Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.
There are many different types of archery for you to explore. However, this can often leave beginners confused about which one will suit them best. Generally, if you enjoy hunting or want something that will test your skills, you will like field and 3D archery the most.
So, what are the most significant differences between field and 3D archery?
One of the most significant differences is the target type during these events. The distances that the archers stand from the target, how the competition plays out and the way the round will be scored are also different.
Though the field and 3D archery at first glance might seem similar, there are several differences between the two types of archery. To help you decide which one will suit you best, let’s take a closer look at both of these options and their differences.
Types Of Targets
In field archery, you’ll be firing at a traditional circular target. You’ll be scored based on how close to the center of the target you get. In 3D archery, you’ll be aiming at a foam target of an animal. You’ll be scored based on how close you get to the vital area.
One of the biggest differences between the two forms of archery will be the type of targets that you’ll be shooting at. Field archery will feature the circular targets, where you’ll need to try and get as close to the center as possible.
While this is the most traditional option, there is still plenty of variation. For example, in indoor field archery, there will be a few spots on the target that you will be trying to hit. Also, as we’ll discuss later, the distance away from each target will vary.
On the other hand, 3D archery requires you to aim at a foam cut-out of an animal. In most cases, these will be familiar game, like deer or turkey. However, some 3D archers might use more unusual animals, like dinosaurs.
On this target, you’ll be scored based on how close you get to the animal’s vital parts. In most cases, these areas will be marked on the side of the target.
Types Of Terrain
In field archery, you’ll need to move around on a course. In most cases, field archery will occur on an outdoor roving course, though there is an indoor variation. On the other hand, 3D archery requires you to stand a set distance away from each target, often on a relatively even surface. 3D archery can also be performed both inside and outside.
Another critical difference between the two types of archery is where you’ll be shooting. In 3D archery, you’ll be standing a set distance away from the target. In some cases, you will have this distance provided to you, while others you’ll need to judge yourself.
While you’ll need to walk through a course, in most cases, you’ll be standing on relatively flat terrain, so you’ll be able to line up your shot.
There will often be several different types of target species on the course. This will ensure that you’ll need to change your approach continually.
During field archery, it’s common for you to walk between the targets. Because of this, it’s often be compared to golf for archers. When you reach the target, you’ll need to try to take your best shot. The distance between each target will vary. There will be both marked and unmarked distances.
There will also be a lot of variation between the targets. For example, some targets might be partially obscured by leaves, but in other cases, you will need to adjust to shooting up or downhill. As a result, your skills as an archer will be put to the ultimate test.
It should also be noted that there are a few different types of field archery targets. First, you’ll have the field round, where the targets are white with a black center. Then, you have the hunter round.
This is where the targets are black, except for the white center. Finally, you have the animal round. This is the most similar to 3D archery, where you’ll be aiming at a paper target of an animal.
As we mentioned, indoor variety is most prevalent when the weather makes going outside too cold or dangerous. In this model, you’ll need to shoot at several different types of targets. In some cases, there will be multiple faces on each target. Though, if you’re just starting, there will be a single spot option available.
It should also be noted that some forms of indoor archery will include moving targets. This can add a new layer of complexity to the sport.
Distance From The Target
The distance from the target can vary, depending on the type of round that you are shooting. Generally, though, field archery limits the range to 80 yards. For most 3D archery events, you will be around 60 yards away. But, in some competitions, you could be 101 yards away.
One of the similarities between these types of archery is that the distances between each target will vary. Also, in both models, there will be a combination of marked and unmarked distances on the course.
You’ll know how far the target is, so you’ll be able to line up your shot for a marked range. For an unmarked distance, you’ll need to judge the distance for yourself.
The distance requirements for field archery will depend on the type of round that you’re shooting. For example, the maximum distance in the hunter round will be ten yards less than the distance in the field. In general, though, outdoor field archery will have their targets as far as 80 yards away.
Due to the limited space available, indoor field archery will need to have their targets placed closer to the shooter. As a result, you might be just 20 feet away. There might be multiple targets for you to aim for, or the target might be moving to provide some extra difficulty.
In 3D archery, the distance from the target might depend on the type of competition that you’ll be involved in. For example, state events might have the target placed around 60 yards away. However, at the national level, the targets might be set further apart. As a result, targets might be placed a maximum of 101 feet away.
Because both of these archery types will have many different kinds of distances between the targets, it’s best to check the maximum range with the competition organizers. This will ensure that you’ll be able to calibrate your bow correctly to get the best results.
Number Of Targets
Outdoor field archery tends to have around 48 targets. On the other hand, 3D archery can go up to a maximum of 70 targets, split across two days of competition.
In field archery, the number of targets on the course will often depend on the type of round that you will be shooting. In general, though, there will be a total of 48 targets. Of these, there’s usually 24 to be marked with precise distances and the other 24 to be unmarked.
The length of the field archery event will often depend on the size of the competition. For example, for some smaller events, you might be able to finish shooting and get your score within a few hours.
