Clout shooting is said to have started by bowmen carrying their longbows to Church on Sundays. After the service they were obliged by law to practise at the butts usually in a field in close proximity to the Church.
In order to amuse themselves on their way to Church, they would choose random targets to shoot at during the walk into the town or village. A bush, a clump of grass, a stick etc.
This was known as roving clout and should not be confused with today’s so-called field shooting, which is essentially shooting in woods at different targets and with a variety of bow types. Because of its length the longbow is essentially a field weapon and therefore its type of shooting remains distinct.
The word clout originated from the Viking word “clud”, or piece of cloth.
Originally the target was therefore represented by a stick in the ground with a piece of white cloth over it. Today the stick has become a round target face of 30 inches (76cm) diameter, the face of which is white with a 4 inch (10cm) black spot at the centre. The target is placed on the ground at an angle of 45 degrees. Chalk circles are drawn on the ground at intervals of 18 and 36 inches (46 and 92cm). The scoring is 6 for the clout, 5 for the first ground circle, then 4, 3, 2, 1, for succeeding circles going outwards from the clout itself.
The distances used are 9 score, or 180 yards (165m) for men;
7 score, or 140 yards (128m) for women;
7 down to 4 scores, 140 to 60 yards (128 to 50m) for juniors.
Clout shooting is usually two-way with the clouts or “spots” at opposite end of the field. At some shoots the archers will retrieve their arrows and then shoot back to the opposite clout. At other shoots there are two groups of archers, where while one group shoots the other stands aside.
Safety should be particularly rigorous where two groups are shooting. Often the group standing aside while the opposite group shoots, does not keep sufficient distance. Fifty yards (46m) aside from the clout is the strict minimum.
The difference between clout shooting and distance target shooting is in the angle with which the arrows hit the target. The two-way clout shot is a partially plunging shot that will hit the “spot” at a high angle. It dates from the practise of discomfiting the adversary even when sheltered behind a wall or fortification. Distance target shooting has a flatter trajectory.