How Archery Competitions Work: A Step-By-Step Guide

Attending archery competitions can be a great way to test your skills. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to win some prizes.  

But how do archery competitions work? To attend a competition, you’ll need to go through the following stages.  

  1. Find a suitable competition 
  2. Qualify for the competition 
  3. Learn the rules 
  4. Prepare for the competition 
  5. Compete  

If you want to stand a chance at winning competitions, you’ll need to make sure that you know how they work. Let’s look at everything you need to know about entering an archery competition.  

Find A Suitable Archery Competition 

The first thing that you need to do is find a suitable archery competition. There are a few things that you need to know when doing this. You won’t be able to compete in all competitions. As we’ll discuss a little later, some will require you to qualify. In other cases, they will only be open to people from that archery club.  

There are a few types of competitions that you should be focusing on. If you’re a beginner, it might be best to stick to local competitions. Archery clubs will often put these on. This will allow you to test your skills without the pressure of a state or nationwide competition. In most cases, you’ll need to register before you can compete.  

As your skills improve, you might want to compete in more advanced competitions. You’ll need to move to the state or nationwide competitions. In this case, you’ll often need to go through some qualifying rounds before you can compete. However, you’ll be able to get access to larger prizes.  

How Can I Find Archery Events In My Area?  

The best place to search for archery events is online. Most clubs will post their calendars online. However, you might also want to search through forums. In other cases, it can be a good idea to talk to people active in the archery community.  

There are plenty of ways to find archery events to attend. First, you might want to consider going online. This is often the best option, as you’ll be able to find dozens of competitions with just a few searches. Generally, local clubs will post their calendars and information about archery events online.  

It would help if you also visited some of the bigger archery organizations. This includes the National Field Archery Association, the World Archery Federation, and the International Field Archery Association. Many of these sites will have calendars of important events on their websites. In most cases, this will cover the biggest state and national events.  

It can often be a good idea to read through some local forums. This will give you some ideas about upcoming events. It can also be a good way to get some tips from local archers, so you’ll be able to prepare for the upcoming event.  

Lastly, it can be a good idea to talk to active people in the local archery scene. In some cases, there will be some clubs who don’t advertise their competitions online. Local knowledge might be the only way to find and compete in these events. 

What Types Of Archery Competitions Are There? 

There are three main types of archery. These are; field, target, and 3D archery. You might be able to compete in more niche fields, like mounted archery or ski archery.  

In most cases, you’ll have three types of archery to choose from. Each of these will come with unique pros and cons for you to considerOpens in a new tab.. Let’s look at each of them so you can decide which one you want to pursue. 

Target Archery 

Target archery is one of the most well-known variants. In this case, archers will line up in front of a target. They’ll be given three shots to hit it. Whichever gets closer to the middle of the target will be scored. Whoever has the highest score at the end of the competition will be declared the winner. Olympic archery is a form of target archery.  

There are several types of target archery that you can explore. The most popular option is competing as an individual. However, you might also be able to compete as part of a team. In this case, the team scores will be added to get the final score, which decides who wins the competition.  

Field Archery 

Field archery is very similar to target archery. You’ll also be graded on your accuracy. However, in this case, you’ll need to follow a course, aiming at several targets. The distance between each target and the angle you’ll be shooting at will often change along the course. Whoever has the highest score at the end of the event will be declared the winner. This can often make it more challenging than target archery.  

3D Archery 

A more recent variant is 3D archery. This has started to take off because of how popular it is. In this case, you’ll be shooting at foam animals, with targets placed on the side. Often, the target will be placed in the area that you’ll need to hit to kill the animal in the wild. This variant is a mix between field archery and hunting.  

Like field archery, the foam targets will be laid out in a course. Competitions for 3D archery tend to be a little harder to find, as this form is so new. At these events, the scoring will be similar to field archery. Whoever gets closest to the center of the target gets the most points. The archer with the most points at the end of the competition will be declared the winner.  

Niche Types Of Archery 

There is a range of more niche types of archery. Because they are less popular, it will be harder to find organized competitions for these events. However, you will often be able to join a dedicated fanbase who will give you advice and encouragement.  

First, you might want to consider flight archery. In this case, accuracy is less important than distance. Whoever can get their arrow to travel the furthest will win. Clout archery is a similar concept. In this version of archery, a flag is placed a long way from the archers. Whoever lands their arrow closest to the flag is the winner.  

There are a few variants of field archery for you to explore. For example, you might want to try ski archery. In this case, you’ll be on the ski slopes. You’ll need to ski along a course, where a range of targets will be laid out. In this case, you’ll need to hit all the targets. If you don’t, you’ll need to complete a penalty loop. Whoever crosses the finish line first is declared the winner. Run archery is similar. Instead of skiing the course, you’ll be running it.  

