archery targets beginner

Best Archery Distance for Beginners? (Getting Started)

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You might be just getting started with archery, or perhaps you’re still researching before you actually do start and you’re wondering what’s the best distance to stand from the target. There are some factors to consider such as your age (youth or adult) and the type of bow you’re using (traditional or compound).

In most cases, a beginning archer will want to stand fairly close to the target until they’re consistent. As a general recommendation young archers should start at 5 yards, adult archers shooting traditional bows should start at 8-10 yards, and compound bow shooters can start at 10-15 yards.

Of course, like anything, there’s plenty of opinions on this topic but through the years I’ve found these distances to be a great starting point for most beginners falling into those categories.

Also if you’re looking for some decent targets check out my target recommendations.

Target Distance for Beginners

If you’re new to archery you may have absolutely no idea what a good distance is to stand from your target. The answer isn’t quite so cut and dry either. A lot will depend on what happens after you shoot a few arrows, but also the type of bow you have will play a role.

Youth Archery

The general recommendation for a young archer under the age of 12 would be to start shooting at 5 yards. This is regardless of bow type (traditional or compound). If the young shooter is having trouble hitting the target, move them in to 10 feet until they can consistently hit the target.

For example my daughter starting shooting at 8 years old and she was a terrible shot at first. Even at 5 yards she was missing half the time so I moved her up to 10 feet until she gained some skill.

Traditional Archery

Traditional bows are longbows or recurve bows and are typically harder to shoot than a compound bow. That’s not to say you can’t be very accurate with one, but it takes much more practice and consistency.

When beginning with a traditional bow it’s recommended you start a bit closer to the target than you would with a compound bow. Drawing, aiming, and shooting a traditional bow takes more practice and skill to be consistent.

A good starting distance for a traditional archer is about 8-10 yards. Some beginners may have trouble hitting the target at first and it’s perfectly OK to step in to 5 or 6 yards.

Compound Archery

Compound bows are more complex than traditional bows. Instead of a single bow string, they are made up of a cable and pulley system. Among other things, this makes the bow more efficient and accurate.

Because of the increased accuracy and ease of consistency shooting a compound bow, a beginning archer can usually start shooting a bit further from the target than they would with a traditional bow. For my best compound bow recommendations, including youth bows head on over here.

A good starting place is 10 yards but once you’re sighted in you can usually step back to 15 yards pretty easily.

Consider Where You Practice

If you’re practicing at home be sure that you aren’t shooting towards other houses, cars, people, etc. Even the best archers miss sometimes and you don’t want to injure anyone or cause any damage.

If you’re at a local archery range, indoor or outdoor, you’ll notice that most people shoot from a 20 yard line. You may have to be patient as a beginner if you want to shoot from a closer distance and wait for the range to clear out. NEVER stand forward of another archer.

Target Size Should be Considered

As a beginner, and especially shooting at home, you want to consider not only the distance you stand from your target, but also the size of your target. Don’t be afraid to use a larger target, there’s no shame in it. In fact I prefer a large target even after more than 20 years of shooting. You can have a look at a few of the targets I’d recommend on my recommended targets page.

The larger targets will allow you to feel more confident that you won’t miss all together and also allow you to move back a little bit and still land an arrow.

If you can’t get yourself a large target (or even if you can), you can add some extra security by building a backdrop. Horse stall mats work excellent for this. You can drape them over a stand of some kind placed behind your target and they’ll stop most if not all stray arrows that come in contact with them.

When can you move to a further distance?

This is ultimately up to you and your comfort level. A few things to note however to help keep you on track.

  • The further away from the target you are, the more exaggerated your mistakes will be.
  • Focus on good form and concentration while you are close to the target.
  • Once you can hit a dinner plate sized area consistently, try moving back 5 yards.

Consistent grouping is key. Working on your form, anchor points, and concentration will help you shoot tighter groups.

If you’re just getting started or need help to get started you might check out the article I wrote on How to Learn Archery at Home.

Most importantly, remember to be safe and to HAVE FUN. Anytime you can get out and fire off some arrows, regardless of target distance, is always good for practice. For me, it’s also a good stress reducer.

Jason Brooks

I've been involved with archery for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. I've taken part in local tournaments and even 3D course setup.