How to set up your Bow for Field

As a break from target I really enjoy shooting a bit of field I find it’s the best way to unwind from the target scene. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be good at it too, and that involves setting up your bow correctly and in this article I’m going to show you exactly how to do that.

The steps for setting your bow up for field are as follows:

  • Choosing sight
  • Choosing sight block
  • Building sight tape
  • Stabiliser angles
  • Weights

As you can see lots of things to consider so lets not waste any more time and get talking about it.

Choosing Sight

There is so many sights out there it’s hard to know which one is right for you. I’m going to say the main factor on what sight you use is going to be what size it is. Lets take shrewd scope for example ( because I know them the best ). Shrewd offer sights in 29mm 35mm 40mm diameter. I have both 29mm Mini Mag and a 40mm Optum scopes and there is ups and downs to both of them. Me personally, I aim better with smaller scopes for for target hands down I will always shoot my mini mag, but on a field course there’s more to consider than just the target, the main other obstacle is the lighting at each target. When shooting in the woods lighting can definitely play a factor. Shooting from standing in the light into the dark is even worse again and then the opposite shooting from dark into light, it’s all difficult. But how you can make it a little easier is by having a bigger scope. Having a bigger scope means you’ll get more light into your scope increasing what you can see. Not only will it be tough to see the target it’ll be tough to see your pin. Luckily the field targets are black and gold so it’s easy to spot the middle but it can be hard to keep it there if you can’t see your pin either.

So you need to weigh up your options depending on how tough your local course is. I know here in Ireland the courses here take no prisoners. But I still get away with using my 29mm Mini Mag. What you gotta understand is on a field course sometimes you just gotta make the most of it from target to target.

If you normally shoot with a big scope then your already ahead of the game but trying to switch just before a field shoot can be a little off putting.

I can’t talk about scopes without talking a little bit about sunshades as well. I know they seem like they don’t add much to the scope but they do a lot more than you think. On a field course it is literally you against the environment so anything you can bring with you to help that fight you should definitely bring. Picture this, an uphill shot almost facing the sun early in the morning as the sun is just rising. It’s a tough one, but a way to make it less tough is to throw a sunshade on your scope, the longer the better. This is going to keep the sun out of your lens causing it to reflect light throwing off your aim. With every shrewd scope on the market it has the option to order front and back sunshades and they are definitely worth the money. But even if your stuck for one you can always make one fairly handy. If you have carboard and rubber bands anything’s possible.

Choosing Sight Block

Your sight block is important not just for target but for field too. Your sight block is how far in or out your sight is away from you. Each sight bar company will have settings for how far away you can have the sight from you. It is important to note what happens when you have it close in or far out. For target I would usually have it far out but for field I would usually bring it all the way in. So let me talk about what happens when your bring you sight in and out.

When you bring your sight in a few things happen, first of which is most notable is the change inn magnification, and I know what you thinking. “I bought a 5 power lens so that means it stays at 5 power!” and that it true, to some degree. Just because you bought a 5 power lens doesn’t mean it stays at 5 power. The next time your holding just your scope or any lens for that matter hold it up really close to your eye and then hold it as far away as possible and notice the difference. When the lens is close to you the magnification of the lens doesn’t seem to be as big as it was, then when the lens is far away from you the magnification seems to be a lot more than what it says it is. This info is actually quite useful and I use it quite regularly when figuring out my aiming patterns. If I ever feel like I’m seeing too much gold then I can move my sight in one block to see less yellow and more of the target. It’s important to note when you change your sight block your sight mark is going to change quite a bit. When you move your sight in closer to you your sight mark will go up and the reverse is true, when you move your sight out your sight mark will go down. So this isn’t something that you can really change on the fly. But it is definitely something you should play around with.

For target I like my sight far out as possible because I know the distance and it ain’t changing but for field I like it in as close as I can get it because then I can see all of the target. Another reason I do this is for a little trick to determine if a target is a 60cm or 80cm. If you don’t know there’s 4 types of targets on a field course. Bunnies, 40cm 60cm 80cm. Bunnies look like a three spot for indoors and 40cm there is 4 targets to a bail so you’ll be able to identify them very easily but 60cm and 80cm catches people out a lot of the time. Sometimes people will get confused and judge a 60cm as an 80cm and then miss their first shot. So don’t let that happen to you. Because I run my sight in I can tell when I initially aim at the target based on how much yellow I can see if it’s a 60cm or 80cm. This will take a while to get used to but if you get a 60cm target and a 80cm target and put them up at their respective distances and do enough aiming you’ll get a feel for what a 60cm looks like and what a 80cm looks like.

Sight Tape

Now it’s time to build your sight tape. There’s a few ways to do this and some of them are okay and another way is amazing. Field is very much what you put in is what you’ll get out. The more time you spend on your sight tape the better it will be and the better your scores will be. What I used to do in the begging is go out and get a sight mark for every 2nd meter. I would start at 10m then go to 12m and finish at 60m and write down what the sight mark was as I went along. My theory was I could fill in the blanks if I ranged at target at 35m I would have a 34m and a 36m sight mark so in the middle of the two would be the 35m sight mark… right? Well unfortunately sight marks aren’t linear. Each bar on your sight does not represent a meter unless you’re unbelievably lucky.

