Here is a real-life archery injury I heard about a few days ago. It’s actually what prompted me to create this detailed article on the safety rules of archery.
At a homemade archery range, a 17-year-old boy was shot in his left eye during target practice. He and his friend were unsupervised and taking turns shooting at a target. Unfortunately, it was windy, and the target kept falling over, so one of the boys went to hold it in his hand away from his face as his friend took his turn shooting it.
Well, as you may have guessed, his friend missed the target, and the steel-tipped arrow struck him in his eye. The young man is lucky the arrow didn’t penetrate his skull, but he lost his eye.
While this may sound like a totally unavoidable archery calamity, you’d be surprised by the number of similar archery-related injuries requiring emergency room care that happen in the United States alone.
I’m not trying to be the voice of doom and gloom and scare you from this beautiful sport and activity. I’m just trying to highlight that archery safety is a vital subject that all new archers must matter. After all, “a good archer” doesn’t simply refer to those technically proficient at the activity.
A good archer is one who is polite, observes the rules, and shoots in a responsible, safe manner.
Safety Rules of Archery
So, you want to help keep archery a safe activity? Here are the safety rules of archery you should observe in both indoor and outdoor shooting ranges. Most of these may seem inconsequential, but trust me, they could save your life at a shooting range one day.
1. What’s That You Have On?
While not always considered, ensuring that all archery participants available are properly dressed for the activity is essential. No one should wear anything that could easily get tangled in the bow during releases— no jewellery, hoods, scarves, or anything excessively loose.
Why is this safety rule of archery essential? Well, there have been thousands of cases of earrings, bracelets, and necklaces getting caught in fired arrows and causing serious injuries.
2. Did You Do Your Due Diligence?
Better safe than sorry, right? Before taking the first shot, every participant should do an equipment check for both arrows and bows. Your nock, shaft, and arrow should be checked using a fine-tooth comb. Remember, damaged arrows could easily shatter when released and, in turn, send someone to the emergency room.
A tip I use myself is slightly bending the arrow to ensure it’s still in its tip-top condition. Inspect all components of the arrow for any signs of damage like warping, fraying, chips, cracks, and any other wear and tear that may have compromised their integrity.
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3. Unspoken Preparation Rules?
Did you know that steel-tipped arrows can travel hundreds of meters? That’s why shooting arrows in the air is highly frowned upon. As for arrows with suction tips, they don’t fly nearly as far, making them perfect partners for children and total beginners still learning about the safety rules of archery. Both of these groups should only shoot under the supervision of an adult.
What’s more? Every shooter should stand approx. 3 to 10 meters away from the shooting target. The target in question should be set up in clear spaces, and one should never use animals or people as targets.
4. Safely Firing The Arrows
To ensure everyone’s safety, all archers must load, aim, and shoot their arrows simultaneously. This is the same system most archery ranges use to control shooting and retrieving. It ensures no one accidentally shoots while someone is still inside the range retrieving their arrows.
To make things easier, employ a whistles system to signify the appropriate action. A single whistle blow can mean it’s time to load the arrow and approach the shooting line. Two can mean everyone can approach the shooting line. Three can mean everyone can shoot their arrows. Four can mean everyone can go and retrieve the arrows they shot.
Another safety rule of archery is to never load your arrows onto your bow with someone in front of you. Also, never stand in front of anyone with their arrows loaded.
5. Retrieving The Arrows
Archers should only move in to retrieve their arrows once they’re signaled it’s time to. Often when archers misfire their arrows, and they don’t go very far, they’re tempted to quickly retrieve them so they can fire again. In these instances, it’s essential to reiterate the safety rules of archery and discourage that behavior vehemently.
What’s more? Once archers are done retrieving their arrows, confirm that all participants have returned to the shooting line and the range is clear before signaling it’s okay to shoot again. Actually, pay special attention to participants whose arrows went beyond the target. These tend to be the ones overlooked before the shooting signal is given.
Archery Range Safety Rules
Now that you know the safety rules of archery that individuals should observe, let’s take a brief look at the general safety rules one should observe when designing an archery range.
1. Archery Backdrops
Archery ranges should be equipped with backstops to prevent out-of-control arrows from going too far beyond their intended targets. This archery safety rule is essential for two reasons. First, it protects anyone who accidentally wanders into the range’s vicinity.
These backstops also make it much easier to collect and find fired arrows. As noted earlier, most archery injuries occur when participants spend too much time behind targets trying to find their arrows.
Another safety rule of archery that every range should address is security. A great example is ensuring that all arrows and bows are locked away in secure locations when not in use. Why? Well, less mature archers might be tempted to partake in unsupervised shooting activities, which, as we saw in the beginning, could be the perfect recipe for disaster.
3. Buffer Zones
Due to the hazards that archery poses as a sport and activity, every range should be in secluded areas. These are areas where the chances of individuals accidentally roaming into the range amidst shots are minimal.
As a general rule, publicly accessible areas like trails or walkways should be at least 150 yards away from all different trajectories of arrows. In the rare cases when a range offers bows that shoot more than 150 yards, increase the buffer zone accordingly.
Bonus Safety Rules Of Archery
As a bonus, here are some practical safety tips that could come in handy one day:
- Do you own an arm guard? It’s an essential accessory for stopping the arrow and bowstring from rubbing your arm
- Remember to store your equipment in cool, dry places, so their integrity isn’t compromised
- When pulling arrows from the target, ensure no one is standing behind you
- Only shoot the target directly in front of you
- Keep arrows inside the quiver until you’re ready to shoot
- Always walk, don’t run on the range
- Shoot as many arrows as everyone around to minimize wait times between shoot and retrieve sessions
- Keep arrows either pointed down or at the target
- If one of your arrows goes behind the target, ensure your instructor is aware before going for the retrieve
- Never visit an archery range if they don’t have a first-aid kit
- Finish every shooting session by un-stringing your re-curve bow
- Wax your bow string after every 100 arrows shot
- Ensure your cellphone is charged so you can call for help if need be
- Never over-draw your re-curve bow. This refers to when you pull the bowstring further than the arrow’s actual length. It can be fatal