Archery has been around almost as long as humans themselves and has been used for sport, hunting and warfare for millennia so it’s no surprise that there are more than a few types of archery around.
But which one should you try? Which is best for beginners? Already have a bow and want to know which type of shooting is best suited to it? Or just want to find an alternative to standing in a field shooting arrows in the general direction of a tiny target way off in the distance?
Read on for a quick rundown of the most popular types of archery around today…
Ask most people what comes to mind when they hear “Archery” and they’ll happily describe some variation of Target Archery.
Think archers at one end of a range and round, colorful targets at the other – that’s target archery in a nutshell and it’s the most popular form of archery around the world today.
Target Archery takes place indoors and outdoors at a variety of distances up to 90 metres using two bowstyles: compound and recurve, which each have their own target type for outdoor shooting, though they both use the same target for indoor competitions.
Much of the popularity of target archery is down to how easy it is to set up – aside from your bow and arrows all you really need is a target and some open space. There are clubs and ranges all over the world so it shouldn’t be difficult (or expensive) to get an introduction to the sport under the expert guidance of a qualified instructor.
Archery has been a mainstay of Olympic competition since 1972 with men and women competing in both individual and team events.
The sport was actually included in the Olympics of 1900, 1904, 1908 and 1920 but took a 52-year break before returning.
Considered by many to be the pinnacle of target archery, the rules and restrictions of the Olympic competition create a level playing field for all competitors and, as you would imagine for such a prestigious competition, place the emphasis squarely on the archer’s skill, experience and strength of character under pressure.
For Olympic archery, athletes are only allowed to use a recurve bow and participants typically compete using a 70-inch takedown bow with an average draw weight of around 50 pounds for male competitors and 40-45 for females.
On top of the bow restrictions, there are limits on additional equipment too. Mechanical sights are permitted but optical sights and enhancements are not. Archers can also use top and bottom stabilizers and a clicker, to help release the string at the same part of the draw every time.
Targets in the Olympic competition are set at 70 metres for both men and women and have 10 scoring rings, with archers scoring 10 points for an arrow hitting the inner ring down to 1 point for the outer ring.
The individual competition starts with 64 competitors who shoot an initial 72 arrows to determine seedings (highest score = top seed, lowest = bottom seed) and then a series of head to head elimination rounds begin.
In the elimination rounds, archers shoot sets of 3 arrows, alternating after each shot. They have 20 seconds to shoot their arrow and the archer with the highest score at the end of the set is awarded 2 points (1 point each is awarded for a draw) and the first to claim 6 points wins the match and progresses to the next round.
This carries on until there are only 2 archers left to contest the final with the winner taking home the gold medal and the loser being awarded a silver. The 2 semifinal losers compete in a bronze medal match to complete the medal standings.
The team competition follows a similar format, with teams of 3 archers shooting 6 arrows between them, (so 2 arrows per archer instead of 1 in the individual event) alternating after every 3 shots. They can shoot in any order within the team but must all shoot one arrow.
As before, there is a time limit but this is increased to 2 minutes for the team to shoot all 6 of their arrows and the team is awarded the same 2 points for winning the set, with the first team to reach 6 points progressing at the expense of the losers and, in contrast with the individual competition, there are 12 teams competing for the medals.
Don’t be fooled by the name, field archery isn’t restricted to a field at all. It usually takes place in woodland, forests and yes, sometimes even in fields, but these will most often be uneven, rough terrain rather than a flat, open space you might find at a target archery event.
Field archery is about testing your ‘real-world’ archery skills as you shoot your way through a multi-target course spread across a variety of terrains with all sorts of natural obstacles getting between you and your targets.
Those targets could be anywhere from 10 to 80 yards away (although the distance isn’t usually displayed) and commonly have either four black outer rings and two gold inner rings or two black outer, two white middle, and two black inner rings, depending on the competition and format.
Archers can use recurve, compound or barebows to help them conquer the challenges of shooting uphill, between trees, in poor light or weather conditions, or any other challenge nature might throw at you in the Great Outdoors!
One of the earliest uses of archery was, of course, for hunting animals.
And while there’s usually no need to track and kill your own food these days, bowhunting remains a popular sport and method of game management.
Bowhunting is like a real-life version of field archery and comes in two flavors – still hunting and stand hunting.
Still hunting involves moving through the terrain, stalking your prey and finding the perfect moment to strike, whereas in stand hunting, a hunter will wait under a cover on the ground (in a ground blind) or on an elevated stand in the trees, several meters off the floor.
Hunters need to use all of the skills they’ve honed over years of practice to master the terrain, track their prey and, most importantly, deliver a perfect shot with their arrow to take an animal down as quickly as possible.
Bowhunting obviously isn’t for everyone and certainly has its detractors who say it’s inhumane and cruel to animals but, when properly controlled and undertaken by skilled archers, can be an effective way to manage wildlife
Think bowhunting but in water.
Bowhunting and Bowfishing share many similarities – the main difference (apart from one being on land and the other water) is the equipment used.
Bowfishing uses special fishing arrows that are heavier than traditional arrows, to deliver more force in the water, and are attached to a reel with a line so they can be retrieved after they’ve been shot.
To support the use of a reel there are specialist bows available with a reel built right into the bow but you can also get conversion kits so you can use an existing bow for bow fishing which is usually a good choice for beginners to get a feel for the sport without investing too heavily in equipment.
Bowfishing can be done standing in shallow water or from a boat, usually one with a flat bottom to make it easier to get to the shallow waters that are suitable for fishing. It’s also a sport that can be done during the day or at night, a lot will depend on the type of fish you are hoping to catch and where in the world you are.
One for the purists, traditional archery strips the bow right back to the basics and puts the emphasis squarely on the archer’s own abilities.
No sights, no stabilizers, no adjustable-carbon-fiber-dual-cam-tensioning-systems, just you and the bow….
And that bow is probably going to be either a longbow or a recurve bow in traditional archery. There are, of course, plenty of modern innovations incorporated into the present-day versions of these bows but the designs themselves have been around for centuries and have a timeless simple elegance that makes them so popular in movies such as The Lord Of The Rings and The Hunger Games.
Traditional archery is all about getting back to basics and enjoying the experience of shooting a bow and arrow.
There’s less emphasis on accuracy or target scores and much more focus on you, the archer, and your concentration, bowmanship and overall self-control.
Don’t take that to mean that traditional archery is only for the hardcore warrior-monk types who want to dedicate their lives to perfecting the art – at its core, traditional archery is about shooting a bow and arrow with as few distractions as possible. And in our eyes, more time shooting + less distractions = Fun on a Bun!
So there you have it, some of the most popular types of archery around today. Some more popular than others but all worth trying – who knows, you might’ve just read about the best type or archery that you never knew existed!
We hope that you’ve been given an insight into some new challenges that might take your archery to the next level, rekindle your passion for the sport or at least give you some ammunition for the next time you’re trying to justify a new purchase. After all, it wouldn’t be right to take a modern compound bow to a traditional archery shoot or a longbow to an Olympic range now, would it?