Winter Archery Leagues: What to Know Before You Go

By Travis LangeJanuary 22, 20181 Comment

I have been contemplating shooting a winter archery league for the past couple of years. This January, I decided it was time to act and join a league. After a visit to my local archery shop and a phone call to one of my hunting friends, we were signed up to shoot one night each week for the first twelve weeks of 2018. Since neither of us had ever participated in a league, we had a bit of anxiety going into the first week. To relieve that anxiety, I did some research and asked a lot of questions. Hopefully, this article can help relieve that anxious feeling if you are contemplating joining a winter archery league yourself.

Most archery shops will have multiple options for the type of shooting you prefer. During my visit to my local shop, I discussed those options with the shop owner. With all the different shooting types available, it’s broken down to two basic options; targets or darts. With target shooting, you will be shooting at paper or 3D targets. In dart leagues, you will be shooting in a video simulation booth that uses reflector tips on your arrows to simulate the shots on live animal targets.

Traditional League

On Monday evenings, traditional archers use either long bows or recurve bows and shoot in the dart booth. Each archer shoots five arrows per round for a total of six rounds. The video simulation system scores all the shots for the individual archer and tallies the total score per round and per week. Archers can score 15/10/8/0 or -3 depending on the placement of the shot. A typical session lasts approximately two hours, which includes a warmup period.

Bowhunter League

On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, archers use compound bows and shoot paper, 3D, and dart targets. Each archer shoots five arrows per round for six rounds at the paper or 3D targets and five arrows per round for four rounds in the video simulation booth. Scoring for the Bowhunter League depends on the target as well as the scenario. There are adjustable scoring nights, moving targets and obstacle shooting evenings that can give archers additional scoring opportunities outside of the normal scoring. This allows individual archers the chance to bridge the scoring gap with high risk, high reward shooting scenarios. As with most of the leagues, each session takes approximately two hours to complete.


On the range shooting 5-spot targets.

Target League

The target archers can shoot on Monday or Thursday evenings. Each archer shoots five arrows per round for twelve rounds. This league is a paper target only league and scoring is based on the NFAA (National Field Archery Association) scoring system. Any arrow in the inner white circle is worth five points, four points for the next ring out, etc. A perfect score for the evening is 300 points. Equipment used is either compound hunting bows or compound target bows. Archers are responsible to keep their own scores.

Dart League

On Thursday evenings, there are two sessions of Dart League. Archers use compound hunting bows and shoot arrows tipped with blunt ends at a screen simulating live hunting scenarios. Five teams of two archers shoot for an individual and combined score. Each archer shoots five arrows per round for seven rounds. Scoring is determined by the shot location on the vitals of the target animal. A perfect heart shot gets you 15 points, a near heart shot scores you 10 points, any shot in the vital area will gain you 8 points, a missed shot outside of the vitals results in a score of 0 points, and a poor shot angle or unadvised shot will result in a deducted score of 3 points. Each live scenario has a timeline associated with it. If the archer fails to release an arrow within the timeline, there are no points awarded to the archer. Including the warmup period, the seven rounds take approximately two hours to complete.


The Dart video simulator.

Couples League

Friday evenings at our local archery shop is dedicated to Couples League. The team pairs compete as a couple and shoot both paper and dart targets. The evenings archers shoot at paper targets, each archer shoots five arrows per round for eight rounds. The opposite week, each archer shoots five arrows per round for five rounds in the video simulation booth. The scoring is based on a combined score of the couples and cumulative score from week to week.

Youth League

Saturday mornings are all about the kids. Youth archers ages eight years old and up shoot for one-hour time slots at paper targets only. The younger shooters start at 9:00 am with the older shooters rounding out the late morning sessions. Shooting games, various targets and other activities keep the young archers engaged and excited each week. Lunch is provided to all the kids at the end of the morning sessions. If kids do not have their own archery equipment, it is provided for them.


Dinner each week before or after shooting makes for a great time to hang out and swap stories with other shooters.

All adult leagues run for twelve weeks and begin the first week of January. The Youth League runs for ten weeks and begins the first Saturday in January. The shot distance is always twenty yards except for the young shooters, they start at ten yards. League fees where I shoot are $150 for all adult leagues and $115 for the Youth League. Fees include dinner each week for the adult leagues and lunch on Saturdays for the Youth League. After the season, there is a celebration banquet where all archers enjoy food, socializing and an awards ceremony.

After sorting through all that information, it can seem daunting…especially to someone who has never participated in a winter archery league. It was a bit daunting to me as well, which is why I paid a visit to my local shop and asked lots of questions. Not only were all the staff members extremely helpful and explanative, they also assured me the archers who have been in the leagues for some time, would be helpful and supportive to any newcomers. After one week into the season, I can attest to their statements. Not only were the other archers welcoming to both of us rookies, but they were also very helpful and offered advice to aide our shooting. To help alleviate some of our anxiety, we also arrived at our league session early, so we could observe the shooters before us. By doing this, we were able to see how the sequence of shooting works, as well as, witness the different animal scenarios that occur in the video simulation dart league.


Break free from the cabin fever and join an archery league for good times with new and old friends.

We are merely one week into our twelve-week league season and I can already tell we are going to have a great time! The group of archers we shoot with are a lot of fun and are also some very talented shooters. Shooting in the dart league gives you that hunting feeling with a burst of adrenaline at every shot opportunity. It’s a competition league, but there’s also camaraderie amidst the archery community.

Whether you are passionate about archery, want to improve your shooting skills, or simply miss hunting when most seasons are closed, joining an archery league might be exactly what you need. Pay a visit to your local archery shop and inquire about what leagues are available. Quiz the staff with all your questions. Step into the shooting range and see if any archers are currently in leagues or have participated in them in the past. Strike up a conversation and ask them what the leagues are like from a participant perspective. These are exactly the steps I took over the past few weeks. I’m thrilled I took the initiative to gain as much knowledge as possible to get me over the fear of shooting with a bunch of strangers in a scenario I am unfamiliar with. I can foresee friendships being made, hunting stories swapped and improved shooting skills and technique in the works. I cannot wait for next week!

Travis Lange
Architect / Project Manager at Benike Construction
Travis has been bowhunting various states for more than 25 years. He is an Architect / Project Manager for Benike Construction in southeastern Minnesota. In his free time, he enjoys writing about hunting and various outdoor activities. Travis lives in Saint Charles, Minnesota with his wife and three children.
    View 1 Comment
    Post a Comment
    Login To Account

    Your email address will not be published.