Preparing For 3D Season

The Dos, Don’ts & Must-Haves

With the arrival of spring, one’s archery thoughts turn to planning for the 3D season. We often see new archers, having been shooting indoors over the winter, anxious to try their skill at this thing called 3D archery.


3D shoots are great fun for the whole family, and an excellent way to keep your archery skills sharp for hunting season. Illustration by Keith Milne.
3D shoots are great fun for the whole family, and an excellent way to keep your archery skills sharp for hunting season. Illustration by Keith Milne.

In 3D archery, shooters move around a course and shoot at a different animal target at each station. These animals are set at various distances, and they’re often a wide variety of sizes or stationed at interesting angles to make the event more challenging. After shooting, each archer calculates his or her score and then moves on to the next target.

Getting properly set up to shoot at a 3D competition could mean moving from the fat, line-cutting, indoor arrows that are suitable for target shooting, to possibly shooting hunting-diametre arrows or lightening up the weight of the arrows to achieve flatter flight. Lighter arrows can make up for misjudgment when estimating distance to the target. Some people try to get their bows shooting so fast for 3D season that with their 20-yard pin sitting at the top of the 10 ring and their 40-yard pin sitting at the bottom of the 10 ring, they always shoot a 10 score at least.


3D archery means not only being a good shot, but also being good at judging distance. It’s always a good idea to purchase a quality rangefinder and start clicking on objects to test your skill at judging distance, as well as shooting your bow. More people practice their shot-making process and neglect testing this often-overlooked aspect. Judging distance in 3D is just as important as shot making, and this is what makes it such a challenge.

Remember, when you’re looking for a good rangefinder, you want to buy one that has arch angle compensation. This feature shows you how much effect angle shots have on the distance to the target. The steeper the angle, the more one must deduct in distance to the target.


3D shoots, like in Summerland, have lots of angle shots and serve as a great learning session. You want to be prepared for those types of shots, so you don’t lose too many arrows.

Another thing to remember when drawing your bow on a steep angle shot is to draw your bow as if you are shooting on flat ground and then bend at the waist to the target. Do not draw your bow at the animal on angle shots, start your draw horizontal first. This maintains a perfect anchor, and your arm acts as the radius of a circle. Drawing at the animal up or down usually causes your arm to bend, thus causing an altered draw length and changing your anchor point slightly. Try a few shots up or down before you go to your first shoot to master the skill, so it’s natural for you.

Another overlooked item is to get your sight’s third angle adjustment done, if your sight has third adjustment. That is a very important feature to look for when purchasing a sight: does it even have a third angle adjustment at all? If you’re going to hunt in steep country or shoot at 3D tournaments, which are going to have a lot of angle shots in them, this type of sight is very important. It keeps your level bubble accurate when you raise or lower your arm. If you own a sight that does not even have a bubble, this may be a good time to think of adding that to your sight. Using your bubble on your bow in 3D, hunting and target archery is another overlooked item. 3D shoots are a good time to practice such skills, so you’re ready for hunting season.

A good thing to do if you plan to be a competent 3D archer is to buy one of the small ball targets by Rinehart and toss it out in a field. Then, without checking its range, shoot at it. This will sharpen your shooting, because it’s a fairly small target, with three-inch circles on it to aim at, and you get to guess how far it is at the same time. By throwing it out at different places and distances, you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice your skills.

Remember to learn the targets also. The first time you walk up to the moose target, you’ll see that the thing is nine-feet tall and nine-feet long. This can make you think it is a shorter distance than you originally thought, because the target itself is so big. And the antelope, for instance, is so small that it appears farther away than you thought.

When you start using a rangefinder to teach you how to judge distances, you may find you are a person who overestimates things consistently or vice versa, so remember that when you get out on the course.

3D tournaments are going to have you out there walking and shooting all day, so some endurance exercises are a good way to prepare without even shooting a bow. When you are tired and gasping for air, your brain, being the largest organ in the body, demands a lot of oxygen to work properly. If you’re too tired, it’s likely you won’t be able to shoot properly, and your score will suffer.

Remember to inspect your equipment before you drive to your favourite shoot, as many shooters have traveled a long way and spent money on fuel, food and tournament fees only to have their equipment fail on the course, when a little inspection the night or two before would have saved them a lot of grief. Inspecting things like your D-loop, your rest, your bolts, your string stops, and your modules as they come loose a lot. Check for frayed strings, especially where the string hits the stopper on string stop-type walls.

Another thing you should try at home before you get faced with this shot at a 3D tournament is to try a two-yard shot and a five-yard shot at a target. An inexperienced shooter would shoot this with the 20-yard pin, but in reality you should be using your 50 or 60-yard pin for this shot. You have to allow for the parallax of where your eye is in relation to your arrow’s location on the bow. Try this because a lot of 3Ds are now adding this type of shot to teach you this and you want to have done this to guarantee yourself an easy 10 score and impress your buddies.

Here is a list of things you must have for your first 3D:

  • Bow
  • Your release, glove or finger tab, and possibly a spare in case you lose yours, someone forgets theirs or your release fails you
  • Minimum of eight arrows, all the same
  • Hip quiver, since you don’t want to have to hold your bundle of arrows while walking around
  • Binoculars
  • Pencil or pen for scoring
  • Cash, as you might be hard-pressed to find a debit machine at a 3D tournament

Some optional items include:

  • Arrow lube
  • Clipboard for your score card (target manufactures make a clip board with the scoring ring’s location so you can see where the rings are, incase the targets are shot out)
  • Allen keys
  • String wax
  • Water and water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Bug and tick spray
  • Sunscreen

It’s always a good idea to go to your first 3D with another, experienced shooter to help you with these items and even things as simple as finding the location.

Check out the 3D season schedule in your area or check out for a list of events.