Differences Between Field, Target, and 3D Archery


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Archery Field for competition with multiple targets

Archery is archery right? I mean you shoot an arrow from a stick with a string on it. Whoa, not so fast. It’s surprising to some people just how many different types of archery there are. There are 3 common types of archery for both leisure and competition and those are Field, Target, and 3D Archery.

The main differences between field, target, and 3D archery are the course setup, the distances from the target, and the target itself. 3D Archery incorporates 3 dimensional foam targets, field archery can be indoors but is usually outdoors on varying terrain, and target archery is on flat level ground.

There are lots of little differences between these 3 types of archery too. I’ll go into some more detail about each one but here’s a table showing you a quick overview.

Field ArcheryTarget Archery3D Archery
Course LayoutVaried TerrainFlat Terrain/IndoorsVaried Terrain
TargetsPaper Spot &
Paper Animal
Paper Spot3D Foam
DistancesVarying Marked
and Unmarked
Varying MarkedTypically
Varying unmarked
Arrows per
Target
MultipleMultipleTypically One

What is Field Archery?

Field archery is considered by many archers to be both fun and challenging. It’s also known by many as “archery golf” because archers will navigate a course during the event, much like actual golf. Unlike golf though, you’re goal is to get a high score.

Field archery courses consist of targets placed at varying distances and different terrains. Archers may find themselves shooting up or down hill, under tree cover, or in an open field, among other things.

There are two basic formats used for field archery: World Archery, and National Field Archery Associate (NFAA). I’ll walk you through each major aspect of Field archery and the difference between the two formats.

World Archery Field Competition

World archery field rounds are 24 targets with 3 arrows shot per target for a total of 72 arrows. A single round can use the same course twice, meaning you may have to shoot a 12 target course two times through.

The distances may be all marked, all unmarked, or a combination. Some targets may be walk-ups or fan targets (more on that later).

There is also something known as an Arrowhead round which is two complete field rounds. There are other variations for World Championship rounds as well. The World Archery rulebook outlines all the variations.

World Archery Field Course Setup

The course setup, also known as the field of play, is slightly different between World Archery and NFAA.

There are few specific notes about where a course can be that caught my eye. For example, the course must be no higher than 1800 meters above sea level (Sorry Colorodo Springs, you just miss out). There also can’t be more than a 100 meter difference between the lowest elevation and the highest on the course.

Each target is to have shooting pegs, with marked distances on them if applicable. Each group of categories has a different colored peg.

  • Blue Peg = Barebow, Cadet Recurve, and Cadet Compound
  • Red Peg = Recurve and Compound
  • Yellow Peg = Cadet Barebow

Each course is setup to have a variety of target face sizes and distances to the target. Each target is numbered before you arrive at the shooting peg so you know you’re at the correct one.

World Archery Field Targets and Scoring

Under World Archery rules there are 4 sized target faces used.

  • 80cm
  • 60cm
  • 40cm
  • 20cm
Arrows in a Black and Yellow Archery Target

The target faces are black and yellow and are divided into 6 concentric circles. The inner two circles are yellow. The very center circle scores 6 points, as you move outward each circle is worth 1 less point so from center it goes: 6, 5, 4 ,3, 2, 1.

The shaft of the arrow determines the score. If the arrow is touching 2 zones, also called breaking the line, the archer will take the higher score.

World Archery Classes and Divisions

World Archery is split into the following classes:

  • Cadet Women
  • Cadet Men
  • Junior Women
  • Junior Men
  • Women
  • Men
  • Master Women
  • Master Men

Events are further split into divisions based on what type of bow you shoot.

  • Barebow Division
    • Any bow with a riser, 2 limbs, and a single string connected directly between the two string nocks. Arrows rests are permitted and may be adjustable. The bow will be otherwise bare with absolutely no aiming devices.
  • Recurve Division
    • Any bow with a riser, 2 limbs, and a single string connected directly between the two string nocks. Arrow rests, sights, and a draw check indicator are allowed.
  • Compound Division
    • A bow which is drawn through mechanical help of cables and cams or pulleys with the bowstring attached directly to the cams. Draw weight not to exceed 60 lbs. Arrow rests, sights, peep sights, and release aids may be used.

NFAA Field Archery

The NFAA format is a bit different and archers will shoot a 14 target course two times or a 28 target course once. Four arrows are shot at each target totaling 112 arrows. Things can get a tad confusing as there are walk up targets, fan targets, and birdie targets, all with slightly different rules to follow.

The NFAA also has an animal target format where archers shoot at paper animal targets. One way this style is setup is that you shoot three numbered arrows and record the highest score of the 3 arrows.

