What is 3D Archery?

Many of us know what archery is, but have you ever heard of 3D Archery?

It’s very different from your typical type of archery,  so I decided to break it down for you in this post.

So, what is 3D Archery? 3D Archery is when archers shoot at a 3 Dimensional target (usually foam) that looks like an animal.

These targets range in size to mimic different animals and are set up along an outdoor course that resembles a hiking trail.

Archers shoot at the targets to mimic a real-life hunting experience. You can shoot just for fun, or you can take part in a 3D archery tournament/competition.

In general, each target should showcase a different hunting scenario. 

Interested in competing in a 3D Archery tournament? In this post, we will cover everything about 3D archery, from tournament rules, to where you can find events, and more.

What to expect at a 3D Archery tournament

There will be about 25-30 targets set up along a course. These will be set up at the discretion of the tournament host, and you will not know the location of the targets.

The targets will be placed to mimic a various hunting situation, and you will be challenged with different angles.

You may find yourself shooting from hillsides, raised platforms, uphill, downhill, thick woods, or wide-open fields. No matter the angle or scenario, the scoring area will always be visible to the archer.

You are generally required to judge the distance from yourself to the target without using any aids. However, some clubs allow the use of rangefinders. Be sure to check with the tournament host to find out for sure.

Required Gear and Equipment

You can generally use the same items used for regular bowhunting in 3D archery as well.

Your bow, arrows with field points, and your release are the basics of what you need. Any type of bow that you already use should be what you use in 3D Archery competitions.

Wear clothing that is similar to what you would wear hiking, such as hiking boots. Dress comfortably and according to the weather.

Below are some items that you might want to bring with you that you might not think of:

  • Binoculars(for seeing the scoring rings)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray/tick repellent
  • Cash (some places do not accept credit cards)
  • Extra food and water
  • Arrow lube and arrow puller
  • Sunglasses

Be sure to check your bow case for all accessories you might need before you leave home.

Read the rules and requirements for the tournament as well to see if there is anything you might need to bring with you in order to sign in or compete.


Each target has a scoring ring that is based on the animal’s vital organ placement.  Depending on the size of the animal, the scoring ring size will vary and scoring will be according to either IBO or ASA Standards.

In IBO scoring, if you miss the target, you will receive zero points. If you hit the target, but outside the scoring area(the vital organ area), you receive 5 points. The outer-most ring is 8 points, the next inside ring is 10 points, and the bullseye is 11 points.

In ASA scoring, it is basically the same scoring model as IBO, except ASA does away with the 11 point ring, and adds in a 12 point ring as well as a 14 point ring. The below image shows these differences perfectly.

As far as keeping track of scores, one person calls out the scores, and another person writes down the scores on a scorecard.

See the source image

Important terms

There are some other important terms you will want to know about 3D Archery Scoring.

Even: In 3D archery, scoring 10 points on a target is like a par in golf. If an archer shoots 20 targets in a round and scores 200 points, they have “shot even.”

Points Up: If an archer shoots 20 targets in a round and scores 206 points, they have shot “6 points up.”

Points Down: If an archer shoots 20 targets in a round and scores 194 points, they have shot “6 points down.”

Pulling the Line: Scoring 3D targets are based on an arrow touching any part of the outside of the line for the next highest score. “Pulling the line” is when an arrow hits inside the 10-ring right up against the 12-ring line, and the arrow pulls in the foam target so the 12-ring line touches the arrow shaft.


In 3D Archery, you have to be able to judge distances from yourself to the target often. It’s most common for 3D archery shoots to be what’s known as “Unknown Distance Shoots”, where it is an added challenge to judge distance yourself.

You may be able to use a range finder to help with the distance judgment. Check with the archery club or tournament host before using one to be sure it is allowed.

Distance ranges are usually various and run between 25-50 yards depending on the type of shoot and which target your shooting at. This is most like what you would experience in real-life hunting. In fact, the ASA added “Known Distance” options in 2007, mostly for new archers.

Tournament Rules

As with any competition, there are rules that must be followed in order to remain in the tournament. If you don’t follow the rules, you may be eliminated.

The rules may vary depending on the 3D archery club, and whether or not they follow ASA standards or IBO.

It is best practice to contact the archery club or go over their website to become familiar with their specific rules. Archery clubs often post their rule books online for you to review prior to tournaments.

Timed Shoots

In ASA competitions, There are two Unknown Distance round shots must be done in three hours and 30 minutes each.

For the Known Distance round shots, each of the rounds must be completed in three hours and 10 minutes each. Both the Known and the Unknown distance rounds are 20 targets each.

For Unknown Distance rounds, the first shooter is allowed two minutes to take their shot, and one minute for Known Distance rounds. The remaining shooters are only allowed one minute to take their shot.

In IBO competitions, regardless of who is first, the archer is allowed two minutes to take their shot.

Bow/Arrow Requirements

Your arrows must carry field points. In 3D Archery shoots, broadheads are not allowed.

Other Rules

Only one archer may shoot at a time and each archer is allowed one arrow per target.

