Not everyone has the opportunity, means, or time to go around an archery range and get some shooting done. This is why most people these days tend to set up their own archery range at home, and all things considered, why wouldn’t they? Shooting means that you’re able to practice in privacy and take your time with each shot, plus you can eat all the snacks and drink all the drinks you want! If you don’t have your own range already, you might be thinking about setting one up. If you are, you might be thinking about the best way to go about it, what you’ll need, and what safety precautions you need to take. This is why we’ve listed a few things you should take into account when attempting to set up your own archery range at home.
Is It Safe to Shoot in My Yard?
Backyard archery is a fun way to ensure that all of your archery skills don’t get rusty during your downtime, plus you don’t have to worry about getting down to the range and booking a spot before someone else grabs it. Backyard archery also might seem a bit sketchy if you’ve only ever practiced at a range before, but with the right precautions, you can have a perfectly safe and highly productive archery experience!
You might be asking yourself how safe it is to practice archery in your backyard. The answer is that shooting arrows is generally pretty hazardous, and it’s as safe as you’re willing to make it for yourself and those around you. A backyard archery range should have a number of things in place and, depending on where you stay, you could need to have a city official come in and inspect your handiwork.
Keep in mind that some states and/or cities do not permit the practice of archery inside city limits at all, which means you’ll have no choice but to find a range in a designated area for you to practice. This can be frustrating, but it’s a lot better than having to pay a fine or accidentally shooting someone with an arrow, so it’s best to follow the law as closely as you can.
There are other precautions you can take to improve the safety of your backyard archery range, like setting up reinforcements to fences and making other barriers higher to minimize any damage a stray arrow might cause. This being said, if you have zero experience in archery, we think it’s best that you learn the ropes in a designated area with a trained instructor first, before developing your skills in a backyard archery range.
Should I Check My Local Laws?
It’s a pretty good idea to consult your local laws and ordinances to see if you’re within your legal right to set up a home archery range. Different cities, counties, and even states have different laws regarding where and how home archery ranges can be set up. The last thing you want is to be on the wrong side of the law, especially when it comes to a sport that poses so much potential danger.
When you get your archery range set up you might need to get someone to get in to inspect your set up and the property to ensure it aligns with safety standards. Other regions might need you to apply for a clearance certificate or a zoning permit, while others might only allow you to practice archery outside of city limits. This being said, all of this is easily accomplished by simply contacting your local law enforcement office and asking them about it.
Usually, they’ll be able to walk you through the process or point you in the right direction. Most, if not all, local laws will require you to set up a backstop behind your range targets. This will ensure that if you (or someone who saw your range and insisted on trying their hand at it) miss a shot, they won’t accidentally maim someone on the neighboring property.
Most archers tend to use nice thick hay bales as a backstop as they’re not only great at stopping stray arrows, but they’re also super good at ensuring they don’t get damaged. While most tutorials will suggest that you use wood as a backstop, they can bend and crack the shaft of your arrows, which isn’t great, especially if your arrows cost you a pretty penny.
You don’t have to use one type of backing for the backstop either. Using a combination of materials not only makes things much safer on your home archery range, but also ensures that your arrows will be preserved if you’re ever a little bit off target. Plus, if you have your backyard archery target placed in front of your wooden fencing, it prevents any unintended holes.
What to Do to Convince Your Local Inspector
Knowing that you have an inspector coming to have a look at your handiwork can be stressful. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your inspector knows that you have safety at the forefront of your course design. For starters, we mentioned previously that you could use multiple materials to ensure that the backstop for your backyard archery target range is properly prepared for any stray arrows.
Another way to illustrate that you put safety first is to have a little list detailing precautions that everyone using the range must follow. It should have things that can be checked off in sequence, like checking that the range is clear before firing, ensuring that everyone is wearing the appropriate safety gear and that all backstops are intact before anyone fires an arrow.
You should also ensure that your range looks the part. This means ensuring that your landscape is nice and level, your targets are unobstructed, and your backstops are still intact. Also, if bits of your target have torn off and are lying around your range, be sure that you have picked them up by the time the inspector arrives to present a neat and well-prepared aesthetic.
If you’d really like to make a good impression, you should consider making your range slope at a negative gradient (downhill). Shooting at a downhill angle ensures that if an arrow goes astray, its trajectory won’t take them near anything or anyone that could get hurt. This can be a huge undertaking if you don’t have an existing slope and isn’t absolutely necessary.
Can You Set Up an Archery Range Indoors?
