Types of Archery
Archery is a far-reaching and expansive hobby with some archers practicing for the enjoyment of competition, or as a physical pursuit, with others using the bow as a means to put sustenance on the table.
Whatever facet your interest in archery takes, you may be surprised to learn of some of the more varied and exciting ways the bow is used.
Throughout this article, we will provide oversight of many of the most common uses for bows and types of archery that archers compete in worldwide.
Target archery is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of archery and is the most popular form of archery practiced today.
Requiring little equipment, the set-up time for target archery is just a few minutes. Target archery can be performed both indoors and outdoors; making it perfect for all seasons.
Target archery is precisely as it sounds; arrows are fired at stationary targets from a set distance.
Typically, a WA (world archery) target is used, formerly known as a FITA target. WA targets feature a bullseye in the middle with concentric rings surrounding it denoting different amounts of points to be awarded.
The bullseye is worth 10 points, with each consecutive ring worth a point less than the first.
These targets are available in a multitude of sizes, dependent on outdoor or indoor shooting, and distance from the target.
The most common sized target and their distances:
- 40cm – 18m outdoor archery
- 60cm – 25m indoor archery
- 80cm – 30m and 50m outdoor archery
- 122cm – 70m and 90m outdoor archery
Olympic archery is target archery at a distance of at least 70m, using a 122cm WA target, standard rules apply for both male and female events. Team events are also held, and it is worth noting that only recurve bows are allowed in Olympic archery.
Archers attempt to knockdown wooden birds that have been perched on a stand. With its history rooted in shooting birds from church steeples, contestants use blunt arrows from a distance of 3.7m to take fire at the targets.
A point is awarded for each bird knocked down.
Originating in France and Belgium, two targets are placed at either end of a runway, or Allee du Roy, facing each other. The archer then proceeds to take turns shooting at either end of the track, at opposite targets.
An English tradition in archery, archers take aim at upright ‘wands.’ Wands are strips of wood standing 1.8m high and measuring 75mm-150mm in width.
Points are awarded for each arrow that hits the wand.
Types of bows used in target archery
Field archery is an extension of target archery, typically performed over a set course. Usually woodland or adverse terrain sets the stage for field archery, with stationary targets set up at various distances and heights.
Field archery is a good test of an archer’s overall skill, as there are several variables around the course that an archer wouldn’t face in a controlled environment. Light levels, aiming both up and downhill, odd angles and varying wind factors across the course are sure to challenge even the most experienced archers.
Generally, only 50% of targets are marked with their distance, meaning over a typical 48 target course, only 24 will be distance marked. Each archer is allowed to fire three arrows per target, for a total of 144 over an ordinary course.
Targets may not always be WA style targets and may include replica animals similar to 3D archery, or unexpected targets.
Types of bows used in field archery
Popular with bowhunters, 3D archery utilizes targets that resemble game such as squirrels, skunks or deer. A cousin of field archery, 3D archery is customarily performed over distance through rough terrain requiring the archer to use their full complement of skills.
Targets used in 3D archery will generally have scoring rings which judges can use to determine who has the most accurate shot. 3D tournaments usually take place over two days, with competing archers firing 40 arrows at 40 targets.
3D archery is used as a training and practice tool for bowhunters during the offseason, due to the heightened level of realism and crossover of skills when compared to standard target shooting.
Types of bows used in 3D archery
Unlike most types of archery, flight archery doesn’t require a target. Instead, the aim is to see who can fire their arrow the furthest.
Flight archery has led the way in terms of technical development for archery; resulting in specially created flight bows, although classes of flight archery are available for all bow types.
Flight bows are designed to launch the projectile as fast as possible, reducing the amount of energy transfer between the string release and limbs of the bow to ensure maximum efficiency. Because of this flight bows are generally very short, and have a handle that extends beyond the riser.
Not only do flight bows need constant tuning to enhance performance, but the arrows are typically handmade by the archer and explicitly designed for flight archery purposes. Solid carbon rods are the material of choice for their lightweight properties, with the center of gravity focused just beyond the midpoint of the arrow.
The record distance set with a flight bow was 1222.01m in 1987 by Don Brown in Smithcreek, USA.
Types of bows used in Flight archery
- Flight Bow
If you have ever watched a film involving medieval battle scenes, you have probably seen examples of clout archery; where the archer fires over distance by aiming vertically.
Clout archery uses a flagpole (clout) instead of a standard target, placed up to 165m away from the contestants. Sometimes referred to as an archer’s version of golf, the aim is to have your arrow land as close as possible to the clout.
Concentric rings may be marked emanating from the clout, allowing for scores to be processed during competition.
Types of bows used in clout archery
Ski archery is a test of endurance as much as it is an archery competition. During a standard biathlon, athletes traverse cross-country on ski’s with various target stations throughout the course for rifle target shooting.
Ski archery is the same concept but replaces the rifles with bow and arrow. Courses range between 12km for males and 8km for females with four arrows being loosed every 4km, with 50% of shots taken from a kneeling position.
