It’s that time of year when many outdoorsmen hang up their equipment and start dreaming of next hunting season. However, 3D archery season is closer than you think, and it is a great way to increase your confidence on your hunts. I’ve attended 3D events for the past four years, and I look forward to it every summer. It has helped me practice realistic western-based hunting situations and learn to relax when shooting 60+ yards. I will admit that I’ve had more experience attending the Total Archery Challenge (TAC) events that are scattered across the country, but as the company has grown, I’ve branched out and attended a new event called Mountain Archery Festival (MAF). I think they’re both valuable, but they have completely different vibes, so let’s dive in to each event so you can plan a fun-filled weekend with friends and family!
These events are held at ski resorts and event centers across the country where you’ll be taken up the mountain (or rolling hills in the South) by ski lift, bus, side-by- side, or a combination of all three. These events do not require attendees to keep score, but you may request a score card upon arrival. It’s only fair to begin by saying that TAC has been around for many years and is well-established, while MAF is new to the scene and going into their third year. Both companies were impacted by COVID-19 in 2020 due to the restrictions from state to state, but they managed to put on successful events anyway. Please refer to each event’s website, newsletter, and social platforms to stay up to date as we move forward.
MAF is a very laid-back setting. You can move at your own pace, and it’s not crowded. It’s a very family-friendly environment. With it being new, attendance is lower, and therefore, you have a lot more “space.” I’d like to mention again that attendance was heavily impacted by the eventful year we’re all desperately hoping to forget – 2020. I felt like I had more privacy on the courses and could take my time, and it was more peaceful. However, as it grows, it could become more like TAC in some ways.
I’d describe TAC as a very high- energy event. It’s not unusual to have loud speakers throughout the vendor area and even on the courses due to some groups carrying a portable speaker. You’ll see a lot of cameras along the courses – vloggers, bloggers, influencers, etc. creating content for their channels. There are a lot of well- known individuals (both inside and outside of the industry) who attend the events, which creates hype around each location.
One of my favorite things about MAF is the Pope & Young course that has all 29 North American big game world record replicas. They do their best to reenact the distance, angle, and rack size of each animal. There’s also a very informative poster at each shot that tells you more about the species and who shot it. It’s an extremely creative way to help people learn as they go through the course. MAF will have five courses at each location with a diverse selection for beginner to advanced.
TAC is a mixed bag of realistic and unrealistic shots. I was extremely intimidated the first time I attended the event because it’s common to shoot 80, 90, 100+ yards on the courses. On one hand, it’s really cool that you have the opportunity to let them fly like that, but on the other hand, I’d plan to lose some arrows. Of course, you can always move up closer at these events. TAC usually has four or five courses to choose from that cater to all levels, if you’re able to get in, which brings me to my next point.
MAF is new, so it’s easy to get signed up for the event. You’re not rushing to beat hundreds of other people to the best times or worried whether you’ll be able to shoot your favorite course. They have nock times in the morning that you’ll choose from at the time of registration.
TAC is on the other end of the spectrum due to the demand, but it’s a very similar registration experience. Prior attendees get first dibs at sign-up, and most events sell out within days, if not hours. When you sign up, you must choose a nock time. Make sure you have a plan before registration opens, especially if you’re trying to shoot with a specific group of people. The demand is so high that it can be frustrating trying to get your spot, but it’s so worth it if you can. These events are a lot of fun!
Feeling lucky? Both MAF and TAC have opportunities to win prizes, big and small. This past year, MAF gave away a side-by-side, while TAC gave away a truck. I’ve seen booths put on small competitions, like shooting a cutout on a steel target or the Bow for Giants at MAF. Both events typically have some sort of physical challenge that involves shooting your bow at a high heartrate to reenact an adrenaline pumping situation in the field. Vendors also have giveaways to help with foot traffic and engagement if you take the time to walk through.
There are always other events surrounding these archery shoots. TAC typically has a 5K run put on by MtnOps and a morning weighted hike, while MAF will have Pint Night and a Wild Game three-course dinner put on by Pope & Young. Both events also like to include a film night at specific locations.
The length of each event varies, depending on the location. They will all be three or four days long; however, you can get daily passes at both events if you cannot shoot the entire weekend.
For more information, visit www.mountainarcheryfest.com and www.totalarcherychallenge.com.
Eagle Point Beaver, UT June 25-27
Purgatory Resort Durango, CO June 11-13
Hopeful to add more locations
San Antonio, TX April 23-25
Southeast Dates coming soon
Killington/Pico, VT Dates coming soon
7 Springs, PA June 3-6
Boyne Mountain, MI June 11-13
Terry Peak, SD June 25-27
Sunlight Mountain Resort, CO July 9-11
Big Sky, MT Dates coming soon
Park City, UT Dates coming soon
It’s important to have these items at any of these events!
SUNSCREEN: Due to higher elevation, hotter Southern climates, and little shade throughout some courses, you’ll need this.
WATER BOTTLE OR BLADDER: Do not walk the course without water, especially if you’re not acclimated to the higher elevations.
COMFORTABLE HIKING SHOES: Wearing tennis shoes was the #1 mistake I made at my first mountain event.
HAT: If you get caught trying to shoot with the sun at the wrong angle, you’ll wish you had it!
SNACKS: Some courses can take 4+ hours.
EXTRA ARROWS: There’s an average of 25 targets/course. I take 8-12 arrows for an entire weekend to account for anything, such as someone else hitting your arrow or completely missing the target and the arrow landing in a body of water to a fletching not being glued on well enough.
PROPER LAYERS: There are extreme temperature and weather variations, particularly at the mountain shoots. Be sure to layer well and bring raingear. I’ve been stuck on the mountain in several afternoon showers.
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