1. Winter Shooting
The way and the frequency you shoot over the winter will largely determine the success you’ll have at that first indoor tournament of the season.
My advice is to find out if you have a local archery club and join it. Having a good indoor shooting facility (of at least 20 yards) is hugely important. A 20 yard minimum distance is important because that’s where you’re most likely going to set that first pin. Once you’re dialled in, practice, practice, practice. This is the time you want to be doing any bow tuning; not at the tournament. Find your anchor points, tune your sight, and then fling the arrows!
I would recommend beginning with grouping and not shooting the 3 spot targets. This will give you the best idea of where your arrows are in regards to the centre of where your aiming. Do your sight tuning off of this info. Once your groups are consistent and tight (should be within 1-1.5 inches at 20 yards), then you can start shooting the 3 spot targets. Three spot is nicer so that you’re not slapping your arrows and potentially wrecking them. That gets pricy.
Community is another great aspect of joining a club. You want to be the dumbest person in the group. That way you do a ton of learning and get better. If you live in the north like I do, then you have lots of time to learn. Archery is also largely about community. Learn, laugh and shoot. Relax and have fun!
2. Distance Guesstimation
This to me is the most difficult aspect of any 3D target tournament. Unless you’re allowed to use a rangefinder, good ol’ distance estimation is what you are working with. Again, using a northern living situation as my example, it is very difficult to shoot far distances if your club doesn’t have access to long range indoors. Also, shooting in the cold will affect your shooting rhythm because you will have to wear more clothing layers.
Our indoor season gets going around mid March, and if I’m lucky we get a few warm days before the tournament. I will jump at the opportunity to grab my bag target, and at the very least get my longer distance pins set in. If you have more than a day or two then practice odd ball ranges.
I use a two step process for practicing range estimation. First, I place the target and when I’m at the firing line, I will guess the range and then check my rangefinder to see how accurate I was. I find that this tactic quickly boosts my confidence and I also don’t lose any arrows to a bad guess. Then slowly wein yourself off of the rangefinder and start shooting after you’ve eyeballed the range. Secondly, use reference points for distance. If you’ve been shooting 20 yards all winter, then find a surrounding object that’s roughly 20 yards and use it to gauge your target distance. Reference points will greatly save you from way over or under estimating a target.
3. Target Scoring
Study the targets! There are scoring cards available for the IBO and ASA targets. I would highly recommend getting them. You can find pictures and such on the internet, but the cards are handy to clip to your quiver pouch during the tournament.
The differently types of animals can be a challenge as well. The target makers are fairly good at hiding the scoring rings with spots, shadows, and colour changes. Carefully study the different placements of the scoring rings as they may not be where you think they should be. A good pair of binoculars on shooting day is a good idea to do a final check on the targets and shot placement. Again, like distance referencing, use the markings on the target to make your shot. It will give you a higher chance of success than just winging it.
To recap, how you shoot in the off season, gauging your target distance, and understanding score ring placement all contribute to that score card success. And just remember, Happy Shooting!