Published January 17, 2022 in Archery TipsBy Sara Sherman

The Unspoken Rules of Indoor Archery

An archer wearing an Archery Learning Center jersey marks his arrows after scoring.

If it is your first time preparing for an archery competition, you’ve probably read some competition rules and the specific rules at your next tournament site. If not, that would be a good idea! Aside from set competition rules, are the unspoken archery rules. Here are five unspoken archery rules that you will want to brush up on to ensure that you will have a great experience at your first competition!

Rule #1: If an Archer is Shooting Next to You, Stay on the Line

An Olympic recurve archer wearing a PSE jersey waits as the archer behind her shoots an arrow.

This is the #1 unspoken rule in archery. If the archer next to you is up at full draw and you step off the line, they may be able to see your movements in their peripheral vision and it could cause a distraction. The best way to insure this does not happen is once you have shot your last arrow, give a look to your left and right to see if there are archers beside you still shooting. If they are, stay where you are at on the line until they have finished shooting their arrows.

Another reason to not step off the line is if you and the other shooter are the only archers (or one of the last competitors) left on the shooting line. Staying on the shooting line while the other archer shoots their last shot is perceived as good manners, so they are not left on the line to shoot their last shot alone.

Rule #2: Know How to Stand on the Shooting Line

Three archers stand on the shooting line at the Lancaster Archery Classic. A youth archer in the girl's compound class aims her bow.

When competing at a tournament, there are generally two different ways an archer will stand on the shooting line. The first is by straddling the line, where one foot is on either side of the line. The other way is to stand with both feet behind the shooting line.

To find out more about this rule, first check the competition venue’s range rules or competition rules. If it has not been specified, upon arrival of the competition, ask someone in charge or an archer beside you and they should be able to help.

Rule #3: Stay in Your Lane!

Bethany Lunger nocks her arrow onto her bow in preparation to shoot at the Lancaster Archery Classic.

This unspoken rule may sound obvious, as most archery ranges and competitions will have specific areas for each archer to stand while on the shooting line. These areas will either be specified by numbers on the floor, lines showing where each archer stands, or both. Although it may be clear that this is where you stand, you still might be in another archer’s space without knowing it.

The first common mistake can be from your quiver. If you are wearing a field quiver, or a quiver that points your arrows behind you, sometimes depending on how your quiver is situated on your belt, it will point the arrows right into the space of the archer behind you. In the same sense, if you are wearing a quiver that points the arrows in front of you, they might accidentally be poking or getting into the space of the archer in front of you. Just make sure that when you are stepping onto the line to check your arrows and quiver to see that they are properly in your space. If you are unsure, ask those around you before shooting if your arrows are bothering them, and if they say “yes,” then you’ll know to readjust your quiver.

Another mistake that can happen unknowingly is how an archer loads an arrow onto their bow. Some archers will tilt their bow one way or another or even load the bow horizontally to nock their arrow easier. At a competition, this can become problematic, because you could crowd the archers in front or behind you. Make sure that when you are loading your arrows onto your bow that you are keeping your bow as vertical as possible.

Rule #4: Save Talking for Off the Line

This is another unspoken rule while at archery competitions as talking on the line can be distracting to other archers who are trying to shoot. In addition, it is also considered unpolite to talk or talk too loudly near the archers while they are shooting if you have already stepped off the shooting line.

The best practice while at an archery competition, if there is room, is to step off of the line and move a good distance away before engaging in conversation. If the competition is being held at a smaller venue where space is limited, walk off the line and make sure to keep your voice down to be polite towards others. If you are wanting to talk to another archer and they are still on the shooting line, either wait until they are done shooting or wait till everyone is walking downrange to have a small conversation.

Rule #5: Leave the Targets and Arrows Alone While Scoring

Two archers, one with a tablet and the other with a score card, score arrows at the Vegas Shoot in front of Aaron Tedford's target.

It does not happen a lot, but if an arrow is close to a scoring line and you touch the arrow or the target before scoring, the line on the target can break or the arrow can be slightly pushed in or out from the line. This can alter how the arrow is able to be scored. Most archers will perceive this as cheating, whether you meant to do it or not, especially if it makes your arrow a higher value or another archer’s arrow a lower value.

The best thing that you can do is to refrain from touching the targets or arrows until all of the arrow values have been called. Even if you are trying to call and arrow and it feels right to touch the target or arrow to get a better look, just don’t do it. If the arrow is that hard to call, ask for a line judge and they will be able to get an accurate call on the arrow.