Archery is a thrilling sport where we shoot arrows at targets with precision and skill. It’s the real-life version of your favorite aiming video game. But, just like any cool activity, there’s something really important to remember: safety!
When my family and I embarked on our archery journey, it was an amazing journey filled with thrills and lots of excitement. However, ensuring everyone’s safety became my top priority. I delved into the world of archery safety with the determination to make my family archery experience both an enjoyable and accident-free one.
Here’s our story and the safety measures we took to get accident-free archery practice regularly.
Starting with the basics, archery safety involves a few key practices that always need to be in our minds: checking equipment, following bow safety rules, and handling arrows safely. All of this, of course, while abiding by local laws and range rules if you use one. The ultimate goal is to make every archery practice as safe as possible.
As we ventured deeper into the world of archery, we learned to craft our own set of safety rules, especially since children are involved. Below is a walk through on the steps to ensure archery safety while making sure everyone enjoys the practice.
Archery Safety Rules
The excitement was evident on our first day with the bows. We gathered around, evaluating our gear like treasure hunters inspecting valuable relics, before relishing thrills of shooting arrows. Every bowstring and arrow were carefully examined. It was our safety routine, ensuring that our muscles were protected by the proper equipment.
Here’s a quick archery safety rules sheet to get you started. I will go into more detail with each safety step below. This list might be a little long, you need to share it with every member of your household crew or group who will be participating in archery. This list also considers children and teens.
In my family, all these rules are been followed and we haven’t recorded any accidents so far, this is the 5th year of practicing archery for me and my family. Check out the PDF section I added above, so you can download and print out the rules. I’ll go into more detail on each rule, so you can understand better and also be able to explain to your teens and kids better.
As I said above, inspecting your archery Equipment, your archery gear, and making sure you put on proper clothing are a few of the basic rules, we’ll explain better later. For now, let’s discuss range rules and firing safety first
Arrows Must Only Be Pointed In Safe Directions
The safest direction for every archer is downrange. What is a downrange in archery?
It’s the direction you shoot arrows to, it’s the point where your targets are. And sometimes it’s a close environment where to shoot your targets.
The best habit to develop as an archer is to be aware of your downrange, and know where you should face at all times. Make sure your downrange is cleared before shooting, be sure that people are not downrange before shooting. The best thing to do if you spot someone downrange is to drop your bow on the table, till your downrange is free to shoot.
It Is Forbidden to Point Your Arrow at People
Under no circumstance should you ever point a bow at anyone, whether there’s an arrow in it or not.
This needs to become a habit and be ingrained into your subconscious mind, so either knowingly or unknowingly, you would never do it.
Never Nock An Arrow Until You Are Ready To Shoot
Similar to what I mentioned above, your arrow should never be nocked, if you’re not ready to shoot. Leaving an arrow nocked without shooting for a while or a long time is a very dangerous thing to do. It could put everyone around that particular range or backyard at risk or in danger. Being ‘Ready To Shoot’ simply means you are at the firing line, facing downrange, and you have been cleared to fire.
Keep Arrow Aimed To The Ground While You Nock It
Accidents are inevitable, however, aiming your arrow at the ground while you nock it will keep you and everyone around safe in case of an accident while nocking the arrows. This is a very important rule, especially if you have kids or children around.
Children are bound to make mistakes 90% of the time when trying to nock their arrows. They tend to get excited and pull back on the arrow as they nock it. If they don’t have a good hold on the arrow, they can also accidentally release the arrow while nocking it.
Be Aware Of What Is In Front Of And Behind Your Target
What do you think will happen if your arrow misses the target, or flies past your target? Do you know what is at the back of your target, is an enclose or is it possible to hit an unaware person just going about their life? Get into the habit of looking past your target and making sure there is nothing you are putting in danger.
If you have a good backstop, this will be less of an issue. But it is still a good habit to practice.
Also, you should never shoot if there’s anything in front of your target, it doesn’t have to be a human alone, build the habit of not shooting if there is something in between you and your target.
Only Shoot At A Target When There is A Safe Backstop
A backstop is the area behind your target that prevents your arrow from going to any random place if you miss the target. Usually this can be made from hay bales, a piece of plywood, or archery netting. The materials selected have the capacity to trap the arrows but must not be too hard that it destroys the arrow head.
Only Shoot Down At Targets
This is more of a preference rule because, in reality, you can shoot on level ground. You should not be shooting into the sky in any circumstances though. Why? Because this creates a dangerous situation for everyone around, apart from the fact that it’s hard to hit your target when shooting into the sky it’s generally not safe.
Only Fire When The Range Is Empty
We use a system where we have what’s called a range master. One of the adults will be the one to give commands like ‘approach the firing line’ or ‘clear to fire’ that way no one will be able to fire when someone is downrange setting up targets.
Never Draw Your Bow Until You Are Ready To Shoot
We already require that no one can nock an arrow until they are ready to shoot so this just reinforces the safety mindset. Being ‘Ready To Shoot’ typically means you are at the firing line, facing downrange, and you have been cleared to fire.
Never Fire an Empty Bow
The purpose of this rule is to keep kids from thinking the bow is a toy. Dry firing the bow means drawing and releasing the bow string without an arrow in it. Doing this can cause injury and possible damage to the bow.