The archer must shoot from the designated shooting position. These positions are usually marked by colored flags or stakes.

Basic safety rules apply, such as no horse playing, giving shooters adequate space for a safe shot, and no nocking your arrows before group members return from the target and are positioned back in the safe, designated area.

State and National Leagues

Archery leagues are for archers of all ages and experiences. You do not have to be a pro to join a 3D Archery league.

There are Archery Leagues on both a state and national level. You can find leagues specifically for youth, women, or other specialized groups as well.

Members of the league travel around either the state or the country and compete in competitions. They often host meetings during the week for members to come together to practice and work on their bows together.

Joining an archery league can be a great way to get started with 3D archery, practice, and start competing in tournaments. You can surround yourself with others who enjoy the same things you do, and who can help you to grow as an archer.

Where to find Events

It is easiest to find 3D archery events online, or at archery shops. In fact, many archery shops can not only tell you about local events, but they can often help you prepare for it.

The internet provides a lot of resources for finding events, and there are often many pages dedicated to listing events. These pages can be broken down by state, county, etc. This is a great way to find events closest to you.

Social media also is a great resource for finding events and local leagues to join. You can join a Facebook page for archers in your area, and keep an eye on the “events near you” page of Facebook for archery events.


All of the above items are incredibly useful for an upcoming archer interested in 3D archery competitions. However, there are some extra tips I’d like to add that are important as well and worth noting.

Follow the tournament rules closely

Because every club and event might have its own rules that are different than another clubs, you want to ensure that you have read up on the rules and that you follow them as closely as possible.

Depending on the club, you may get off with just a warning or a score deduction, or you could become disqualified completely. Understand the rules and regulations going into a tournament.

Practice as much as you can

Practice makes perfect. Without practicing, an archer would just skate along on a basic level, never advancing his skills and bettering himself.

By rehearsing every chance you get, you can score better and have greater success in tournaments. Nobody is ever too good or too skilled to practice and keep working at taking their skills to the next level.

Be considerate of other archers in your group

Don’t be that annoying person who shouts something out just as another team member is taking his shot, or who makes a snarky comment about other players shots. Even the most skilled archer can lose concentration by noises and commotion going on around them.

Always be respectful of other archers, and you can expect the same respect in return.

Do not waste time during a shot

Remember that an archer has a certain amount of time, either 1-2 minutes, to take their shot. Do not waste time once it is your turn to shoot. Those minutes go by quickly, and once your time is up, you cannot take the shot and have lost those valuable points for no good reason.

Don’t get too nervous

Its normal to get a little nervous during a competition. But don’t get so overwhelmed by your nerves that you mess up your own shot.

Instead, try to channel that energy into your shot and give it extra power and strength. This will likely take time to learn, but once you figure this out, it will help you.

If you get nervous because of a large crowd watching your shot, try practicing in front of family and friends to get used to having many eyes on you while still being able to focus.

Be prepared for the weather

Kind of like the “dog ate my homework” excuse, there is no good excuse for being unprepared for the weather.

No matter the temperature or weather, most tournaments will still expect archers to compete. Come prepared with the right clothing and accessories, such as an umbrella, and be prepared to shoot during these tough conditions.

Know your bow

Before heading to a tournament, know your bow and its settings.

Make sure that you have performed the proper maintenance on your bow, and have fine-tuned all the settings. This will ensure accuracy on your shot and therefore produce better scores.

Arrive early to the tournament and take a few minutes to get your equipment together and double check all settings on your bow.

Related Questions

What is Mounted Archery?

Mounted Archery is the term for shooting a bow and arrow while riding horseback.

Tribesmen and Indians became the most adept at shooting while horseback, as they often traveled the lands far and wide to hunt and had to bring their game back to their village many miles away.

This technique was mostly used in history as warfare during battles because most armies marched into battle on horseback and this form of warfare allowed warriors to take down their enemies before they got close enough to be killed by them.

Today, Mounted Archery is making a comeback with many people participating in competitions.  Want to know more about Horse Archery?  We wrote an awesome article on that topic here!

How old of a sport is archery?

The oldest form of direct evidence that has been found of bows and arrows goes back to about 10,000 years ago.

However, there has been evidence found of other things like stone points that could’ve been used for archery that date back to over 64,000 years ago.

Depending on the location and the time era, the arrows and points vary in the type of material, the shape, and sharpness of the point, etc.

Surprisingly, many of these items have been well preserved, and serve as a great source of information for figuring out how it was used.

Archery was not just used for hunting either. Evidence shows that archery and spears were used in battle as well before firearms were invented.

Is Archery used in Mythology?

Yes, archery was used a lot in several mythologies. Many heroes and deities were archers and were known for how skilled they were with a bow and arrow. A few of these heroes include:

  • Greek Artemis and Apollo
  • Germanic Agilaz
  • Roman Diana and Cupid

More modern tales with archers include:

  • Robin Hood
  • Wilhelm Tell
  • Palnetoke

There was a famous competition in mythology archery where one had to hit the eye of a rotating fish with a bow and arrow by watching its reflection in a water bowl.