Doing this will allow you to get by but know it’s not the most accurate way of doing it. For me I use a programme which I’m sure you’ve heard of called archers advantage. This website will allow you to build sight tapes for as many bows as you want. You’ll need to bang in all the specs of your bow and arrows and what your exact draw length is but once you get it working it’ll give you what your sight mark is for 1m up to 150m. Again what I used to do is then write down the sight marks that I needed 10m-60m and I had them with me but even at that it wasn’t as accurate as it could be.

When I say build a sight tape I’m talking about a tape that’ll go on the side of your sight bar that you can refer to at any stage. The first time I used a proper sight tape like that my scores shot up astronomically. I think it was because I could tell how much was in between each meter for my sight marks. Overall a lot more accurate. But how do you get one? Well on the same programme as before (archers advantage) when you give it all the details it wants it’ll give you all the sight marks and it will also generate a sight tape for you. In fact it’ll make a few sight tapes. The reason being if your bow slows down or speeds up for any reason you’ll still have a sight tape that fits. So what you’ll do it set your sight to 50m and around the blank side of the sight rail leave a little mark where your sight indicator is. What you’ll do then is put sticky tape on the sight tape and line up the 50m mark on that tape with your little marking. Once you have it on and your sight indicator is on 50m on the sight tape you just put on shoot your bow at 50m and check are the arrows landing in the middle. If they are then you’ve got the right sight tape. If they’re not then grab a different sight tape and try again. Printed on the sight tape at the bottom is the feet per second of your arrow travelling out of your bow calculated by the website. You’ll be able to tell by the impact of the arrow if you need a ‘faster’ or ‘slower’ sight tape. If you shot the arrow at 50m and it didn’t land in the middle you need to evaluate where it landed. If the arrow landed low then you’ll need a faster sight tape i.e. a higher number at the bottom. If the arrow hit high then you’ll need a slower sight tape. Once you get it pretty close you can use your sight indicator to fine tune it in. But trust me it’s a game changer.

Stabiliser angles

This is huge. For target you can almost get away with any kind of angle because you’re playing on a flat surface. But that’s not the case in field. You can be shooting at angles up to 45 degrees either up or down. So before I talk about what angles your bars should be at I’m going to talk about the effect these angles have on your shot. When your shooting up hill any weight that you have on your bars is going to feel like a hell of a lot more because gravity is having more of an effect on it while it’s higher in the air. The reverse is also true, your bow is going to feel a lot lighter when your aiming downwards because gravity is having less of an affect on your bars. But it’s important to note weight isn’t the only thing affected. Your draw length is also affected when aiming at an angle as well. When aiming upwards your draw length is going to feel a little bit short and when aiming downwards your draw length is going to feel a little long. I’m not sure what the exact since is behind this I’m sure it has something to do with your stance and how your hips change while rotating them to aim at the target. There is no real way to avoid this again you’re just going to have to take it as it comes and shoot on through.

Now onto stabiliser angles. Obviously for your front rod there’s not much you can do. Your options are having it straight out or a certain degree downward. Usually something along the lines of 8-10 degrees. But your back rod is where things get interesting. Your back rod has a lot of influence on your shot on a field course. There is a range of angles that you can use to optimise your performance and there is then a range of angles that will hurt your performance. To put it bluntly any extreme angle you shouldn’t be using. Try think of aiming upwards as a multiplier. If your side rod is kicked out a lot, then while you aim up at your target not only is the rod going to feel heavier but you will induce more torque on your bow because of it, leaving you prone to left and right misses. The sweet spot for field is somewhere between 0-5 degrees out. Personally I’m usually at about 3.5 degrees with the back bar. Now we gotta talk about it’s location. Now I’ll say for the record that having your side rod on the bottom or the top (in line with the front rod) is absolutely fine and both will produce results… but there is better way to stabilise your bow for field and that is having your side rod on the top mount. Now this is all my own opinion and I encourage you to prove me wrong, but from what I’ve shot the top mount works best for me and others that I’ve talked to. Now this is also dependent on the length of your back bar. If it’s a short back bar 10″-12″ then you could put it on the lower mount and stabilise your bow the same way you would with a long back bar 13″-15″ on the top mount. So as you can see lots of variables to it.

The beauty of archery is there’s more than one right answer, I’m just hopefully pointing you in the rigth direction with the info that I’ve already got.


This could just be a subheading of the last heading because a lot of the points still stand. The effects of gravity play a huge factor on the weight that you are going to be feeling when you shoot your bow when aiming uphill and downhill. What I am going to say here is that you need to consider how much weight you can realistically have on your bow for a field course. What some people don’t think about is that yes you need to shoot every target but you also need to walk to every target, and trust me the distance between targets can be a lot and with a heavy bow it’s tiring. But in saying that it’s all about what works best for you. If normally you don’t shoot with a lot of weight then there’s nothing for you to worry about. But if your like me and shoot with a fair bit of weight then that’s where you need to think. Personally I don’t move a single ounce. If I’ve nailed the weight stabilisation then my theory is that it should work for field. Now who knows maybe I would shoot better with less weight but nothing too crazy maybe a couple ounces. What I’m saying is don’t be afraid to go shoot it with the regular weight that you normally shoot with. You can take your time on the uphill targets, and if it’s too much you can always take some off while your on the course.

And that’s all I got, for your bow anyways. If you’re going to tackle a field course then you’re going to need to level your sight. And if you don’t know how to do that well then your in luck. You can find out how to level your sight correctly below.

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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