What are the Rules of Archery? Shoot Like a Pro

As a sports fan and archer, I can tell as a fact that archery doesn’t have as many rules as other sports. There is a protocol, but not as many rules as basketball or American Football. Soccer definitely has a lot more rules and most kids can master that!

Rules in archery are about following the whistles. Two whistles mean that you have to step in the shooting line; one whistle means that your time has started to run and that you can start shooting; and three whistles mean that the round is over and archers can go to count their points and retrieve arrows.

These rules, or protocols, although there aren’t many, knowing them will prevent you from losing points from simple fouls. Let’s review them.

What are the rules for Recurve Bow?

When I went along to my first competition, I was scared as hell, but not from the fact of facing more experience archers, but because I didn’t know if I was aware of all the rules. My friends explained them to me, the protocols are in place so that the competition is totally fair and controlled. It’s all about paying attention. Let’s review the ones that are universal to all forms of archery.

First of all, most competitions set the rules for equipment and review shooters bows before the competition kicks off. They look for anything that might give you an extra advantage such as a special sight with lenses (commonly called scopes). Then, they separate the archers into groups A and B. Each group take turns to shoot three arrows at the target. There is a waiting line drawn on the floor, follow by a shooting line.

At the waiting line, archers prepare their bows to go to the shooting line. It is important to get ready since you’ll have 2 minutes to shoot. Once you get to the waiting line and hear 2 whistles, you must move on to the shooting line. After one whistle, time will start running and archers are allowed to place an arrow in their bows.

What does the 3 whistles mean in archery

3 whistles means that the round is over and archers should leave their bows on their stands and head towards the targets. Once there, archers have to verify where the impacts where made and to take notes on the official paperwork that will send the scores to the judges. Each target is normally used by 2 or 3 archers at the same time. That is why archers are supposed to make sure that no one is lying and that the scoring register is being filled out with honesty.

Remember this, and please never forget, this was my very first mistake at the national competition. DON’T TOUCH THE ARROWS UNTIL ALL THE SCORE IS WRITTEN. According to most competition procedures, all scores must be registered before someone touches the arrows or takes them out. If you touch the arrows, another archer may complain, and you can lose the score for that round. Thankfully, the other archer at my target explained this rule to me instead of turning me in! I was lucky, if my competitor hadn’t been so relaxed it could have ended differently.

Apart from the whistle codes we’ve just reviewed, if by any chance you hear 4 continued whistles – it’s unlikely but worth knowing – it means that everybody must stop shooting immediately. No questions asked, just put the bow down, for security reasons take off the arrow and stay on your place until the judges let you know what is going on. It might be for something as small as a clock error, or worse, a kid that’s got too close to the shooting range. 4 whistles usually mean there is a safety issue at the competition.

Difference between elimination and matches

What I just described is what an elimination round is like. Many archers shooting round after round until they count all the scores and eliminate the lower ones. The number of people being eliminated will usually depend on the number of people shooting, check with the judges or other staff on hand if you want to know the specifics at the tournament you’re at. After enough archers have been eliminated to leave 16 survivors, the matches usually start. Archers get grouped in pairs and face one another (not literally!).

The rules and the lines are the same, only that matches have different scoring systems. Each round equal 2 points. Each archer has 3 arrows for each round, the score of the three arrows is added up and the winner gets 2 points while the loser gets 0. In the case of a tie, eacharcher will be given 1 point. More rounds are then shot until one archer reaches 6 points. If the entire match gets tied at 6, then there is a shoot-off. Each archer gets one shot, the one with the highest score wins the match. If by any chance they tie again, then there’s a second shoot-off and so on until one of them wins. The winners of the different matches are then paired up again and this is repeated until there is a winner.

Is it OK to keep a bow strung?

Once you finish the entire competition, or you get eliminated, it is best for your bow to unstring it. But if you are still in competition, just on a break or waiting for your turn, keep your bow strung. Placing the string again might take a while, especially when you get nervous and every second counts in a competition. Keep it ready unless you won’t use it again during the day.

Are there any different rules for a compound bow?

Actually, they have the same rules. What changes from one discipline to the other is normally the distances and the targets size. Compound bows have shorter distances for shooting and smaller targets. But the same rules applied to compound archers as to recurve archers. We even shot at the same time during outdoor competitions and obey the same whistles.

How far can a recurve bow shot?

This depends on how strong your bow is. An arrow can easily go sailing off into the distance with a good bow and a clean shot, but the actual question is not how far can the bow shot an arrow, but how far can you aim? It is easy to just draw the bow and shoot the arrow to nowhere, but it is much harder to aim at a target far in the distance.

Olympic archery shooting is a target 70 meters away, and trust me, it is a long way to shoot accurately and still be aiming at the same target you had at 30 meters! If you miss, you’ll probably find your arrow way too far from the target. I’ve had to walk several meters to help friends find arrows when it’s sailed past the target at 70 meters.

Is there any age limit for archery?

There is no age limit for archery, if you want to practice this amazing sport, you just have to be able to draw the bow. In competitions, I know there are no age limits but there are age requirements. You must ask the organizers to know if there are juveniles’ competitions and the ages, but as soon as you get to the senior competition, there is no age limit.

In the case of the Olympics, the lowest age required to participate is 16, but there is no age limit from that point on. If you can draw the bow, and win, please keep representing your country and showing how this sport doesn’t discriminate age.

This is a short but sweet summary of archery rules, and some of my experiences from my first competitions. But still, make sure you read your local competitions rules and protocols before participating so there aren’t any surprises along the way. It’s never wrong to be ready and avoid losing points for not knowing a local protocol.

Happy shooting everybody!