Advice from Nix for archers going to their first tournament

I remember my first indoor tournament very clearly. Butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, worried I’d get pulled up by the judges for doing something wrong, worried I’d not know what to do, perplexed by the “rule 307” dress code and ultimately feeling like I wanted to run away from it all!

Move forward five years and I’ve made it to national level tournaments and love the friendly atmosphere on the shooting line. My experience in both Devon & Cornwall competitions, and further afield is that everyone is super friendly and will help you loads. The archery community is a welcoming and encouraging bunch who want everyone to enjoy the sport as much as they do.

Here’s my (incomplete and rambling) guide to what to do at tournaments, split into helpful sections…


How do I enter a competition?

Download the entry form from the club that is running the shoot, fill it in and send it back with the appropriate payment. Some clubs even have online entry and BACS payment available which is much more user-friendly than convincing your bank you need a chequebook. The DCAS (Devon and Cornwall Archery Society) webpage has an events calendar with links to these forms.
Other neighbouring counties also operate similar systems.

What type of competitions are there?

For target archery, you can shoot indoors or outdoors with pretty much any bow style. Indoor competitions tend to be through the winter and usually shot at distances of 18m or 20yds. Either a Portsmouth or a WA18m are the most common, but there are also Worcester, Stafford, Vegas and Bray rounds too…
Outdoors, you start shooting with the longest distances, anything up to 100yds/ 90m for men or 80yds/ 70m for women, and usually 12 dozen arrow ( York/ Hereford/ World Archery 1440) or 6 dozen rounds, plus lots of other variations too. You then advance forwards (well the targets move back to you) just like an advancing army of archers would in days gone by. There are shorter distances available for juniors and novices too. Just ask the tournament organiser and most are willing to accommodate you at the distances you would like to shoot.
For field archery, there are both Archery GB and NFAS tournaments. Our field archery page will have more detail on these.

How much practice should I do?

Personally – I practice at least twice a week in the three weeks approaching a tournament. I practise the distances to check my sight marks. I wear the clothes I’m going to wear on the day to make sure I’m comfortable and I practice in all weathers. Tournaments go ahead no matter the weather conditions.
Practice in a raincoat; practice wearing boots/ wellies; practice wearing a woolly hat/sun hat. Does your sleeve get in the way of your string? Do you need some Tubigrip to keep it out of the way? Does the bridge of your sunglasses allow you to see the target clearly or should you use a bucket hat/ baseball cap?
Mental preparation is often more important, but we can talk about that in another post.

What do I need to take with me?

Some very dear friends of mine would probably not like me to remind them that they left their bows at home one competition day… so make a list and check it twice!
When Sharon and I go for the day we look like we are packed for a week away as we have learned the hard way that conditions in the UK change so frequently you need to take most of your wardrobe with you.
Here’s my outdoor packing list:

  • Archery GB membership card
  • Line tent (something like a decathlon 2” base tent)
  • Bow, arrows, quiver, release aid and accessories and black biro pens
  • Scope for the shooting line plus bungee and peg
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Umbrella (useful in all conditions – especially to keep in the shade)
  • Camping chair (there’s breaks and lunch time and 4 mins whilst the other detail shoots)
  • Boots and Lightweight trainers
  • Complete change of clothes and base layers
  • Food, drinks, snacks and refillable water bottle
  • Money for the raffle and to buy cake/ bacon rolls/ cups of hot drink
  • Paracetamol/pain relief/bite/sting relief/antihistamines/sun-screen/insect repellent/any other medication you need
Rule 307 dress code

Don’t wear blue jeans, camo or olive drab. I repeat, no jeans, camo or olive drab. Because Archery GB say so. It’s the rules. Oh and no logos/ writing on shirts that are not related to archery. Your shirt should cover your midriff/ belly at full draw too. No one wants to see that.

