Archery: One of the Safest Recreational Sport… No Really!

safety-firstThere is often a misconception that archery is very dangerous. Although a bow and arrow can be a lethal weapon, archery is actually one of the safest sports because there is a culture of safety. Statistically, archery is one of the safest recreational sports there is with only 0.65 injuries per 1000 participants as outlined in the USA National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and represents the hospitals which actually record the information. Check out the Archery Safety report from Arizona State and Fish Department from 2004.

This is largely because of the culture of safety that encompasses the sport. All coaches start by instructing their students with the fundamentals of archery safety. I remember my first lesson was about safety first. Nowadays, I regularly shoot through my house for practice and we never worry about danger because of the culture of safety within my house. Everyone follows the basic archery safety rules. For archers there are two basic areas of safety that you should maintain, personal safety including equipment and field or range safety.

Personal Safety

  • Always shoot with well maintained equipment and arrows
    • Always inspect your equipment and arrows before shooting
    • Before shooting each arrow inspect the arrow and nock for damage
    • Cracked or bent arrow must never be shot.
  • One should always use a bow-stringer for longbows and recurve bows. This will reduce the possibility of damage to the bow and injury to the person.
  • Shoot with good archery form ensuring you wear proper attire and a properly positioned arm-guard.
  • Never, ever shoot while intoxicated or with anyone who is.

Good Rule of Thumb: If in doubt, stop and get it checked it out.

Field and Range Safety

  • When shooting…
    • Do not shoot with ANYONE in front of the shooting line
    • Do not nock an arrow while anyone is in front of the shooting line
    • Only nock an arrow whwn you are on the shooting line and after the signal to start shooting
    • A loaded bow is only pointed at the assigned target
    • NEVER EVER point an arrow at anyone, whether on a bow or not.
    • Arrow must never be shot straight up into the air
  • When not shooting
    • Pay attention and be respectful of other archers
    • Once finished shooting you must be behind the shooting line and paying attention
  • When retrieving arrows from the target
    • Leave your bow behind the shooting line (hang-up your bow), you will need two free hands to collect your arrows from the target
    • Always walk forward to collect the arrows, never run.
    • Always pick-up arrows on the way first. Whether they yours or not.
    • Always walk up to the side of the target butt, so as to not to accidentally walk into the rear of the arrows lodged in the target.
    • One person at a time should withdraw their arrows from the target.
    • When withdrawing arrows from the target, ensure no-one is standing behind you. Pulling arrows may require a lot of force and they can come out of the target suddenly and could hurt someone standing behind them.
    • When carrying arrows, always hold them to your side with the points down.
    • Make sure that EVERYONE has returned behind the shooting line before starting the next shooting end.

Individual ranges may have additional rules specific to their courses, all ranges will adhere to the basic archery range safety rules. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced professional archer, if we all continue to practice the culture of archery safety we can enjoy the sport for many years to come.

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Rules of Archery

After I started to get some success in archery, my extended family started to take an interest in the sports even though they did not understand the rules; so they often ask me “what are the rules of archery?”  The answer depends on governing body of the tournament and the specific rules will depend on many factors including bow type, type of tournament, archer age and archer sex.

There are many governing bodies such as FITA, NFAA, OAA, etc… however the primary one is World Archery Federation which was formerly known as FITA (Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc) which was formed in 1931 in Poland.

Its seven founding member states were France, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Poland, United States, Hungary, and Italy. The aim of the organization was to create regular archery championships, and to return archery to the Olympic Games (the sport had not been featured since 1920). FITA was finally successful in returning archery to the Olympic program in the 1972 Summer Olympics.

FITA began holding Target World Championships in 1931. They were held every year until 1959, when the Championships became biennial events. 1959 was also the first year that FITA held the World Field Championship. Wikipedia

Personally, I started shooting indoor target tournaments using FITA rules. I remember the first time I decided to try a field tournament, I asked my coach Larry Smith for advice and what to expect. He simply said “Jordan, shoot the X, no matter the target tournament just shoot the “X”.

If you are deciding to participate in various competitions it is important to remember, it is the responsibility of the archer to know the rules for that tournament. Most archers will not “intentionally” give you incorrect information, however if you make a mistake, like shoot the wrong target, you are the one who suffers not them, therefore you need to advocate for yourself. Even at international competitions, it is the responsibility of the archer, not the coach to know and understand the rules. Officials will often help if you politely ask a question, and are far more understanding to juniors since they are considered new to international rules.

If you are planning to participate in archery tournaments familiarize yourself with the rules of that type of tournament. Rules for various governing bodies are available on their website. Check out my Links page for shortcuts to World Archery Federation, National Field Archery Association, International Field Archery Association, Federation of Canadian Archers and Ontario Association of Archers