How I Prepare for an Outdoor Archery Tournament

Dylan Reynolds shooting 3DAttending and participating in many different types of Archery tournaments yields a lot of practical experience earned by making a lot of mistakes. High scores are often obtained through good preparation and execution, and scores that are slightly off the leader’s pace are typically due to one mental lapse, equipment failure or lack of physical preparation as a whole. To set yourself up for success, seek out advice from other archers and don’t lose points to preventable causes. Be smart, prepare in advance of your tournament.

Mental Preparation

Shoot the same style, target, distance

The best preparation technique involves shooting the same style, targets and distance that the tournament you will be shooting in utilizes. If you have never shot an NFAA Hunter round then the white circle with a black background may yield some interesting and undesirable results… a bright green pin will definitely show well against the back background though a red circle on your scope my not be very visible at all. When I say soot the same target, I mean shoot the same target that will be at your competition. For example, if you are participating in a 3 spot tournament, develop a routine and an order for shooting the 3 spot. You won’t be able to build a solid routine if you are shooting a 5 spot target that you can apply to your tournament by practicing something different than what you will be competing on. One other insight, in 3 spot I always put 3 arrows in the front slot of my quiver, and I always know I’m done with a round because I’m out of arrows. In 5 spot, I put 5 arrows in the first slot as well. Read my article on Archery Failures and become inspired!

Determine how you will turn things around in a competition

No matter how well you are prepared there will be a time where an arrow goes astray. It will puzzle you why for a time and you may let those thoughts affect your future shots. How will you break the cycle and get back to your previous pace? Developing a shot process and gaining strength and comfort in the process can guide you back to success.

Keep a Performance Log

Record the time, date and location, time started and finished, notable weather conditions, what you did (descriptive of the shoot), what went well, what you need help on and your future goals. Log your equipment and every time changes are made. Record your scores in competition and show improvements or set backs. Keep your performance analysis journal with your equipment so that records can be made immediately after a shoot.

After determining what your challenges are by looking at your performance log, work on the distances/shots that give you the most trouble. Don’t assume that once you get the kinks worked out of your worst shots, that your other *good* shots are still working. Go back and get your confidence in all your shots before you head to the tournament.

Physical Preparation

Watch What You Eat

Don’t go out on a limb and try new foods right before the tournament. Foods that will affect you in an adverse way, will also affect your shooting adversely and many field tournaments are spread throughout several acres without many opportunities to use the facilities. Bring snacks to the tournament, especially outdoors tournaments as weather delays may occur. Again, watch your snacks as healthy food is best, though watch out for oily or spicy snacks.

Shoot a Lot

The most arrows I shot in a tournament to date is 112. The fewest was 30 at an indoor 3-D tournament. Many times I wish I had shot more in the weeks leading up to the competition to really get to know my limits before the tournament. The day or two before the tournament I rest and when I pick up the bow on tournament day I’m full of excitement and anticipation. I like to build up my stamina by spending 30 minutes a day on the Elliptical. I find a typical field or 3-D shoot is 4,000 to 5,000 steps of walking/hiking or about 1.5 to 2 miles of distance.

Equipment Preparation

Confidence in Your Equipment

We have all been negligent in this at some point. Due to a serving coming loose of bolt not being tightened down, you keep checking the same thing over and over in order to not have that one little action throwing off another shot. The effect of the constant fidgeting and checking is detrimental to not only your score but your mental game as well. Each minor adjustment or check is one less second or two that you aren’t focused on your shot execution. And focus is #everything. If the sight is wiggling loose after a several shots, then you may have a dampening issue or maybe you have so much kinetic energy being pushed through the bow instead of the arrow leading to more drastic changes in your total configuration. In any event solve the problem with the help of fellow archers and your bow shop many practices in advance of your tournament to prevent the constant worry of equipment failure.

Use as high poundage as possible

WARNING: Don’t shoot a poundage so high that you are sore or that you lose steam before the tournament end. Your scores will suffer more from not being able to draw the bow correctly over time than the benefit. A higher poundage bow will benefit field archers for two main reasons. In unknown yardages an error in accessing the actual distance will be minimized by a higher poundage due to the flatter trajectory. This will enable a few more points to be accumulated if any estimations are off. The second reason to shoot a higher poundage is to allow for more range on your sight. Some of these shoots will have a 5 foot shot and then an 80 yard shot. I would much prefer to solve this problem by purchasing a wider ranged site, though in some cases the shooting of an arrow will hit the bottom of the scope, potentially destroying a scope

Small arrows + small vanes = SUCCESS

Indoor shooting has fewer variables than outdoor making it is easy to forget the simple principle of small arrows and small vanes equals a better chance for success. Many times I am tempted to re-use arrows or vanes for designed for one type of situation in another. For example I like my Easton Lightspeeds for durability on the 3-D target range. When I went to fletch them, the vanes I had on hand were two inch bohning blazers that were a rather large for the arrow… that’s right, I used them anyways. And, I’m not happy that I did from a performance or a score perspective.

