Field Archery: What You Need to Know

Field archery is considered by many archers to be one of the most challenging and enjoyable archery formats out there.

It’s been dubbed “archery golf,” because it requires an archer to navigate an outdoor course, featuring shots at targets set at varying distances.

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The target sizes also vary, with smaller target faces being shot at shorter distances and larger ones at longer distances.

Since the course is outside, archers have to deal with weather, changing light conditions if the course moves from open fields to woods, and potentially uphill and downhill shot angles, depending on the course terrain.

Field archers shoot a lot of arrows during a typical round. Where a 28-target 3-D course would require 28 shots, a 28-target field round might require shooting 112 arrows – four per target – depending on the format.

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Speaking of format, there are two basic types of field archery in the U.S. – World Archery and National Field Archery Association (NFAA).

The World Archery format, which is employed at all USA Archery field events, consists of shooting 48 targets over two days – 24 per day. On one day, the target distances are unknown, requiring barebow archers to shoot from 5-45 meters, and compound and Olympic recurve archers to shoot 10-55 meters. Target faces are either 20, 40, 60 or 80 cm. Scoring rings are worth 1-6 points.

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Here are the 20cm, 40cm and 60cm World Archery field faces.

The second day of competition involves shooting at targets set at marked distances anywhere from 5-50 meters or 10-60 meters for the three respective classes of archers, which are broken up into several age categories.

For the USA Archery National Field Championships, the top three, two-day scores are rewarded with medals. In even years, when there’s a World Archery Field Championship, USA Archery picks the top eight archers after two days of scoring. Those archers shoot an additional 12 targets, and the top three finishers are selected to represent the U.S. at the world championships.

Under the NFAA format, archers shoot a 14-target course twice. Two types of NFAA rounds require shooting four arrows at each target face, which vary in size among 20, 35, 50 and 65 cm. Scoring rings are worth 3-5 points. The third type requires a varying number of shots at 2-D animal targets of varying sizes. Shot distances to targets in all three types of rounds are known.

The field round requires archers to shoot at distances ending in either 0 or 5, from 20 feet to 80 yards for adults and young adults – 50 yards max for youth archers and 30 yards max for cubs. The field target faces feature a black center, surrounded by two white scoring rings and then two outer black scoring rings.

The hunter round requires archers to shoot at odd-number distances from 11-70 yards. Hunter target faces feature a white center, surrounded by black scoring rings.

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A selection of NFAA field and hunter target faces.

NFAA sometimes holds field events, where archers shoot two, 14-target field rounds; hunter events, where archers shoot two, 14-target hunter rounds; or field/hunter events, where archers shoot one 14-target round of each type.

In the NFAA animal round, a course of 14 paper animal targets is set, with archers shooting 10-60 yards. Archers shoot up to three arrows at each target until they hit a scoring ring. If the first arrow hits a scoring ring, then the archer shoots no more.

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Here’s a selection of NFAA animal round targets.

Each target features a center bonus dot worth the most points, a large scoring ring surrounding the dot that’s worth the second-most points, and a larger ring surrounding that one that’s worth the least points. Scoring per target varies from 10-21 points depending on where the arrow hits, and how many arrows it takes to hit a scoring ring.

NFAA has many competition classes for archers using compound bows, recurves and longbows. And each of those classes is broken down further by age, so that archers of similar age, shooting similar equipment, compete against one another.

At the annual NFAA Outdoor Field National Championships, competitors shoot one field round, one hunter round and one animal round. The archers with the top cumulative scores in each respective division and age class are declared the winners.

USA Archery typically holds its national championship field archery tournament in early June, while NFAA has its in late July.

Field archery events held through the spring and summer at the club level across the U.S. typically follow either the World Archery or NFAA formats.

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