I got into archery the same reason a lot of hunters do: I thought it looked cool and presented more of a challenge. I picked up a little PSE Stinger X, dipped it in Mossy Oak Bottomland, and never looked back.
I’ve been shooting my bow for about two years now, and I just got my first deer this season with it. I had so much fun practicing and shooting and perfecting my form that I didn’t really want the season to end. And I especially didn’t want to lose my draw strength that it took all summer to build up. So, when I saw that there was a 3-D archery tournament happening 20 minutes from me outside of Nashville, TN, I thought: why not?
Now, I didn’t know squat about competing in a tournament. I was honestly pretty nervous that they wouldn’t let me use my range finder, but it turns out that’s a whole separate class that I didn’t have to worry about.
So, I fumbled through my first tournament, taking a good 5 or so targets before I got warmed up. I definitely didn’t shoot my best right off the bat.
BUT, I had a blast doing it. I knew right away this was a sport where people were willing to help and wanted to have fun, and I wanted to be a part of it.
For my second tournament, I thought that I’d ask around and get some tips and advice from the guys who have been competing for a lifetime. I wanted to get a little more prepared for this new sport.
Here’s what they said:
Find a mentor.
I asked semi-professionals Jerry Martin and David Parson for some advice. They were happy to help, as long as I “take another lap and shoot with them.” I was happy to oblige for their nuggets of wisdom.
“Finding the right person to learn from is step one. People used to be so secretive in this sport, but now we’re really just wanting the sport to grow and people are more willing to help,” said David.
I know this to be true. Just about everyone there was as friendly as could be and willing to help out a newbie like me. Heading to your first tournament can be scary, but trust me, you’ll meet friends along the way.
Join Facebook groups or local archery clubs to find other people in the sport that can help you. You’ll grow exponentially as a shooter and make lifelong shooting buddies in the process.
Don’t worry too much about gear.
Everyone around me had those crazy-long stabilizers and advanced one-pin scope systems. And you better believe all their accessories matched.
I was a little insecure using my little hunting bow among all those target-shooting, specialized bows, but, it really didn’t matter to anyone around me.
I asked around—should I get a different bow?
I was met with a resounding no. Especially as a beginner, the most important thing is just to get out and get some experience under your belt.
Practice your form.
I took a couple of lessons to get my form right before I competed, and the best advice the teacher had for me was to video myself and practice my form in the mirror.
Just by practicing this alone, I raised my score from 162 to 183 between my first and second tournaments. The consistency and practice made a huge difference in my game.
My new friend Brent Morrow told me to practice my release to reduce my trigger flinch. He said by standing 5 or so yards from the target, closing my eyes, and slowly releasing the trigger, I would trick my mind into relaxing next time I shot for real. I’m hoping to see another jump in my score by practicing this move.
Carter Underhill, one of the 5 owners of Mountain Archery in Monteagle, TN, made a great point. He said that archery tournaments are “a great way to extend your hunting season. Plus, you’ll be the first to be prepared whenever the season rolls back around in the fall.”
You can have as much fun as you want at these tournaments or be as competitive as you want. It’s really however you want to take them.
Shooting at 3D mountain lions and bears and anteaters is about as fun as fun gets. So, get out there and see where your nearest archery club is at asaarchery.com.
Want more? Check out this complete guide to 3D archery competitions.