Archery Styles – Advice for Absolute Beginners

So you want to be an archer. You are in good company. Archery has a history stretching the length of human existence, with the oldest discovered being the Dutch Holmegaard bows dated at around 9,000 BCE. Although the history of archery extends beyond that, no archaeological evidence has survived. Every human culture has invented their own bows, resulting in many styles and designs. From the elegant English Longbow, standing up to 6 foot tall with layered yew wood that can have a draw strength of over 100 pounds, to modern bows of carbon fiber with stabilizers to help archers hit targets with extreme accuracy at long distances. With such variety, there will be a bow to suit your tastes and needs.


Today, archery is a global sport. Athletes such as Hyejin Chang who won gold for South Korea in the 2016 Olympics, earn their living through competition prize money and sponsorship deals. For other people archery is a social activity, allowing like-minded individuals to get together in rural locations. There are a bewildering number of clubs and societies but these are organised into two styles: field and target.


Field archery, as the name suggests, takes place outdoors and in all weathers. Archers might shoot at targets of cardboard animals displayed on a boss that halts the arrows flight, or life-size 3D models of sturdy foam. From what distance and where you hit the target gives a score. Field archery is considered a hobby with little to no monetary prizes but can gain you friends from across the world. Organisations such as National Field Archery Society (NFAS) in U.K. or National Field Archery Association (NFAA) in U.S.A., have websites with information on how to join local clubs. In some locations field archers can use their skills to hunt, but do not make assumptions on legality and check your local laws first.


Target archery is what many people first imagine when they think of the sport. Targets are concentric circles of white, black, blue, red then yellowof decreasing area which archers hit to score points. In contrast to field style, target archery often takes place indoors in a sports hall or at shooting range if the weather is fair. Archers line up from a set distance to shoot. Precision is vital, and bows can be expensive and highly engineered sports equipment with stabilisers, sites and gears to help archers pull back a weight, which determines the strength of the bow, far beyond the ability of their own muscles. Again organisations such as Archery GB in the U.K. and USA Archery will offer information on local clubs.


Once you have chosen a style, it’s time to find a club and learn to shoot. Although you can change affiliations from target to field archery, the rules and motivation for shooting are very different in both. So before joining consider why you want to learn one of the oldest skills of humanity and reflect on what you want to gain from the sport?