Best Material For Archery Targets

There isn’t always the option to head off to the shooting range for target practice so when you have the urge to fire your bow, you need to have a good setup at home; of course, you must make sure that you follow any local laws or regulations for shooting on private property before you start.

However, once you have crossed that bridge, the next step is to make a functional archery target. You might buy one but much of the fun of creating an archery range at home is preparing the equipment yourself.

There are undoubtedly certain materials that are much better for archery targets than others and if you want a target that will be durable but won’t cause your arrows to become lodged, this is an important consideration.

In this article, we are going to be looking at the best material for archery targets as well as giving you some helpful advice on creating a great archery target for at-home use.

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Why Choose A Home-Made Archery Target?

You might be thinking that it would be far easier to head to your local archery store and pick out one of the many targets that you can purchase. While this is likely the most quick and convenient method of acquiring an archery target, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best option.

There are many reasons why making an archery target at home will benefit you. Primarily, this way is far less expensive than buying a ready-made target. Some of these can be seriously bank-breaking and with archery requiring a lot of equipment at the best of times, it makes sense to try to save the pennies where you can.

Furthermore, when you buy a read-made target, your choices are much more limited; the only limit when making a target at home is your imagination. For this reason, a lot of archers enjoy making their own targets as it gives you the freedom to create something that is as close to what they need as possible. The type of archery you practice will determine the best type of target for you.

For the most part, the materials that you use to make your archery target will be recyclable. Often, we use things like hay, cardboard and other materials which can be reused for something else or put in the recycling collection.

In modern times, there is a huge focus on using renewable materials in as many areas as possible and doing your bit with your archery target can help. What’s more, you likely won’t need to invest in any materials as you may already have the lying around the house.

Why Do I Need An Archery Target?

There are three main types of archery; bowhunting, 3D archery and target archery. For bowhunters, when it is not hunting season, in many cases, you will not be permitted to shoot on public land.

However, that is not to say that you do not need to practice, especially if you want to be ready for the next hurting season. Archery is something that requires constant practice.

For target archers and those who enjoy 3D archery, you may not always be able to get to an organised shooting range so having an target at home will surely be an advantage.

But much more than this, practising archery as regularly as possible will help you to hone your skills and keep them sharp.

One of the major parts of being a good archer is keeping your aim spot on, without regular practice, this is something that can diminish quickly. As your aim and accuracy improve, so will your confidence. This means that when it comes to those pressured situations whether in a competition or out in the field, you will be a much better archer.

Using an archery target at home is typically far safer than not using one, unless you are absolutely certain that there is not another person for miles, and you can’t ever be 100% sure.

Firing arrows is a dangerous business and any archer worth his or her salt will tell you that the first thing you must consider is safety. Having an archery target at home will give you somewhere to aim your arrows, meaning that they won’t merely go flying off into the distance with a risk of injuring or potentially killing someone. 

Finally, having an archery target at home will allow you to make sure that your equipment is functioning correctly. All too often, archers don’t touch their bows and other equipment for weeks at a time and then head out to shoot only to realise that something isn’t working correctly.

By regularly using your home-made target, you will always be certain that your archery equipment is functioning as it should be.

What Materials Can I Use For My Archery Target?

When it comes to making an archery target at home, there are two main aspects to think about; the archery target frame and the body of the target. In some cases, both of these are made from the same material whereas other times, you might combine materials.

From hay to wood or carpet to foam, there are a lot of different things that you can use as archery target material. But before you choose, you must think about a few things to make sure that your chosen material is going to serve its purpose.

In the main, an archery target should be durable, since this is something that is going to take a significant amount of trauma from the arrows, you want it to be able to withstand that for as long as possible. Furthermore, the material cannot be so dense that the arrows risk getting lodged into it. This can result in a lot of broken arrows.

Hay Archery Target

Hay is a really common archery target material, particularly in rural areas where many people will already have bales of hay for farming and other purposes. If you have easy access to hay, one of the huge draws is that this is a relatively inexpensive material.

Whether you are a farmer who has plenty of hay bales at your disposal or you have purchased a hay bale for the sole reason of using it as a target, this is not only a cheap way of doing things but also a very convenient one.

Hay bales are constructed blocks made from compressed, dried plants, typically grasses that are extremely solid. One of the huge advantages of a hay bale target is that you do not need to think about making a frame and target separately, since the bale will serve as a two-in-one.

Hay targets, however, can be less durable than some other options and this is something that cannot be helped too much. As the hay bale experiences the trauma of an arrow hitting it, over time, it will begin to fall apart. You can prevent this from happening too early on but covering the hay with some sort of plastic, but in the end, it is unavoidable.

Furthermore, hay may begin to rot if it is left exposed to the elements and you may find that it ends up being home to small animals taking shelter from the rain.

