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Practice makes perfect, and nowhere is this maxim more true than in archery. Constant training to perfect your shooting stance, accuracy, and archery muscles is an ongoing process for virtually any archer. And to practice archery effectively, you need a target to aim at. But how do you make one; what do you need to do so? Let’s find out!
So, how do you build an archery target for a compound bow? You can make an archery target yourself from a range of materials – from wood all the way through to wood. An archery target needs to do two things – it needs to give you a face to shoot at, and it needs something behind it to stop the arrow from sailing across the neighborhood.
Making your own archery target is often much cheaper than buying targets online or from a sports shop.
So, what we are about to cover can save you a lot of money!
Besides, the process is very rewarding and fun at the same time.
Let’s get started!
What You Will Need To Build An Archery Target
The first thing you’ll need is some form of frame to hold your target in place. This could be wood or even a cardboard box. You’ll also need a collection of soft, stable backing material to fill the target out with. This catches your arrows during your shots to stop them from being lost or injuring someone.
The exact materials that you need to build your own archery target will vary depending on how you want to construct it.
You can use very cheap materials such as cardboard and discarded clothing.
Or you can invest in some foam sheets or hay bales to create a more durable apparatus.
These materials serve a dual purpose – to give the target a surface to use for aiming at and to create a backstop to keep your arrows in check.
You’ll also need materials to create a frame for the target.
This helps to hold your backstop material in place and provides a secure face for your target roundel.
Again, you can choose materials based on a budget scale.
Cheaper materials can involve going in the direction of a cardboard frame.
But for something that will last a lot longer, wood is an excellent choice for building the frame of your target.
When building anything, you need to use the right tools.
The exact tools that you need for the job will of course vary depending on your chosen materials.
For a cardboard target, you won’t need much more than some scissors and some duct tape and glue.
But if you’re crafting a target using wood or foam, you’ll likely need a saw, a drill, and some rods or dowels.
Safety gear is also important when using any serious tools, so always make sure to wear gloves and eye protection when building your homemade archery target.
Perform the construction outside or in a garage or shed if you can, giving yourself plenty of space to work in.
How To Make A Homemade Archery Target
You can use several different materials for making your archery target, and we’ll go through four or five simple options for a range of budgets. We’ll also take you through some quick step-by-step guides for each type of target.
The easiest, cheapest, and simplest homemade archery targets are often made from cardboard.
But although they’re cheap, they’re also quite weak and will need replacing frequently once they’ve been punctured by your arrows.
- Obtain a fairly large cardboard box – maybe something like a 2 ft x 3 ft box. Make the box up, leaving the top open. Use duct tape to give the flaps and seams a strong seal.
- On the bottom of the taped-up box, you can draw, paint, or print and attach your target roundel.
- For the backstop filling, you can either use more cardboard or you can use a bunch of old clothes. Stuff the clothes into the box as tight as you can to give a solid backstop. If you’re using more cardboard, cut a series of sheets to the depth of your box. You can either position them horizontally or vertically to fill the space.
- Glue or tape together your bunch of cardboard sheets and then glue them into the box, making sure to fill it as close as you can to the lid.
- Close up the box and use duct tape to fasten it shut. You now have a cheap and cheerful archery target!
You can also create hanging targets using a sturdy sack or bag.
This is another cheap method of building an archery target and works well if you want multiple targets at once.
- Find one (or more) sturdy, strong burlap sacks or other durable bags.
- Stuff the bag(s) with some backstop material – clothes and hay are good choices.
- Fasten the sack(s) shut tightly and hang them in your desired shooting area.
Hay Bale Targets
Another incredibly cheap way of creating an archery target is to use one or more bales of hay.
These targets have a distinctly medieval feel to them, and can be obtained fairly easily.
However, they do have some drawbacks, so it’s best to use them inside if you can.
- Select one or more thick hay bales and position them where you want them.
- To protect the hay targets against inclement weather and nesting creatures, cover or wrap them in a protective layer. Plastic tarp is a cheap and durable cover material.
- Paint or print your target roundel onto the plastic tarp on the face of the bales.
