The evolution of competitive archery
In order to understand the evolution of competitive archery, we must explore the world of archery in its steeped path in history, from the earliest days as an essential tool of survival as early humans hunted for food, right through to its use as a deadly weapon of war until the introduction of modern firearms made them obsolete. Those historical footsteps will reveal that at some stage throughout history, though, there must have been a time when the humble bow and arrow were put to a more peaceful and enjoyable use; the sport of target archery.
Competitive archery has developed over the years to include many different types and styles of bows, as well as encompassing all techniques of shooting. Competitions allow the use of customized bows as well as ‘off the shelf’ examples. There are specialized bows that can shoot an arrow astonishing distances; at the time this article was written, the world record stands at 1327 yards for a single arrow flight.
Competitive field archery
Distance competitions are generally held in places that lend themselves to the sport; desert plateaus, airfields, or dry lake-beds. It’s a sport that requires a good deal of space!
If you prefer something more exciting and with a spark of adventure, then you might want to consider Field Archery. It is a great way of immersing yourself in nature, shooting at targets in the wilds of the forest. In spite of the name, it is rarely set within a field. Targets are set at varying distances, over a range of terrain, mostly being wooded areas or rough slopes. It requires a certain degree of fitness and involves several rounds. One drawback is the number of arrows either lost or damaged, but this never dampens the spirits or spoils the enjoyment of those who are into this sport.
Similar to Field Archery is 3-D Archery, where targets are made from plastic foam in the shape of animals. These targets are placed in strategic spots within a wooded area to present a challenge to the participants as they work their way around the course. From its original home in the USA, this thoroughly enjoyable sport is spreading across the globe and increasing in popularity.
Target archery competitions
In more recent years, target archery has appealed to a wide range of people. Having dramatically declined in popularity in the UK after the ‘Puritan’ years of the Cromwellian Civil Wars, target archery was revived by George, Prince of Wales (who later became King George IV). He was a keen archer who supported the Royal Toxophilite Society (a toxophilite is someone who loves archery), and the Royal Kentish and Royal British Bowmen. He personally attended and awarded trophies for competitions, which certainly acted as an incentive, encouraging more people to take up the sport. He took an active interest, establishing many of the rules and deciding upon the colors of the targets and the scoring system. These traditions remain relatively unchanged since those times.
Originally, archery competitions involved the use of longbows and target arrows (with simpler heads, rather than the arrows used for hunting). Some of these early competition records have never been beaten, and include remarkable people like Horace A. Ford. Only four years after picking up a bow, Horace went on to win six separate competitions multiple times, including the Grand National Archery Meeting on twelve consecutive occasions. He is considered the greatest longbow archer of his time, and his book, Archery: its theory and practice, is still considered an all-time classic.
It is clear that archery skills have evolved; the 1972 FITA record for most points in competitive target archery was 1204. At the time of writing, this stands at 1361.
At a World level, competitive archery is held indoors and is one of the few sports that is truly inclusive, allowing women and those with disabilities to compete on equal terms with their male, able-bodied counterparts.
Last thoughts about competitive archery
New forms of archery are always being developed, with head-to-head ‘elimination’ competitions proving popular, with their showdown finales. These new ideas are hosted at local clubs right up to the world level and are attracting new enthusiasts to the sport. If you are new to the world of archery then check out the wide variety of archery forms. There’s sure to be something out there that takes your interest and suits your style.