The importance of ensuring archery safety at all times cannot be overemphasized primarily because drawing the bow and shooting an arrow are the central components of this sport. Unsurprisingly, many states treat bows and arrows the same as firearms, meaning they are subject to the same laws and restrictions.
So, how can archers of all skill levels - novices and seasoned pros alike - avoid injury while still enjoying the sport?
For starters, we'll review some basic safety rules that all archers should follow, as doing so will prevent the vast majority of mishaps. Thereafter, we'll discuss various gear that may be used during an archery session to ensure the safety of the shooter and others nearby.
Let’s get started!
Towards Guaranteeing Safety With Your Bow
When it comes to team sports, archery is one of the safest activities anyone can partake in. New data from the National Safety Council shows that, with only one accident per 2,000 participants, archery is almost three times safer than other sports like baseball, volleyball, or football.
However, the gear you use and whether or not you follow proper safety procedures are the two most significant factors in determining the riskiness of your archery practice.
Tips To Maintain Safety When Out With Your Bow
Participating in any archery event requires maintaining a level of professionalism befitting an archer competing at the highest levels. Also, you must adhere to every set of archery safety rules stipulated whether you are practicing in your backyard or at a standard range. Archery accidents are uncommon when proper safety measures are followed.
Bear in mind also that archery safety does not only apply when you’re in the middle of shooting. You need to always focus on keeping yourself and others safe before, during, and after shooting.
A typical set of archery safety guidelines would consist of the following:
Rules To Follow Before Shooting The Bow
Before shooting your bow, you must:
Ensure You’re Prepared
Prior to shooting day, you must have put long hours into practicing and finetuning your archery skills. You can practice improving your skills alone, with friends, or under the supervision of a coach. The main thing is for your big day to meet you prepared.
Inspect Your Archery Gear
Before you start shooting, you should check all your equipment for any damage and confirm everything is in place and working properly. Using busted archery equipment has to be the easiest way to hurt yourself or others around you.
Here’s a quick rundown of what to inspect before you start shooting:
- Inspect your bow limbs for cracks or any form of damage
- Check your bowstring for frays
- Check the arrows for any cracks or splintering
- Check your fletchings for signs of damage
- Inspect the arrow nock for cracks
- Check that the backstop is not damaged so arrows can’t pass through
- Examine your gloves, finger tabs, or arm guard for any signs of wear and damage
This quick and simple procedure will help you ensure your archery equipment is properly functioning and safe at all times. Plus, it’s usually cheaper to fix a minor fault before it becomes a major issue.
Wear Proper Outfits And Safety Gear
While it may not be the first thing people think of, it's crucial that anyone participating in archery wears suitable attire. Wearing loose clothing like scarves, loose shirts, or hoods and dangling jewelry like earrings, bracelets, or necklaces that may get caught in the bow must be avoided at all costs. Ensure your clothing and footwear are comfortable, especially if you’ll be shooting for a long time.
For safety reasons, some ranges insist archers, particularly kids wear safety glasses. Arm guards are also protective tools you should consider wearing to protect yourself from possible wrist slaps.
Confirm The Range Is Clear
Never fire an arrow without making sure the range is clear. Always make sure the path to your target, as well as the area behind and around the target are clear. Also, when shooting in your backyard, always confirm there’s no one nearby before shooting. This will go a long way in ensuring no one gets hurt.
Rules To Follow While Shooting Your Bow
While shooting, ensure you:
Nock Your Arrow ONLY When You're Ready To Shoot
Many archers sometimes keep their arrows nocked despite not being ready to shoot - an act that poses a threat to anyone in their vicinity, making it a very unsafe and unhealthy practice. You should not nock your arrow until you’re ready to shoot. In most contexts, being "Ready to Shoot" implies that you are at the firing line, facing the target, and have been given the go-ahead to shoot.
Always Nock Your Arrow While It’s Pointed Downward
Accidents have been avoided simply by keeping the arrow pointed downward toward the ground when nocking. Don't let your enthusiasm get the better of you during nocking, as you may easily pull back the arrow, and it may take flight if your grip isn't firm enough.
