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With any sport, practice makes perfect. But with archery, this phrase is even more important. Mastering archery relies on consistency and rhythm, which means that to continually grow as an archer, you need to practice a lot.
So, where can you actually practice archery? There are a couple of good places to practice archery – mainly dedicated ranges and local archery clubs. You can also practice in your backyard or on someone else’s land, provided that you have enough space and permission to do so. Never practice in open public spaces, as it may not be legal, or you could accidentally cause harm.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
That’s what you often hear.
And although it may be somewhat obvious and even a bit tedious to hear at times, it does generally make you much more proficient.
With most things in life.
And it could not be more true than with archery.
So, let us now delve deeper to help you know exactly where and how to do so.
Can I Practice Archery In My Backyard?
You can practice archery in your backyard in most states. However, this really depends on the space you have available. You need quite a bit of open space to get a good distance for your targets and to make sure that wayward arrows don’t endanger any of your neighbors. Check your state laws to make sure it’s legal.
Practicing archery in your backyard is one of the easiest to get a lot of consistent practice time, and many states in the US consider this legal.
After all, it’s your land, and you have control over it.
However, there are some states that don’t allow you to practice in your backyard. Make sure to check the local laws in your state.
But a lot of archers might not have the necessary space to perform archery safely.
Most urban dwellings have relatively small backyards, which really aren’t suited to archery.
For effective archery practice, you’ll need at least 10 feet of space between you and your target if you’re a beginner.
The more space you have, the better it will be for practice because you’ll be able to gradually increase your distance away from your targets.
There will always be limits to the level you can reach when practicing in your backyard.
If you dream of competing at the Olympics, you’ll likely outgrow the available target distance in your backyard after a few years.
Standard Olympic target distances for outdoor competition start at 70 meters.
Not exactly a common size for backyards.
At this point, practicing at a dedicated archery club is going to be your best bet.
You may be in control of your private land in your backyard, but you still have a responsibility to practice safely.
There some safety measures that you must put in place to protect yourself and those around you.
Your neighbors won’t thank you for shooting holes in their fence!
In more negative circumstances, failing to take the proper precautions when practicing in your backyard could result in your arrows potentially injuring people nearby.
The best thing to do is to use some form of backstop – something placed behind your archery targets to stop arrows from getting out of control.
This could be a thick layer of foam, several bales of hay, or a curtain of thick netting. These can be found online pretty easily.
Backstops absorb the force of an arrow and stop it from shooting through the target and potentially causing damage or harm.
However, you set up your backyard practice range; make sure you put in some backstops.
What Is A Good Distance To Practice Archery?
It depends on your skill level. For beginners, a good shooting distance to start with is about 10 feet (3 yards). As you get more comfortable and develop your form and skills, you can gradually start to increase the target distance.
Practicing in your backyard is a good starting point for beginners because the space you need is relatively small.
As long as you can put around 10 feet between you and your target and deploy the proper safety measures, you can work on getting comfortable with your bow and perfecting your form.
10 feet (or 3 yards) is widely endorsed as a good starting distance for beginners.
Once you have developed your rhythm and you can hit the target consistently, it’s time to take things up a gear.
Increase the target distance to around 15 or 20 feet. If you don’t have the space to do this in your backyard, now is a good time to join an archery club.
They will have more room for larger target distances.
As you grow as an archer, keep incrementally increasing the distance that you’re shooting at.
What you want to achieve with archery in the long term will dictate which target distances you aim for.
If you think of archery as simply a hobby, just keep improving until you’re happy with your proficiency.
But if you want to engage in official competitions, you’ll need to choose which types of events you practice for.
Indoor and outdoor archery events have different standard target distances, and these distances also vary depending on which rules you’re playing by.
In the USA, we use World Archery Federation (WA) rules.
For indoor archery, 20 or 27 yards (18 to 25 meters) is the starting target distance.
In outdoor competitions, the average target distances for adults are usually between 33 yards and 98 yards (30 to 90 meters).
But if you plan on chasing Olympic glory, the distances are slightly different.
For outdoor events, Olympic archers usually shoot at 70 meters (77 yards).
Olympic competitions held indoors use targets with a distance of between 18 meters (20 yards) or 25 meters (27 yards).
It can take around three years of consistent practice to even approach Olympic-level proficiency.
Where Can I Practice Archery For Free?
There are some options when it comes to free archery practice, with the main one being your own backyard if you have space. For beginners, some local clubs may offer taster days or try-out sessions that might be free. There are usually free ranges available too.
If you aren’t sure whether archery is for you, then finding a free way to practice until you decide how far you want to take it is a good idea.
Practicing on your property, whether in a garage or outside in the backyard, is always going to be the easiest way to practice for free.
But not all archers will have the space to do this.
For people who are considering getting into archery but don’t want to make a formal financial commitment, taster sessions are a good avenue to investigate.
Many local clubs in your area may offer a handful of free introductory sessions each year, so it’s worth looking online.
Here, you’ll get to handle basic equipment and take your first steps into the world of archery.
Of course, these sessions aim to persuade you to join the club permanently, which usually incurs some membership fees.
Another way of practicing archery for free if you don’t have space on your own land is to use someone else’s.
Perhaps you have a friend who also practices archery or at least has enough land to let you use some for free.
Again, make sure to take the proper safety precautions wherever you practice, like setting up some backstops behind your targets.
One option that looks promising but should be avoided is practicing archery in a public space.
While large open spaces such as sports fields look good as practice locations, the practicalities of the situation actually make it a pretty bad idea.
While there are no national laws regarding archery practice outdoors, local authorities may have their own rules in place, and passing police officers might take umbrage with you practicing in a public space.
There’s also the question of safety. Public spaces are free to use for everyone, which means that there may be a lot of people around, such as dog walkers or small children.
Archery requires a decent amount of space to be practiced safely, and even with backstops in place, accidents can occur.
It’s best not to take the risk of hitting anyone if one of your arrows wildly misses the target.
Thankfully, there are the odd free practice ranges that are open to the public. These often are situated in public parks, and you will likely need to bring your own equipment.
Just consider that these places tend to get busy, particularly during certain hours, so you may want to consider going at more inconvenient times!
Other Options For Practicing Archery
There are a few other options to consider when thinking of places to practice archery. If you have the space in your garage, you can practice indoors. Alternatively, there are plenty of local clubs to try out.
Getting better as an archer is a matter of persistence and practice.
We’ve talked about practicing in your backyard, but you could also use an indoor space such as a garage if you have the space available.
This is especially useful if you’re aiming at competing in indoor competitions, which usually start with a target distance of around 20 yards (18 meters).
As always, make sure to set up the correct safety measures when practicing indoors.
Joining a club is one of the best ways to practice and develop as an archer.
There are plenty of local clubs and practice ranges scattered around the US, so it’s worth checking on US Archery’s website to find your nearest location.
Or you can read our current archery range location guides here.
Dedicated archery clubs will have access to specialist equipment and will also use spaces with enough room for archery practice.
You can find clubs that offer both indoor and outdoor archery.
By joining a club, you also gain access to a wealth of archery knowledge and experience from the other archers or the club staff.
You may also be able to get in touch with professional coaches, which is vital if you intend to try and reach a level where you can compete in events.
You might even be shooting for the Olympics!
While joining an archery club isn’t free, if you really want to reach your potential as an archer, it’s the best option to use.
It also makes archery more fun and more social, as you’ll be around like-minded people who enjoy archery as much as you do.
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.