Tournament Day

Plan ahead and get to the location in plenty of time. You need to allow for setting up your tent and bow before the assembly time. E.g. assembly time 8.45 I would expect to get there at least an hour before hand.

What happens when I arrive?

You will need to register with the tournament organiser and show your archery GB membership card.
Find out your place on the target list and set up near to that target.
Make acquaintance with your target companions and explain it’s your first competition/ you are new (you will probably find you will be best friends by the end of the day!)
Set up your equipment and at WA rounds you will need to have this inspected by the judges including your finger tab/ release aid and arrows (marked with your initials and numbers).
Eat something (bacon roll?/ whatever you usually have for breakfast) and drink something before you start.
Go to the toilet.
Write your target number on your bow hand so you remember it.
Warm up.
Go to the toilet again.
Join other archers when the judges call for assembly.
Go to the toilet again.


The tournament organiser, judges and Lady Paramount/ Lord Patron will be introduced with “housekeeping” notices for the day and explanation of how the shoot will be run. The judge in charge will usually ask if everyone is happy and this is your opportunity to ask for clarification. We were all new once and no one minds.
Remember the judges are lovely people who are there to help you!
After this…


If you are shooting a metric round, there will be up to 45 mins in which you can shoot as many arrows you like in timed details of 4 minutes.
For an imperial round, 6 arrows. Tough!
Check the target number written on your bow hand is the one you are aiming at…


A reminder that you should not talk/ exclaim on the shooting line, even if this can be the norm at club sessions (#shootswearrepeat)
You should wait until the adjacent archers on the shooting line are no longer at full draw before walking away from the shooting line.
Avoid talking loudly near the shooting line when it is not your detail.


The person who is designated archer “C” on the target nominally is in charge of scoring but agree with your target buddies who will perform this task. Sometimes there are electronic PDAs to use too.
Remember don’t touch any arrow until the score keeper says they have finished. Call your arrows from highest to lowest value in groups of 3.
You might need to call a judge over to help with an arrow value/ line cutter or to bring their red pen to amend any mistakes.
Check that you are happy with your score that has been written down. It cannot be changed at a later time!
For metric rounds you will need to mark all the arrow holes with a biro in case of bouncers/ pass throughs.

Bouncers/ Equipment failure/ medical issues

All of these can have time allowed from the judges. You step back off the shooting line and raise your bow to attract the judges attention. Don’t shout as it will disturb other archers. Don’t panic – you will be given the opportunity to make up arrows/ get your equipment together/ receive first aid as necessary. WA/ GNAS rules differ and can be found here:
And here:

During the day

Take the opportunity to drink and replenish with snacks frequently. Don’t leave it until it’s too late, little and often is good. I like cashew nuts, bananas, jelly babies/ haribo and melon chunks for snacking on and try to drink my bottle of water every 3 dozen (which does increase the number of toilet trips, but keeps you hydrated and at peak performance). Rest at lunchtime and warm up again before you shoot after a long break.

Last end

After the last scoring end has been shot, it is traditional to give three cheers to the judges/ field captain as you approach the targets. Make sure you agree on your score and sign the scorecard. Shake hands with your target companions and thank them for scoring/ pulling arrows/ fixing things/ keeping you going with jelly babies etc.

Results/ prize giving

At the end of the tournament there will be a prize giving ceremony and usually a raffle (a chance to pick up a prize if you didn’t shoot so well and often are alcohol based).
It’s the polite thing to do to support other archers and congratulate them on their achievements. You never know – it could be you!
The tournament organiser will thank the Lord/ Lady P and judges and invite the Lady recurve champion to give them gifts.
I always take the opportunity to thank the tournament organiser personally.

After the Day

Check and repair any equipment that has been damaged – fletchings/ nocks?
Keep a note of your scores to compare to your next event and let the records officer know how you did, send an email with the score, number of hits and number of golds/ 10s/ Xs.
Make a note of anything you think you would like to take to your next competition/ what clothing footwear did/ didn’t work? and start the whole process again.