However, for a bigger competition, it’s common to spend two days shooting. In most cases, you’ll spend the first day shooting all the marked targets. Then, on the second day, you’ll need to go through all the unmarked ones.
On the other hand, 3D archery tends to have more targets for you to shoot. The number of targets required will depend on the type of event that you’re attending. For example, for a state event, there will typically be a minimum of 30 targets. On the other hand, a national event might have around 70 targets.
Some state 3D target events will be split into two days, allowing the archers to rest between events and improve engagement among the beginners. However, for a bigger event, there might be three days of competition to see who comes out. Most local shoots will have a smaller target selection and will only last for two to three hours.
However, for both of these events, the number of targets will likely vary, depending on the competition you will be attending. So, you might want to check with the organizers before you arrive. This will allow you to plan for the event, deciding how many arrows you’ll need to bring along.
Arrows Per Target
In field archery, the number of arrows you’ll fire at each target will depend on the type of round that you are competing in. Generally, though, you’ll be able to take multiple shots. On the other hand, 3D archery will typically let you only fire one arrow per target.
One of the most significant differences between field and 3D archery is the number of arrows that you’ll be able to fire at each target. For field archery, this will often depend on the type of round that you’re competing in.
For example, if you’re competing in the animal round, you’ll shoot three arrows, with the highest contribution to the score. On the other hand, in the hunter round, you’ll be able to shoot four arrows.
Need to reload? Check our review on the best broadheads for traditional hunting here.
But there might be some targets that have multiple faces that you need to hit. You might want to consult the rules before the competition, so you’ll know how many arrows you will need to bring along.
On the other hand, most 3D archers will only get one per target. However, for a more prominent national competition, you might be able to get two arrows, with the highest score contributing to the score. As a result, 3D archery tends to be the easiest to learn, as you won’t need to worry about the more sophisticated scoring of field archery.
In field archery, the targets will be made from either paper or cardboard. However, in 3D archery, the targets will be made from foam.
If you’re an archer, you might want to consider the material that your targets will be made from. This will ensure that you’ll be able to choose an arrow that gives you enough force to penetrate. Typically, a field target will be made of either paper or thin cardboard.
As a result, it will be reasonably easy for your arrow to get through it. On the other hand, 3D archery targets are made from foam. This will require more force for your arrow to get through.
If you want to practice at home, a 3D target will be more expensive. The amount you’ll need to spend will depend on the size and shape of your target. However, in some cases, you might end up paying between $50 to $200 per target. On the other hand, all you’ll need to make a field archery target is a printer.
Types Of Competition
Field archery can be split into several types of competitions. For example, you’ll be able to compete as an individual or as part of a team. However, typically a 3D archery event will only cater to individuals.
The size of the competition will determine how many categories there will be. A national competition will typically have several different categories. For example, you might be divided into age groups or classified based on how much experience you have on the range.
In general, though, field archery can be divided into two groups. First, you can compete as an individual. This is the most common option. Secondly, you will be able to team up with another archer to compete as part of a team.
On the other hand, a 3D competition might also divide you up into different ages. However, likely, you will only be able to compete as an individual, with the team option unavailable. However, some local clubs might have their own house rules to allow this form of archery.
Most field archers will work with the National Field Archery Associate (NFAA). Alternatively, many 3D archers will rely on events organized by the Archery Shooters Association (ASA) or the International Bowhunters Organization (IBO).
In most cases, field archery events will use the rules set out by the NFAA. These stipulate the different rounds, and how they will all be scored. This can be a wealth of information if you’re planning on getting started with field archery.
In some cases, the NFAA might run events themselves. This will include both indoor and outdoor competitions for you to try out. Typically, their website will consist of some local events and clubs that you might want to join.
However, they will cater to professional archers. If you’re just starting, this can add an extra layer of competitiveness to the event, making it unpleasant.
As a result, you might want to stick to events organized by your local 3D archery club. This will allow you to have fun and build your skills. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to move onto the events organized by the ASA or IBO.
- Is field archery or 3D archery an Olympic sport? No. Currently, the only archery sport which is recognized at the Olympic level is target archery. This is included in both the Olympics and the Paralympics.
- What type of bow should you use for field and 3D archery? There are generally two types of bows that you will be able to use for these competitions. You can either use a recurve or a compound bow. In some cases, though, you might want to use a longbow.
- Are 3D archery and field archery effective training? These types of training are a great way to test your archery skills. They have both been designed to allow hunters to practice and hone their skills. As a result, they tend to be more practical than target archery, only focusing on your accuracy.
Though field and 3D archery might appear similar at first glance, there are a lot of differences between the two approaches. For example, the field has paper targets, while 3D archery has foam targets.
Also, field archery has more categories for you to explore, including the ability to shoot as a team. On the other hand, the simplicity of 3D archery makes it easier for you to learn and score.
However, it’s important to remember that you can take part in both field and 3D archery. So, find the one that most appeals to you and apply for a local club.
Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. Since a child, he has been hunting and fishing and has over 20 years of experience in the outdoors. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.