Field Archery: Something Nobody is Talking About

Field Archery: Something Nobody is Talking About

Field archery is one of the many archery variations we have. And while it doesn’t necessarily get as many headlines, it’s actually one of the most interesting forms of archery available. Field archery tests your spectrum of skills and preparedness as a marksman, providing the perfect avenue to bolster your accuracy while enjoying the outdoors.

For someone looking to become a bowhunter or competition organizers who want to introduce an element of nature and unpredictability to the game, field archery is an option worth considering. In this article, we’ll take you through what field archery is and help you to understand its peculiarity among other archery forms. 

An Introduction: What Is Field Archery?

Contrary to its name, field archery doesn’t actually take place on an open field. Instead, it is organized on a shooting range or course set in a forest or woodland area. This unique setting allows archers to connect better with nature as they take in the sights and sounds around them. 

The setting of field archery competitions also introduces an element of the unpredictable. You’re essentially shooting in a terrain that isn’t even, so you must adapt better to your surroundings if you hope to hit the target. And as we all know, forests are also prominent for their unpredictable nature. So, it’s all more fun - as long as no animals get in the way.

As with other forms of archery, the aim here is for archers to hit a target. The targets can be round faces, animal faces, or even 3D animals. They also come in different sizes depending on the target distance - smaller targets work for short-distance shooting, while long-distance shooting will need a larger target to even things out.

In most field archery settings, the target distance typically ranges from 20 feet to 80 yards. As stated earlier, the target sizes vary with shooting distance. From 20 to 35 feet, you’ll shoot 20cm faces; 15 to 30 yards - 35cm faces; 35 to 50 yards - 50cm faces; and for 55 - 80 yards - 65cm faces. Note that these measurements refer to the target’s outermost scoring ring.

Finally, as explained earlier, field archery takes advantage of the natural environment to introduce some additional difficulty to shooting. So, you should expect to shoot up, down, and across slopes. Some field archery competitions can also have targets set up at trick angles, or they could use foliage and trees to cover certain parts of the targets

Natural components like tree branches, barks, rocks, and more will make the ground on which you stand very uneven, so be ready to work on your stance and possibly modify your body posture by stretching, kneeling, leaning, etc., to take the perfect shot.

A Brief History Of Field Archery 

The sport began in 1934 by members of a small club in Redlands, California, who realized they had no interest in target archery. With other archers across the nation, they sought a more challenging game. These events began as fun shoots for novelty and were generally considered comic relief following a session of actual target archery. All these tournaments inspired the Redlands club to frame a permanent field course. They started the first course in 1934 spring and became popular instantly, despite a few shortcomings. The course had twenty targets spread over the rolling hills. 

As the sport flourished, every course made a standard for both the number of targets and the shooting range. It instantly became evident that this sport required an organization to maintain its consistency of growth.

That is when the National Field Archery Association originated. The main goal was to develop the rounds and make competitions and field-style shooting regulations. In 1940, the first mail-in tournament on the outdoor fields was held. After six years, the first annual NFAA championship for national field archery was held at the Allegan of Michigan.

Now, the NFAA crowns sectional state as well as champions of national field archery every summer and plays host to many field shoots held across the nation.

Field Archery Rounds

Many people consider field archery a blend of bows, arrows, and golf, probably because it involves archers moving from one target to another as they navigate different course layouts. Every round will have 28 targets spread among the mountains, hills, flat fields, and other terrains. You can also make do with a 14-target course, but you’ll have to hit every target twice to finish a complete round.

There are three different rounds you can participate in on a field archery course, each presenting different elements that you’ll need to contend with - as well as distance and target variations. 

Hunter Round

Hunter rounds are typically shot at shorter ranges compared to other rounds, with the maximum distance being ten yards less. In the hunter round, red shooting markers are used, and the target can be placed at any yardage the organizers choose. Distances can range from 20 feet to 70 yards, depending on the stakes involved and your shooting expertise level. 

As for targets, they usually consist of black and white rings. The two inner rings with a center “x” are white in color, while the next two rings are black. Target sizes will vary based on their distance.

In this round, you’ll usually fire about four arrows. Each of them gives you a maximum of 5 points so that you can get a maximum of 20 points per target. 

