Wintertime Archery

Written by contributor Brodie Swisher

As the cold months of winter begin to make outdoor adventure opportunities fewer and farther between, the draw of staying home and close to the fire becomes more and more attractive.  But don’t hang up your bow just yet!  Ample wintertime archery opportunities abound for those looking to get a jumpstart on spring hunting preparation.  Winter archery leagues and 3D shoots offer the perfect opportunity to keep you in the game long after the snow flies.

Winter Indoor Archery Opps

Many local archery pro-shops offer winter indoor archery leagues to help shooters escape the days of cabin fever.  These shops typically offer a variety of options for varying age, gender, and weapon.  My hometown archery shop use to host a traditional shooters league on Monday night and compound league on Thursday nights.  Staggered 3D targets offered shot opportunities at distances of 15-25 yards from both ground level as well as an elevated shooting deck.  At the end of the night the shop hosted several novelty shoots for anyone that cared to join in on the fun.

One of the shop favorites was the “Dollar Shoot”.  It was an elimination shoot and at the end of the final round, the winner went home with a wad of cash. It was a fun league and a great way to get out of the cold and into some great archery fellowship with guys and gals with a like-passion for archery and bowhunting.  Check your local archery pro-shops for opportunities to be a part of any leagues they may have.  Fees are typically minimal, and the fun you’ll have is quite contagious.


Wintertime 3D shoots are a great opportunity to prepare for spring turkey season.

Jason Prince, co-host of Trophy State of Mind TV show on the Sportsman Channel, says some of his favorite winter shoots have been at leagues that featured unique twists on deciding the winner.  “I’ve shot winter 3D leagues that included shooting blind scores, where two shooters were randomly picked and their scores were combined for money payback.  It was really fun!  You never really knew who was going to win.”  Prince also mentions that these winter shoots are a great way too for a shooter to work on their form and aiming.  Jason’s favorite winter shoot is the Winter National in Phoenix, AZ in February. 

Winter 3D Archery Opps

Recently, I had time to talk to Mike Lloyd, close friend and board member for Five Valleys Archery club in Missoula, MT, and he told me a little about what shooters can expect when stepping outside for some time on the 3D course in the middle of winter. 

“We put on 3-4 shoots a year including the Montana State 3-D Championship. We typically try to start our 3D season as early as we can,” says Lloyd.  “That usually means that the first 2-3 shoots will be in the winter.  Other clubs around the region plan their main “winter shoot” in the month of February.  Conditions are typically tough but there’s still lots of fun to be had.” Mike mentioned that three of the more popular winter shoots across the northwest are the Snow Shoot in Spokane, WA, the Cataldo Mission Shoot in Wallace, ID, and the Foul Weather Shoot in Helena, MT.  “My favorite winter 3D shoot is the Cataldo Mission Shoot, but the nastiest of winter shoots is the Foul Weather Shoot in Helena,” says Lloyd.  “Last year it was 10 degrees during the shoot, and -5 the year before.”


A target in the “mancave” allows for 24/7 shooting practice even when the weather outside is nasty.

One of the hottest 3D shoots – in one of the coolest locations – has been the Bowcast at the Bird 3D shoot in Snowbird, UT.  Shooters are carried to the top of the mountain by ski lift and then work their way back down the mountain, shooting some of the most challenging targets in the country.  Other great winter 3D shoots can be found at 

Wintertime Archery Expectations

Throughout the hunting season, we are constantly changing our setup to better equip ourselves for varying conditions that we encounter.  We alter gear, clothes, boots, and expectations as weather changes call for varying needs throughout the season.  But what about wintertime 3D archery?  How much can change from the summer months? “Depending on the snow and temperatures, you should expect the shooters to be considerably slower on the course than what you might expect at a warm weather shoot,” says Lloyd.  “It is hard to move from target to target when the snow is deep or the trails are icy.  You’d be amazed at how cold you can get while waiting for the group in front of you to finish shooting a target!  The equipment I bring to a winter shoot that differs from other times of the year, are the things I need to stay warm.  I bring heavy boots, hand warmers, extra hat, and facemask.  I also strongly encourage shooters to bring an arm guard.  When you get bundled up in heavy coats and garments, string slap on the forearm is a common occurrence.”  


Wintertime archery opps offer fun for the entire family!

Shooters should also expect that it is going to be harder to shoot when the temperatures plummet.  Shooting form can easily be compromised when shooting in cold weather.  Proper stance and anchor are areas to watch, particularly when shooting when the elements are ugly.    Numb fingers make simple tasks nearly impossible and frigid muscles and bulky coats and jackets can quickly make coming to full draw a monumental task.  Consider a wardrobe that allows you to quickly pull off the bulkiest outer-layer prior to your turn to shoot.  Thus, make the shot and then quickly jump back into heavy coats, gloves, and hat.

While Mike admits that he expects no changes in his bow equipment from summer to winter shooting, he does use a hand warmer to help keep his arrow lube warm and free from becoming too thick.

Is it Worth the Hassle?

Anyone that has ever braved the elements to take part in a wintertime 3D shoot has likely questioned their sanity.  Is it really worth the hassle and effort to be out slingin’ arrows in winter weather?”  The answer is, yes!  If you can be successful in the worst of conditions, you’re much more likely to pull it off when weather conditions are more suitable.  Winter 3D shooting keeps you – and your shooting muscles – in check.  You’ll stay dialed in and rid yourself of bad habits that often creep in for many shooters over the off-season lull.  Your confidence will soar, and the fellowship and camaraderie of hangin’ out with fellow-archers will be hard to beat. 

For serious archers and bowhunters, there really is no off-season.  And I don’t think I’d have it any other way! So, if you’re looking for an outlet to satisfy your shooting itch, get out there and experience winter archery!  Don’t worry about the score, just keep things fun. After all, isn’t that what archery is all about?

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