Prepare for mishaps, Bring Extra Arrows

Most archers will make a yardage mistake on a field, hunter or 3D round requiring a few extra arrows than what are minimally required. I have seen sights be loose on a bow and cause arrows to stray and end up in trees. For those of you who haven’t shot an arrow into a tree, they are not easily recovered. In fact I’ve never recovered an arrow from a tree intact!

Control in the wind and rain

That’s right, the weather is a huge factor on archer performance. Many archers I know look for that perfect day to practice and I love to shoot on perfect sunny day, too. Unfortunately, every NFAA Outdoor tournament I shot in was windy and had either a torrential down pour or high winds to contend with… and I had never shot in those conditions. Needless to say dealing with string expansion while wondering if the tape on my sight is going to stay on through the wet conditions is not a recipe for success. Had I shot in windy conditions I would have known how difficult it is to hold a 30″ stabilizer in a cross wind. I would now consider using a shorter stabilizer in such conditions. Also, I could make my sighting adjustment based on experience instead of a windage adjustment guess. Again, having the time and ability to prepare will save the day. The other thing I learned about heavy rain? There’s a vapor trail left by the impact of arrows as they slice through the rain drops.

Yeah, I get that few people like shooting in the wind and the rain, what I don’t get is the lack of preparation to shoot your best in those conditions. Many people will also bring rain gear to a cloudy shoot, and the surprise factor is that many archers will have never used the rain gear in practice.

Many rain jackets will need to be tied down to the bow arm to prevent the string from slapping the jacket. There are two ways to prevent, roll up the sleeve or use your arm guard to hold the sleeve in place. In any event, prepare yourself for the circumstance by practicing while wearing the rain jacket.

Verify your Marks

There’s a multitude of programs out there to generate marks for various yardages that will prepare you for success, though there’s more to the story. Once you generate your initial set marks, don’t forget to verify them. There have been times, that I know my marks are off and I make adjustments at the tournament when I see a range of marks that are off. What troubles me most is this is preventable, if I only had confidence in my marks. For me confidence means trying the marks out before hand and *knowing* they are correct.

Several Items to Put in Your Pack!

I could rant about a ton of other pieces of gear, instead I’ll put a list of items that are self explanatory, though if there are questions please add to the comments and I will update this post

  • Binoculars, even on those 20 yard shots I want to know if I got the X or the 10 before I walk down to score.
  • Range Finder, only if allowed
  • Release, tab and a back up
  • Sun screen
  • Water, don’t leave it in the car, make sure you can easily carry the bottle
  • Lip balm
  • Small snacks, especially for field tournaments!
  • Paper Towels
  • Arrow Lube, paper towels help clean up afterwards though wipes may be necessary
  • Mosquito and bug repellant – I use a ThermaCELL and spray repellant!

What to Keep in your Quiver

Joanna Heidebrecht, Head Coach of Prairie Fire Archers

Joanna Heidebrecht, Head Coach of Prairie Fire Archers sent out the following list of items for our team to include in their quivers.

Arrow Lube You do want to make sure to have this for the tournament; we saw a lot of arrows being difficult to pull yesterday.

Arrow Puller

Allen Wrench

Pen & Small notebook – you need an pen to mark your arrows on the targets. I would recommend having two pens in your quiver. A notebook to make notes on sight markings or any adjustments you make that you would want to refer back to is a good idea.

Arm Guard Obviously, you don’t have to get this exact arm guard. There are several out there that will work great for you and you do not have to put a lot of money into an arm guard – I would not recommend spending a lot of money on one.

Finger Sling – If you don’t have one yet don’t use it for the State Outdoor, it takes some getting used to and I don’t want this to be something you add in for a tournament. I do, however, want you to use one & get used to using it once the State Outdoor is complete.

Backup Release – It is a wise idea to have a backup release because releases can break and having that happen during a tournament is really frustrating. If you don’t have a back up release for this tournament it is up to you whether or not you want to make that purchase. It can save frustration, but it is not a requirement. If, however, you are a higher performing archer and do not yet have a backup release I WOULD recommend you purchase one. This is something a seasoned archer SHOULD have.

Resources for this post

Prepare for your outdoor archery tournaments

There’s so many different ways to prepare for Outdoor Archery tournaments and there is no one magic recipe for success. My ambition and desire is for all archers to improve their abilities at all levels. This article was originally appeared on my blog “Outdoorsman in Suburbia”

Michael Reynolds

Mike is an avid Archer who shoots in tournaments and coaching Prairie Fire Archers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *