Field Archery – How To Judge Distances

Ahh, good old field archery; I love it. For the longest time, I was crap at it. So I set out to improve my skills, and indeed, the first thing I needed to improve was judging distances. 

Field archery is a popular outdoor sport that requires skill, accuracy, and patience. One of the most important aspects of field archery is guessing the distance to the target.

Rogan Cunningham

Unlike other forms of archery, field archery takes place in a natural environment, which means that the distance to the target can vary depending on the terrain, vegetation, and other factors.

This article will discuss the art of guessing distances for field archery, including tips and techniques that can help improve your accuracy.

Why Guessing Distance is Important in Field Archery

In field archery, targets are usually set up at varying distances and in different terrains. This makes it essential to be able to estimate the distance accurately. Accurately estimating the distance to the target is crucial because it affects the arrow’s trajectory.

If the distance is guessed incorrectly, the archer will shoot too high or too low, resulting in a missed target or a lower score. Therefore, accurately guessing distances is crucial for success in field archery.

Factors that Affect Distance Estimation

Before discussing the techniques for guessing distances in field archery, it’s essential to understand the factors that can affect distance estimation. These factors include:

  1. Terrain: The terrain can have a significant impact on distance estimation. If the target is uphill or downhill, the distance may appear to be shorter or longer than it is.
  2. Lighting: The lighting conditions can also affect distance estimation. For example, shadows can make it difficult to judge the distance accurately.
  3. Size of the Target: The size of the target can also impact distance estimation. A larger target may appear closer than a smaller one, even if they are at the same distance.
  4. Vegetation: The presence of vegetation can also affect distance estimation. If there are trees or other obstacles between the archer and the target, it may be more challenging to estimate the distance accurately.

Techniques for Guessing Distances in Field Archery

Several techniques can help improve distance estimation in field archery. Here are some of the most effective ones:

1 Use Known Distances as Reference Points

One of the best ways to estimate distances is to use known distances as reference points. This involves using markers or landmarks that are known to be a certain distance from the target. For example, an archer may use a tree, rock, or other landmarks that are known to be 10 yards from the target as a reference point. Using reference points like these, the archer can estimate the distance more accurately.

2 Estimate Distances in Increments

Rogan Cunningham

Another effective technique is to estimate distances in increments. This involves breaking down the distance to the target into smaller increments and estimating each increment separately. For example, an archer may estimate the distance to the target in 5-yard increments. This can help improve accuracy because it allows the archer to focus on smaller distances, which are easier to estimate.

3 Use a Rangefinder

A rangefinder is a device that uses laser or sound waves to measure the distance to the target. They can be very effective for practicing distance estimation. By utilizing a rangefinder during practice, archers can learn to associate the visual appearance of the target with the actual distance.

However, it must be noted that using a rangefinder on a field course is against the rules! 

4 Practice Estimating Distances

The most effective way to improve distance estimation is to practice. Archers can practice distance estimation by setting up targets at different distances and trying to estimate the distance to each target. Practicing in various terrains and lighting conditions is essential to prepare for different field archery scenarios.

5 Use Binoculars

Rogan Cunningham

Binoculars can also help estimate distances in field archery. Using binoculars, an archer can get a closer look at the target and the surrounding terrain, which can help with distance estimation. Binoculars are handy when the target is in a dense or complex landscape where it’s difficult to see the target.

Estimating distances in field archery is a challenging but essential skill. Archers can improve their accuracy and increase their chances of success by using reference points, calculating distances in increments, practicing, and observing the terrain.

It’s important to remember that distance estimation is not an exact science and requires a lot of practice and experience. With time and dedication, archers can develop their distance estimation skills and become more confident and accurate when shooting.

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Rogan Cunningham

Rogan Cunningham is an archer and writer for He's a proud member of the National Archery Squad. He writes about his archery training, shooting, and traveling with the national archery team, and he also reviews all kinds of archery kit. He only writes about archery, what can I tell you?..... He's an Archer!

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