What is Field Archery? Once you start, you’ll never stop

When I was 11 years old, I participated in my first archery tournament.  At that time I had no idea there were many different types of archery competitions.  Recently I hear about field archery.  What is Field Archery?  I didn’t know; I thought all target archery was basically the same.  So I did some research to find out more.

Field archery is a form of outdoor archery where archers shoot a course of multiple targets laid out over all kinds of terrain and at various ranges.  Similar to golf, participants hike through forests and fields stopping at target locations to shoot.  World Archery Federation has 3 archer divisions:  Compound, Recurve and Barebow. 

Other organizations include the International and National Field Archery Associations (IFAA/NFAA) and the National Field Archery Society (UK).  In all divisions, archers must be able to judge distance well and shoot accurately uphill and downhill.

If you’re new to archery, or just want to start competing, here’s some more info to help get you started in Field Archery.

Field Archery Equipment

If you’ve been into archery for some time then you probably have everything you need to get started in Field Archery.  For the rest of you just starting out, here’s a basic list of what you’ll need:

  1. Bow -This can either be a compound bow, a recurve bow or a longbow.  The difference between the divisions of Recurve and Barebow is gadgets: in barebow, you can have any sights or other gadgets to aid in accuracy; in Recurve you can have anything you like.
  2. Arrows – You’ll want to choose arrows that are most accurate with your bow.  Many archers tune their arrows for optimal performance.  Basically, choose the arrows you are comfortable shooting with.  Make sure they have field points and not broadheads.
  3. Quiver – This can either be a back quiver, hip quiver or a bow quiver.  It all depends on your personal preference.  I prefer a hip quiver.  The main thing is that your quiver can hold 6 to 12 arrows.  I always like to have more than I need, just in case I have a bad day and miss the target a lot (and then lose arrows in the bush).
  4. Arm Guard – Doesn’t have to be fancy…unless you want it to be.  Whatever protects your forearm from the slap of the bowstring.
  5. Finger Tab or Release – Traditional archers will have a finger tab and compound archers will use a release.  That said, and depending on your draw weight, you could use a release with a traditional bow (provided it’s not against the rules) or shoot a compound with a finger tab (that’s what I did when I was younger).
  6. Backpack – Since you’ll be hiking for a good couple hours, it’s a good idea to bring along a backpack with a water bottle and some snacks.  There is often a BBQ as part of the competition so you don’t need to pack a full meal.  You will also want to bring bug spray and other typical hiking gear.
  7. Comfortable hiking boots/shoes – Again, since you’ll be hiking through forest and field you’ll want to have a good set of boot or shoes so that your feet aren’t hurting really bad by the end of the day.
  8. Clothing to suit the weather – Dress for the weather with the intent to be outdoors all day.  Easy one.
  9. Pen and something to write on – This is to keep score.  Usually, there will be a designated scorekeeper, but if you’re just out with friends a pen and paper will come in handy.

Field Archery Targets: Size, Distance & Scoring

Target size and distance will be different depending on the organizational rules you are shooting under.

For WA, the targets are only round and the size can range from 20 cm to 80 cm in diameter and can be placed at ranges from under 10 m up to 80 m.  There are 6 rings on the target with the outer black ring scoring 1 point and the next inner-most black ring scoring 4 points.  The outer yellow ring is 5 points and the inside yellow ring is 6 points.

For IFAA, the competition consists of 3 rounds: Field, Hunter and Animal.  Field and Hunter are shot using round targets that are sized from 20 cm to 65 cm and placed at distance up to 80 yards for field and up to 70 yards.  The Animal round is shot at animal silhouettes or 3D foam animal targets.  They are scored by either a Kill shot or a Hit shot.  the archer shoots 3 arrows at each target: 1st shot is scored 20 points for a Kill or 18 points for a Hit; the 2nd shot is scored 16 points for a Kill or 14 points for a Hit; the 3rd shot is scored 12 points for a Kill or 10 points for a Hit.

No matter which set of rules you choose to compete under, you can always set up your own course to shoot with your friends.

Field Archery Course Layout

The actual layout of the course is something of an art.  the goal is to combine the good use of terrain to make challenging shots while providing an enjoyable experience for everyone.  Just as there an unlimited number of layouts for golf courses, so there is also an unlimited number of layouts for Field Archery.  You really just have to work with the terrain.

WA competitions shoot a course total of 24 targets at varying distances, while IFAA competitions shoot a total of 28 targets throughout the course.  Some targets are a short walk apart from each other while others are a long trek in between.  Some shots are uphill and some shots are downhill and still, others are level but long shots.

The most important thing is that the field of fire does not create an unsafe situation where archers could be accidentally shooting at other archers!  So if you’re planning a course for you and your friends, make sure you are certain of your target and beyond.  Consider mapping it out on Google Maps or some other mapping technology.

How to get started in Field Archery

The simplest way to get into Field Archery is to grab a buddy and just head out to the woods and set up a few targets.  You can make a long or short course; just have fun.

However, if you’re not sure what you’re doing and you want to compete with a little more structure, you can head over to your local archery pro shop and ask about any upcoming Field Archery shoots.  They will have tons of info on upcoming events.

You could also do a search for an archery range near you and head on out.  Chances are that someone at the range will also be interested in Field Archery or will have competed before.

Most archer will compete at some point in their archery “career”.  That’s because it’s a great way to meet new people who all share a love for the same thing.

What about Clout Archery?

Clout archery is more similar to gold than any other form of archery.  In clout archery, archers shoot at a target on the ground at long distances away (usually 160 m to 180 m).  The target is usually a flag which is called the Clout, hence Clout Archery.

This form of archery originated back in Ye Olde times when, during battles, archers would send volley after volley of arrows at the advancing enemy troops.  Archers at that time had to be able to judge long distances and hit targets on the ground.

In modern times, archers compete in clout archery using anything ranging from primitive homemade longbows to the most modern compound bows complete with sights and stabilizers.