Field Round 

Field rounds are a little trickier and more challenging than hunter rounds. In the field round, yardages are kept simple and must be set at incremental distances of five yards.  White shooting markers are used in this round, with target distances ranging between 20 feet and 80 yards. Like in the hunter round, targets in the field round are also made of black and white rings. Both inner rings are colored black, while the next two are white, followed by two more black rings. Target sizes will differ based on distance.

Each of the four arrows in the field round will also give a maximum of 5 points. So, you can get a maximum of 20 points per target.  

Animal Round

For the animal round, yellow shooting markers are used, with target distances ranging from 20 feet to 70 yards. This round is quite different from the other two. Here, you shoot at 2D animal targets with scoring rings printed on them. Animal rounds have two primary scoring areas, along with a bonus ring located in the center of the higher scoring area.

In the animal round, you’ll be shooting three arrows at twenty-eight animal targets. Also, the rules demand that your arrows have to be numbered.

As for scoring, the first arrow in an animal round can get you up to:

  • 21 points for the bonus ring
  • 20 points for the high-score zone
  • 18 points for the low-score zone
  • Anywhere else on the target is considered a total miss and scored 0 points

For the second arrow, the score values change to 17, 16, 14, and 0 points, respectively, while for the third arrow, the scores drop to 13,12,10 and 0 points.

After shooting the three arrows, only the points gotten from your highest-scoring arrow will be considered.

Important Considerations for Field Archery

Many consider field archery as the most challenging form of archery out there. Due to the variations in terrain and different obstacles, you need to have your A-game on when engaging in field archery. With that in mind, it is important to remember a few things as you hope to conquer a field archery session. Whether it’s an individual or a team shooting session, it is important to consider the following:


There’s regular archery stamina; then there’s field archery stamina. If you’re in a standard field archery competition, you will find yourself shooting at up to 28 targets or two rounds of 14 targets. Combine all that with bow drawing and walking a couple miles to cover the entire course, and there’s almost no way you won’t feel the effects of all that activity. The latter part of the course will especially test your stamina, so ensure you’re in good shape.

Stance & Footing 

It’s rare to find a field archery setting that has a soft, flat spot where you can plant your feet and have them fit. In most cases, you’d have to shoot with one foot higher than the other or with one foot not being properly placed due to a lack of floor space. Natural elements like gravel or sticks could also prevent you from getting a proper foot on the ground. So, ensure to work on your shooting form and get a proper balance. 

Weather Elements

As we already pointed out, field archery takes place outdoors. This means you will need to shoot in different conditions - from sunlight and shadows to high wind and even rain. 

Mother Nature will test you quite a lot, so be ready to make adjustments where the need arises. If you’re in the rainy season and you anticipate that there’s going to be a downpour and a lot of wind when you get on the shooting range, then it might be best to practice before the competition comes up. Get in proper tune with your gear, and you’ll be able to compensate for any weather peculiarities.

Yardage Cuts 

When faced with an angled shot, you could need to engage yardage cuts. Gravity tends to have different effects on your shot when you’re shooting at awkward angles than it does for a level-ground shot. Hence, when it comes to highly angled shots, you need to know how much yardage to cut to ensure you’re aiming at the center dot.  

Also, keep in mind that yardage cuts are required for both uphill and downhill shots. Most archers believe they need to add some yardage to compensate when faced with uphill shots, but this isn’t correct.

In-Round Adaptability 

A lot of the talk around field archery revolves around your ability to adapt to the environment. And to be fair, this is very important. But, it is equally important to understand how to adapt while in the middle of shooting. An archer unable to adjust amid a field round will most likely not get very far. You need to be able to recognize what’s working and what isn’t and make the necessary adjustments as you shoot. 

If you find that your arrows keep hitting a higher part of the target, then you need to determine the amount of yardage that needs to be cut from your shots to even things out. The longer you take to recognize faults and make adjustments, the more points you’ll lose. 

Field Archery: The Ultimate Competition

When it comes to competitions, it doesn’t get better than field archery. This form of archery forces you to stretch yourself and adapt to your surroundings, combining the rigorous training you’ve gotten with the element of luck. 

As you hope to grow as an archer, field archery is definitely one concept you’d want to practice - and with different levels available based on your expertise, you can get better gradually and with time.