Many people around the world have a passion for archery but not all of us are fortunate enough to live on the edge of a hunting woodland or have easy access to an archery club. If you want to practice, why not try your hand in your own backyard?
The problem is that around the world, the laws for backyard archery vary greatly and in some places, there are restrictions that prevent you from being able to engage in your hobby on your own private land.
But this is purely because of safety reasons and the laws are in place to make sure that you and everyone around your property are kept safe and free from harm. So, even if you feel that your local laws are unfair, it is important to abide by them.
But the good news is that, with some restrictions, it is possible to create a backyard archery target and enjoy target practice right on your back doorstep.
In this article, we are going to be looking at how to set up an archery range in your backyard as well as giving you some important advice on safety and the law.
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Types Of Backyard Archery Targets
You might feel that setting up a shooting range in your backyard leaves you with limited options, but the opposite is, in fact, true. There are many different types of backyard archery targets that you can use depending on your space, what’s available to you, and of course, your personal preference.
If you practice bowhunting, 3D targets can make a great choice for your backyard. Even if you do not intend on honing your skills to get out into the hunting field, you may still wish to use this type of target for the fun factor it brings.
What is great about a 3D target is how long-lasting it can be. Unlike other types of target, there is the option to replace the core so you end up getting a lot more use out of your target than you would with say, a block target.
With such a huge range of 3D targets on the market, you can, funds permitting, set up a very realistic and exciting backyard range. You might invest in a few pieces and strategically place them around the garden to imitate conditions in the wild. Or if you just fancy having a bit of fun, there are some excellent novelty 3D targets like the lifesize Sasquatch!
One word about 3D targets; if you choose to use broadhead arrows, there is a chance that they could get lodged in the target and will break as you try to get them out. For this reason, it is best to save these for when you are out in the field.
A block target is an excellent option for beginners as there isn’t much that can go wrong. These classic garden targets are made from several layers of foam and are held up on a stand. They are extremely easy to set up and give you everything you need in one product.
One of the greatest things about these types of targets is that the foam used in modern products is ‘self-healing’ and this means that you won’t need to replace your target anywhere near as frequently as you would have had to have done with older block targets
The downside is that due to the nature of the foam, the block target is quite limiting in how it can be used. You cannot fire from all angles and must only shoot from the front. Otherwise, you risk damaging the foam.
A paper target is exactly what you would imagine it to be; a target made from paper. Now, of course, you cannot use this alone, it is not designed for use with an arrow. For this reason, you must always use a backdrop when using a paper target – we will talk in more depth about backdrops late in this article.
The good thing about the paper target is that it is extremely affordable. You can buy these ten to the dozen at archery shops, or you can print them out for free. Even if you do not have a printer, you can simply draw a target onto some paper and pop it onto your backdrop – it really is that simple.
However, you must consider how many of these targets you will get through. They are designed to be disposable and you will likely get through at least one in a session, potentially more. We would always advise recycling the paper when you are done.
A bag target is filled with synthetic material and is a durable target that is designed in such a way that makes it ideal for backyard shooting. The material inside the bag allows the archer to remove their arrows easily without causing damage to either the target or the projectile.
They are great because they are so easy to pick up and move to a new location but also because they have targets on all four sides, giving you a much more detailed practice.
But much like any other type of target, there is a downside. Bag targets don’t tend to be very waterproof so you will need to find somewhere to store them when they are not being used. Most bag targets aren’t huge and will fit in an outbuilding or storage cupboard.
Just because there are options on the market for your backyard archery target, that doesn’t mean you have to splash out on one. It is entirely possible to craft your own backyard archery target using things that you already have.
Not only does this save money, but it will also put things to good use that perhaps wouldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise.
If you have some spare hay bales lying around, these can make an excellent makeshift archery target, especially when used with a paper target.
Things To Consider When Setting Up Backyard Archery
Choosing which type of target you would like to use is one of the most important points, but this is, by no means, the only thing you need to think about.
There is much more to setting up your backyard archery target than throwing together a target and drawing your bow. Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of perfecting your aim, you should think about the following things.
Depending on where you live in the world, the laws on backyard archery may be vastly different. There are some places where the practice is permitted but with certain conditions in place. For example, in certain areas, you may not shoot your bow within a certain distance from a dwelling.
But the problem lies in the local laws because, in the USA, where there are more archers than any other country in the world, these laws can be drastically different from one place to the next. There are typically no federal or state laws that dictate that an archer must not shoot in his or her backyard.
However, there may be local laws that place restrictions on this, it is simply not worth incurring a penalty so we would always advise checking your local laws before setting up your range.
One of the things that should be near the top, if not right at the top, of your priority list is making sure that your home archery range is safe. An arrow, when shot, has the potential to seriously injure or even kill anything or anyone in its path. We cannot stress enough the importance of creating a safe environment so that you can enjoy your hobby.
