Top 3-D Shoots to Challenge Your Bowhunting Accuracy

Is your accuracy ready for fall? Attend one of these bowhunting-realistic 3-D shoots and find out.

Top 3-D Shoots to Challenge Your Bowhunting Accuracy

You can 10- and 12-ring your backyard target from 20 yards all you want, but attending a 3-D shoot like BowFest will present you with more difficult shot challenges that resemble those you’ll face in a hunting scenario. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Weller Larson)

The buck was bedded broadside at 89 yards. With a decent window of opportunity, I drew my bow, went into a zone and executed the shot perfectly. On impact, the buck didn’t flinch. That’s because he was a lifeless foam buck placed on a mountainside above Big Sky, Montana. Countless other archers in attendance at the Total Archery Challenge (TAC) faced that challenging shot scenario and many others.

I pinwheeled that Rinehart buck’s center 12-ring. I made mostly great shots at TAC, but I’ll admit to a few less-than-perfect hits on some of the course’s other shooting challenges. In no way did I leave Big Sky thinking I could make an 89-yard shot while bowhunting. But, I left invigorated and with a new love for bowhunting practice, not to mention a short list of things I needed to address prior to bowhunting season. I worked on them, and that gave me the confidence to take game that fall, including a 6x6 bull elk and a dandy mule deer.

One of the best ways to make sure you’re sharp for fall is to first practice as often as possible, and then put all of that practice to the test in a true bowhunting-realistic environment. All three of the following 3-D shoots foster courses that will challenge your bowhunting proficiency and help you determine whether or not you’re ready for bowhunting season.

A 3-D shoot like the Total Archery Challenge is about as close to real bowhunting as you can get. (Photo by Becca McDougal)
A 3-D shoot like the Total Archery Challenge is about as close to real bowhunting as you can get. (Photo by Becca McDougal)

Total Archery Challenge (TAC)

I’ve been to numerous local 3-D shoots. They’re fun but present nowhere near the same challenges you’ll face at a 3-day TAC event. In Big Sky, Montana, I wore an elk-hunting pack and hiking boots. I’m glad I did, as the course brought my group and me through the mountains — lots of hiking between targets. It reminded me of chasing elk in Idaho or Colorado.

Besides the physical aspect, expect a gamut of shooting challenges at various ranges and with obstructions. Some targets are positioned to have the consequence of a lost or broken arrow if you miss, and that pressure, plus the pressure of peers watching you shoot, is somewhat like the pressure you’ll feel when a buck or bull is entering your shooting lane. I don’t recall a single target on the mountain that didn’t have a pile of broken arrows laying behind it. Take that for what it’s worth.

The event hits 10 different locations between spring and late July. There are 100-plus 3-D targets, and there are multiple different courses to accommodate varying skill levels. There are raffles and also novelty shots with the possibility of prizes. There’s even a chance to win a truck. Visit vendors showcasing their products, and hit the After Party events in the evenings.

As I mentioned earlier, this event rekindled my passion for bowhunting practice, which had grown somewhat stale and repetitive. The courses I shot brought me into realistic bowhunting environments and caused me to focus harder than ever. Those points make a TAC event a must-go for the serious bowhunter.

Click here to check the Total Archery Challenge (TAC) schedule for upcoming events and locations.



BowFest is an annual archery and music festival that will go down at the Mont Du Lac Resort in Superior, Wisconsin, on July 24-31 during summer 2023. There are six different courses totaling 100-plus targets. Plenty of this event’s challenges will test your archery accuracy. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy live music by nationally known artists and meet hunting celebrities, such as Melissa Bachman. 

“I always love going to BowFest each year because it forces me to keep shooting all summer and ensure my gear is ready for bowhunting season,” Bachman said. “These types of shoots are super-realistic — shot distances vary and the terrain is similar to hunts. And, it’s a good way to meet new people in the archery community. Every year we have a blast shooting, but it’s even more fun meeting new friends and catching up with old ones.

“BowFest is an incentive to keep shooting and not just pick your bow up right before the season and scramble to get things ready. Plus the music, vendors, activities and food at BowFest make it not only a fun shooting weekend, but really an awesome experience for the entire family.” 

Besides excellent bowhunting practice and mingling with a broad mix of characters, you can muse at a world-class shed-antler display. Lodging, camping and dining options are available onsite, and there are more than 100 vendors. If you haven’t, visit the BowFest website and check out the VIP and weekend passes to see if you can get in on this awesome shoot.

Besides difficult shots, the pressure of having others watch you shoot is why the R100 makes great bowhunting practice.
Besides difficult shots, the pressure of having others watch you shoot is why the R100 makes great bowhunting practice.

R100 National Archery Tour

My first big outdoor 3-D shoot was the Rinehart R100. That was back in my teens, and about 18 years later, the event is going stronger than ever. The R100’s 2023 National Archery Tour kicked off the first of its 16 events in March down in Georgia and will conclude September 10 in Franklin, Pennsylvania.

All R100 events share the same format. There is a 50-target Safari Range and a 50-target North American Range. There are seven classes that archers can sign up for based on age, equipment and skill level. In addition to the two large courses, there is a Youth Zone for kids to shoot, and also Specialty Shoots that entail a prize from event sponsors for the highest scores. R100 events provide plenty of challenges, and the atmosphere that Rinehart fosters is family friendly. Test your bowhunting accuracy while having great fun with your family and friends.


Be a Deadlier Bowhunter

There are many reasons to attend a big archery shoot such as those outlined above, but your main reason should be to test your bowhunting accuracy and find the kinks so you can work them out. As I said earlier, I left my first TAC shoot with a short list of things to address.

After the event, consider: Did you hit every single target, or did you miss some? Did you make poor or marginal shots, or did you make all kill shots? If you didn’t absolutely crush every shot, then you should mentally note mistakes made or equipment mishaps and then address them before bowhunting season.

Your goal before every hunting season should be to increase your deadliness. We’re not machines. We’re not superhuman. We make mistakes. But, many poor bowhunting shots can be avoided by taking practice to the next level and identifying problems so they can be fixed before involving an animal. I know of no better way than to attend one, two or all three of the events noted herein.

Sidebar: Room for a Backyard Range?

Not all folks are able to travel to the events outlined here. If that’s you, don’t discount the importance of attending local or regional 3-D shoots and tournaments closer to home. If that’s also a scant possibility, consider creating your own backyard course. If you don’t have enough land, perhaps you know someone who does. Maybe they’d even split the target costs with you.

It’s a lot of fun to shoot novelty targets, but for a backyard range, I see no point in buying anything other than the type of animals you’ll be hunting (unless money’s not an issue). If you hunt whitetails only, I’d get three to six different deer targets and set them at various ranges. If you hunt deer, elk and pronghorn, then I’d get one each of those to get your backyard range started. Elk are pricy, and if you can’t afford one, consider the Rinehart 1/3 Scale Elk or a GlenDel Half Scale Elk at fractions of the price of a life-sized elk target.

Once you acquire some 3-D targets, position them for challenging shots, and change the layout once or twice weekly so you’re alternating between different yardages and obstructions. You never know what shooting challenges bowhunting will present, so it pays to replicate as many as possible while you’re practicing so that you’re ready for practically anything.

Of course, be sure to check whether it’s legal to shoot a bow in your backyard, and safety must be priority No. 1.


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