On the plus side, hay targets are extremely heavy and this means that they will not move around when you are shooting, giving you a very stable target.

Carpet Archery Target

A lot of people consider using old bits of carpet as this is a surprising durable material; it needs to be when you think that its primary use is to be trampled on all day!

In order to make a carpet target, you will first need to construct a frame and this can be done using wooden beams. Typically something like 2” x 12” will serve you well. You should also consider that you cannot merely stick a piece of carpet onto your frame and hope for the best. You will create a baseboard, onto which you will stack your carpet.

The carpet should first be cut into 2” x 11” pieces which can then be stacked on top of one another on the wooden base frame that you have made. Once you have stacked the piece high enough, you will want to compress it to give a little more durability.

One of the biggest drawbacks of using this type of material is that it can be time consuming to construct the target. That being said, if you are making an archery target for your kids to practice, this can also be a nice project to get your teeth into as a team.

Furthermore, the carpet can get a little expensive as you will need quite a lot to make the entire target. However, the best way to avoid a huge cost is to go for cheaper carpet. If you go to a local carpet fitter, you may find that they will sell you the end of roll cut-offs for a reasonable price.

While it could end up costing a little more, once your target is complete, carpet is, without a doubt, one of the most durable materials for home-made archery targets and even when it comes time to replace it, it can be done quickly and easily.

Foam Archery Target

Ethafoam is often used as a form of protection and this is because of its ability to stand up to repeated shock, making it the ideal material for a homemade archery target. However, since this is such an effective material, you will often find that it does come in at a slightly higher price than other materials.

However, if you are looking for something that you can use with your broadhead arrows then this is an excellent solution; but we will look more at that a little later on.

This type of target is created in a similar way to the carpet target, by making a frame and inserting several strips of ethafoam.

For something a little less expensive, you could use foam puzzle mats; you know the type that you might find in a children’s indoor play area? These are much less inexpensive than ethafoam and make a good archery target. That being said, they may not be quite as durable as ethafoam.

Cardboard Archery Target

You might think we’ve gone crazy suggesting a material as apparently weak as cardboard but in reality, when approached correctly, this can make a good archery target. One of the huge benefits of this is that you will not need to make an additional frame.

You can use one large cardboard box and fill this with other pieces of cardboard so that you have a solid structure. On top of how easy this is to do, you will also find that it is one of the least expensive ways of making an archery target at home.

Quite often, businesses will give cardboard away as it saves them the hassle of having to recycle it themselves.

Now, while cardboard does have its upsides, it is important to point out that this is potentially the least durable material. If you only need a temporary target or are happy to keep reconstructing new ones, then cardboard might work well. But if you are looking for something a little more permanent, this isn’t going to be the best choice.

Arrows And Targets

Earlier, we touched on using broadhead arrows with a foam target. This is because there are certain materials that will always be better suited to specific types of arrows.

Broadheads are essential for bowhunters and while you may not be aiming for a prize buck in your backyard, practicing with these arrows will mean that you can recreate being out in the woods as closely as possible.

However, broadheads are also so sharp that they can often get lodged in a target. Removing them can be something of a challenge and even when you are successful, it isn’t to say that the arrow won’t have sustained a significant amount of damage.

For this reason, you should always use a softer target such as foam when you are practicing with broadhead arrows. However, if you use other types of arrow, you should still think about the best material so you can get the most out of your shooting session.

For those who use hay targets, and please keep in mind that you can just as easily use straw in this instance for the same effect, using bullet point arrows will give you the best experience. Carpet targets are particularly useful for these types of arrows too.

We would advise against using a blunt arrow with a weaker type of target such as a cardboard target purely because the force might send the target flying, meaning that you would need to set it back up after every shot.

Tips For At Home Archery Targets

Building an archery target at home and using it are meant to be enjoyable experiences, but as we all know, archery can be a dangerous sport if it is not done correctly. For this reason, we would always advise erring on the side of caution. These handy tips can help you to have the safest at home shooting practice.

  • Always install a back stop to catch arrows that miss the target. Even the most adept archer may sometimes miss and it simply is not worth injuring someone.
  • Always place your target in a location where people and pets will not be passing behind.
  • Make sure that there are strict backyard archery rules in place and that everyone on the property is familiar with them.


There are lots of materials that you could use to make an archery target for your at-home practice. However, it would be unfair to say that one material is better than the next. The type of material that will benefit you most will depend on several things.

Primarily, you will need to consider the type of arrows you are using as some will not be compatible with certain materials. Furthermore, the cost of the material and how durable it is will play a part in deciding whether it will work for you.

If you are looking for something a little more temporary then a cheap cardboard target may work well. Conversely, if you want a more durable target then spending a little extra cash and using something strong like carpet will work to your advantage.

About Brad Harris