By Jackie Holbrook
Everyone welcomes the sight of buds blooming each spring. Bowhunters, however, would rather skip ahead to autumn when the leaves fall off those trees. Yes, some bowhunters get out for bears or turkeys in spring, but those aren’t options for everyone.
If you want to get outside to shoot your bow and practice on lifelike animal targets, you need to check out 3D archery tournaments. These events are fun, and the competition will make you a better bowhunter.
Some people compare 3D archery to golf because participants walk a numbered course through a woodlands, and pause at designated spots to shoot 3D targets at varying distances. These plastic-foam targets resemble bears, deer, elk, caribou and turkeys in size and appearance. Some events also feature fun targets like a T-Rex or bigfoot.
Depending on the tournament, 3D courses can be marked or unmarked. A marked course posts the distance to each target. Unmarked courses do not. You can judge the distance for yourself or determine it with a rangefinder.
Each 3D animal target has a scoring ring that approximates the animal’s vitals. The center ring over the animal’s heart and lungs earns the highest number of points. The surrounding rings score progressively less moving outward. Scoring varies by the type of tournament.
Archery shops have information about nearby 3D tournaments. The Archery Shooters Association and National Field Archery Association host 3D competitions. The ASA hosts amateur and professional archers nationwide in national Pro/AM and state-level club competitions. The NFAA, a nonprofit, is the world’s largest field archery organization.
Scholastic 3D Archery and the International Bowhunters Organization are other well-known 3D organizations, and the Northwest Mountain Challenge and Total Archery Challenge host 3D events across the country. The best way to find 3D tournaments is to visit archery shops, browse websites, and look for events on social media.
Tournaments divide competitors into classes by age, experience and equipment to ensure fairness. Many tournaments let you shoot recreationally, which lets you have a fun, laid-back time while testing your skills.
If you wish to compete you must read the rules to determine which class to shoot in. Your options can vary depending on which organization hosts the event. For example, NFAA offers a “Bowhunter Freestyle” that lets bowhunters use most of their hunting setup. The ASA offers an “Amateur” class for bowhunters new to competition.
If you don’t know which class is right for you, just ask. Event staff will make a recommendation after reviewing your equipment and skill.
3D tournaments are usually one- or two-day events, and you should plan to shoot with four or five other archers. Tournaments offer great opportunities for making new friends and learning from others. Most courses feature 20 to 40 targets, which are set up to mimic bowhunting situations, which can include steep angles or targets obscured by trees or branches.
Stand and shoot from shooting stakes designated for your class. Every archer shoots once per target, and then everyone walks to the target, checks their results, and pulls their arrows.
Most events last all day. Wear comfortable clothing and hiking shoes. Dress for the weather. Waterproof gear is a plus if it’s been raining, drizzling or forecast to rain. Always bring extra arrows, sunscreen, bug spray, and a backpack with water and food.
Shooting in 3D tournaments is a great way to enjoy spring and summer. You might even meet a new hunting buddy. And by the time hunting season arrives this fall you’ll be ready to make great shots under pressure. Don’t wait! Find a tournament today.