As much as possible, your bow should remain pointed to the ground after you’ve nocked the arrow. Raise your bow only when it’s time to aim at your intended target. This will go a long way to prevent avoidable accidents in case the arrow accidentally slips out of your hands.
Keep The Bow Pointed Away From Others At All Times!
You can’t afford any carelessness as an archer. Developing the practice of never pointing your bow at another person, even when you are not carrying any arrow, is critical to ensuring the safety of everyone in the arena. There have been cases where someone was hurt because an archer accidentally poked the other with an arrow while they were carried away chatting. Establishing this rule as a standard practice will ensure nobody gets hurt when handling a bow and arrow.
Do not proceed if you hear "HOLD"
Being attentive is a skill every archer must practice and master, particularly when in the middle of shooting, as hearing and following instructions can be the huge difference between safety and accidents. Whenever you hear the words "STOP" or "HOLD," you must instantly halt your current activity, undraw the bow, “unnock” the arrow immediately, and await further instructions.
Only Fire When You Have The Go-Ahead
You should never fire your arrow unless you’ve been given a clear directive to approach the firing line and have received the go-ahead to fire. While on the range or arena, you must familiarize yourself with and be attentive to the various commands and appropriate response actions.
Stay Conscious Of Your Surroundings And Others
When shooting, you must always be aware of others and what’s happening around you. Never shoot your bow when anyone is in line of your shot or anywhere in front of you. Similarly, never stand downrange or in front of someone who’s shooting.
Rules To Follow After Shooting Your Bow
After you have fired a shot, you must follow the safety precautions listed below:
Safely Retrieve Your Arrows
Only attempt to retrieve your arrows after you’ve confirmed the shooting line is clear and have gotten a signal to do so. Even if you misfired your arrow and it didn’t go very far, you must resist the temptation to try to retrieve it quickly.
When going to retrieve your arrows, WALK - do not attempt to run. Running downrange might get you injured from stepping on errant arrows lying on the ground or tripping on the target. Be sure to also practice safe arrow pulling. You can get yourself an arrow puller to make the process of retrieving your arrows seamless, even from the toughest targets.
Don’t Leave Anything Behind
After shooting, you must pick up everything to ensure nothing is left on the ground. Arrows, bows, and other archery equipment left behind can harm others, causing an avoidable accident.
Safety Equipment For Bow Shooting
Archery has little risk involved if you adhere to the standard safety protocols. But that’s not all. A wide variety of archery protective gear is also available to take your safety efforts a step further. Below are some of the safety equipment to consider using each time you shoot:
Backstops are positioned behind the target to prevent arrows from hurling off if you miss the target. Having a backdrop installed behind the target protects anyone who might be inadvertently wandering behind the target or range and makes it easier to find and retrieve fired arrows. Mostly, hay bales, plywood, or even archery netting may be used to build archery backdrops.
Shooting gloves, finger tabs, and mechanical release aids fall under this category. They perform basically the same function of protecting your hands and fingers when you shoot, as well as improving your shot consistency.
Thumb Rings/Finger Savers
Thumb rings are designed to shield the thumb while shooting with a release method other than the standard three-finger method used with shooting tabs. Meanwhile, finger savers attach directly to the bowstring and are built to relieve stress and discomfort on your fingertips as you fire each shot.
You can safeguard your arm when shooting by wearing a piece of protective material called an arm guard. Most archery experts recommend you always put on an arm guard when using a bow. It’s not uncommon to see archers get whacked in their bow arm by the string. This can result in serious injury leading to bruises or skin tears. An arm guard not only protects your arms from the string but also keeps loose clothing out of your line of sight while shooting.
Even though archery is one of the safest sports available, there are certain things an archer must keep in mind to avoid injury. To promote safety, a lot of rules govern every aspect of archery, from what to wear to thorough equipment inspection and best practices when shooting alone or with others.
The importance of safety in archery cannot be overemphasized for both beginner and seasoned archers alike. While following every archery safety rule available might not necessarily guarantee 100% safety, they will definitely go a long way to protect you and other archers from lots of severe injuries and avoidable accidents.