Yes! It’s entirely possible to set up a private range for yourself and your loved ones indoors. The cool thing about setting up a range indoors is that it’s a bit of grey area in terms of zoning. Think of it as not having to participate in an inspection if you decided to turn part of your garage into a home gym. After all, if you have the space, what’s stopping you?
Setting up an archery range in your garage or basement is pretty easy too, you know what the range of your targets are, how much space you have to work with, and the chances of you accidentally hitting a passer-by is reduced to zero. However, you should watch out for things like lighting fixtures, gas pipes, water pipes, and any electrical wiring in your immediate area.
Keep in mind that although you’ll be practicing in relative isolation and safety, it doesn’t get you off the hook regarding backstops. If you’re practicing in a garage with wooden doors the last thing you want is to be poking holes in them, and the same goes if you have metal garage doors. If you’re doors roll up or fold, the dents from stray arrows could prevent them from retracting.
How much space do you need for a DIY archery range indoors? Well, it goes without saying that you won’t be able to practice your long-distance shots within the confines of your home, but, you can practice your technique and your form with real targets instead of using just your bow and your imagination.
This being said, your indoor DIY archery range should have a range of roughly 20 yards or so, and if space is in short supply in your home, you can make 25 feet work too. Remember that the goal here is to practice form and accuracy, all while keep that muscle memory intact until you can get out to an outdoor range again.
If you’re wondering what kind of arrows to use on your indoor DIY archery range, we don’t recommend using any that could cause any damage to your doors, walls, or ceilings. Although there are many to choose from, we recommend using bullet-pointed arrows to reduce the probability of you needing to refinish your walls or replace windows any time soon.
How to Make a Backstop for an Indoor Range?
This is a question that gets asked pretty often by those looking to set up an indoor range. Some of the best materials to use for an indoor range backstop can be found lying around the house or can be picked up at your local Home Depot. If you don’t feel like lugging around heavy materials, you could use some dense Styrofoam.
If Styrofoam is out of your price range or you simply can’t get your hands on any, you can use sturdy, but relatively soft materials like plywood or MDF (multi-density fiberboard) to make your backstop. Both of these materials should be able to stop bullet point arrows while ensuring that they don’t bend or crack on impact.
How to Lay Out Your Targets in Your Backyard
Laying out your archery range is actually pretty easy when you get into the nitty-gritty of it. The challenging part is setting out your range and targets while working within the confines of your backyard, which isn’t easy if you only have a small patch of suburban lawn, or even less so if you’ve made your home in the city.
This being said, if archery is allowed in your place of residence, how you choose to set up your range is really important. If you make a mistake or set it up completely wrong, you’re not going to have a good time, and you’ll have to deal with either moving things around or starting over from scratch until you’ve got it right.
So, where do you begin? Well, the first thing you should figure out is are the distances you’re going to be firing at. If you’re a competitive archer, you can use competition rule books to find the right distances you’ll need to improve your craft. If you’re a simple hobbyist who enjoys archery for the sake of relaxation, you can choose pretty much any distance you feel comfortable with inside your property lines.
How Do You Measure the Right Range for Your Backyard Archery Setup?
If you’re competing but don’t have quite enough real estate to emulate the actual distances you’ll be shooting at while in competition, there’s actually an easy way to get around this. All that you need to do is set your range up at half the distance you need and use smaller targets. Essentially, using a trick of perspective to emulate the range you need, in half the physical space!
You should also invest in a measuring tape to ensure that all of your target distances are as accurate as possible. A measuring tape that goes up to around 30 feet should be more than enough, as it allows you to measure your shooting distances in spaces of around 10 yards or so. If you have a property in which space isn’t a problem (in which case, lucky you) then you should try out a measuring tape capable of stretching up to 100 feet.
Still not enough distance? Do you live in a rural area? Is space not an issue for you? Well then, if you’re going to try and shoot record distances at home you should consider getting your hands on a measuring wheel. This should allow you to clock in the right distances accurately, and you would have to worry about the tape measure snapping back when you aren’t paying attention.
Where Should You Place Your Targets?
This is the burning question when discussing backyard archery. What direction should your targets be facing? Which bearing will catch the most wind when you shoot? Where will the sun be shining most? Where will shooting cause the least distraction to other homeowners? While the answer to most of these questions is subjective, there are a few guidelines you can follow to achieve the best backyard archery experience.