NFAA Course Setup

Any approved courses that host NFAA Field rounds must have the shooting distances properly marked. In each unit (14 targets) there will be 10 cases when the shooter will fire 4 arrows from a single marked pin.

For the remaining 4 targets the shooter will shoot either from 4 different stakes or at 4 different targets, or a combination thereof. The course can be arranged however best fits the terrain.

Hunter Rounds

For NFAA Hunter rounds things can be a bit more confusing. The NFAA by-laws spell it all out, but the basics of course setup are that each of the 14 targets can have 1, 2, or 4 stakes. You shoot a total of 4 arrows and there may be multiple target faces.

Animal Rounds

The animal rounds are my favorite because you get a real variety. For these rounds there’s still 2 units of 14 targets used. 3 arrows are shot at each target but only the highest scoring arrow counts.

Each unit of 14 targets will include 6 walk up targets and 8 one position targets. Distances are marked for National and Sectional shoots and optionally at other shoots.

At a walk up target the 1st arrow is shot from the furthest stake, then move up to the next stake, then the final stake. The maximum possible score an arrow can get is lowered as you move closer (more about this in the scoring section).

NFAA Field Archery Targets & Scoring

For field and hunter rounds a black and white concentric circle target face is used. There are 4 size target diameters as follows.

  • 65 cm
  • 50 cm
  • 35 cm
  • 20 cm

In field rounds the targets are scored 5 points for the center spot, 4 points for the two white rings, and 3 points for the outer black rings. The center X is used for tie breaking only in non professional divisions and is worth 1 additional point in the professional division.

Hunter rounds are scored similarly with the center spot being worth 5 points, the center ring scores 4, and the outer ring scores 3. The same rules apply for the X as for the field division.

For all NFAA rounds the shaft of the arrow only needs to touch the line to score the next highest area.

NFAA Animal Round Target & Scoring

Animal targets are setup and scored differently then field or hunter targets. I find this round the most interesting and fun personally.

The targets each are split into an oblong shaped high Scoring area and a low scoring area that extends to the edge of the animal. Anything outside of that is considered a miss.

In some cases a small bonus dot is located in the middle of the high scoring area and is worth 1 additional point.

3 arrows are shot at each target but only the highest scoring arrow counts. Each arrow shot is worth less than the previous arrow. So the possible scoring looks like this:

  1. 21, 20, or 18 points
  2. 17, 16, or 14 points
  3. 13, 12, or 10 points

Animal targets are broken up into 4 groups of targets each with specific type of animals that can be used and specific target size.

  • Target Group 1 (8.75″ x 14.25″)
    • Black Bear
    • Grizzly Bear
    • Deer
    • Moose
    • Elk
    • Caribou
  • Target Group 2 (6.75″ x 10.25″)
    • Small Black Bear
    • Antelope
    • Small deer
    • Wolf
    • Mountain Lion
  • Target Group 3 (4.25″ x 6.75″)
    • Coyote
    • Racoon
    • Javelina
    • Turkey
    • Fox
    • Goose
    • Wildcat
    • Pheasant
  • Target Group 4 (2″ x 3.375″)
    • Turtle
    • Duck
    • Grouse
    • Crow
    • Skunk
    • Woodchuck
    • Jack Rabbit
    • Rockchuck

Each of the 4 target groups have certain rules regarding the distances you shoot from and how many appear per 14 target unit (2 of which make up a complete round).

Group 1 This group has 3 targets per “unit” and is a 5 yard walk up target. The first shot is taken at a pin between 40 and 60 yards, then move up 5 yards for the 2nd shot, then 5 more for the 3rd shot.

Group 2 – The 2nd group also has 3 targets per “unit” but they are 3 yard walk up targets. The 1st shot is taken between 30 and 45 yards, then move up 3 yards for shot #2, and 3 more yards for shot #3.

Group 3 – There will be 4 of these targets per “unit” and are single distance. This means all shots will be fired from 1 pin located between 20 and 35 yards.

Group 4 – The final group also has 4 targets per “unit” and all arrows will be shot from a single pin. The distance will be between 10 and 20 yards for these tiny little targets.

NFAA Classes & Divisions

The NFAA splits archers up into various divisions and sub-divisions primarily based on age. Typically younger archers can waive they’re way into an older division.

Divisions

Here’s a look at how the Different Divisions are laid out

  • Adult
  • Junior (split into 3)
    • Young Adult (Ages 15-17)
    • Youth (Ages 12-14)
    • Cub (Ages under 12)
  • Senior (Ages 50+)
  • Silver Senior (Ages 60+)
  • Master Senior (Ages 70+)
  • Professional (Requires NFAA membership and Pro dues)
Classes

The NFAA rule book actually calls these shooting styles, but for all intents and purposes, they are classes. Here’s how they break down.

