The New Jersey State Field Archery Association is dedicated to:

Foster, expand, and perpetuate the practice of Field Archery in the State of New Jersey. Encourage the use of the bow in hunting of all legal game birds and animals, to protect, improve, and increase the privileges of bow and arrow hunters. Cooperate with target archery associations, national , state, and local, in the fostering and perpetuating the use of the bow in accordance with its ancient and honorable traditions.

This is what the sport is all about:

Field Archery, New Jersey’s Best Kept Secret

By Gene Grodzki of the Black Knight Bowbenders

Close your eyes and picture a person holding a bow and arrow.

A lot of very different images might come to mind. Robin Hood is an obvious choice but how about an American Indian, an Eskimo or a Pygmy Bushman? Perhaps you see a Caveman or an African tribesman? Who can forget the archers in movies like The Hunger Games, Brave Heart, the Avengers, Avatar, Lord of the Rings or even the cute Disney movie Brave? Major stars like Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner have played Robin Hood on the big screen. Imagine medieval archers firing arrows from high on top of an English castle at the attacking army. Why do you think Knights wore suits of armor and carried great shields? Battles were fought while the sky rained arrows. History books are full of images of men and women with bows and arrows, from Egyptian Kings to Japanese Samurai. Until the recent development of modern firearms the bow and arrow was the weapon of choice for some 50,000 years, in almost every corner of the world. The development of the bow is, in fact, ranked by many historians at the same level of achievement as that of fire and speech.

Some of us might have pictured a modern day bowhunter, dressed in camouflage, patiently waiting in a tree stand for a big buck to wander within range. A few might see our US Olympic Archery team holding their gold medals.

To the uninformed, archery might seem to have a firm foothold in the history books but no place in a modern digital world. To others, including thousands of New Jersey archers, there is an unexplained fascination with shooting an arrow cleanly and silently at its mark. Perhaps this fascination comes from the undeniable fact that our ancestors shot bows and arrows to hunt for food, defend their homes and fight in some of histories bloodiest battles.

What could possibly be appealing about shooting a bow and arrow? Let me briefly compare Archery to Golf. What attracts a golfer to something as seemingly trivial as hitting a little ball with a stick? Simple! There is truth in a perfect swing. Golfers are looking to repeat the elusive, electric feeling they get when the rare, perfectly executed swing connects, oh so sweetly, with the ball, sending it rocketing toward the green. They know instantly when it is a perfect swing and a great shot. This sensation is difficult to explain but if you have felt it, you know exactly what I am talking about.

An archer gets the same electric feeling in the split second a perfect arrow leaves his bow. A perfect feeling shot can be rare for a novice. When it happens, for a magical moment the mind, body and equipment are all in harmony and the result is the perfect shot. The arrow slams into the bull’s-eye. This was not a lucky shot. For a moment everything makes sense, and the memory of all the terrible shots is gone.

Here in New Jersey, one of the best ways to learn about archery is to try out a fun game called Field Archery. Field Archery is in every way as addictive as golf or fishing. If you don’t believe me ask my wife.

The layout of a Field Archery range is, in many ways, similar to a golf course. Targets are set up at known distances along marked trails through the fields and woods. Type and size of targets will vary depending on the distance and the game. As with golf, groups of shooters, usually two to four, simply follow the trail markers from target to target, shooting and keeping score. Youngsters and newcomers will shoot from closer stakes and competitive shooters will shoot at longer distances. Usually each archer will shoot four arrows at each of 14 or 28 targets to complete a game. The distances can range from as close as 20 feet to as far away as 80 yards. If you are shooting a very short distance, the targets are small. Longer targets, like on the 60, 70 or 80 yards distances, are quite large. Every distance can be a challenge, even 20 feet.

There are separate divisions for men, women and youth. Age categories further divide the groups, so that a six-year-old is not competing with a twelve-year-old, and a senior citizen is not competing against someone half his or her age. Choice of equipment could also put you into a separate style of shooting. For example, you will see some folks shooting hi-tech, super fast compound bows with intricate sighting systems and mechanical releases, while others shoot medieval looking, traditional longbows using their fingers to draw and release the arrow. The most popular styles are Freestyle where most anything goes in the choice of equipment, and Bowhunter style which is a setup similar to what a hunter might use. Some of the elite shooters have very exotic equipment that helps give them the incredible scores they shoot. The scores shot with an exotic freestyle setup will be much higher than those shot with a traditional longbow.