When it comes to the direction that you should be shooting towards, you want to be facing North. Why North you ask? Well, no matter what time of the day you’re shooting at the sun won’t be able to obstruct your vision and throw off your shot. This means that you can practice in the early morning, or when you’ve gotten home from work with no difference in your environment. Plus, you won’t have to schedule your life around the sun.
While this setup might maximize your distance depending on how your property is orientated, it will ensure that you have the most time for uninterrupted archery. If you’re thinking about facing South with your targets up North, you might want to invest in some sunglasses in the winter as the glare can be quite intense.
How Do You Set Up for Hunting Scenarios?
Setting up archery targets for backyard hunting scenarios can be a bit of a tough one. The best thing to do is to emulate the maximum distance you’re likely to be hunting at and simulate that. Let’s face it, shooting a target that’s likely to move if it senses the wind changing direction or a branch crack isn’t easy, so you’re going to want to go all-in on practicing for it.
This is why it’s best to set up archery targets for backyard hunting simulation at double the distance you think you could do in real-life situations. Sounds insane right? Well, hunting is one of those situations where you don’t want to be letting off a shot at your absolute limit of accuracy, so it’s best to compensate by improving your skill as much as possible at home.
What do you do if you don’t have the space to double your maximum firing distance though? Well, earlier we mentioned that you could use a trick of perspective to improve your accuracy within a relatively confined space. You can apply it here as well, by using the maximum distance your environment allows and simply using smaller targets to simulate a greater distance.
How Do You Set Up Firing Lanes for Backyard Archery?
This might seem pretty straightforward, but it can be challenging to decide what type of lane and target setup you want. After all, you have the choice of setting up one firing lane or multiple lanes depending on whether it will be just you or some friends having a go on the range. If you’re going to be setting up only one firing lane, you’re limited to one archer at a time.
However, you can set up multiple firing lanes for one target, if you’re still in the process of getting or making some more. All that you need to do is ensure that each firing lane is equidistant from the target, but you’ll still have to fire one after the other to avoid confusion. This is the disadvantage of having only one target on your backyard archery range.
The aforementioned also means that you will all have to shoot at the same distance. The obvious solution then is to set up multiple targets at different distances, all with their own respective backstops and firing lanes. This setup can take more time, and more space, which you might not have if you’re trying the get things done in a single day or over a weekend, so the more the merrier when setting up a backyard archery range. To keep things safe, just ensure the same safety protocols are followed as you would in a professional range.
Is Target Backing Important?
As much as an archery stand is important, the backing of your target is pretty important too. If you don’t know what the function of target backing is, it’s the bits at the back of your target that ensure your arrow stops once the target has been penetrated. This is arguable the most important part of your target as it ensures that your arrows don’t travel further than their intended application.
There are many things you can use to make backing for your archery targets. One of the most common things used, especially in rural settings, is hay bales. These have the density to stop an arrow in transit, and they don’t damage the tips of your arrows at all, which is always a good thing. You can also use cardboard if hay isn’t readily available in your area.
Cardboard backstops work pretty well too. The trick with using them though is to ensure that they are compressed vertically. To ensure they’re nice and tightly packed, you can use ratchet straps or rope with really tight knots to ensure that they have the density they need to stop the arrows. These do need to be replaced more often than the hay bales though.
If you can’t get your hands on some hay or cardboard (or simply don’t want to) you have the option of using some old carpeting too. Carpeting is pretty dense and is a good balance between rigidity to flexibility which allows it to stop arrows without damaging them. All things considered, this is one of the most affordable options considering it’s not too hard to find some old carpeting laying around.
Now that you know that setting up a backyard archery range is possible, what you need to consider when setting up a range, how to set up firing lanes, which the backing of your targets should be made out of, and how to check if it’s legal to set up an archery range in your backyard, it’s time for you to get out there and put your new-found knowledge to the test. Remember to always put safety before convenience when setting up a backyard archery range, and to consider your neighbors and housemates when making decisions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Practice Archery at Home?
Technically speaking, you can practice archery anywhere. If you have enough space, you can shoot an arrow at a target, but you should check your local laws and ordinances to ensure that you aren’t breaking any rules before you do.
Is Archery an Outdoor or Indoor Sport?
Archery can be practiced both indoors and/or outdoors. There are many types of archery competitions that take place indoors and outdoors depending on what the competition demands. Most professional long-distance competitions take place outdoors though.
What Is an Archery Stand?
If you’re wondering what an archery stand is, it’s basically the structure that holds up your target. This stand can be adjusted to alter the angle at which your target faces you, which is ideal for shooting at different elevations, or when practicing at big distances.