A beginner's experience with 3D archery
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., August 6, 2005.)
I shot my first 3D archery course 2 weeks ago. Until then, I was one of the majority of bowhunters who have never shot a 3D archery course. Now that I've done it, it seems odd that so many haven't. My first experience was more fun, more interesting, and more enlightening than I expected.
Plenty of 3D shoots are not competitive events.
And you'll find camaraderie
even with people you don't know.
What is 3D archery? It's a specialized type of target archery. For most of us, our conception of target archery comes from youth camps, physical education classes, or televised Olympic competition where the archer shoots arrows at a large round bulls-eye with different colored concentric circles. In 3D shooting, the archer shoots at 3-dimensional targets in the shape of game animals positioned on a set course in realistic hunting terrain.
Courses consist of a variety of animal targets (usually 30 of them) in a variety of settings, at a variety of ranges, at a variety of angles and in a variety of lighting conditions. If you get the idea that variety is the spice of 3D shooting, you're right. As in golf, achieving a good score depends on dealing with all the variables while keeping consistent the things that must be consistent in order to shoot accurately.
Animal targets may be different at every event, but they range from familiar (deer, bear, caribou, turkey) to exotic (lion, blackbuck, alligator) to fantasy (dinosaur, and maybe even a pink panther). The challenge is to put one arrow into the faintly outlined "kill zone" on each target. Shots are scored at 11, 10, 8 and 5 points.
One nice thing about 3D archery is that new shooters need not be embarrassed about their level of skill. Courses are designed so that even the best shooters can make foolish mistakes -- and rookie shooters can get lucky.
Any bowhunter will benefit from 3D shooting. Yes, most of us shoot at deer from treestands, and most 3D shooting is done on the ground. But 3D gives even the treestand hunter practice under much more realistic conditions than does backyard shooting at the same target at known ranges. Shooting at 3D targets forces the shooter to notice things that can go wrong under hunting conditions.
Every archer knows that the secret to accuracy is consistency -- doing everything the same way with every shot. It's not easy, even with modern compound bows, to take every shot with the same grip, stance, and release, while standing on ground that is sloped, estimating distances to targets that are different sizes. Where are your feet? Are you holding the bow straight? Is your grip consistent? Does your sight picture look proper? Is your range estimation accurate? Is your anchor point right? Even the best shooters make mistakes.
Equipment does not have to be modern, technical or expensive. Longbow, recurve or compound shooters can all benefit. Although many people thrive on competition, plenty of 3D shoots are not competitive events and many of the ones that are can still be shot be shot for enjoyment rather than competition. You'll find camaraderie even with people you don't know, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to observe the techniques of others and to receive non-threatening instruction from experienced archers.
Whether you've shot a 3D course before or not, plenty of archery organizations exist around the state and many of them sponsor 3D shoots. You probably have an opportunity coming up soon within easy driving distance. They usually don't cost much, and my advice is to try one. Most of them have 30 targets, and entry fees are usually about $10.
How'd I do on my first foray into 3D shooting? I did OK. I enjoyed it, met some interesting people, and learned a few things. And I didn't lose any arrows.