3-D archery for off-season bowhunting practice


Getting together with old friends and meeting new similar passionate bowhunters is lots of fun and can help kick the winter blues – plus there’s no work needed after hitting the mark

3D archery was created by bowhunters for bowhunters to practice during the off season in the most realistic bowhunting situations imaginable.  Archers shoot at life-size foam models of common game animals from unmarked distances.  Since inception, 3D has involved into a sport of its own with rules, scoring and a plethora of targets that you would never find in the field.  Regardless if you competing or just keeping the rust off during the winter months, 3D archery shoots are a ton of fun or an excellent way to prepare for an upcoming hunt.  I take my children too many shoots and they really enjoy shooting all the different targets, including a moving fish this past summer at an outdoor shoot.


Moving target practice

3d shoots can offer out-of-the-ordinary shots which are always good fun for all and youth archers love the variety of targets avaiable.

3D Seasons

In Canada, the 3D archery season is composed of two seasons:  indoor and outdoor.  Indoor runs from January – April with a national championship tournament held in a different city each year.  Maximum shot distance for indoor shoots, is under 40 metres and shooters all shoot from the same line with the possibility of mid-air arrow collisions.  When the weather turns nice, the outdoor season begins and runs from May – August and I have seen some very challenging course setups, with shots through windows of bush, across valleys, up hills and out to 50 metres. Outdoor course are usually setup like golf courses, walking from shooting station to shooting station.

Indoor shooting line

At indoor shoots, everybody shoots from the same wide shooting line at the same time.  Aftwards, everyone safely retrieves arrows from all targets and moves to the next shooting station Generally, their is 3-4 minutes to shoot and another 3-4 minutes to retrieve.


Outdoor Youth Kid

Outdoor 3D shoots resemble familiar bowhunting shots and are like a golf course, where you advanced from station to station, shooting a different 3D target each time from an unknown distance.

Scoring System

Both indoor and outdoor have the same scoring system.  Every target at each station, on each course, has the same scoring system:  11 points for a small bulleyes in the prime spot, 10 points for next largest circle (heart/lung shot), 8 points for any arrow embedded in the vitals region, 5 points if the target is hit at all (wound) and finally, 0 points for clean misses. At the end, tally up your points – highest wins.

Scoring System

11 points for a small bulleyes in the prime spot, 10 points for next largest circle (heart/lung shot), 8 points for any arrow embedded in the vitals region, 5 points if the target is hit at all (wound)

What you need

If you decide to get serious and compete, you will want to familiarize yourself with the different completing classes and the equipment restrictions that go along with those.  Check the Archery Canada website.  Crossbows are not used at 3D shoots nor our range finders.  If you just want to shoot for fun, the hunter class still exists and welcomes anyone who has a straight shooting bow and three arrows, but it’s recommended to bring the following:

On your person:

  • Tuned bow
  • release (if applicable)
  • Binoculars with chest harness or a strap that allows you to swing them out of the way behind you.
  • Hip quiver c/w 6 arrows with field points
  • Arrow puller – some targets are difficult to retrieve arrows from
  • Arrow lube – to coat the front of your arrows for easier retrieval
  • Hand towel – keep your hands free of arrow lube.
  • Good shoes – less fatigue when standing for hours
  • Pencil – to keep score

At the event:

  • Spare D-loop
  • Allan keys and bow toolkit
  •  Spare bow (optional)
  •  6 additional arrows

Couple extra items for outdoor:

  •  Sunscreen
  •  Sunglasses
  •  Mosquito repellent or thermacell – these buzzers can mess your shot up.
  • Water bottle – keeping hydratedCollapsible chair – for waiting your turn to shoot.

Each club/shoot will have local rules – obey them.  They will be listed somewhere but will be a subset of everything you learned in kindergarten.  3D shoots are excellent off-season bowhunting practice, regardless if you are competing or just shooting to retain memory muscle and form or simply looking for a welcomed change from range paper targets.  Have fun and rid those bad habits on foam before opening day.

Family Outing

3D archery makes for a fun family outing, even in less than fair weather.