Cara Kelly: How to use a sight tape for 3D archery

Precision is critical to success on the 3D course. The archer who is the most precise with arrow placement is the one who wins the day.

You could certainly say that about any archery tournament, but precision is especially important in 3D archery since archers only shoot one arrow per target. And the shot distances vary from target to target. So there is no time for making adjustments on a given target. You get one chance to be perfect, and then you move on to the next target.

Sight tapes are key to helping archers achieve that precision.

What is a sight tape?


It’s is a sliver of paper, plastic or metal on a bow sight that allows an archer to properly adjust the scope or single pin to shoot targets at varying distances. Sight tapes account for the arrow drop from a specific bow, so they are highly individualized. Arrow drop is affected by a host of variables, including an archer’s draw length and draw weight, and arrow weight and speed. And as you might imagine, those variables can change dramatically from archer to archer.

Basically, a sight tape features 1-yard, incremental markings from about 15 yards to 80 yards or more. When an archer approaches a 3D target, he or she will determine the distance to that target, and then use a sight tape to adjust the bow sight to shoot at that range. It’s a critical piece of equipment for aiming exactly where you want an arrow to hit, regardless of whether the target is 24, 32, 45, etc. yards away.

Pro archer Cara Kelly says she’s “one of the most (diligent) individuals you will meet when it comes to sight tapes. It has to be absolutely perfect!”

She must be pretty good at it, given her long list of world and national titles on the IBO and ASA circuits.

She is the ASA’s reigning, Women’s Pro Shooter of the Year, and the Women’s Pro 2015 IBO World Championship winner, and is working to defend both those titles this year.

Here are Kelly’s thoughts on sight tapes.


LAS: What is your 3D setup for 2016?

CK: This year I will be shooting the Elite Impulse 31 for 3D, with a CBE Vertex 3D sight. I will be running the Shrewd 600 series stabilizers, same as in years past, with a 24-inch front bar and an 8-inch side bar. I will be using a Spot-Hogg rest. For ASA, I will be shooting the Easton Light Speed arrows, and for IBO I will be running the Easton ACE arrows.

LAS: What is your draw length and weight?

CK: I have a 27.25-inch draw length. I joke around that my dad put me on an arm stretcher when I was young! For the first time in years, since my shoulder injury, I will be shooting 51 pounds out of my Impulse 31. The draw cycle to the Elite bows has been a blessing for my shoulder, allowing me to be able to pull more poundage and shoot a heavier arrow again.

Many pro archers use computer programs to make their own sight tapes. They input a host of information pertaining to their bows and arrows, and the program creates a custom tape with distance markings that should match the performance of a particular bow shooting a specific arrow.

LAS: Do you make your own sight tapes?

CK: Yes, we use Archer’s Advantage to make sight tapes. It is important when using the software to ensure that all your information in the program is accurate, measuring your bow, the weight of your arrows, speed, etc. It is all critical to making a correct sight tape.

There are other programs you can work with to print sight tapes, such as those provided by OnTarget2! and Or you can select one from a collection of pre-made tapes, or you can make your own by shooting various distances and marking your sight location accordingly.

LAS: If someone is bent on making their own sight tape, what process would you suggest for them to do it?

CK: If you absolutely insist on making your own sight tape, take the time to triple check your marks before moving on. For example, one of the biggest things I find is that I may aim one particular way on a dot, then when I walk over to a 3D target, I may aim a little bit differently, causing me to hit maybe a yard to half-yard different. So make that 30-yard mark, then go check your 30-yard mark on a 3D target. It’s a pain to change your marks once you have laid out your entire sight tape.


LAS: Do you ever change sight tapes during a tournament? Or a season? If so, why would you change?

CK: Well, one time I got a new sight, and we forgot to adjust the sight tape to the clicks on the sight, making my entire sight tape off from 35 yards and out.

A competition sight moves by turning a dial that clicks to lock it in place. If a sight mark falls between two clicks, there’s no way to adjust the sight precisely to that mark.

I didn’t realize it until I was on the range – in a national tournament – because I hadn’t shot on the bales past 30 yards. Not smart. Lesson learned.

Always check your sight tape out to 50 yards after you put on a new one. I had to hit the breakdown bale and re-write out my entire sight tape. It worked out because I came back and finished second.

The breakdown bale is an area where archers can fix equipment issues that arise during competition.

I honestly have never thought about it until now, but that’s probably why I’m so (diligent) about sight tapes now!

LAS: At some point, do you check every single marking on your sight tape to verify it is accurate by shooting at each distance?

CK: Yes. As soon as I put on a new sight tape I start at 30 yards, then 40 and end out at 50, ensuring it is on. I then circle back going to 20 and back out to 45 to make sure it’s all good and ready to run. But it’s never absolutely final till I aim at a 3D target to ensure I’m hitting right behind my pin.

LAS: Do you stick with full-yard markings, or do you have a way to account for half-yards?

CK: I stick to full yards. If I think I need a tick more or a tick less, that’s where I find the need to use the half yard increments. I may also put a half yard on to aim at an upper 12 or the opposite for a lower 12.

Targets used in ASA tournaments typically feature two 12-point scoring rings inside the larger 10-ring. One 12-ring is high inside the 10-ring, and the other sits low.

LAS: Are there tournaments where you find your sight tape just seems to be off?

CK: I wouldn’t say there are particular tournaments that I find that to be the case. It could be more of where I tend to be aiming, and I may need to add a yard or subtract one.

Don’t be afraid to move that pin. If you feel you aren’t hitting right behind the pin and have nailed the number, make the adjustments.

LAS: Do you ever get to a target and set your sight using your tape, draw back, get on the target and say to yourself, “No, that setting doesn’t feel right?” If so, do you let down and adjust your sight? Or do you hold high or low to compensate for what feels right?

CK: Once you pull back your bow, you can’t reset your sight (under ASA and IBO rules). You are committed to that number you have dialed up, even if you forgot to set your sight from the target before.

I pay attention to where others hit, and try to play my yardage off of other arrows to aim at. Or if everyone has hit low, why not aim center and add a little for comfort?

LAS: Do you cover your sight tape during competition, so others can’t see how you’ve judged the distance to a target?

CK: It is an ASA rule that your sight tape is covered during competition. As a result, I have my sight tape covered for all 3D events.


Chance Beaubouef checks his sight tape, which is hidden behind a piece of Velcro tape.

I think it’s a respect factor. No one wants someone to see their sight tape, nor do I even want to catch a glimpse of one! What someone may shoot a target for could be 3 yards different from what I need to hit it, so keeping it covered is just a common courtesy.

LAS: Is it common for archers to try to look at someone else’s sight tape?

CK: It without a doubt happens, unfortunately and sadly! Just to keep everyone honest, keep it covered. It comes down to a sportsmanship factor. Be a true sport of the game and follow the rules.