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USA Archery and NFAA Archery Explained

According to the dictionary, a helicopter mom is "a mother who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of her child or children." Scott says I am a helicopter mom. Maybe. Maybe, that is not a bad thing! Regardless of I am, or I'm not, here is what you may need to know about the differences between USA Archery and NFAA/TFAA, especially the age divisions!

To be in target archery, in other words, not worrying about hunting, you need to understand the different age divisions which will put you at different distances. This can be confusing to inexperienced as well as experienced archers. That is why we felt it was important to include this information. Buckle your seat belts!

For this, we started off with indoor for USA Archery. As if the age groups weren’t already confusing, USA Archery decided to CHANGE the names of their age divisions! Ugh! That’s okay. We are going to get through this together. If you look below, you will see “(formerly Junior),” “(formerly Cadet),” “(formerly Cub),” and “(formerly Bowman).” These are the names that have changed. They now sound like softball age divisions, “(U21),” “(U18),” “(U15),” and “(U13).” The age divisions that were formerly masters divisions are now 50+, 60+, and 70+. Age divisions are based on your age as of December 31st of each year. If you turn 8 or 9 before or on December 31, 2022, you are a Yeoman all of 2022. If you turn 10, 11, or 12 before or on December 31, 2022, you are a U13, formerly Bowman, all of 2022. If you turn 13 or 14 before or on December 31, 2022, you are a U15, formerly Cub, all of 2022. If you turn 15, 16, or 17 before or on December 31, 2022, you are a U18, formerly Cadet, all of 2022. If you turn 18, 19, or 20 before or on December 31, 2022, you are a U21, formerly Junior all of 2022. If you turn 21 or older before or on December 31, 2022, you are a Senior all of 2022. If you turn 50 or older before or on December 31, 2022, you are in the 50+ division all of 2022. If you turn 60 or older before or on December 31, 2022, you are in the 60+ division all of 2022. If you turn 70 or older before or on December 31, 2022, you are in the 70+ division all of 2022. Another thing to remember about USA Archery age divisions is that you can “shoot up” a division and return to your actual age division at any time. Why would you do that? Say there is a tournament, maybe Gator Cup, that does not offer your age division of U15. You could go to that tournament and shoot as a U18 and then register at any other tournament as a U15, as long as that is your actual age division.

I want to talk a little about the Yeoman division. The Yeoman division is still Yeoman. If you go to register your archer who is 8 or 9, you may not see their age division. This age division is not offered at the national level. At state and local levels, it is optional for the event organizers to offer it. For this reason, there are no records for Yeoman.

Now, let’s talk about distances and targets. All USA Archery distances, indoor or outdoor, are in meters. Yeoman, if the indoor event offers it, will shoot at 9 meters. All other age divisions are at 18 meters when shooting indoors.

When it comes to USA Archery indoor tournaments, there is JOAD and FITA. JOAD will shoot during one time period, or slot. FITA shoots during two time periods, or slots. Most tournaments plan this out where you can shoot two rounds on one day and two rounds on another day. These would be one day and the next, or two days during a three day tournament. These tournaments use multicolored targets. There is an option to shoot a single spot or a vertical 3 spot. If you choose to shoot the 3 spot, you must shoot one arrow in each of the 3 spots. Also, you must shoot the 3 spots in order, top to bottom, or bottom to top.

I’ve talked about distances before, but it is so important and the information can be hard to find that I am going to talk about it again. First up are the USA Archery outdoor target distances. These are in meters, and the targets are multicolored. Next are the USA Archery field distances. Field tournaments are the ones I relate to golf, where you walk from one target to the next and each is at a different distance. There are 24 targets. For USA Archery, the field tournaments are two day tournaments. These targets are black with a yellow center. As archers come up to the target, they will shoot as they would an indoor target, A/B line and C/D line. A is top left. B is top right. C is bottom left. D is bottom right. This will alternate as they move from target to target. At the national level, the first day is unknown. What does this mean? Well, the distances are unknown and range finders are not allowed. The distances are shorter on the first day. The second day is known, meaning the distances are known. At the state level, here in Texas, it is shot the same way. The difference is, there are markers that can be flipped over to see the distance at each target. This allows those planning to shoot nationals the ability to practice shooting unknown distances. The distance you shoot at is determined by your age and bow type. The distances are marked by colored pegs. You will shoot at that color peg for the entire tournament. In USA Archery field tournaments, your foot must touch the peg or what would be the line extending from the sides of the peg. You are allowed to shoot up to 1 meter either side of the peg. This allows you to find a spot that may be a little better for your footing or view of the target. For indoor tournaments, everyone shoots at 18 Meters unless they offer the Yeoman division which will shoot at 9 Meters.

