If you can't make it to the range, build your own.
By Trent Jonas
If you’re spending some time away from the field, it’s still important to keep your skills sharp. And since not all of us have access to an archery range, building a personalized range in your backyard is an excellent option. Not only does it make things more convenient, it allows for more customization to suit your skills. But before you go ahead and do so, make sure you read up on your area rules and regulations. Here’s how to get started in building your own backyard archery range.
Depending on where you live, check your state laws and regulations, as well as city and county ordinances. In some cases, there may be no restrictions on whether you can build an archery range in your backyard. In other cases, you may need a permit, or you may not be allowed to do so at all. It’s important to know that you can legally proceed before you start doing the work, so do your research ahead of time.
When choosing the location for your archery range, be careful to pick a spot that is free from obstacles and gives you plenty of room to shoot—ideally, around 20 yards. You’ll also want to avoid any places that get frequent foot or pet traffic, like a walkway from an attached garage or a dog run. Finally, in all cases, be sure to angle the range away from any occupied buildings or residences, whether your own or a neighbor’s.
Unless you’re a casual archer who just wants to do some occasional shooting—or you simply don’t have space in your yard—you’ll probably want at least two targets at varying distances from the shooting line in your backyard range. If you’re shooting target practice with broadheads or a bow with a high draw weight, you’ll want to use bag targets, like the Field Logic Hurricane. For target or field points, or lower draw weight bows, block targets, such as the Vault from FeraDyne Outdoors, work well. For smaller ranges or in areas with a higher population density, you may want to consider using a lower poundage bow for practice even if you hunt with a high draw-weight bow, for the sake of safety.
When you’re putting together your range, consider using stands from which you can suspend your targets and adjust the height and angle of your shots. You can purchase prefabricated stands, like Highwild Archery’s, from most any archery supplier. It is also relatively simple to build your own custom target stands from wood or even PVC pipe. Once you have your stands ready, place them in the site you chose for your range at measured distances from your designated shooting line. Place the targets on the stands, and you’re almost ready to go. Occasionally change the heights and locations of your targets to keep up your skills at different distances and angles.
Even the best archers occasionally miss—or send arrows all the way through targets. To prevent potentially disastrous mishaps, it’s always a good idea to put up backstops behind all your targets. Erecting a backstop can be as simple as stacking up cardboard boxes at the back of your range. One of the most common types of backstops for archery ranges is hay bales. An issue with bales of hay, however, is that they need to be regularly maintained (they tend to settle and flatten out) and replaced. The same holds true for cardboard boxes, however, you don’t usually have to pay for boxes, and most of us would have to buy hay bales. While slightly more expensive, horse stall mats, such as those available from Rubber-Cal, make excellent backstops: They are durable, relatively maintenance-free, and their heavy-duty rubber will stop arrows with little difficulty.