Target Archery

Are you interested in competitive archery? There are several disciplines. People who love shooting outside should consider 3D, field or target archery. All three involve shooting in nature’s elements; however, there are differences in targets, distances and course setup. 

3D Archery 

In 3D archery, participants shoot at three-dimensional foam animal targets. These can range from popular big-game animals like deer and elk to the occasional Bigfoot or velociraptor. This challenging event is a lot of fun.  


Archers walk through the course in a group, usually three or four athletes. Every athlete shoots at a stationary foam target from a shooting peg. There are usually two pegs. Archers can choose which peg to shoot from, closer or farther away, based on class or equipment. The 3D targets are placed at varying distances, ranging from extremely close to long shots such as 100 yards. Archers can shoot standing or kneeling. Typically, archers shoot two arrows per target. 


The scoring rings on 3D targets are meant to mimic the vital organs of the animal. Different organizations score 3D slightly differently. The two largest 3D organizations are the International Bowhunting Organization and the Archery Shooters Association. In IBO, scoring rings are worth 11, 10, 8 and 5 points. The smallest ring is 11 points, followed by 10 and 8. Arrows that hit outside the target are worth 5 points. Missing the target gets you a zero. In ASA, the 10-, 8- and 5-rings are the same as on an IBO target. However, there are two 12-rings inside the 10-ring. ASA targets also have a 14-ring in the 8-ring’s upper corner. 


You’ll need to read the regulations for the specific competition you enter. Many follow some form of World Archeryrules, which are as follows: 


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.


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 use multiple-pin sights only on a marked course. They’re prohibited on unmarked courses.


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.

Instinctive Bow 

With instinctive bow equipment, the riser is made of a natural or resin-based material like wood, bamboo, horn, cloth and/or fiberglass. The riser must be laminated materials or one piece of wood, but part of the riser can include metal or carbon/graphic. The bow can be a takedown type. A rest is allowed, but draw-checks and stabilizers are prohibited.


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 to aim. 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 

Field archery is often compared to golf. Athletes navigate obstacles and beautiful courses around the world. Targets are placed at varying distances in different terrains, similar to 3D archery. Archers shoot at severe inclines and declines or among cover. World Archery and the National Field Archery Association are two of the most popular organizations that host field archery events. 

Distances and Scoring 

Under World Archery rules, archers shoot three arrows per target for a total of 72 arrows. Distances vary from 5 to 60 meters and can be marked, unmarked or a combination. There are typically three different pegs to shoot from at three different distances. Archers choose a peg based on equipment and/or experience level. 

World Archery uses four different target faces: 80 centimeters, 60 centimeters, 40 centimeters and 20 centimeters. The target faces are black and yellow and divided into six concentric circles. The very inner circle scores six points, and as you move outward, each circle is worth one point less. If the arrow hits the line and touches two zones, the archer takes the higher score. 

NFAA offers three versions: target, hunter and animal round. Archers either shoot a 14-target course, twice; or a 28-target course, one time. In the target round, distances are 20 to 80 yards. Two white scoring rings surround the center black area; both score 4 points. They’re surrounded by two black scoring rings that both score 3 points. Archers shoot four arrows at each target station in NFAA events. 

During the hunter round, archers shoot targets set from 11 to 70 yards. The center white scoring area is surrounded by black, which is easier to aim at than target-round faces. Scoring is the same as the target round. 

NFAA’s animal round features paper animal targets instead of bull’s-eye paper faces. Animal round targets are set from 10 to 60 yards. Scoring is different than target and hunter. Each target has three scoring areas: a center dot, surrounded by a larger scoring ring, which is surrounded by an even larger ring. Archers shoot a maximum of three arrows at each target. If the first arrow hits a scoring area, it earns 21 points for the dot, 20 points for the next scoring ring, and 18 points for the outer ring. In that case, no other arrows are shot. If archers miss a scoring ring with the first shot, they shoot a second arrow. If that’s a miss, there’s a third and final arrow. Point totals for the second and third arrows are less than those awarded for the first arrow. 


At World Archery events, archers compete in barebow, Olympic recurve or compound divisions. NFAA offers several equipment divisions, including crossbows, open compound and bowhunter gear, and Olympic recurves and traditional equipment. 

Outdoor Target Archery 

Target archery is the most popular archery discipline in the world. Every four years it’s on the worldwide stage during the Summer Olympics. However, recurve equipment is the only archery equipment sanctioned to use at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Distances and Scoring 

Outdoor target archery is popular because it caters to archers of all age classes, experience levels and equipment categories. Compound archers shoot 50 meters at an 80-centimeter target. Recurve archers shoot 70 meters at a 122-centimeter target, and barebow archers shoot 50 meters at a 122-centimeter target. Youth distances vary by age. 

Targets have white, black, blue and red outer rings with a gold center. The rings score from 10 points down to 1. The middle of the gold circle is worth 10, the gold outside the 10-ring is worth 9 points, and the red area is split between the 8 and 7 rings. Blue scores 6 and 5, the 4- and 3-rings are black, and the outermost rings are white. 


Recurve is the only discipline allowed at the Olympics. In other tournaments, you can compete using longbow, barebow and compound.

There’s a competitive archery practice for everyone. If you want to get involved, visit an archery shop. They’ll be able to answer questions about equipment. They will also have information about local clubs and tournaments.  



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