Traditional archery has become very popular in recent years. The “Traditional Archers of New Jersey” aka TANJ http://www.tradnj.com/ shoot only Longbows and Recurve bows and are dedicated to shooting “as it was done” for thousands of years before invention of the compound bow. It is great fun to shoot simple, uncomplicated equipment. Groups of traditional archers seem to spend more time laughing and having fun than shooting. Maybe that’s why Robin Hood’s men were “Merry”.

As with golf courses, different Archery Field Ranges can be more challenging. Some ranges have a fair number of up or down hill shots. Picture shooting down a very steep hill, thru the trees, at a small target 65 yards away….. and drilling the middle. What could be more exciting than that? New Jersey happens to have some great elite shooters who can drill the bull’s-eye regularly at these distances. For the novice, there is a thrill is getting all four arrows grouped anywhere in the target. Remember, “You don’t have to be Tiger Woods to enjoy Golf” and even for a novice a good shot always feels great.

Another popular game is 3-D Archery. Lifelike, full-sized, animal targets resembling deer, elk, bear, raccoon and so forth, are placed at unknown distances throughout the woods. The animal targets have concentric scoring circles that are not visible at a distance. The archer must judge the distance and shoot without a clear spot to aim at. This closely simulates a real hunting situation. For shooters who prefer not to hunt, this is a great way to enjoy a bloodless game, and for hunters it is serious practice for harvesting game in the fall.

New Jersey is the home of about six archery clubs who are affiliated with both the National and the New Jersey State Field Archery Association. Many of the clubs boast beautifully maintained and extremely safe outdoor ranges and hold weekly sanctioned tournaments. There are annual Indoor, Outdoor and both marked & unmarked 3-D State Championships with awards for all classes and styles. Some clubs have great indoor ranges where they practice year round. Membership is generally inexpensive and visitors are welcome to stop in and ask questions. Some of the shoots are open, which means you do not have to be a member of any organization to participate. Membership in the New Jersey State Field Archery Association is only $ 10.00 per year and allows you to compete in all New Jersey sanctioned tournaments. Membership in the NFAA is $45. There are around sixty tournaments on our typical New Jersey schedule.

Here are some guidelines for getting started in archery. If you don’t know an archer give a call to one of the clubs listed below for some basic information and places to shoot in your section of New Jersey. Ask about the laws in your town, as it may be illegal or unsafe to shoot in your backyard. When getting started in any sport, get good solid advice. Learn Safety first! Don’t buy your first bow at a garage sale or from a buddy with a bargain bow that might not fit you. Steer clear of big chain stores or mail order catalogs where there is no one qualified to answer your questions. A bow must fit the archer, and the arrows must match the bow to shoot well.

Go to a store that specializes in archery. Be sure the person behind the counter is an experienced bow mechanic who will fit the bow to you and set it up for you. If you have a bow, or someone gives you one, have a professional set it up. A compound bow that is the proper draw length and weight, for you, will feel natural and shoot well. The most common mistake is buying a bow that does not fit your draw length and is too powerful to pull back comfortably. Start out with an inexpensive, but properly set up bow, with properly matched arrows and you will be amazed at how quickly you will progress. The total cost for a complete archery set up can be as little as three to four hundred dollars for a quality set up. Remember that unlike other shooting sports you reuse your ammunition so the cost is very reasonable.

It is best to learn the basics of shooting from an experienced archer. To find one, think about contacting or even joining one of the great Archery clubs in New Jersey. Find out who the better shooters are and ask for some guidance. You will never find a more helpful group of sportsmen than Archers.

If you stick with the sport you will eventually start building your own arrows and working on your own equipment. Having shot for most of my life, I have never gotten tired of tinkering in hopes of finding that perfect setup. Like a fly fisherman who ties his own flies, an archer can get great satisfaction from building his own arrows and working on his gear.

If you think about it, many sports are just excuses for us to spend time in the beautiful outdoors. We don’t backpack for the exercise. We don’t fish because we’re hungry. We don’t canoe because we need to get somewhere. Following the quiet wooded trails of a field archery course with your bow in hand is the perfect escape from noise, asphalt and concrete.

We live in a world of the Internet, Smart Phones, Blackberry’s, E-mail and Fax machines. Our kids seem to think that Video games are exercise and sporting goods stores are fashion boutiques. If you want to challenge yourself with a sport that is as personally rewarding and modern, as it is steeped in history, pick up a bow and arrow. Come on out and see what the fun is all about.