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Finding a new hobby is always fun, but funding it is the tricky part.
While you may have your new bow and arrows ready to go, finding the right targets is challenging.
Sure, you could keep making your own amateur targets out of fruit and bottles, but wouldn’t you rather add a layer of professionalism?
Adding a layer of professionalism doesn’t mean spending lots of money by buying the in-store options.
Instead, you can make your own targets from materials around your home.
This is how to make an archery target:
Principles of Target Design
Before diving in, we should explain what makes a good target. It’s one thing to make one, but it’s another to make a great one.
You wouldn’t want to make a target that is the wrong size or that you’ll have to replace after a few rounds.
The frame provides balance and support for your archery target.
You need a strong frame that won’t make your frame lopsided. You won’t get any wins by shooting at a target that can’t even stay straight.
The frame also needs to stay firm under pressure. A reasonable frame can withstand high impact after a few arrows have gone through it.
The type of material you choose depends on the weight and size of your target—the bigger the target, the stronger frame that you’ll require.
Most people use either wood or PVC for their structures.
The backstop catches arrows that go through the target.
A backstop is a crucial tool because it stops stray arrows. Having an effective backstop means you won’t have to look around for stray arrows once the fun is done.
An effective backstop is made from thick materials that won’t let the arrow straight through.
Also, it needs to be strong enough to catch the arrow’s impact. A weak backstop could move the target, thereby ruining your efforts.
A backstop also protects your arrows. Hitting hard targets like trees and walls will almost always break your arrows1.
The point of making your own target is to save money, so spending extra money on arrows should also be minimized.
People usually make backstops from hay.
Hay is an excellent option because it is inexpensive and easily accessible. You can make your own or buy it from the nearest vendor.
If you don’t have access to hay, you can use foam. Foam is readily available at hardware stores and in furniture stores.
Just like how there are multiple types of bows, there are more than four ways to make archery targets at home. We will go through each of the four main methods, and you can choose the one that is most convenient for you.
Making an Archery Target Using a Cardboard Box
Using cardboard is the cheapest and easiest way to make a target. The first step is finding the right box.
Your box should be big enough to fit the target printout, but not so big that it doesn’t provide a challenge for you. Most people use boxes that are 18×18 inches.
This is a great beginner size because it’s hard to miss, and it’s thick enough to stop the arrows.
After finding the perfect box, you need to find the right stuffing. Using an empty container is discouraged because the arrows will go straight through.
Stuffing the box will protect your arrows, stop stray arrows from going through, and make the target reusable.
If you want to cut costs, you can ask the nearest store for leftover shrink wrap.
Stores usually use shrink wrap for storage, and it won’t hurt to see if they would give it to you instead of dumping it.
If you have a bunch of plastic bags lying around the house, you could use those instead.
Another option is using foam. You can buy expanding insulation foam from your nearest hardware store.
Once the box is stuffed, seal it with duct tape and put it on the frame.
You can aimlessly shoot at the box, or you can print out a target layout for more accurate practice.
While hay is a cheap option, it will cost you in labour. You need to put in a lot of work because you’ll need weekly replacements.
The other limitation is how you can’t use broadhead arrows.
Cardboard targets are only beneficial to novices and people who are looking for short-lived excitement.
Making an Archery Target Using Hay
Using hay is the second most popular way of making a target because it’s also inexpensive. You don’t need any fancy tools, and the construction is relatively simple.
The first step is deciding the size of your target.
The advantage of using a hay target is that you can use bales to make different-sized targets.
A big target might require eight bales, while a smaller target uses five bales.
We don’t recommend going to the store before you decide how many bales you need. It always ends in either buying too much or too little hay.
After buying the hales, arrange them in stable piles. We suggest stacking them on top of each other while alternating directions because that’s more stable.
You can add another row if the hay is too light to stand on its own. Think about it like stacking blocks as a baby.
Once you have the bales stacked and secure, print the paper targets and hang them up.
Hay is an excellent target because it also acts as an adequate backstop. It’s soft enough not to break your arrows, but also steady enough not to let any arrows through.
Unfortunately, hay decomposes over time when left outside, and it might attract animals.
It’s an easy and cheap method, but it’s hard to maintain because it quickly becomes loose.
Making an Archery Target Using Foam Mats
Though pricier than the first two, foam targets are much more fun to work with.
They take a little expertise to set up, but it’s something you can learn with patience from watching tutorials.
Foam mats aren’t hard to find because they are usually used in gyms and as part of kids’ playground mats. Some stores may call them puzzle mats.
While one foam mat is affordable, you probably need approximately 50 to make a durable target.
Foam mats are so versatile that you can choose how you want to stack them. To stack them horizontally, attach the foam mats by their sides.
You need to do this step while they are on the floor, otherwise, they’ll fall apart with each try.
Drill small holes through each mat, then use a strong thread to hold them together. The focus is more on the depth of the target than the height.
Once the mats are safely secure, paste a printed paper target on the side.
Be careful how you lift the target because it’s pretty fragile. Next, carefully insert it into the frame and enjoy the target practice!
The process is similar for vertical stacking. The only difference is that you focus more on how high you want the target and not how thick.
The advantage of using foam mats is that you can leave them outside. They won’t deteriorate like hay/straw targets.
Foam mats are made to withstand high amounts of pressure, which works for you in the long run.
Foam targets are broadhead-safe, too2.
Unfortunately, the mats tear and will require replacement sooner rather than later.
Making an Archery Target Using a Wooden Box
Even though it is a relatively affordable method, using a wooden box requires technical expertise.
You can’t do it if you’ve never done any DIY projects. You could try your best, but you’ll most likely be disappointed.
You should find the right-sized wooden box (you can use the same requirements as the cardboard box target).
After buying/repurposing a box, you should remove the top part and place stuffing inside. You should also remove the front face to replace it with a paper target or a painted burlap.
Once it’s loaded and there is a clear target face, screw everything together, and make sure it’s tight.
The stuffing shouldn’t be falling out the side, nor should it be hanging from the side.
Remember to put enough filling to act as a backstop so that arrows don’t go straight through the box.
The most significant advantage of using a wooden box is how easy it is to maintain. You can easily change the target face or buy new stuffing. It’s the most durable method available.
Also, you can use any type of arrow on the target. You don’t have to worry about weight or size.
Making an archery target is not as difficult as it seems. You won’t have any regrets if you carefully follow our instructions.
You can use the linked videos if you get lost along the way, or if you need extra guidance.