  • General
    • A conventional bow of any type (including compound) consisting of a riser, two limbs, and a single bowstring. Cables of a compound bow are considered part of the string, but rules state that the bow can not have a let off at full draw.
      • Max Draw Weight = 80 lbs
      • Max Arrow Speed = 300 fps
  • Barebow
    • Bow, arrows, and accessories shall be free of any and all marks that could be used for sighting. Adjustable arrows rests are allowed if they do not rise more than 1/4″ above the arrow. Stabilizers are also allowed. No release aids are allows, only gloves, tabs, or fingers
  • Freestyle
    • Basically any bow with any type of sight can be used, mechanical release aids are also allowed. Rear stabilizers may not touch the archer’s body.
  • Freestyle Limited
    • Same thing as Freestyle but no mechanical releases are allowed. Fingers, gloves, or tabs only.
  • Freestyle Bowhunter
    • Similar to freestyle but limits the bow to 5 points of reference to include sight pins, peep sight, kisser button, etc. No scopes, clickers, or draw checks are allowed. Only 1 anchor point allowed.
  • Traditional
    • Recurves or Longbows with no devices that can be used for sighting. Only 1 anchor point allowed, and no clickers, draw checks, or levels are allowed. Gloves, tabs, or fingers only, no mechanical releases. A single stabilizer may be used.
  • Freestyle Limited Recurve
    • This style is limited to recurve or longbow. Any type of sight may be used as long as there’s no magnification. No peeps sights, or string attachments allowed, however a kisser button may be used. Only gloves, tabs, or fingers can be used.
  • Crossbow
    • Foot stirrup is allowed, mechanical cocking device is also allowed. String attachments and liquid levels are allowed. Pistol and vertical crossbows are not allowed.

What is Target Archery?

Target archery is perhaps the most common type of archery and is the only one included in the Olympic games. It takes place both indoors and outdoors and uses the traditional 5 color round targets that most people are used to seeing.

Archery Targets

There are bow styles for both recurve bows and compounds, however only the recurves are included in the Olympics.

Unlike field archery, target archery takes place on level terrain and archers will shoot from distances up to 90 meters (that’s over 98 yards).

As with field archery, both World Archery and the NFAA are popular formats. World Archery is the most widely recognized and governs most large events such as the Olympics and Paralympics.

However, the NFAA also has some very large popular events such as The Vegas Shoot.

World Archery Target Events and Rules

As with field archery, there are slightly different rules for World Archery and NFAA events. Alot of the same basics apply to target archery as with field archery so I won’t bore you by repeating things. Let’s take a look at the basics though.

World Archery Bow Styles (Divisions)

In world archery there are only 2 bow styles used to divide competition. Recurve bows, and compound bows. Recurves are the only division allowed to participate in the Olympics.

Recurves may have an adjustable rest with more than 1 vertical support. Sights are permitted but may not magnify or include more than a single pin. Stabilizers and string dampeners are also allowed provided they don’t touch anything but the bow.

Compounds can not have a draw weight more than 60 pounds. Any number of stabilizers can be used as long as they touch nothing but the bow. Any sight may be used including those that magnify as long as they don’t contain electronic devices such as range finders.

One additional rule I found somewhat interesting is that no shooter of any division may use equipment that is camouflage in color.

Outdoor Target World Archery

At World Archery outdoor target events, each archer will shoot either 3 or 6 arrows depending on the specific event and distances. The total number of arrows shot depends on the specific event.

The targets used for the recurve division are 122 cm in diameter with 10 rings. Compound bow targets are also 10 ring but are only 80 cm in diameter.

The targets used are the standard gold, red, blue, black, white 5 color targets that most people are used to seeing.

The center spot scores 10 points, and each ring scores one less point as you move outwards with the outer ring scoring 1 point.

Outdoor events will have a wind flag placed above each target to help archers judge wind direction. In addition a windsock is placed at both sides of the field.

Indoor Target World Archery

Archers will shoot 3 arrows for all distances at indoor events under the World Archery format. Both recurve and compound bow athletes shoot from 18 meters.

3 Bows on stands at Indoor Target Archery tournament

Targets used indoors look similar to the ones used for outdoor events. They are made up of gold, red, blue, black, and white rings and score the same 10 to 1 point scale.

However there are many more options for indoor targets. There’s two sizes used, 60 cm, and 40 cm. But there’s a few configurations used, such as single face, vertical triple face, and triangle triple face.

Archers shoot a single arrow at each face on the triple face targets. The only difference between recurve and compound target faces is the size of the 10 point spot in the center.

