Archery Games

Standard target archery rounds are a staple in archery, but it is also fun to break up your routine. There are a lot of fun and safe novelty games you can play in archery. They can be as simple as using a Tic-Tac-Toe target. The following games can be used for all sorts of occasions, including JOAD club fun shoots. But remember, standard archery safety rules still apply :-)

Simple and Fun Archery Games Anyone Can Play

Balloons

One of the simplest archery games and one of the most satisfying for all ages and skill levels is shooting balloons. You can use any size or kind of latex balloon and they are easy to tape to the target. If you are shooting with a youth group you can enlist their aid in blowing up the balloons.

Variations

  • Goodies. Hang a candy or other goodies from strings tied to the balloons. Who ever shoots the balloon earns the prizes. You can attach the balloons normally with tape to the ends, or to the target by tying a string around the inflated middle of the balloon and attaching the string to the target or suspend the balloons from a loop of wire such that the balloons fall through when shot. Coupons or raffle tickets can be hung from or inserted in random balloons as well. Items insert in balloons will be better off if the balloons are inflated with a pump or compressor as inflating them with your lungs makes them very humid inside.
  • A Pool-like game for 2 people: Blow up 8 small balloons of one color and 8 of another. Tape them to the target randomly mixed. Toss to see who shoots first. Play in order, one arrow at a time. First person to hit a color claims that color and tries to shoot all the balloons of that color. First person who’s balloons are all shot wins. Accidentally shooting your opponents balloons counts in their favor. You can vary the game with pool-inspired rules, such as getting to shoot again if you make your shot; by mixing in some white balloons, which, if hit, count as a scratch, or adding an 8-ball balloon that has to be shot last to win, and scratches if you miss.

Archery Target Games

Standard targets

There are lots of novelty games you can play using regular 10 ring archery targets. Most of the games in this section use a 10 ring target, a few can be shot with a blank sheet of paper or no target.

  • Black Jack. Shoot as many arrows as you like, but don’t go over 21. Score the targets normally, 1-10 from the outer ring in. You can use the X-ring (the small ring inside the 10 ring ring) as an ace that is 1 or 11, archer’s choice.
  • Lucky Dip. This works better with target sizes and distances that challenge the archers and won’t have all of their arrows in the gold. From Wikipedia: “Each archer shoots six arrows and then, before scoring, a piece of paper with scoring instructions is pulled out of the bag containing several different slips of paper. This means that an archer has no idea what their score will be when they are shooting,” making the game random. You can make the game more strategic by creating cards in a ratio that mostly rewards something similar to standard shooting, but with enough wild cards that grant big points to an oddball score, giving people incentive to shoot normally, or to take a chance on a known risk by shooting for the white or what not. You can also have each of the team players submit one instruction of their own, either undisclosed or open. Some sample scoring instructions (these can also each be used as scoring systems for stand alone target games):
    • Normal scoring.
    • Inverse scoring
    • Ignore all golds
    • Whites score 20
    • Only lines count, and they count for double score.
    • Two or more arrows in the same color score nothing for those arrows.
    • All of an archers arrows must be in the same color to count.
    • Missing the target scores 10.
    • Negative scoring (you lose the number of points that you have scored).
    • Evens score normally. Odds score negatively.
  • Closest Arrow. Players shoot 3 arrows each. Closest individual arrow to the center wins. You can do a rough score using the rings, but an actual measurement to the center must be used if there are multiple arrows are in the highest scoring ring.
  • Closest Arrow Single Elimination. Single Elimination tournament. One arrow each head to head. Closest to the center wins.
  • Bowling. Shoot at a regular 10 ring target. 10 is a strike. If you miss the 10, you can shoot the ring that will make your score add up to ten as a spare. So if you hit a 6 you have to shoot a 4 to pick up the spare.
  • Save the Prince/Princess.Each individual or group must shoot white, black, blue, red and gold in order. They must get a white before they can move on to shooting a blue. They must not shoot the X, which is the Prince or Princess. Shooting the X is a scratch and the individual or archer loses the game. The game can be played on the same or separate targets for each individual or team. For groups it can be a speed relay round where one team member has to shoot white before the next can shoot black and so on; it can be alternating archers speed relay round, where each archer gets to shoot once and has to hand the bow of to the next team member regardless; or instead of a speed round, it can be alternating turns with each individual or team alternating with the other.
    • Variation: “Up, Up and Away.” Same game but by all ten rings rather than colors and the X isn’t a scratch.
  • Shrinking Target.Archers shoot ends of three arrows at the same target or large blank piece of paper. Arrows that miss are eliminated and can’t be shot in the next end. The target is folded in half and archers shoot again, and so on. The last archer with an arrow wins.
    • Variation: “Master of the Target.” Same as above, but using a standard 10 ring target. The target is shrunk by incrementally taking an outer ring (or outer color) out of play each end.
  • Circumference.Each individual or group shoots its own target. Archers (or teams) shoot ends of 4 arrows at a target. A tailor’s measuring tape is used to measure the circumference of the groups and the number written down as the score. After six ends the archer or team with the lowest score wins.
    • Variation: Use a string to measure the circumference. The shortest circumference wins each end and is worth one point. The archer or team with the most points a the end of the round wins.
  • Split Target. 2-4 archers, or 2-4 teams. 3 arrows per individual shooter or team. A marker pen and straight edge is used to divide the target into equal pie wedges with one wedge assigned to each archer or team. (Don’t be afraid to break out your old school protractor if you are dividing the target into thirds.) Ends are shot normally. Arrows, including opponents arrows, count for the owner of the wedge.
  • 5-Spot Race. Use a 5-spot NFAA target pinned in diamond orientation. Starting with the right hand spot archers each have six arrows to shoot each spot in counter clockwise order, ending with the center spot. First to hit all 5 spots in order wins. If no one makes it to the fifth spot, the archer who progressed the most spots wins. In the even of a tie, the archer with the highest scoring ring on the final spot wins, if is still even, the highest scoring arrow on the previous spot and so on. As a variation you can make it so that the last three spots are all one ring smaller than the last.

