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Building a backyard archery target range

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Published April 21, 2022 - Written by FeraDyne Staff

We’ve all heard the saying at least a thousand times, “practice makes perfect”.  This is especially true in activities and sports where accuracy is critical to overall success.  Golf may be the most akin to archery/shooting where a tool assists in the accuracy of your shot, while only the slightest tweak in your form can dramatically change the results of your field accuracy.  To that end, having intimate familiarity with your equipment and building a consistent routine can establish major confidence along the way.  This can bring a much higher level of success to your time in the field when the moment of truth arrives. 

Building out your own backyard range can be an enormous aid in making the transition from the off season to give you the utmost confidence in the field this fall. However, for some the thought of building a home range can be a little overwhelming from a financial and tactical perspective so we’ve assembled a few tips to help you along the way. 

Target Safety

First, check with your local municipality to verify shooting in your area is legal. Some towns have ordinances noting that bows/crossbows are considered the same as firearms so be sure to verify there’s a clear distinction in your intent and the weapon you plan to use.  If you can’t shoot in your town, don’t push it as the consequences are not worth the gamble. Seek out a local range or archery shop to see if they can give you advice on alternative places to shoot.  Second, as with shooting any weapon, know your target and beyond.  If you don't have a backstop of sorts, construct one and make sure it will withstand full penetration and velocity of your weapon and your selected arrow/bolt, especially if it’s one of today’s high-energy, ultra-fast crossbows.  Accidents can be prevented and it’s up to us to make sure safety is paramount and exercised at its highest order while shooting in a backyard range.  This is not something to be taken lightly as safety is the number one priority here. 

Of additional note, even if you don’t have the ability to shoot long distances on your backyard range, don't let that discourage you.  The act of drawing, aiming and releasing an arrow helps to build the determination needed to make accurate shots at all distances. Trust in the process and focus on the result no matter how far. 

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Target Selection

Variety is the spice of life and the same holds true with shooting.  Sending arrows down range at the same old target is fine, but it’s not always fun!  Nor is it helping you to generate the mental flexibility to shoot in all conditions at all types of targets.  Like those at your local bow shop or public range, the best backyard ranges feature a variety of target types and faces to switch things up.  A good mix of a Block-type target, 3D target and a bag target, offers diversity in the size, shape, realism and aiming points presented on your range.  This can be done on a budget and you don’t need to spring for the best to build out a suitable backyard spread.  A couple hundred bucks can get you a long way and give you an assortment of targets to shoot broadheads and field points into. 

Bear in mind, bag targets should only have field points shot into them, but can have exceptionally long life when using multiple aiming points.  They often also offer a large shooting surface, fun faces with multiple aiming points with exceptionally easy arrow removal.  They’re a great option for shooters of all skill levels, and especially great for beginners and kids.  Some bag targets even feature grid-style aiming systems to help find-tune the sighting process.  They can be hung from a target frame for stationary use or moved around on the ground to switch things up. 

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Block style targets perform well thanks to their layered foam construction that stop arrows with friction and not force.  They offer easy arrow removal and great target life with impacts from fixed and mechanical broadheads as well as field points. However, target life can diminish quickly when shooting broadheads, especially if the same aiming point is used too often.  For many of us, this means the center of the target so be sure to switch up your aim and try and shoot broadheads sparingly to make the most of your target’s economic life.  Make sure to select an option that offers multiple shooting surfaces and different aiming points.  This will not only allow for more challenging shooting, but help also aid in maintaining longer target life.  Their mobility, variety of sizes and lighter weight make them a versatile option for any backyard range. 

3-D targets present the element of realism we all want to replicate from the field.  Their natural size and silhouette, lets you place them in multiple positions in your backyard range and even take advantage of foliage and other obstructions the same as you would experience while on a hunt.  This life-like practice has the potential to get you the most “field ready” while developing the skills to make effective shots at similarly sized and shaped game animals.  Through finding aiming points you can discover the best way to take shots at animals from a multitude of angles and heights.  One great tip when shooting in a quartering away position is to aim for the far leg.  This will give you the best opportunity to pierce the vitals and make a lethal shot and nothing prepares you more for this type of situation than consistent practice on a realistic target.  Prices for different 3-D targets can vary widely depending upon the brand, species of target and materials. You don’t need to break and bank to have an adequate 3-D set up in the yard as there are many budget-friendly options designed to take on the rigors of off-season preparation without great sacrifice to target realism. 

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Target Care

Target care is definitely one of the most critical components to maintaining your backyard range for the long term.  Ideally, targets will be stored indoors after each shooting session, but we realize that’s not always realistic.  It’s important to note that the elements can really impact the life of your targets especially sun, snow and rain.  UV light fades surfaces and dries the foam the targets are constructed from.  If you can, keep your targets under cover while not in use, but at the very least take them in during the most extreme month of exposure, particularly in the hottest and driest days of summer and the cold of winter.  There’s nothing more frustrating than stepping out to shoot only to discover your hard-earned investment into your backyard range has been compromised by environmental exposure. 

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Conclusion

It’s no secret that regular practice can be beneficial.  The goal is to get out there, send a few arrows down range and make the most of each shot.  Like any shooting coach will tell you, perfect practice makes perfect so take each shot as seriously as possible.  If one gets away from you don’t let it break your mental game, move on the make a better shot next time.  The key is to have a place to shoot and when it comes to practice there’s nothing easier and better than to step out your own back door and let some arrows fly.