Mounted archery is one of the most popular types of niche archery. The archers will be on horseback and will need to follow a course. While the horse is moving, they will need to aim and fire the bow. While the targets won’t be too far away, the horse’s movement makes the sport more unpredictable and challenging.  

Qualify For The Competition 

Once you’ve found a competition that you want to attend, you’ll need to check that you qualify. For many local competitions, this won’t be an issue. When going to these events, you’ll need to pay a fee to compete. There might be some occasions where you need to sign up for the club before you can compete.  

If you’re planning on going to state or national competitions, the qualification rules become stricter. The exact rules can depend on the type of event that you are attending. Because of this, you’ll need to make sure to read through the rules thoroughly. We’ll discuss some of the most common rules a little later.  

In most cases, you’ll need to win local competitions and work your way up. At the state level, you’ll often need to get a qualifying score. This is the minimum score that you’ll need to be able to start competing. The nationals will also require a qualifying score. They might also need you to have competed in a state competition. Depending on where you are competing, you might need to become a member of that organization before competing.  

At the highest levels of the sport, you will need to attend international competitions. If you can get one of the highest scores, you might be considered for the Olympic team. Making the process more difficult is that there are only a limited number of places for the selection team to fill. In total, there are only 128 spots availableOpens in a new tab., so only the best archers in the world will be able to attend the Olympics.  

Learn The Rules 

You must make sure that you are following the rules in an archery competition. The type of rules you can expect will often depend on the archery you are taking part in. Let’s look at some of the most important rules that you’ll need to follow.  

How Is Archery Scored?  

An archery event often depends on the type of archery you are taking part in. Generally, though, the closer you get to the middle of the target, the more highly you’ll be scored. In most cases, an arrow can be worth between one to ten points.  

As a general rule, you’ll be scored across rounds. These rounds will be further broken down into ends. Each end will require you to fire three to six arrows, depending on the type of competition you are attending. If you are part of a team, you’ll take it in turns to shoot at the target.  

At the end of each end, the archers will head to the target to score their shots. The closer your arrow got to the center of the target, the more points you will receive. When looking at an archery target, you’ll notice that there are ten circles. The outer white circle is worth just one point. The golden circle in the middle of the target is worth ten pointsOpens in a new tab..  

If the arrow lands on the line between the two circles, you’ll receive a higher score. If an arrow rebounds, it will be scored based on the impression it made on the target. If you get one arrow embedded in another, they will receive the same score. If the score is tied, each archer might receive a point, or there might be a tiebreaker round, depending on the type of competition you are attending. 

Whoever gets the most points will win the round. The winner will get two points, and a draw might give you one point. To win the competition, you’ll need to have six points for an individual. If you are playing as part of a team, you’ll need to win five rounds.  

Who won the end will also determine the shooting order. Whoever got the lowest score in the previous end will shoot first. Whoever got the highest points will shoot last. This might be able to give them an advantage.  

Field Archery 

There are a few unique rules that apply to field archery. First, the distances will between each target vary. In some competitions, you might be told how far away that target is. In other cases, you’ll need to judge the distance for yourself. Also, you’ll be shooting four arrows at the target rather than three. The score from each arrow will be added together.Opens in a new tab.  

The most important difference is the way that the competition is scored. There will often be three rounds. First, you have the hunter round. This features black and white targets, with an X marking the middle of the target. If you hit the white circle, you’ll receive five points. The black ring is worth four points. The outer ring is worth three points.   

The second type of round is known as the Field round. The two black rings at the center of the target will give five points. The two white circles will give you four points, and the two black rings at the edge of the target will give you three points.  

Lastly, you have the animal round. In this case, you’ll be shooting at paper cut-outs of the animal. How you’ll be scored will depend on whether you would have been able to kill the animal. In this case, you’ll have a bonus section, which is akin to a bulls-eye. It will be worth 21 points. Then, you have a high score zone, which is worth 20 points. Lastly, there is a low score zone, which will give you 18 points. Any other areas on the target aren’t counted.  

It should also be noted that the shot’s value will drop for each consecutive arrow that you fire during the animal round. In this case, only the highest scoring arrow will count. This gives archers an incentive to try and hit the bonus on their first shot.  

3D Archery 

3D archery will be scored based on whether the arrow would have been able to kill the animal. This will determine where the target will be placed. There are two main ways of doing this, depending on the type of competition you enter. These are the ASA and IBO scoring systems.  

There will be a larger circle; hitting inside this zone is worth eight points. In the middle of this circle, there will be a smaller circle. This will be worth ten points. At the point of the larger circle is a small dot. This is worth 14 points and represents the bulls-eye. If you hit anywhere on the target, you’ll get five points. 

How Long Do You Have To Aim? 

When in a competition, you want to take the time to line up the shot. This will give you the best chance of hitting the target. You’ll have two minutes to fire if you are shooting three arrows per end in most cases. If you are shooting six arrows, you will have four minutes.  