If you have any neighbors, it is vital to ensure that your yard is secure and fenced in so that there is no risk of any neighborhood children or pets wandering into your yard without your knowledge.
That being said, if you have other people living at the property with you, especially children, it is crucial that you lay out ground rules for the archery range. These rules might include any or all of the following:
- There will be a shooting line, and no-one is to cross that line while bows are in hand.
- Pets will be secured on a leash or kept inside the house while shooting is taking place.
- Give a verbal signal to anyone in proximity when you are about to shoot your bow.
As well as coming up with some important safety rules for your backyard archery range, it is a wise idea to speak to your neighbors about your intentions. While there is potentially nothing that your neighbors can do legally about you shooting in your yard; provided you aren’t breaking any laws, they may be concerned about it.
Giving them a heads up that you intend to practice is the decent thing to do. Furthermore, if your neighbors do have any worries, you will be able to discuss these and put their minds at ease. Perhaps explaining the setup and how you intend to keep everyone, including them, safe, will be enough to sate their anxiety.
In terms of other people, you should also be mindful to never shoot in the direction of a public walkway or towards the road. There are many local laws that will state this.
It can be easy to assume that creating a backyard archery range is as easy as placing your target wherever there is space and getting on with it. But this is not the case, if you want the best shooting experience that will give you the most effective practice, then it is crucial that you measure out the area.
The first thing that you will need to do is to work out the distances from which you are going to shoot. Depending on the type of archery you prefer, these distances may vary.
If you play competitive archery, you will only need to look at the rules of your competition to determine the distances. However, for bowhunters, you may wish to go for a variety of distances; we will look at the importance of this a little later on.
Depending on the space you have, you may wish to make the most of all areas. Some archers will open a side gate and shoot from the front of the property, all the way through to the back end.
Backstops are essential for several reasons but primarily, they are there for safety and no backyard archery target would be complete without one.
While some seasoned archers may feel that they do not need a backstop, you can guarantee that a friend or family member will want to try their hand at backyard archery so it is vital that you have one in place.
The idea of this type of equipment is to stop any arrows that do not hit the target. Not only will the backstop prevent these rogue arrows from flying into the neighbor’s yard or hitting a passerby, but they will also stop you from losing your arrows.
Many people choose to use their regular garden fence as a backstop and while this would do the job effectively, it may serve as a way of damaging your arrows. Typically, something a lot softer is preferable.
Furthermore, when the arrows hit the wooden fence, this can be quite noisy and may be enough to irritate your neighbors to the point that they begin complaining. If you must use your fence as a backdrop, it can be a good idea to put something over it to prevent noise or damaged arrows. A rubber mat or old piece of carpet is a good choice.
Many people choose to use bales of hay stacked up on top of one another as their backstop. If you live in a farming area, these may be very easy to come across and will not damage your arrows as a wooden fence would.
Alternatively, you might choose to invest in a flexible backdrop that can be hung in the backyard. These are usually made from a flexible material that is specifically designed for stopping misfired arrows. That being said, while it is a very effective option, it is also quite pricey so you will need to be prepared to fork out for this.
While your target and backdrop will be enough to get started, many archers like to add some additional equipment to get the most from their backyard shooting experience.
One of the most common types of this equipment is a bow stand. Once again, you can purchase this purpose-made or you may decide to fashion your own and there are many instructional videos online to help you do this.
Sometimes, you will find that your arrows get so lodged into the target that they are almost impossible to pull out. But an arrow puller can aid you with this and will stop you from having to lose stubborn arrows. This simple piece of equipment is designed to get a better grip on the arrow making it easier to remove.
Earlier, we mentioned how bowhunters should be prepared to practice at varying distances. The main reason for this is that when you are out hunting, it is highly unlikely that your prize target is going to be at exactly 20 or 40 yards. For this reason, you should always set up your backyard range with a selection of distances. This will allow you to become adept in various situations.
You should also think about where you are shooting from. When you are out hunting, you are going to be presented with so many different situations and it is good to practice all of these. You might practice shooting downhill by setting up a platform somewhere in your range and placing 3D targets lower down.
While we wouldn’t suggest using broadheads as your usual backyard arrow, it is a good idea to practice with these from time to time to get a feel for how they work. Target arrows are great but they do handle differently to broadheads.
Archery is not a sport that you can pick up whenever you feel like it and still be as good as the last time you picked up a bow months ago. To be successful, you need consistent practice. However, this may not always be possible, especially if you live in a place where archery cannot be easily practiced.
But there is a potential solution to this problem; setting up a backyard archery target. Whether you choose to install a single target or create an elaborate shooting range, this is a great way to maintain a regular practice.
You must be sure to check your local laws and make sure that you keep safety as your main priority. You are then free to choose from one of the many types of backyard targets and let your imagination run wild.