Story: Archery, fencing, shooting and military re-enactment

Page 1. Archery

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Archery – using a bow and arrow to fire at various kinds of target – has been used in battle, for hunting and for sport. In 2013 there were four different forms of archery practised in New Zealand.

  • Target archery involves shooting at a target on a ground laid out for this purpose. It is an Olympic sport.
  • Indoor archery is target archery done under cover.
  • Field archers move through an outdoor course shooting a limited number of arrows from different distances at a variety of objects. Field archery was sometimes used as a training exercise for bowhunting, which a small number of people continued to practise.
  • Clout shooting uses a post or flag marker and a long range (up to 185 metres, depending on equipment, age and gender). A target is laid out around the marker, and points are scored according to where an arrow falls upon it. Accounts of the origins of clout shooting vary – it may have been used to deliver fire behind defensive lines during battle.

Going postal

In a ‘postal shoot’, competitors are distributed across the country or internationally. Their results are posted to the adjudicator, who then announces the winner. Archery and shooting both use postal shoots.

Two national associations, Archery New Zealand and the Field Archery Association, represent 36 and nine clubs respectively. A 2007–8 survey found that less than 1% of New Zealanders had practised archery in the previous year.


Neroli Fairhall raised the profile of archery when she won a gold medal at the 1982 Commonwealth Games and went on to compete at the 1984 Olympics. Fairhall, who was the first paraplegic athlete to ever compete in the Olympics, also took part in the Paralympic Games in 1980 (where she won a gold medal and set world, Paralympic and New Zealand records), 1988 and 2000.


In 1957 Jim Burton featured in Ripley’s believe it or not! after scoring 238 bullseyes with 238 shots. Burton was exceptional. After taking up archery during the Second World War, when a scarcity of ammunition limited rifle shooting, he won 11 international archery titles and 30 New Zealand titles, becoming known as the world’s greatest short-range archer.

At the 2011 World Bowhunter Tournament, 12 of New Zealand’s 21-strong team came home with medals. In 2012 New Zealanders won three gold medals and one silver medal at the World Field Archery Championship in Argentina.

Early New Zealand archery

The first archery clubs were formed in the 1870s, with the New Zealand Archery Association set up in 1943. The first national championships were held the following year, and have been run annually since then. The championships have been both tournament and postal shoots. Bowhunting was formally organised in 1945, when the Auckland Archery Club set up a field section. The New Zealand Bowhunters Society was set up in 1955.

  1. Quoted in Wallie Ingram, Legends in their lifetime. Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1962, p. 28. Back
How to cite this page:

Megan Cook, 'Archery, fencing, shooting and military re-enactment - Archery', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 May 2022)

Story by Megan Cook, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Jan 2015