The Sport of Archery

In Archery events a number of arrows are shot at different sized targets and at various distances to produce a score. Each turn is called an “end,” and a set number of ends constitutes a “round.” The type of round determines the number of arrows, distances and target sizes used.

There are three different disciplines with specific rules for both indoor and outdoor competition rounds. The disciplines are: Field, 3-D, and Target. There are also different equipment styles or classes for each discipline.

targetField Archery

Field Archery is the main focus of activities at the Pasadena Roving Archers range. Field archery is shot in both wooded and open terrain. Archers shoot in groups of three to five and proceed on a course of 28 targets, from one target to the next, much the same way as golfers proceed from one hole to the next. Each target is set at a different distance and is a different size. Depending on the target, some shots may be uphill and others downhill. Our course has been laid out to make the shots as interesting and as challenging as possible. Our field archery program follows the rules established by the National Field Archery Association (NFAA).

How to shoot a field round.

3-D_target3-D Archery

Hunting with the bow and arrow, historically one of the most widely practiced archery activities, has declined in popularity in recent years; today the majority of archers have never hunted and are not interested in doing so. Many of them nonetheless participate in our 3-D rounds, which consists of shooting at life-size three-dimensional models of game animals, set at varying unmarked distances on the range. The 3-D targets are set in a wooded area to simulate hunting conditions. Bowhunters consider the 3-D round to be practice for hunting season, while field and target archers enjoy the “pretend hunting” game for its own sake.

How to shoot a 3-D Round

targets_lineTarget Archery
(Olympic Archery)

Outdoor target archery is shot at four distances on a flat field. In most tournaments, men shoot at up to 90 meters and women at up to 70 meters. Young archers shoot at shorter distances. In Olympic archery, all arrows are shot at 70 meters. Target sizes vary with the distance shot. While PRA does not have an Olympic range, we do have two lanes set up with the official metric distances for archers wishing to practice this discipline. There are two Olympic ranges in the Los Angeles area; they are at El Dorado Park in Long Beach and Woodley Park in the Van Nuys area.

How to score an Olympic round.

Types of Bows

A longbow
A longbow

Invented roughly 40,000 years ago, this is basically a stick with a string on it. It is a simple, clean, beautiful design to look at. There are several varieties of longbow. Some have many modern innovations to them like metal supports and fiberglass, and some are proudly called “primitive” — made only from natural materials.

There are no extra widgets attached to these bows — all of the adjustments take place inside the archer’s head.

A recurve bow
A recurve bow

Recurve Bow
Invented around 1,000 BC, recurve bows are curved at the tips, which creates extra power when shooting, and extra efficiency getting the energy from the bow into the arrow. Currently this is the only type of bow used in the Olympics.

Recurve bows can be made from wood or metal. They can be in single piece, or frequently they detach into three pieces for storage and travel. Sometimes extra equipment is attached to these bows such as sights, stabilizers, and vibration dampeners.

Most of the PRA instruction programs use recurve bows.

A compound bow
A compound bow

Compound Bow
Invented in the mid 1960’s (patented in 1969), the compound bow has wheels mounted on the ends of its limbs which provide for significantly more power and accuracy from a very compact bow. Unlike other bows that get harder to draw the farther back you pull them, compound bows can be setup to be easier to hold at full draw than they are to draw initially.

In the U.S., compound bows are extremely popular for hunting, and they make up the vast majority of all archery activity. Most U.S. archery stores primarily work with compound bows, and may have a specialty area for longbows and recurves.

Because their unique attributes lead to them performing well while being less physically demanding, compound bows are also a popular choice for archers with less muscle mass, physical disabilities, and elderly archers. It is possible to continue shooting a compound bow well into one’s 90s.

Compound bows are often shot using a mechanical release – a handheld device with a hook or clip that holds the string instead of the archer using fingers to hold the string.

Competition Divisions

Because each type of equipment performs at a different level, it is only fair that scores are compared between comparable equipment. During competition, archers are divided up into several categories based on their age and equipment, and awards are distributed based on scores within those categories.

NFAA Field Archery
For field archery, the NFAA recognizes eight divisions:

  • Barebow – longbow or recurve, no long attachments (no sights or long stabilizers).
  • Freestyle – If it’s a bow, you can shoot it.
  • Freestyle Limited – Same as Freestyle, but no mechanical releases
  • Competitive Bowhunter – Compounds allowed, but no sights or stabilizers
  • Freestyle Bowhunter – Compounds with hunting sights are allowed
  • Freestyle Limited Bowhunter – Same as Freestyle Bowhunter, but no mechanical releases
  • Traditional – No recurves or compounds allowed, just longbows
  • Freestyle Limited Recurve/Longbow – No compounds allowed, no mechanical releases. FITA Recurves would go here.

These divisions mostly separate the major types of bows into their own scoring categories, and then further separate the archers who use certain beneficial accessories (sights, stabilizers, mechanical releases, etc) into their own scoring categories as well.

Here is more information about each division:
2021-2023 NFAA Constitution

Target Archery
For target archery, World Archery recognizes two divisions:

  • Recurve
  • Compound

Local target & 3D shoots may also recognize other divisions like “barebow” and “longbow”, using the NFAA classifications, or a variation thereof, for those divisions.

Celebrating the art of the Bow and Arrow in the historic Lower Arroyo since 1935