Sharon Shooting off the tree stump at 3d

What is Field Archery?

Field archery woodland and grounds

Field archery woodland and grounds

From time to time when talking to people about archery I am asked “What is field archery?
So often people have heard of target archery, maybe they have seen archery on Olympic broadcasts or the ever expanding media coverage of superhero films like the Avengers etc, but field archery is not something most have heard of. For this reason I thought I might try and give an explanation of what it is.

Field archery is one of the many forms of archery, that is practised around the country and indeed the world over. Though less well known than target archery, field archery is still a very popular sport and pastime enjoyed by thousands of people of all ages. To give you an idea of the size and scope of the hobby in the UK. The National Field Archery Society has over 100 registered clubs across the UK with in excess of 6,000 members and this is only one of the UK based societies who promote archery. Events are run throughout the year and in all weathers.

shooting in snow

Shooting in snow can be fun but cold

The title “field archery” I have always felt is slightly misleading, as most field archery courses are set in woodland or forested areas, so not really a field. Yet target archery courses are set on open fields, just to make it a little more confusing.

Organisers set a field course, consisting of a series of targets, varying in size and distance to test the abilities of the competitors. The exact distances and size being dependent on the governing body or association the hosting club is running the event under. I’m going to focus on the NFAS as it is under that society I shoot and have the greatest experience of.

Under the NFAS banner (National Field Archery Society) courses normally comprise of 36 or 40 targets. These could be 36/40 individual targets or 18/20 target course that you go round twice. The latter is quite common for smaller clubs that don’t have either the space or resources to accommodate a full 40 target course.

3D goat at LEFA

3D goat at LEFA

Unlike other societies or governing bodies the NFAS targets can be paper faces, 2d targets or 3d targets in the shape of animal.
Some other bodies use roundall targets rather than animal faces or 3ds.

Some people have likened field archery to simulated hunting and I know in the USA it is used for this purpose, i.e. hunting practise by some archers to keep their eye in. But I don’t feel this is correct or accurate for the UK. Just so readers are aware in the UK it is illegal to hunt or fish with a bow of any kind. The distances shot and poundage of bows used would not be practical for hunting, being generally too far or too light a poundage in bow weight. I was recently at a shoot where a 3d grizzly bear was set at about 70 yards  and an elk at over 60 yards. This is far beyond any hunting shot a bow hunter would shoot such animals at in reality. Put simply the 3D is simply a target. In essence we are shooting a target sport in woodland.
In the NFAS the targets resemble animals, whether they be paper faces or 3d targets.

Target face - merlin boar

Merlin Boar

Anyway back to a definition of the sport.
Under the NFAS all targets are set at unmarked distances. This means part of the appeal and corresponding challenge is in judging the distance between the shooting peg and the target whilst allowing for gradients, as often the ground is not flat.

There can be multiple classes from traditional styles such a longbow or American flatbow to highly technical classes like compound unlimited with sights and release aids. I’ve given a simple breakdown of the shooting classes in the NFAS on this page. The classes vary from society to society though. With the NFAS there are over  10 styles, with each style having 6 classes covering gender and age (Gents, Ladies, Junior Boys, Junior Girls, U12 (Cub) Boys, U12 (Cub) Girls)

Male and females shoot the same course at the same time with targets being the same distance. This allows for a level playing field between the sexes. Different peg distances are set for age range with the youngest archers shooting from the nearest pegs.
To use the NFAS again as a basis, there are several possible rounds but the most common is the big game round. Here archers shoot up to 3 arrows, the peg order shown below
Adults: Red, White, Blue
Juniors (14/15): White, Blue, Blue
Juniors (12/13): Blue, Yellow, Yellow
U12s: Yellow, Yellow, Yellow
U9s: Orange, Orange, Orange

Therefore as an adult shooting a big game round you shoot your first arrow from the red peg. If you hit great, you don’t have to take another. If you miss you move to the white peg where you take another shot. Again if you hit you end there otherwise a miss means you move from the white to the blue peg. This is your last chance on that target to hit and if you miss you have blanked the target and move on to the next target to start the process again. So that covers the different colours

So when you hit what do you score ?

  • First arrow wound is 16 a kill 20 inner kill 24
  • Second arrow wound is 10 a kill 14 inner kill 14
  • Third arrow wound is 4 a kill 8 inner kill 8
    The inner kill area only bestowing a bonus score on the first shot.

I hope you have found this of interest. Let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks for reading.