Choosing a backyard target

There’s no question the local archery club or commercial shooting range has everything you need to practice with your bow and arrow. But there’s not always time to drive over there and spend a couple of hours. Maybe you just want to put in a quick 20 minutes behind the bow.

Well, as long as it’s legal where you live, and it’s safe to do so, the backyard is a great place to do a little shooting. Even if all you can safely do is shoot 10 feet, it’s always good to regularly release a few arrows. Choosing a backyard target will allow you to get the most out of your at-home practice sessions.

Before we take a look at those targets, though, let’s get something straight. Unless there’s nothing behind your target for as far as the eye can see, you need to have some type of backstop to corral errant arrows. No one ever plans on missing, but trust us, it happens to everyone. And a deflected arrow can sail a long way – probably farther than you might think. You owe it to your neighbors and family to protect them from your practice sessions.

backyard targets2a


At the very least, plant your target in front of a wood pile or a fence, at the base of a hill – somewhere you know that if you miss, the arrow is going to be stopped by something it won’t hurt. Even better, however, is to purposely create a backstop. Stack up a bunch of hay bales, or build a heavy-duty, wooden wall or earthen mound behind your target. Or hang some backstop netting. There are several types of backstop netting on the market made specifically for archery practice.

If your backstop is made of wood, rocks, brick, cinderblock or something similarly hard, know that you will most likely destroy your arrow if you hit it. And beware of flying shrapnel from your broken arrow upon impact.

Safety should always be a top priority when you’re shooting a bow and arrow. Besides that, you’ll shoot a lot better if you’re not worried about missing the target.


Not all targets are made for use with all kinds of bows. Some targets, for example, are made specifically for bows with low draw weights – 30 pounds or less. If you shoot a 70-pound compound into such a target, your arrow is likely to blow right through it. So no matter what kind of target you’re looking at, be sure it’s designed to handle the bow you’re shooting.


Get the biggest target you can afford. Simply put, the bigger the target, the more room you have for error.


As their name suggests, these targets essentially are bags filled with stuffing that stops arrows. They’re usually made so you can set them on the ground or hang them up. Many have built-in handles so you can easily haul them around.

bag target

If you go with a bag target, understand you’re limited to shooting arrows tipped with field points. Bag targets are not meant for shooting with broadheads.


The foam targets offer a variety of shooting opportunities. Some are meant only for field points, while others can handle field points and broadheads alike. Many are shaped like cubes, and allow you to shoot at all six faces of the cube. When one face starts to show wear, just flip the cube to another one.

foam target

Foam targets are usually light and easy to move around, so you can set them just about anywhere.

This category of targets includes foam “walls,” measuring up to 4 feet high and 4 feet wide, which you can tack paper targets to for practice.


These are life-like, foam animals, bugs, monsters and other interesting imitations. They’re great for hunters looking to practice shooting at their quarry. You can find a 3-D target that imitates nearly every species of North American big game, and many species of African game. A 3-D target allows you to pose the “animal” in a variety of positions, so you can shoot at it from different angles – just like you might encounter while hunting in the field.

deer target

Or, if you’re just looking for something fun to shoot at, you can take aim at 3-D zombies and dinosaurs.

zombie target

dinosaur target1


These are large round, or rounded, target butts to which you can attach a paper target, or which you can cover with a bag to make the whole matt a target. Most are foam, although some are made of grass and burlap material. The matts fit well under the description of “give yourself lots of room for error,” since most measure at least 3 feet across, while others stretch 4.5 feet across the face.

target matt

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