A Rookie Guide to Competitive Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale

“To compete or not to compete, that is the question…,” to paraphrase Will Shakespeare. But then old Will wasn’t a competitive archer.

I can state categorically that formal competitions will make you an all-round better archer. But in reality, it’s the preparation and coaching for competition where the real heavy lifting takes place.

Once you make the decision to try your hand (and eye) at competition archery, you will be at the beginning of a long and very satisfying journey. Emerging from the humble beginnings of a backyard stump shooter, you will rise to the level of “competitor” beginning by quantifying your skills through a series of metrics.

Archers warming up for a west coast tournament

To aid in this journey, the following is a road map to competition success:

  1. Decide which form of competition you want to shoot. This will often be driven by the types of bows you like shooting, or by the availability of local matches. The choices range from Olympic style target archery to roving 3D matches with either recurve, compound, barebow, longbow, or traditional. With a good bow, recurve or compound, you can compete in both indoor and outdoor target shooting and 3D.
  2. Check your budget because top flight competitive archery is not cheap. First there is the cost of a $1,500 to $3,500 bow, complete with rests, sights, stabilizers, and release, plus another $160 to $450 for arrows. For example, a Hoyt Xceed with Velos limbs for barebow retails for $1,500. Olympic grade sights can run another $400-$500. A Hoyt Invicta is a $1,800 compound bow, but then you can add another $200-$300 for a target arrow rest, $300-$400 for sights, and $200-$280 for a top shelf mechanical release.    
  3. Apart from equipment costs, there are also the time and costs involved in traveling to out-of-state matches. Flying across country or driving 1,000 miles to a match, laying down a $200 entry fee, and spending 4-5 nights in a hotel gets expensive, plus the time away from work. Travel, by far, is the biggest recurring expense for a serious competitor.  
  4. Do some research on what the top ranked competitors are using in the way of bows, sights, rests, releases, arrows, and related accessories. Take the time to reach out to some of these folks for sage advice. My personal mantra is, “Buy the best and you will seldom be disappointed.”
  5. Study the match format and learn the rules. For example, a Barebow must fit through a  122cm circle gauge and sights and stabilizers are out. Similarly, some matches have velocity limits for compound bows.
  6. Practice the match format, including distances and time limits on your local or home range. You need to become comfortable with the format to be relaxed and shoot well.
  7. If you have the opportunity, go and observe a match without actually shooting so as to become familiar with the format, whistle commands, and procedures. The onus is on the competitor to know the rules and format before entering a major tournament. This will also be an opportunity to talk to top ranked competitors and collect info on their equipment and accessories.
  8. Jump in, but don’t expect to do well in the first match or even first few matches. It usually takes about a year to become a seasoned competitor, so set your sights on doing well the second or third year. But this all depends on how serious you are about training and if you can practice six days a week. Most top archers are shooting 240-300 arrows per day in training.

Now, as Nike says, Just Do It!!


Author: Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator

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