Archery -- the use of a stringed bow to propel arrows toward a target -- is one of the oldest arts of ancient times that is still practiced today.
While archery is thought to date back to the Stone Age, the earliest people known to have used actual bows and arrows for were the ancient Egyptians about 5,000 years ago. At the time, these tools were used for hunting and warfare.
Archery historically has been essential for protection and hunting, and it more recently has been viewed as a fun and challenging sport, becoming an official event in the Olympic Games in 1900.
Archery, in its many forms, continues to grow in popularity. In 2015, there were about 23 million adult archery participants in the United States, compared to 18.9 million in 2012.
Types of Archery
Archery offers a variety of experiences you can enjoy. The many forms of archery include:
- Target archery consists of shooting at stationary bullseye targets indoors or outdoors. It is the most popular form of archery and is best for beginners.
- Field archery involves shooting at a stationary target but they are outside a long a course through the woods. It allows shooters to experience shooting different distances and the challenge of uphill and downhill shots.
- 3-D archery involves shooting at 3-dimensional foam animal targets that are set at different distances throughout the woods. Shorter distances can be set for beginners and longer, more challenging shots for experienced archers.
- Traditional archery strips all modern accessories, allowing archers to connect with their bow and arrows. Traditional shooting could include shooting at targets, stumps, or even bowhunting.
- Bowhunting is the practice of hunting game animals by archery.
You can learn about basic skills through online tutorials, or get hands-on education at our state parks and forests.
Archery Education Opportunities in PA State Parks and Forests
Many Pennsylvania state parks provide opportunities for individuals and families to learn about archery, get started with the sport, or improve skills. Bowhunting is allowed in Pennsylvania state forests according to state Game Commission seasons and regulations.
Visit the DCNR and Get Outdoors PA calendars of events to find a variety of archery programs near you.
Specifically, through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 20 state parks and two regional park offices currently have Explore Archery program kits that are used to help expand interest in the sport and build basic skills.
These kits contain the necessary lesson plans and equipment required to teach archery safety and technique for sport and hunting.
The state parks that currently offer these resources are:
- Bald Eagle
- Black Moshannon
- Cook Forest
- Cowans Gap
- Delaware Canal
- Frances Slocum
- Hills Creek
- Kings Gap
- Nolde Forest
- Parker Dam
- Presque Isle
- Promised Land
- Raccoon Creek
- R.B. Winter
- Worlds End
To learn about initial successes of the archery kits in state parks, see DCNR’s 2015 summary.
With questions about the Explore Archery program offered in state parks, contact DCNR or the specific park you plan to visit.
No matter the type of archery you’re interested in or where you plan to do it, there are physical and mental health benefits. These include:
- Increasing your focus and build your ability to cope with high-pressure situations
- Strengthening your arms, core, hands, chest, and shoulder
- Enjoying cardiovascular exercise when walking
- Building coordination
- Gaining confidence and building self-esteem
Before heading out to participate in archery, specifically bowhunting, be sure to review any laws and regulations and safety information.
There are approximately 4,300 archery-related injuries that require emergency room care annually in the United States. Stay safe while shooting with these simple steps:
- Choose the right gear for you. Contact your local archery store for help and do research online to learn about essential equipment for beginners.
- Inspect your bow and arrow. Check all components of your bow and arrow for any signs of damage including cracks, chips, fraying, warping, and any other wear and tear that could compromise the integrity of the equipment.
- Wear proper archery attire. Do not wear anything that could get tangled in the bow, such as scarves, hoods, jewelry, or anything excessively loose.
- Fire your bow safely. All archers should load, aim, shoot, and retrieve arrows at the same time as one another. This will ensure that no one is shooting while someone is on the range retrieving arrows.
- Retrieve arrows at the appropriate time. All archers should wait to retrieve arrows until they are signaled to do so. Archers should not take their bows on the range with them; they should safely set them down once they are done shooting. Make sure all archers have returned to the line and that the range is clear before signaling that it is okay to shoot again.
Remember that it is important to become comfortable with the bow and arrow before worrying about the precision of the shot.
Always listen for the audible click as you snap the arrow onto the bowstring, let the bow rest in the web of your hand, and always keep the bowstring resting in the same spot to ensure accurate shooting each time.
Once you learn the basics, the sky’s the limit. Challenge yourself and build your archery skills in the Pennsylvania outdoors!