When new to archery, you might consider tournaments a big deal. In fact, they’re super accessible, easy to shoot, and a great way to meet people and have fun while challenging yourself on the range.
Very few tournaments in the United States have qualifying requirements for competition. Most archery tournaments are open to everyone, pretty casual, and beginners (yes, you!) are encouraged to give it a try. The rule of thumb: If you hit the target consistently at 20 yards – not the middle, just the target – you’re ready for your first tournament!
Great news: Your first tournament is probably as close as the local archery club or pro shop.
During winter, most tournaments are indoors, where archers shoot targets 18 meters (about 20 yards) away. This makes stores and clubs perfect locations. “Indoor archery season” is the perfect time to shoot your first tournament. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get started.
Find a Tournament
This is easy. First, decide what kind of targets you want to shoot: foam animals or paper faces. If you prefer foam, look for a 3-D tournament, such as those sanctioned by the Archery Shooters Association or International Bowhunting Organization. If you prefer bull’s-eye targets, look for a National Field Archery Association or USA Archery event.
This is quick. Check the listing for the event you’ve identified, and locate a registration form that’s linked or attached. Fill out the form, which collects basic information about you and the bow type you shoot. Some indoor archery tournaments also let you choose the day and/or time you shoot.
Learn the tournament’s location. If you’ve never been there before, view the directions and figure out how long it takes to get there. Arrive at least 30 minutes before your shooting time so you have time to check in, stretch, assemble your bow and relax a few minutes.
It’s also important to learn the tournament’s rules and format. These items should be on the registration form. If not, ask the event organizer these questions:
- What style of tournament is this?
- How many total arrows will we shoot?
- How many arrows will be shot on each end?
- Will you use a timing system?
- Will you use alternating shooting?
- How long should you expect to be there?
- What should you wear?
Next, decide what to wear. Most tournaments have a dress code, which is easy to follow (for example, here is a link to USA Archery’s). Also find out how many arrows to bring, and how long it takes to shoot the event.
You’ll Want Supplies
We’re talking about edible supplies. Most archery tournaments sell food, such as snacks or hot food. However, bring something to keep your energy up while you shoot. Good suggestions: water, a sports drink, and energy snacks such as fruit, nuts or other proteins.
Pack Your Gear
Make a list of gear you’ll need for shooting. Be sure your arrows are in good condition, with all fletchings intact and nocks free of cracks. It’s also good to bring a few extra arrows. Remember to pack your quiver and accessories, such as your finger tab or release aid. Consider this helpful item for indoor archery tournaments: arrow lubricant. Apply it to the ends of your arrows so they don’t stick in the targets.
Get a good night’s rest and eat something (relatively healthy) before your tournament. Arrive about 30 minutes early, and find where you check in to shoot. You’ll likely receive two scorecards, and be sent to the target you’re shooting. If you’re shooting a target or field indoor archery tournament, you’ll hang your target on the mat you’re shooting. When you check in, ask whether you need to hang your own target face and, if so, where to hang it.
Stretch Out and Relax
Relaxation is key. Turn on your iPod and listen to some music while getting ready. Assemble your bow carefully, and make sure you have all your equipment. Tighten all bow pieces you normally screw into place, such as sights and stabilizer. Check the positions of your sights and other accessories to ensure they’re in their usual spots. Use your stretch band to warm up your muscles. And then RELAX. Pick a chair near your target, sit down and chill.
Most indoor archery tournaments use alternating shooting, which means one group shoots, a second group shoots, and then everyone pulls and scores together. This maximizes the number of competitors in the tournament. Pay attention to which “line” – or group – you shoot with. Note if the tournament uses a timing system, and how much time per end you must shoot.
Tournaments usually require archers to score in groups. This means every archer from your target, you included, goes downrange to score and pull arrows when told to do so. Two sets of scorecards are usually kept. Two archers serve as scorekeepers, while another “calls” the value of each arrow. If there’s a fourth shooter, this archer can help by marking where the arrows hit before they’re pulled.
The best part of archery tournaments is the people you meet and the fun you have shooting together. Tournaments usually draw archers from nearby cities and states, depending on where you live, so you’ll meet new people. Relax, have fun and remember the main goal for your first tournament: form and fun. Focus on how your shots feel – not how they score – and have a good time. If you focus on those two things, your first indoor archery tournament will be a great experience!