Archery is a surprisingly varied sport, in addition to a wide range of bows there are also a wide range of different types of archery. The notes below cover those I’ve heard of, but not necessarily taken part in, there may well be others and no doubt there are subsets within those I cover. If you know of one I’ve missed or spot any inaccuracies let me know and I’ll update these notes accordingly.
Before launching into the different variations it’s worth thinking about how archery began. Put briefly bows and arrows were developed by prehistoric man as they were a more effective way of killing prey than anything else they had available to them. Over time they were used in warfare, to kill enemies rather than prey, and it was only when firearms became readily available that the shift into archery as a sport really took off. Despite that, with one significant exception, all forms of archery have some form of link back to hunting and/or warfare.
Target archery is the most commonly practiced form of archery, certainly in the UK. It involves shooting at static targets at know distances in an open field and so clearly bears little relationship to hunting or warfare and so is the one least linked to them. Arguably the only link is that archers needed to develop their skills and so shooting at fixed targets is a good way of doing this.
Target archery takes place both indoors and outdoors, unlike most of the other formats which are predominantly outdoor pursuits. All bow styles can compete in target archery ~ recurve, barebow, longbow and compound being the predominant types you might see.
BLCAC is a target archery club, though some members do take part in some of the other formats from time to time. The National Governing Body for target archery is ArcheryGB ~ www.archerygb.org.
Field archery is done outdoors and involves shooting targets at varying, often unmarked or unmeasured distances, usually over rough terrain, typically it takes place in woodland. This format emulates hunting and warfare in the sense that if you were hunting prey or seeking out your enemy you have no idea where or when they might appear.
Field targets themselves vary depending on the format being shot and include: paper targets similar to those used in target archery, paper targets with pictures of animals and 3D models of animals. The aim is to shoot at the target in order to record a “kill” or wounding. The way it works is that small groups of archers walk from one target to the next shooting and scoring as they go, until the course is completed. Courses are commonly laid out over 36 or 40 different targets. A maximum of three arrows are shot at each target with scoring being based on three scoring areas: an inner kill (1st arrow only), a kill zone and a wound. In most field rounds the archer stops shooting once they have a scoring hit, it is common to shoot from slightly closer distances with each shot, though the closer you are the lower your potential score.
The main governing body for field archery is the National Field Archery Society ~ www.nfas.net. This body recognises eleven different styles of shooting: Primitive, Longbow, American Flatbow, Hunting Tackle, Barebow, Traditional Bowhunter, Freestyle, Bowhunter, Compound Limited, Unlimited and Crossbow. Competition is further split across six different classes: Gents, Ladies, Junior (under 16) Boys & Girls and Cub (under 12) Boys & Girls. So there’s plenty of opportunity for competition and to experiment with different bows and styles of shooting.
Clout involves shooting over a long-distance at a circular target laid out on the ground, as opposed to a target on a stand. It is a form of competition practiced for centuries and historically the target was a patch of cloth laid on the ground. Clout is an archaic word for a piece of cloth or article of clothing. In fact it is most often used in that sense today in the saying “Ne’re cast a clout till May is out”, though that saying is itself archaic as it dates back to the eighteenth century.
Clout is shot outdoors at distances up to 180 yards (165m) for men, 140 yards (128m) for women and 140 to 60 yards (128 to 50m) for juniors. Shoots are often two-way with archers shooting at a clout at one end of the field, retrieving/scoring their arrows and then shooting back at a clout at the end of the field from which they started. Typically the clout “target” is a small flag 12” square on a short pole close to ground level and the scoring area is a circle with a maximum radius of 12 feet, within which there are five scoring zones, similar to a standard target. Scores are 1-5 depending on how far from the centre of the circle the arrow lands.
There are two main schools of thought on how clout started. One suggests it was a diversion for archers on their way to and from church and the other that it emulates the sort of shooting that archers would have been involved with in middle ages warfare, though without the varying distances that were likely to have been involved in that.
A clout shoot typically involves six ends of three arrows. The British Longbow Society (BLBS) has some variations to the AGB rules for clout and more detail can be found at www.thebritishlongbowsociety.co.uk, the main difference from other rules is that only longbows may take part whereas for AGB all bow styles are allowed.
Shooting at Roving Marks is considered one of the oldest forms of archery still practiced today. The Field and Roving Marks Society ~ http://www.fieldandrovingarcherysociety.co.uk/ has an interesting history of this form of archery on its website and gives lots of information about how it started and where you might be able to take part. They favour the idea that the marks were set at the sort of distances archers would have been required to shoot in warfare.
The Field and Roving Marks Society are particularly keen on encouraging the use of all forms of traditional bow and arrow. So much so that they only allow wooden arrows and in addition to not allowing arrow rests, clickers or stabilisation they also ban compounds from their activities.
In a Roving Marks competition the targets are set out in open countryside at varying distances over undulating terrain. The archers walk in one large group from one target to the next and in this sense it is similar to golf, indeed some people argue that golf came out of Roving Marks.
Archery Golf is essentially what it sounds like ~ Archery done on a Golf course. AGB has very limited information about it in their Rules of Shooting (see paragraph 1020). On the face of it this is a pretty straightforward variety of archery but my guess is that finding a golf club prepared to accommodate archers is likely to be rather difficult. If you fancy it good luck, let me know how you get on.
