How To Compete In An Archery Tournament

Nov 8, 2021Competition Archery

Competing in your first archery tournament is an exciting time as an archer. Since it can be difficult to know where to start when competing in your first tournament, preparation is key. When you know what to expect before attending your first archery tournament, you’re able to focus on performance instead of formatting and rules.

Since nerves are often an issue for first-time tournament competitors, keep in mind the importance of mental preparation. The way you manage your nerves directly affects your performance. One trick is re-label uneasy feelings into ones of anticipation and excitement!

Whether you have a little bit of shooting experience or a lot, you first need to understand how to compete in archery tournaments. The information below will help you prepare for a positive and successful tournament experience.

What Is An Archery Tournament?

An archery tournament is an event for archers to demonstrate their shooting ability. Archers compete against each other, following the rules initiated by the event holder. Tournaments require participants to shoot arrows at various targets in various locations to determine their shooting precision and accuracy. Winners receive various prizes and confidence in their shooting ability.

Some archery competitions are small and informal, while others are large and enforce strict requirements. Depending on your skill level, you can decide to sign up for smaller archery tournaments or larger tournaments. Serious archers won’t limit themselves to local archery competitions and instead will travel to other cities to compete in regional, national, and even worldwide tournaments.

To learn more, there are a number of online tournament resources include USA Archery, Archery Shooters Association, International Bowhunting Organization, and the National Field Archery Association.

What Kind Of Archery Tournaments Are There?

There are three main types of archery – target archery, field archery, and 3D archery. While there are other types of archery events available, these are the three most common.

1. Target Archery Tournaments

Target archery is the only type of archery allowed in the Olympics, making it the most recognizable. It generally takes place indoors (but can be outdoors), on flat ground, and uses marked distances. This format requires archers to use a longbow, recurve, or compound. However, the Olympics only allows recurve bows at this time (but may soon change).

Indoor target archery tournaments require targets to be either 18 or 25 meters away from the archers shooting position. Archers must shoot within the allotted amount of time and then move on to the next target. Most target archery competitions last between three and four hours. Some may not last as long while others may last longer.

2. Field Archery Tournaments

Field archery tournaments generally take place outdoors. This archery type uses marked & unmarked distances on uneven ground. Field archery tournaments require shooters to shoot at various distances, as well as various angles, requiring a great deal of skill and understanding of shooting outside in the elements. Field archers can shoot recurve bows, compound bows, and longbows.

NFAA archery tournaments require participants to shoot 24 targets, 4 arrows per target. Generally, you will be assigned a starting target along with a number of other archers. Targets are scored 5 (bullseye), 4, 3, 0 and be sure to count the number of “X’s” in case there’s a need for a tie breaker.

3. 3D Archery Tournaments

3D archery tournaments offer small, relaxed shooting environments, as well as large 3D tournament events that even challenge the pros. These tournaments generally take place outdoors and have established their own set of guidelines and rules to follow, making them a bit different. ASA and I.B.O. are the two top organizations that put on some of the biggest 3D tournaments. I have personally competed in an I.B.O. world championship and it’s an extremely challenging, yet fun way to challenge your abilities.

Attending Your First Archery Tournament

Every archery tournament requires its participants to understand the rules and guidelines of the tournament. Tournament guidelines help you with what time the tournament starts, how to pick the right division for your style, how many arrows you can shoot, how to score your arrows, how many targets there are, approved attire, etc.

As a first-time competitor, you’ll feel more confident once you understand a few of the basics.

1. Find Tournaments

You can locate tournaments in a number of places including your local archery shop, archery club, and on archery websites that provide a tournament calendar. Lots of archery clubs host indoor and outdoor tournaments, with many offering tournament events 12 months out of the year. The majority of states have a target archery association you can connect with to learn more, making it a good idea to find out if your state has one.

If you plan to participate in archery tournaments regularly throughout the years, consider joining an archery club. Archery clubs give you the inside scoop and welcome archers of all ages and disciplines.

2. Register To Shoot

The majority of big event tournaments offer participants the ability to register online through their event calendar. Smaller events often require registrants to sign up in person on the day of the event. It’s even possible to sign up for an archery tournament right before it starts. Just be sure to pay close attention to registration deadlines because if you miss the deadline you can’t partciapate.

Most larger archery tournaments establish deadlines two weeks before the day of competition. No matter the deadline, archers who compete regularly should try to sign up as early as they can. This consideration gives event organizers a better understanding of how many archers they can expect to participate.

3. Understand The Format

Tournament formats depend on whether you’re participating in a target, field, 3D, or Olympic-style tournament. For the most part, indoor tournaments use alternate shooting, meaning one group shoots, then another. After shooting, all archers then score their arrows at the same time. For 3D and field tournaments, shooters must shoot their arrows, score them, and pull them once everyone’s scores have been recorded. Note – it’s important to never touch the arrows or the target before scoring your arrows. Doing so can affect scoring and your ability to further participate.

4. Come Prepared

If possible, it’s best if you can practice the course before the archery competition. You should also learn about the area to understand its setup, as well as check weather conditions to see if you need to make any special preparations. Before heading out, be sure you have everything you need including your bow, arrows, a quiver, finger tab or release aid, arrow puller, sights, stabilizers, an arm guard, etc.

It’s essential to stay hydrated, so be sure to bring enough water. Most large tournaments will provide water for purchase, but it’s good to be prepared. Also be sure to bring a few snacks as you’ll need to keep up your energy. If allowed, bring binoculars or a spotting scope for up-close viewing, a hat to block the sun, sunscreen, bug spray, and even a poncho for heavy rain.

My father taught me at a young age to always find the shade while in competition. We’ve seen people drop out of tournaments from heat exhaustion, so stay hydrated, find the shade, and keep cool to stay in the game.

5. Arrive On Time

Depending on how familiar you are with the tournament location determines when you should arrive. Even when very familiar, it’s still best to arrive at least one hour early. This allows you plenty of time to park, register, and determine where you need to be once the tournament gets underway. It also helps reduce any existing nerves. Don’t forget the importance of warming up before the tournament begins! Shoot a few arrows, get your muscles warmed up, and sharpen your focus so you’re ready when it counts.

6. Get Your Results

Even if you didn’t end up being a top shooter, you should still know your scores. While tournaments used to mail participants their scores, results are now much more readily available. Tournaments will either immediately post results on-site to determine the winners, or at a later time the same day. Score knowledge helps you gauge your ability to improve, against yourself and others.

7. Enjoy Yourself!

While every participant wants to win, remember that tournaments are mostly about having fun! Many archers take part in tournaments to hone their skills and make new friends. Maybe one day you’ll enjoy competing so much you’ll decide to host your own competitive archery event.

Have Further Questions?

If you have any questions before, during, or even after a competition, tournament organizers should have the answers you’re looking for. You can also ask your fellow archers, as most are very friendly and willing to help. Don’t be shy, as the only way you’re going to learn is by asking questions. Remember, experienced archers also had to learn at the beginning of their competition journey, so be sure to ask about anything you’re unsure about!


Signing up for your first archery tournament means being fully prepared. Now that you know what to expect and how to best prepare, you should feel confident in your ability to shoot well in your first tournament. Whether you choose to sign up for one tournament type or multiple, the bottom line is to have fun. If you’re ready to improve your mental and physical skills so you can become a better archer, get started in competitive archery today!

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