The amount that you’ll be given can vary slightly from competition to competition. So, it’s a good idea to read the rules before you begin. If you take too long, the judges will decide what to do. If it was just a few seconds, you might be given a warning. If you deliberately ignore time restrictions, you might risk losing points.  

It should also be noted that judges can decide to grant time extensions. This can give you a little more time to line up your shot. The circumstances will determine how long the time extension will be.  

What Kind Of Equipment Can I Use In An Archery Competition?  

The type of equipment you can use will often depend on the type of competition you have entered. The type of bow you are using can also determine who you will be competing against. It’s best to read the rules carefully, so you know what equipment you’ll be able to use.  

In most cases, you will be required to use a recurve bow. This is the Olympic standard and tends to be used by most target archers. However, there might be another category for those who want to use a compound bow. If you are using a mechanical release, you might need to compete with the compound bows. Because of the differences in how these bows are shot, it’s rare for them to be in the same category.  

It’s also important to make sure that you’re wearing the correct clothing. There will often be a strict dress code to make sure that there everyone is kept safe. Usually, you won’t be allowed to wear anything that might get caught in the bow and cause you to get hurt.  

You’ll often need to bring your arrows. You’ll need between three to six, depending on the type of competition you’re attending. However, it can often be a good idea to bring some spares if one breaks during the shoot. Often, the fatter arrows are used inside, as they’ll give you a better chance of touching the scoring line to get more points. Thinner arrows are needed outside to cut through the wind resistance.  

The judges will look over the equipment and decide whether you will use it in the competition. If you aren’t sure, you can ask those running the competition for advice.  

What Happens If You Don’t Follow The Rules In Archery? 

The judges will determine the punishment for not following the rules. Often, they will consider how serious the incident was and whether it was deliberate. You might face losing points. In serious cases, archers can be suspended for breaking the rules.  

Arrows can do a lot of damage if they are fired recklessly. Numerous safety rules have been put in place to prevent this. The rules also ensure that everyone will be treated fairly. The judges will enforce these rules. If they spot someone breaking them, they decide what punishment they will receive. In some cases, they will be able to suspend people. At some clubs, they might be able to ban archers who repeatedly break the rules.  

Prepare For The Competition 

Once you have familiarized yourself with the rules, you’ll be able to start getting ready for the competition. There are a few simple things that you can do to give yourself the best chance of winning.  

First, you must practice. As you’re doing this, try to use the same equipment that you intend to use in the competition. During this time, you want to try and get familiar with the bow. You might also want to make sure that it’s been set-up properly, so you’ll be able to put the maximum amount of power behind each shot.  

The night before the competition, you should make sure that you are prepared mentally. This means making sure that you are getting a good night’s sleep before the competition. You might also want to spend the night before checking your equipment. If you need to, wax the string or tune your bow. 

After each competition, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to think about what happened. Try to think about some of the things that you can do to improve.  


Finally, you’ll be ready to compete in an archery competition. You need to know a few things to make sure that you stay safe while shooting.  

What Do The Whistles Mean At An Archery Competition?  

Many competitions operate with a whistle system. Two whistles indicate that archers can approach the shooting line. One whistle means that they can begin shooting. Three whistles indicate that it’s time to retrieve arrows and score the round. If you hear four or more whistles, you might stop shooting immediately for safety reasons.  

The whistle systemOpens in a new tab. is one of the most common ways of making sure that everyone is on the same page. However, some other systems might be in use. For example, some people might use a buzzer or beeping noise. It’s best to check with the officials before the competition, to check that you understand the safety rules.  

At other competitions, they might use a flag system. In this case, the green flag means that you can aim and shoot. The yellow flag shows that it’s almost time for the round to end. The red flag indicates that you should stop shooting.  

How Long Does An Archery Competition Last?  

How long a shoot lasts will depend on what type of archery event you’re taking part in. In most cases, it will take between three to four hours. However, at some larger events, it might take two days.  

How long the event last often depends on the level that you are shooting at. Most local events will only last for a few hours. However, as you get more advanced, they will often take a little longer. This is especially true of field archery. These types of competitions can sometimes take place over two days. If you aren’t sure, check how long the officials expect the event to last for.  

Final Thoughts 

Shooting at an archery competition can be one of the best ways to test your skills. It can also provide the perfect chance to socialize with other local archery fans. As we’ve seen, there are a few steps that you’ll need to go through to be successful at competitions:

  1. You’ll need to find a competition and meet the qualification standards.
  2. You’ll need to read through the rules.
  3. You’ll need to prepare and compete.

If you can do this, there’s a good chance that you will have a great time at archery events.  

Anatomy of Archery: Archery from A to ZOpens in a new tab.


Hi, I'm Sam! I used to work as a caregiver, and now I'm in medical school. My blog is about helping people get healthier through fun activities like archery or rock-climbing. If you like one of my articles, please share it with your friends and family so they can be healthy too!

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