In NFAA, archers change age divisions on their actual birthday. Some archers choose to change divisions before their birthday because of when their birthday falls. If their birthday causes them to change age division in the middle of the qualifying time for a state tournament, they go ahead and “age up” to the next age division so their qualifying scores will count. Unlike USA Archery, if you shoot up an age division, you will not be allowed to come back to your actual age division. Please make sure that if you shoot up a division, you have a purpose for doing so and understand that switch is permanent.

For NFAA indoor tournaments, Cubs shoot at 10 Yards. Everyone else shoots at 20 Yards. The targets for these tournaments are dark blue and white. There is an option to shoot a single spot target, or a 5 spot target. If you choose the 5 spot, you can shoot the 5 different spots in any order, or even more than one in each spot as long as you shoot only 5 arrows. A perfect score for NFAA indoor targets in 300 with an X count of 60. When shooting NFAA tournaments, shooting lines are called Bottom Line and Top Line. Bottom Line shoots first. This is because if arrows were shot in the top target first, shadows could be seen when an archer shoots the bottom target. Half way through the tournament, archers will flip their shooting position. If they were shooting Bottom Line, they will now shoot Top Line.

By now, you may have heard of the Vegas Shoot. This tournament uses a multicolor single spot target or the Vegas 3 Spot. This 3 spot is in a triangular shape. Everyone shoots at 20 Yards.

NFAA Age Divisions

An archer will change age divisions on their birthday.

Cub (Under 12)

Youth (12-14)

Young Adult (15-17)

Adult (18-49)

Senior (50-59)

Silver Senior (60-69)

Master Senior (70+)


For NFAA/TFAA Outdoor Target tournaments, archers will use the A/B, B/A system similar to what USA Archery does. They will alternate who shoots first. This allows archers to have equal amounts of time shooting at a target without arrows in it.

When it comes to NFAA field tournaments, your feet will straddle the invisible line that would extend both sides of the peg, the distances are known and in yards. There are fans. No, these are not fans to cool you off. There are four pegs at one distance. Each archer will start on one of the pegs and shoot one arrow. Then they will move to the next peg and shoot another arrow. This process will continue until each archer in the group has shot one arrow while at each of the pegs. There are walk ups as well. There are four pegs, each at a different distance but at one target. Each archer will shoot one arrow while at one peg then continue by walking up to the next peg and doing the same until they have completed this process at each of the four pegs. For NFAA field tournaments, the targets are black and white. There are two different types of targets, Field and Hunter. Normally, Field targets are targets 1-14 and have a black center with a set of white rings then a set of black rings. The distances on this half are in increments of 5. The Hunter targets are normally targets 15-28. These have a white center with black rings. The distances on this half are not in increments of 5. They will be 11, 19, 41, etc. These distances make it more interesting and more like hunting. There are some ending in 5 or 0. If an archer shoots top left on targets 1-14, they will flip starting on target 15, and shoot bottom right. If an archers starts on target 15-28, they will flip their target position when they get to target 1.

NFAA/TFAA Field Distances

4 arrows per target with 28 targets

Should shoot in groups of 4, no less than 3, no more than 6

Known/marked distances

Archers will straddle the imaginary line going side to side of the distance stake.

In closing...

There definitely differences between USA Archery and NFAA/TFAA. Make sure you know your age division for each. This is a must when registering for tournaments. Not doing so could be a costly mistake. Practice the distance, or distances, you need. Or, you could practice a longer distance than what you need! Make sure you set your sights and shoot straight!

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