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3D archery: it’s not archery with fancy glasses


Warren Collins of Cochrane, Alberta, is only 15 years old, but he is already making a name for himself in competitive archery. (provided by Jayena Collins/CBC)

When you hear the words "3D archery", you probably think it’s a lot like a movie with those big glasses that make the picture jump off the screen and fly right at you. Or maybe you think of a virtual reality video game. But you don’t need glasses or a headset to try out 3D archery. Let's find out more about this popular sport at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

What is 3D archery?

An archer in the woods aims at a plastic target of a turkey off in the distance

A freestyle archer aims for a turkey target during a 3D archery competition in Europe in 2008. (Wikimedia/Byp/CC BY 3.0)

3D archery is a lot like regular archery. You go to a range and shoot at targets. But instead of the flat, round target with a bullseye you’d usually find at a range, 3D targets are three-dimensional animals made out of foam or plastic and placed in an indoor range or outdoors in a natural setting like a forest. Also, instead of standing in one spot to shoot at the target, you walk around to find the targets, just like you would if you were hunting.

How do you score points?

Archer Ben Fleguel in the middle of a forest, getting ready for his shot

NAIG athlete Ben Fleguel sets up a shot in the woods around Curve Lake First Nation. (Supplied by Ben Fleguel/CBC)

Archers move through the course, from station to station, looking for targets. Each station has animal shapes set up at different distances. Some are in the woods, some are in fields. Some are set up in indoor courses. Each archer only gets one shot to hit each target. You earn points by hitting the different scoring rings on the target. Kind of like a game of darts! You’ll have lots of time to get the hang of it though. A 3D archery course usually has 40 targets to practice on.

It's kind of like hunting

a whole bunch of plastic targets shaped like animals

Some of the targets you might find at a 3D archery competition. (Wikimedia/Wals1siedel/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The foam targets are shaped like the animals that hunters would typically be looking for out in the wild. On a 3D archery course, you might find deer, bears, coyotes, wolves, antelope and leopards.

Having fun while learning skills

archer Warren Collins holding his bow and arrowsArchery is great for building confidence and self-esteem and it’s also great exercise. Using a bow builds muscles in your back, chest and shoulders. It’s great for hand-eye coordination too. Archery teaches focus and believe it or not… geometry! With courses built indoors and outdoors, you can participate all year long. And just think what that hard-earned focus and hand-eye coordination will do for you in other sports… or video games! 

"After every shoot I go to, I always learn something new and meet new people — make new friends," says Warren Collins, 15 year-old Nakoda archer competing at the NAIG. (Provided by Jayena Collins/CBC)

Learning about tradition and culture

Archer Ben Green stands in front of 2 3D archery targets out in the woods

"It's been a part of everyone's history for a long time," says 15-year-old Curve Lake First Nation competitor Ben Fleguel. "For it to die out would be a shame." (Supplied by Ben Fleguel/CBC)

3D archery is one of the main competitive sports at the North American Indigenous Games. Many of the young athletes competing come from communities where hunting and fishing are very important. Learning the traditional skill of bow hunting keeps that part of their culture alive, teaches them to respect the animals they hunt and use all of their parts, and allows them to pass on their hunting skills to the next generation.