Carpet Or Foam Sheet Targets
Cheap targets are all well and good, but they tend to wear out extremely fast.
For something more durable, you can make an archery target using some discarded carpet or some sheets of foam.
This can take the form of puzzle mats that are used in gyms.
While a bit more expensive, bearing in mind that you’ll need a type of wooden frame as well, these targets won’t need replacing as often as cheaper materials.
- Cut your carpet or foam sheets into strips or squares, depending on whether you want to fasten them horizontally or vertically.
- Form the sheets or strips into a stack, using as many as you can.
- You’ll need two wooden planks and four lengths of rod or dowel appropriate to the size that you want for the target. You’ll also need some tightening bolts. Drill a hole in each corner of each plank.
- Position one plank as the bottom of the target and fill the corner holes using the rods and the screws.
- Stack your tower of carpets or foam on top of the board, between the rods. Go up as high as you need.
- Slide the second plank on top of the stack, feeding the rods through the corner holes until the wood is pressing against the top of the stack.
- Tighten the bolts at the top and bottom. This forces the planks to squeeze the stack of carpet or foam together, compressing them and making them stronger.
- You can then paint or print your target roundel onto one side of the target.
Wooden Box Targets
These are the most labor-intensive but effective options for homemade archery targets, although they will also be more expensive than other options.
You’ll need a lot of wood in various sizes – four straight planks, four large strips, and one large square sheet.
You’ll also need some packing material and something like a tarp or large burlap sack.
- Use the straight planks to make a square front for the target, with a large square gap in the center.
- Along the top, bottom, and one side of this front piece, attach three of the four large strips of wood. Leave one side without a cover.
- Attach the front of the frame to the large square sheet of wood. This will form the back of the target.
- To cover the gap at the front of the target, flip the construction onto the back sheet. Then, take your piece of tarp or large burlap sack and cut it into a square that covers the front of the target. This can be used to hold your roundel. Fasten this in place at the corners and along the sides and the edge to keep it taut. This will hold in the packing material.
- Use your gap at the side to stuff the target with backstop material. You can use hay, foam, cardboard, clothes, or discarded plastic wrap – whatever you can get hold of. Pack the box as tight as you can until it presses against the tarp at the front.
- Once your target is full, install the final side plank to close up the target. If you need to change the backstop material at some point, you can take this panel off and switch it out easily.
DIY Archery Target Considerations
When building your own archery targets, you’ll need to consider a few things to build the exact type of target that fits your available space and practice requirements. These factors range from materials to size and cost.
The main consideration will always be safety.
Whichever type of target you build, it needs to keep your arrows from flying through fences and potentially injuring people around you.
The arrows need to get stuck in the backstop material, but also need to be easy to retrieve.
All of the targets above will help to stop your arrows provided that your backstop material is packed in tight enough.
You also need to consider a few things when choosing materials to build your target with. Each of the materials that we mentioned earlier has its pros and cons.
Cardboard is cheap, readily available, and easy to turn into an archery target.
However, it’s also weak and won’t stand up to long-term pin-cushioning from your arrows. It’ll also get soggy in wet weather if left outside.
Hay is also cheap, and while it will endure a bit more punishment than cardboard, it still needs replacing regularly.
This can become expensive if you shoot a lot. Hay also has the problem of being a sought-after nesting material for various creatures and critters like snakes and rodents.
If left outside or in a barn, you might find some unwelcome visitors in your archery target! Hay doesn’t stand up to wet conditions well either and will start to rot.
Foam and carpet are a bit more expensive than cardboard or hay, but they are much more durable and won’t need replacing as much.
Foam especially is also good at standing up to the impact forces of your arrows, which means that foam is used on most commercial archery targets.
That said, it will eventually need replacing.
When stacked together within a wooden frame, it can also be awkward and heavy to move around.
Cardboard, bag, hay bale, or wooden box.
The choice is yours.
Ultimately, the one that is right for you depends on your needs, budget, and preferences.
But these are the best archery targets to build for a compound bow.
The materials are easy to source and the process is pretty simple.
At least in theory!
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.