This is a form of archery where the winners are those archers able to shoot their arrows furthest. Many archers shoot adapted bows and arrows and, not surprisingly there are a number of categories that are not familiar to those of us involved in Target Archery.
AGB’s guidance on this is covered in Rules of Shooting paragraph 600 onwards. There was a good article in Archery UK Autumn 2021 edition from Page 45 onwards ~ Archery UK Autumn 2021 (flickread.com) Rather than cover it all here I recommend you read that article. Given the space needed this is another form of archery not often seen. If you fancy having a go at it watch out for information about competitions in Archery UK.
The object of Popinjay is to knock artificial birds off their perches. These perches are normally arranged on a mast or tower with the archer having to shoot almost straight up in the air. For obvious reasons blunt arrows are used and there is normally a shelter under which the archer can retreat having shot. It is popular in Belgium, where permanently erected popinjay towers can be seen in many towns, but not much practiced in the UK aside from Kilwinning where an annual tournament takes place. The idea of shooting at birds obviously relates to hunting but there are also schools of thought that the birds are a bit like sailors in the rigging of enemy shipping or soldiers on castle ramparts defending their territory. Whatever the origin AGB’s guidance can be found in the Rules of Shooting at paragraph 1000 onwards. Guidance is given on the size of birds and the type of arrows allowed. Interestingly whilst they give guidance and rules they also state “The Archery GB Insurance Scheme does not cover for risks attendant on the erection and dismantling of Popinjay Masts.” This is probably a contributory factor in why this form of archery is rarely seen in the UK.
Like Archery Golf this is pretty much what it says on the tin. Archery shot at a darts face. AGB Rules of shooting para 1040 gives a bit more information including sizes of target faces (2’ 6” in diameter) and minimum distance at which it can be shot (15 yards). The rules go on to suggest starting and finishing on a double and how to treat line cutters (they score whatever the bulk of the arrow is within) but are silent on whether 501 or 301 is the preferred format.
Linked to tabletop roleplaying adventure games or video games, LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. Participants act out certain scenarios which may involve battles. When archers are involved they shoot light poundage bows and special arrows with blunt, often foam rubber heads. Body armour and masks are de rigeur. Players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by real world environments while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers (Gamemasters) decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play. I confess this goes over my head but I’m pleased to say that two young ladies I coached a few years back told me that the work they did with me paid dividends when they were Larping as they went from being also rans to major contenders. And as one of Gary's colleagues said, "Let's see how good you are when I charge at you with an axe!" It's a very different kind of challenge, so channel your inner mythical creature and the world’s your oyster.
Archery done from the back of a horse, using short horse bows. There is a British Horseback Archery Association ~ British Horseback Archery Association (bhaa.org.uk) Their website states:
The most common way horseback archery is practised today in the UK is on a straight track, around 100 metres long with a series of targets to the left of the track, set up in either in the Raid or Tower style. The horse is ridden at a canter or gallop with the reins loose on the horse’s neck – horses must be desensitised to the bow and arrows and the sound of shooting, as well as being trained to run at a steady speed without rein contact. Mastery of horseback archery involves the ability to nock arrows onto the string whilst moving with the horse and keeping your eye on the target, then aiming at the target (which most do in an instinctive manner, without lining up part of the bow or arrow with the target) – subconsciously adjusting for variation in distance from the target and the speed of the horse, maintaining practised archery form (despite the target being anywhere from your front, to perpendicular to your direction of movement, to behind you) and timing the shot with the horse’s gait. It sounds like an awful lot to think about but it can all fall together perfectly, and when it does it the feeling really is addictive!
They suggest that no experience of either archery or horses is necessary but that it might be useful. There is a lot more information about Horse Archery on their website, including the training involved which covers both archery and equestrian aspects.
Developed in Europe during the 1990s, Run Archery links two sports, no prizes for guessing which, and is similar in many respects to biathlon, seen at the Winter Olympics. Participants start with a run, where they carry their bow but not necessarily their arrows, which can be carried in a back quiver or left at the shooting range, and then alternate between running and shooting a series of three arrows at a 20-centimetre-wide (7.9 in) target from 20 m (22 yards) away. This is somewhat smaller than even the 40cm target used for a Bray 1 or 60cm target for a Portsmouth. This along with the impact of the run on the archer’s breathing and suchlike it is clearly not an easy task. For scoring, it does not matter where the target is hit but misses are crucial as for each missed shot the archer must run a penalty loop, again the length of this is variable. AGB has no rules for this and so to some extent it is dependent on the organiser but in Europe the number and length of laps and target sizes depend on age and bow type. At the end, the fastest athlete wins. BLCAC is keen to trial this form of archery in the future, probably using an 800m course, with 50m penalty loops and, to be kind, a larger target. Watch our website for more information.
Archery Clay Pigeon Shooting
Like standard clay pigeon shooting the aim is to hit a clay in the air, though for archery the clay is more like a large frisbee than a small ceramic disc. The clay launcher can be set up so that the clays fly high or at a lower level, even along the ground, at different speeds and intervals. Light weight bows and arrows with foam rubber ends are used. There are not many places it is available, having effectively failed to grab attention when launched inn the early 2000s. Having tried it on a couple of occasions I can vouch for it being a very different experience from Target Archery, I found it enjoyable but frustrating ~ so arguably not that different when I come to think of it.
I hope this has given you a flavour of some of the different forms of archery available to you, as I said at the start if you spot any errors or omissions let me know and I’ll update this note accordingly.