If You Hear ‘Hold’ Stop Immediately
If anyone shout the words ‘stop’ or ‘hold’ during an archery practice or training, you should stop what you are doing immediately. If your bow has been drawn, you should undraw it, and if your arrow has been nocked, you should un-nock your arrow immediately. This is a very important rule, and it’s not meant to be joked with.
Make sure everyone in your family, group, range, or people you practice archery together take note of this too.
If the range master (or anyone on the firing line) notices a person or animal or any dangerous situation on the field they’ll most likely yell stop or hold. Also, when the archers are done shooting and want to go check their targets the range master will typically yell ‘hold’, so others can stop shooting while people are in the downrange.
Fire Only When The Command Has Been Declared
No one should ever be ready to fire unless they have been told to approach the firing line and have been cleared to fire. Sometimes, a range master will say ‘The range is hot’ instead of cleared to fire.
I know this might seem a bit much at first glance. But trust me it’s a good practice to make safety a number one priority. In my family we tend to repeat the phrase ‘safety first’ often, especially when kids are practicing with us, this is to remind them of the safety rules.
If someone shouted ‘stop’ or ‘hold,’ in a collective response, we all immediately stopped what we were doing, that’s how far my family has come in prioritizing safety.
Respect The Equipment Inspection Protocol
The equipment check that we did before going onto the firing line became a ritual at the center of our archery skills. We used it as a warm-up before the archery practice every time, to make sure our bows and arrows were prepared. As the before takeoff checklist is to a Captain, here’s our carefully curated quick checklist:
I noticed a tiny break on an arrow one beautiful afternoon as we were getting ready for archery practice. Sealing the fissure before it became a possible issue was a silent job. However, I just eradicated our risk of an accident that day. Here’s a quick hit list of what to check for before you start shooting:
Check arrows for cracks or splintering
Check arrow fletching for damage
Check arrow nock for cracks
Check bow limbs for cracks or damage
Check bow string for frays
Check the backstop for damage that could allow an arrow through
Check your eye protection for damage
Check your arm guard, gloves, or tabs for wear and damage
There is a lot of tension on the bow while you have it drawn back. If something were to break you could injure yourself or someone nearby. Besides, it’s usually cheaper to repair something minor before it gets worse and becomes a major problem.
Wear Proper Clothing And Safety Gear
The importance of proper clothing and safety gear in archery cannot be overemphasized. The tale of the forearm whack by the bowstring, a common archer’s bruise, made us believe in the need for a proper arm guard, a trusty sidekick protecting our forearms from the unexpected.
Safety glasses gave my kids that extra layer of protection for their eyes. While it’s not always necessary, I decided it was better to be safe than sorry. It’s my way of ensuring every archery practice starts and ends well without issues.
You can find my favorite Arm Guard on Amazon. For a durable arm guard with quick buckles for around 10 bucks, you can’t go wrong. If you have a hard time finding an arm guard that fits, or just want a custom arm guard, visit my How To Make Your Own Arm Guard article where I walk you through steps on how to make one. Put on your safe clothing before going to the range to practice. loose clothing can get caught in the bow string. Some of the clothing we don’t recommend include:
There have been instances where the bow string got caught in an archer’s hoodie or necklace, which results in injury. There are no medals won for being the most flamboyantly dressed. You need to be intentional about the clothes you wear to a shooting range.
Retrieve Arrows Safely
The excitement of hitting the target often gets to young archers, so much that they subconsciously dash towards their target for their victory arrows. Yet, the lesson was clear – safety first, even in the triumph of a well-aimed shot, safety should always come first.
One day, the youngest member of our archery team was so happy after hitting the bullseye and dashed towards the target. A yelled-out reminder from the range master about waiting behind the firing line until the range was cold was the safety net that day. It wasn’t just about retrieving arrows; it was about understanding when it was safe to celebrate the archery victory.
If you follow the safety rules from above then you wouldn’t have to worry about this. The problem is kids like to run out to their arrow after a shot, especially if they hit the target. It’s a good idea to always remind them to stay behind the firing line until the range is cold. The range master can let them know when it is safe to approach the target and retrieve their arrows.
Even if they drop something just over the firing line that they can easily reach, make them wait until the range is cold to get it. This helps them remember that beyond the firing line is dangerous and they cannot cross onto the range until you give instructions that they should
Understand Safe Bow Storage
After every archery practice, the question that comes to mind is– where do we keep the bow? Where does it rest until the next practice?
Safe bow storage became a Rule in our archery safety guide, emphasizing the importance of locking up our bows and arrows when they’re not in use.
A story circulated in my small town years ago, about a friend’s child who was very eager to showcase his archery skills to a friend of his. The bow was left unattended after the display, and this became a potential problem later when another kid almost lost a finger. This story further reaffirms the importance of safe storage, using hard locked cases, and placed out of reach of children.
Arrowheads are always sharp, and the right way to safely store them is in a locked container. The safety-first principle extended beyond the archery range, reminding us that protecting our equipment is as important as protecting ourselves. Archery is a thrilling sport, but do not forget, it’s safety first.
Remember that your archery adventures shouldn’t just be about hitting targets; they should consist of stories woven with threads of safety. Feel free to adopt our safety rituals, ensuring that your archery journey becomes a safe and thrilling adventure.