Most often ski archer will opt to carry their bow on their back, rarely choosing to carry it in hand. Targets measure 16cm across and are shot at a distance of 18m.
A point system is not used in ski archery, and a shot either hits or misses. If the shot is registered as a miss, competitors face a penalty of an additional 350m circuit ski before they can move to the next shooting station.
Ski archery is time-sensitive, with the winner being determined by the first person to cross the finish line.
Types of bows used in ski archery
Run archery is the equivalent of ski archery for competitors in warm climates. Long-distance running over a track or cross-country replaces the skiing element.
Courses range between 5km and 12km long with three shooting stations along the length of the course. Four shots are taken at each station.
Competitors may not be required to carry their bow with them; instead, bows may be stored at each shooting range but is dependent on the competition. Targets are the same as ski archery, 16cm diameter from a distance of 18m.
Types of bows used in run archery
Traditional or ‘trad’ archery is a return to basics. No modern shooting aids such as sight, stabilizer, or modern compounds are used.
Traditional flatbows or longbows are the order of the day here, although basic modern bows may also be incorporated. Trad archery appeals to people seeking an authentic archery experience, as trad archery is the closest we can get to ye olde style archery.
Using a traditional style of bow, such as a longbow, that has the capability of adding modern attachments will still be classed as traditional archery if accessories aren’t used.
If a modern style bow is used without accessories, such as a compound or recurve bow, we would refer to this downgraded method of shooting as barebow.
Traditional archery is for those wanting to put on their best Robin Hood or Katniss Everdeen impersonations.
Types of bows used in traditional archery
Crossbows can be used in many archery disciplines, but there is a separate category for target shooting exclusively with a crossbow. It is overseen by the International Crossbow Shooting Union (IAU) who govern national, international and world championships across all crossbow disciplines.
Typically, crossbow target competitions are match competitions, set over distances of 10m and 30m. There is also a category of field shooting for crossbow similar to field archery, requiring the archers to shoot over various elevations, environmental conditions and unknown amounts of distance.
Types of bows used in crossbow archery
- Compound crossbow
Bowhunting and Bowfishing
Many hunters living in rural areas opt to use a bow or crossbow over a rifle when hunting game, or fishing. Some claim they feel a deeper connection to their environment when they hunt in this manner.
Bow fishers use a bow with specially adapted fishing reels attached, allowing their catch to be reeled in following an on-target shot. Because modern compound bows are more comfortable to use, have sight and stabilization options, and are reasonably quiet; they are a popular choice among bowhunters and fishermen.
Recurve bows can be used in hunting, but it will require a significant enough draw weight to be effective.
If you are thinking of bowhunting, you should always check the regulations of your state regarding equipment you can use, and what game you can hunt with a bow. Some states require a minimum level of draw weight to ensure humane kills when hunting.
Types of bows used in bowhunting
Archery is a fully inclusive sport that is open and welcoming to all comers. Para archery is archery specifically catering to wheelchair users or archers with physical disabilities.
Olympic and World competitions have several categories depending on the type and severity of disability for the athlete. Classifications include Open + W1, and divisions for visually impaired archers, V1/V2/V3.
Para archers will typically participate in all competition disciplines.
Types of bows used in para archery
Mounted Archery/Horseback Archery
Mounted archery is performed on horseback, and can trace its roots back to when cavalry would have required mounted archers to fire upon enemy combatants before engaging in close combat.
Today many archers still practice and compete in mounted archery, although it can be prohibitive as not only do you need the required archery equipment; you will also need access to horses and prerequisite horse-riding skills.
There are very few places available for archers to practice or learn archery on horseback.
Generally, targets will not be placed more than 45m from riders during mounted archery competitions.
Types of bows used in mounted archery
- Traditional Recurve
Archery tag is more of a fun modern past time, commonly frequented by bachelor and bachelorette parties, or used for corporate team building days. Archery tag is safe and uses arrows with large foam heads.
Safety equipment is provided, including headgear and armguards. Easily imagined as laser tag or paintball with a bow and arrow, areas will typically be enclosed, and there will be obstacles and bunkers to hide in.
Similar equipment is also used by LARPers (live-action roleplayers) to act out fantasy battles with their friends or as part of a larger organized group.
Types of bows used in archery tag
- Foam arrows
Kyudo is translated from Japanese as ‘way of the bow’ and is a traditional martial art involving the use of bow and arrow. Performed not only in the physical sense, many practitioners of kyudo also tout its benefits for spiritual development.
With roots in kyujitsu, ‘art of archery,’ which was first practiced by the samurai, kyudo focuses on the use of a yumi. Yumi’s are 2m longbows constructed from bamboo, wood, and leather using traditional techniques that artisans have kept intact for many centuries.
Kyudo has caused some division however, with many schools having their own view on how best to practice and utilize the yumi. Some schools favor marksmanship principals and strive to produce the most accurate archers possible.
Other schools focus more on the spirituality of practicing the yumi, focusing on intertwining philosophy with technique.
Types of bows used in kyudo
Thank you for taking the time to read our article on the various types of archery out there. We hope you have found it insightful and informative.
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