3D archery is one of the funnest shoots to be a part of as an archer. There are many types of different scoring, rules, and divisions in 3D tournaments, all of which can make big differences in how you score and ultimately where you will place. After some hard work, lots of arrows, and maybe a bit of luck, you can make the podium too!
I will first give you the skinny on my setup and what division I’m in. I shoot an Elite Energy 35 bow at a 60lb draw weight and 28.5in draw length. I use a Tropy Ridge React 5 sight, Trophy Ridge Whisker Biscuit Rest, 12in Bee Stinger Stabilizer, and a Truefire Hurricane Extreme Release. I use Easton Flatline Arrows with 100gr field points (which resemble the broadhead weight I shoot). I recently purchased the Energy 35 and instantly fell in love with the stiffer riser, slightly longer brace height, and amazing let off and back wall compared to my last bow. Basically this is my hunting set up as well and use the 3D tournaments as hunting practice. I shoot in the Men’s Compound Fixed Pin division. There’s also the Men’s Open which allows things like sliding single pin sights and zoom lenses for improved accuracy.
As much as 3D archery is about shooting real life looking animal targets, there is something to be said about shooting 3 spot paper targets. There is two things that this helps with; consistency and ranging. Shooting paper will allow you to really dial in your anchor point consistency. You can put out animal targets as your typical 20, 30 and 40 yard distances, but you’ll often shoot out the center which increases your maintenance cost. Paper and bag targets are way cheaper. Three spot targets also give you a much finer point to aim at with that ‘x’ in the middle. The scoring rings are much more forgiving on an animal 3D target, so shooting for the x will increase your precision consistency as well. Next, get to know what 20 and 30 yards looks like. These two distances I would say are your most important. These distances will help you gauge further distances by adding extra yardage to one of these two distances and most of your targets will not be passed that 40ish yard mark.
Being able to understand what targets look like and what size they are will help in ranging your shots. A buffalo at 50 yards can look the same as the small bear target at 20 yards. If you have your own range, you don’t really need animal targets per se, but having a small block target and a big bag target will help with this. Also, use your surroundings as distance markers. Set up stakes at 10 through 50 yards in 10 yard increments, then set your targets up at varying distances between the stakes. Guess the range, then check your rangefinder to see how close you are. This will help increase your confidence in ranging without a rangefinder (which are not allowed at unmarked shoots). As you get more comfortable with gauging distances, then start guesstimating and shooting what you think the target is and see where your arrow ends up. Don’t start with long range, start inside 30 yards. You will build your confidence quicker and lose less arrows.
Shoot Outside (Lots)
Wind, sun glare, and hills are all factors that need to be considered when shooting outdoors. Wind is an obvious one with cross winds moving your bow side to side will throw off your shot. Having a slightly heavier and longer axle to axle bow with good stabilizers will help negate the wind factor significantly. Bee Stinger has a great variety of lengths and weights to customize to your liking. Sun glare is a tough one. This is dependent on the time of day and direction you’re shooting, but nevertheless I usually have someone hold and umbrella or hat above me to block out the glare as much as possible. It helps to practice in these conditions to help deal with all the commotion and someone else hovering over top of you. Hills are a big factor in knowing how to compensate for slope. There are some new and fancy rangefinders out there that compensate for the slope angle. But knowing how to level your bubble on your sight while tilting your body and holding your anchors takes practice and know how. Many sights have a third axis adjustment that will allow you to adjust for this very thing, but if you don’t, no need to worry, just tilt your bow left or right to center your bubble level once in the bent over or slanted up position you’re in.
Make Every Shot Its Own Mini Round
I was told once that the hardest 6 inches of archery is between your ears. And nothing could be more true. I’ve seen way too many people blame their equipment for their poor shooting, NEWS FLASH, it’s you and not your bow. I used to suffer from things like target panic all the time, or groups behind ours that catch up to us and it feels like we are being rushed. If you’ve truly been putting the time into your form and its consistency, then now it’s time to focus. You’re going to need to learn to block out everything else going on around you and execute your shot the same every time. If you make a bad shot, don’t carry that mentality to the next target, because it’s going to be a different target and a different distance, so it doesn’t matter any way. You may try things like shooting with headphones on or some kind of background noise. But ultimately it’s just you and the target. Make each shot its own little mini round and you’ll shoot better. Also, try not to look at your score or placing on the second day until after you’ve shot. I make this mistake often out of curiosity, and if you’re in the top 5 that can play with your head because you can get nervous about performing better to win.
All in all, there is lots of year round stuff to work on and consistently improve on, but archery really is a giant awesome community where you will always come out a better shooter, and sometimes make the podium. It does feel good when you know that your hard work and practice paid off, and it will if you keep at it! So happy shooting everyone and keep those arrows flying!