Specialized Game Targets

There are a number of different archery games played using specialized targets. You can make many of them yourself or you can buy certain of them from target printing companies or archery suppliers.

  • Tic-Tac-Toe. This is one of the simplest to make. You can lay out the classic version, using a pen or tape to make a standard Tic-Tac-Toe grid. (Touching line counts as a miss.) Or you can make a version using a 3×3 arrangement of large spots.
  • Darts. Darts and arrows are related so they make for a natural cross-over. Specialized targets are available and you can use any standard darts game. A number of companies make darts targets, including Maple Leaf Press, who’s targets are sold at some archery retailers in packs of 25.

  • “V.” A large “V” shape is drawn or made with tape the full height of a target. Archers each shoot to see who can get closest to the bottom of the V without touching the line or shooting outside the lines.
    • Variation: Next archer must shoot below the lowest arrow to stay in the game. Next game the archer who was first out shoots first, and the winner of the last game shoots last.
  • Find It. This one is especially good for younger kids since it gives them all a chance to win. Take 16 or so blank 3×5, 4×6 or 5×7 cards and write, draw or place a sticker on the face of one of them. Affix the cards spread out over the target, face down. Archers have to hit a card to turn it over and see if they’ve won. You can make a story about the lost item to make the game more immersive. Or the card can be specifically for a prize.
  • Split the Arrow. Attach a cardboard tube a foot or so long to the center of an archery target so it sticks out out of the center gold of a standard archery target kind of like an like an arrow would. (You can dress up the tube with to look like an arrow, including adding  fake fletchings.) Archers have to shoot down the center of the tube to win. Part of the challenge is that archers have to shoot from just the right height and angle to be able to shoot down the center of the tube. Be sure to put the tube at a height and angle that is low enough that all archers have a chance to shoot down the center. Only one archer can shoot at a time, taller archers may have to duck down a bit—all part of the challenge.

  • Tiny Targets. Affix a bunch of itty bitty target dots, or small plastic spiders, or anything very small, cheap and safe to shoot to a sheet of cardboard. Place it on your archery backstop and have archers shoot from a very close distance, say 10 to 15 feet. Most archers don’t practice at this distance so shooting these small targets can be quite a challenge. This can be good for young kids, too, because if you put enough tiny targets on the target everyone has a chance

References

Check the Archery Games article at Wikipedia, the games section of the World Archery Level 1 Coaching manual, and the Bega Valley Traditional Archers novelty shoot ideas page for more archery games.

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  • Doug

    Wow! This is a great article. As an instructor I have seriously limited opportunities for my students to better enjoy archery and build additional confidence. Thatnk you for putting this together. I meant to give the article five stars, but the start m,er didn’t work quite right.

  • Jos

    This is fantastic. Great game ideas.