Archery Target Shooting

archery target shooting

In a pinch I’ve used some strange things for archery targets. Boxes stacked full of newspapers, old telephone books taped together. On a recent trip I even rolled up a freshly skinned caribou hide and used it to stop a few confidence shots.
Bowhunters who practice a lot have undoubtedly discovered that most archery targets get shot to pieces in no time. Finding something suitable to shoot at gets even tougher when broadheads are used. Broadheads are designed to cause massive damage, and that’s exactly what they do to practice targets. Thus, finding affordable and functional archery targets has a lot of bowhunters scratching their heads.

Depending on your budget, commercial targets may or may not be the answer. When shopping for commercial targets keep in mind that the larger a target is and the longer it lasts, the more money it’s likely to cost. Also, many targets simply aren’t designed to stop carbon shafts or arrows tipped with broadheads.

Before I get into the various types of commercial targets, there are a few handyman options hunters on a budget may find interesting. A close friend of mine used to work at a plant that produced fishing and pleasure boats. He took an ordinary cardboard box approximately 36 inches square and filled it with expandable foam–the type used to provide flotation in boats. He finished his target by shrink-wrapping the box to protect it from the weather.


The target sat outside year round and absorbed countless arrow hits. As I recall, the target lasted several years before it finally had to be discarded. Similar foam can be purchased in small cans for smaller target-building jobs or to repair targets that have seen too many hits.

Many hunters shoot into piles of fine sand. Sand will stop any arrow and is an especially good choice for broadhead practice. The problem with sand is that it significantly dulls the broadheads. If the broadheads used are designed to be resharpened with a file, sand makes a suitable backstop. Broadheads that feature replaceable blades can also be shot into sand, but it’s tough to get all the pieces of grit cleaned out of the ferrules when it’s time to replace the blades.

Those of you who live in farm country may be able to lay your hands on a large hay bale. If the hay is baled by one of the newer machines, chances are the bales will be wrapped tight enough to stop most hunting arrows. These ready-made targets are also large enough to catch the worst fliers.

Supermarkets often compact cardboard boxes into bundles that make good archery targets. These cardboard creations are best used and stored indoors, however, because wet weather can quickly ruin them.

If you’re ready to lay down some cash, commercial targets range from highly functional and expensive models to downright cheap targets that won’t take many hits. One of my favorite targets is the Promat, produced by Impact Industries, Inc. This unique target uses a ballistic cloth backstop that can take amazing abuse. A cedar frame with a mesh cover holds various paper targets and allows arrows to be removed easily.

Fiber-filled bag targets such as those produced by Pro Stop and Allen Products range widely in size, stopping ability, and price. The larger overstuffed bags hold up well to heavy shooting pressure and allow arrows to be easily removed. This style of target works best when hung from a frame or support structure.

ed with replaceable cores, making for a long-lasting and very economical practice target. When it comes to Ethafoam targets, Stanley Hips probably has more options to choose from than any other manufacturer. Bowhunters can choose from targets designed for carbon arrows, fiber-filled foam models, kick-style broadhead versions, economical animal targets, silhouettes, and high-quality bag targets designed for personal or range use. Ethafoam targets can be shot with field tips or broadheads.

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In addition to targets used for everyday practice, serious bowhunters should invest in one or more three-dimensional animal targets. Shooting at life-size 3-D targets at unmarked ranges is the best way to simulate actual hunting situations.

The options available in 3-D targets are amazing. Everything from brown bears to wild turkeys have been molded into these competition-style targets. Likewise, 3-D targets range widely in price. Some of the best values are models designed for backyard or personal use. These targets are usually a little smaller in size and considerably less expensive than models designed for competition and archery ranges.

In the economical class, Blue Ridge makes an excellent medium-size whitetail deer with a replaceable vitals core. Intercoastal Technologies also produces a deer that accepts a replacement core.

McKenzie is one of the best-known names in 3-D targets. Their Aim Rite deer target is 33 inches tall at the shoulder and features a replaceable vitals plug. McKenzie also produces a unique target that might best be described as a 2-D target. The target is life-sized and provides a detailed relief-style design. The overall foam thickness is much less than conventional 3-D targets, making it very economical for the backyard shooter or hunter who’s looking for a combination target/decoy.

Delta’s most economical 3-D target is the Backyard Buck. The target stands 48 inches tall, is 43 inches long and 10 inches thick. And like most other economy 3-D targets, it features a replaceable vitals core.

For serious shooters, tournament-quality 3-D targets will absorb more abuse and can, in the long run, be excellent values. McKenzie recently introduced a line of 3-D targets they call the HD series. Designed to provide the highest definition, durability, and detail, available models include large and medium deer, bighorn sheep, elk, caribou, and bear. Other manufactures who produce competition-quality 3-D targets include Blueridge, Foam Design’s Magnum 3-D, Intercoastal Technologies, Delta, and R&W Targets.

The wide range of targets available to bowhunters can make practice sessions as much fun as hunting. That’s good, because for many hunters the practice season is 11 months long.

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