Archery is a great lifelong sport. It can be enjoyed by all, it introduces you to new people, and it exercises your mind and body. Archery might not seem versatile to newcomers, but they’ll soon learn many ways to participate.
To add variety to your archery routine, try these ideas:
Indoor archery lets you shoot regardless of conditions outside. When winds howl and snow flies, you don’t have to skip practice. Indoor ranges keep archers shooting for all seasons. Check with local shops for an indoor range. All you need is your bow, arrows and target tips. Many indoor ranges sell paper targets or you can hang your own.
Indoor competition is fun and challenging. Most National Field Archery Association indoor tournaments feature two types of 20-yard shoots: “three-spot,” a multicolored target face with three targets; and “five-spot,” a blue and white target face with five targets. In USA Archery and NFAA indoor rounds, archers shoot three to five arrows per round, for totals from 30 to 60 arrows during tournaments.
Indoor tournaments feature stiff competition and few distractions. The result is precision shooting. In USA Archery’s indoor format, the compound-bow 10-ring is about the size of a dime. That ring on an outdoor target is the size of a baseball. For highly skilled, experienced archers, indoor tournaments often feature perfect scores.
Leagues offer great ways to connect with other archers. Many bow shops and ranges host leagues year-round. Leagues are formatted different ways, but most offer weekly competition for several months. Leagues provide a gentle introduction to competitive shooting because they’re not as serious as certified tournaments. Popular league formats include team, video, youth, indoor, outdoor, women and traditional.
Whatever your skill, you’ll improve further in a league. The biggest benefit, however, is making friends. You’ll meet like-minded archers who have fun participating in a sport they love.
Shooting outdoors offers different challenges. Targets are set at longer distances, and the sun, wind and temperatures affect your performance. Local shops and clubs often maintain an outdoor range during warm-weather months.
If you love hiking and spending time outside, try field archery. Archers shoot at stationary bull’s-eye targets throughout the woods at varying distances, which is part of field archery’s challenge. Some courses don’t mark the targets’ distances and don’t allow range-finders, so you must learn to estimate ranges.
Field archery also features uphill and downhill shots. World Archery and NFAA host certified field tournaments. Also check with nearby clubs because many have field courses you can shoot for fun or during tournaments.
3D archery is similar to field archery, but instead of shooting at paper targets with a bull’s-eye, you shoot at 3D foam-plastic animals. Clubs often host 3D shoots that are open to the public. Archery shops are great resources for finding nearby shoots.
Most 3D shoots register participants in the morning and offer a full day of shooting. You’ll shoot with a group, so bring a friend or prepare to make new ones. Each target has stakes or flags to indicate distances. You’ll shoot where you feel most comfortable.
These competitions feature many classes, so use a bow you’re comfortable with, whether it’s compound or traditional. Courses take you on a woodlands walk, so come prepared. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, dress in layers, and bring snacks, water, sunscreen and bug spray. Caution: Bring plenty of arrows, too. It’s fun to launch arrows 100 yards at that Bigfoot target, but be prepared to lose arrows that miss.
Do you have kids? Scholastic 3D Archery is a great way to introduce them to archery. For more information read “S3DA: Your Gateway to Youth Archery.”
Archery clubs connect people seeking camaraderie. Clubs give you instant access to friends, expert advice and shooting opportunities. Don’t be intimidated, especially if you don’t have many archery buddies. Clubs welcome archers of all levels. They want to grow the sport and enhance the experience for everyone. The atmosphere is social and informational. You’ll get great tips and tricks from experts. To find a club, talk to the pros at a nearby shop.
Archery shops and clubs host special shoots all year. They feature fun themes like couples shoots for Valentine’s Day or spooky shoots on Halloween. Other fun shoots serve as fundraisers for local nonprofits or youth clubs. Check regularly with clubs and shops for special shoots.
Bowfishing can test your skills during spring and summer. You can shoot from boats, shorelines or even paddleboards. Before going, learn your state’s seasons and regulations. You’ll need special gear like a bowfishing reel, arrow and retrieval line. It’s also important to learn safety procedures, fish identification and what to do after landing your catch.
The best way to learn bowfishing is to visit an archery shop and ask if they offer classes.
Some people like nothing better than unwinding after long days by shooting arrows in their backyard. Such courses are a great convenience, check your community’s rules and ordinances before setting up a target. Some cities, towns and villages forbid outdoor archery.
If archery is allowed, ensure you shoot safely. Know what’s beyond your target, and never shoot toward a home, road, park or other place with human activity. In all cases, build a backstop to catch stray arrows.
If you have questions about expanding your bow-and-arrow opportunities, visit a nearby archery shop. They’ll be happy to help.