NFAA Target Archery Events & Rules

Target archery under the NFAA rules varies a bit from the World Archery rules. The same divisions and classes are used for NFAA target events as are used in the field events described above.

Things can get a bit confusing however trying to keep track of the targets, distances, and arrows shot for these events. That’s because they have a bunch of different events with slightly different rules.

Rather than try and explain them all, have a look at the table below for the basic differences in these NFAA target rounds.

Event Name# of Arrows ShotDistanceTargets
NFAA Indoor60 Total20 Yards40cm Blue/White
Flint Bowman Indoor56 Total20 ft – 30 Yards Varying20cm and 35cm
NFAA 90090 Total
(30 at 3 Distances)
40-60 Yards (Adult)
30-50 Yards (Youth)
10-30 Yards (Cub)
122cm Multi Color
NFAA 81090 Total
(30 at 3 Distances)
40-60 Yards (Adult)
30-50 Yards (Youth)
10-30 Yards (Cub)
122cm Multi Color
(Alternate Scoring)
NFAA 60060 Total
(20 at 3 Distances)
40-60 Yards (Adult)
30-50 Yards (Youth)
10-30 Yards (Cub)
122cm Multi Color
NFAA 600 Classic60 Total
(20 at 3 Distances)
40-60 Yards (Adult)
30-50 Yards (Youth)
10-30 Yards (Cub)
92cm Multi Color

As you can see, there’s a number of NFAA rounds that vary slightly. This makes it a bit more fun as you get some nice variety as a shooter or spectator, but it does make it harder to keep up with the rules and scoring.

What is 3D Archery?

I saved the best for last in my opinion. I love 3D archery. I grew up shooting 3D events and always had alot of fun. The course is similar to Field archery in that it’s usually setup on varying terrain or woodlands.

The big difference between 3D archery and field or target archery is the use of foam (usually life sized) animal targets. You’ll find all sorts of animals on a 3D course such as deer, turkey, boar, elk, and more. You may even find a dinosaur or zombie on occasion.

3d Archery Bison target with arrows

Once again there are both World Archery and NFAA style events. However, this is a common type of archery among bowhunters and you may find local shoots have other variations.

For example, the events I attended growing up were all 20 target events, 1 arrow per target scoring 12-10-8-5. This exact format doesn’t exist in either NFAA or World Archery.

World Archery 3D Events and Rules

Under World Archery rules a 3D event is setup with 24 targets with unmarked distances. The distances from shooter to target will conform to the following guidelines.

  • Red Peg = Compound Bow – 5m to 45m
  • Blue Peg = Traditional Bow – 5m to 30m

Equipment, classes, and divisions follow the standard World Archery setup which I covered above in the field archery section.

Targets and Scoring

This is the fun part in my opinion. There’s so many different 3 dimensional targets that can be found at these events. Two major manufacturers make targets commonly used but other brands exist. They are Delta Mckenzie and Rhinehart.

Scoring is pretty simple and follows the same rules as other formats in that if you break the scoring line you mark down the higher score. Here’s the scoring setup.

  • 11 Points – Small circle in “10 Ring”
  • 10 Points – Larger circle in the Vital area
  • 8 Points – Vital area outside of “10 ring”
  • 5 Points – Remaining Body area (antlers and hooves are a miss)

During qualifying rounds, 2 arrows per target are shot. In the final and elimination rounds only 1 arrow is shot per target.

NFAA 3D Archery Events and Rules

NFAA rules for 3D archery a little bit different. For example, they have both marked distance rounds and unmarked distance rounds. They also have alot more targets for their events.

The National marked distance rounds will include 70 targets and the National unmarked distance rounds will include 60 targets. These events could include targets up to 101 yards away.

Lower events such as sectional and state events will include a minimum of 30 targets for marked or unmarked events. The max distance is 60 yards at this level of competition.

These events are typically 2 or even 3 day events so you wouldn’t be shooting 70 targets all in 1 day for example.

Scoring

All NFAA events use the 12-10-8-5 scoring system with the exception of marked distance National events which use 11-10-8-5. As with World archery the scores are highest for the vitals and lowest for the rest of the body.

Events will follow the 1 arrow per target rule except for the marked distance National event where 2 arrows per target will be shot.

So Now What?

Now you collect your bow and your arrows and get out to an event and have some fun. You don’t have to join the NFAA or attend a World Archery competition, there’s plenty of local shoots that you can have fun at.

All of the events I’ve attended over the years were put on by local clubs and businesses. They usually loosely followed similar rules to what I’ve explained above but the most important thing was to have fun.

Jason Brooks

Thanks for taking the time to read my article, I hope you found it helpful. I've been shooting bows for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. To read more about me, CLICK HERE

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