A Little Extra Practice At Home Could Put More Venison in the Freezer
In any sport, practice is a key element. Football teams can’t win unless they put forth the effort in practice. Rhythm, form, conditioning and confidence are all important for practice and the game. Practice can reveal weaknesses and flaws that must be addressed before the first play.
Archery is no different. Bowhunters need the practice to test their gear, shooting form and skills to make certain everything is in line before climbing into a tree stand on opening day. With practice, they gain the confidence and shooting skill required to take a monster buck with stick and string.
For some bowhunters, getting to a place where they can safely fling a few arrows can be tough. There may not be an archery range close to home. However, with affordable bow targets and a little space, bowhunters can make their own archery range right in their backyards.
Before Bringing Out the Targets
One priority for a backyard range before the first arrows flies is check the local municipality laws for shooting archery equipment. In most cities and towns across the state, shooting a bow and arrow in the backyard is legal. However, check with the city or town clerk about any restriction for archery shooting.
A huge backyard is not required for an archery range. However, you do need some room to set up at least one or more targets. Also, consider the safety factor for any errant arrows that could be misdirected. A range of 15 to 20 yards allows plenty of room for practice.
“To create a backyard archery range, start with a backstop. A dirt pile, berm or earthen bank is a top choice to stop a stray arrow.”
“Make sure you have an emergency backstop behind the target,” mentions Wesley Fielder, a former Buckmasters Top Bow Indoor World competitor from Talladega, Ala. “There should be something behind the target to stop the arrow in case of a miss.”
To create a backyard archery range, start with a backstop. A dirt pile, berm or earthen bank is a top choice to stop a stray arrow. Place the target right in front of the backstop or move it up a few yards as long as it is high enough to catch an arrow that might miss the mark.
Another option may be a couple pieces of plywood racked up on the side of the garage. This can be a temporary setup and easily removed once deer season has ended. Chances are you’re not going to have arrows hitting the wooden stop on a consistent basis. At least I hope not!
An arrow stopping mat or netting makes another good backstop idea. Archers can string these up between some trees or tie them off to a fence. Many indoor archery ranges use arrow stop mats. Check the stopping power for the netting or curtain. They are usually rated by maximum bow poundage. Prices can range from around $40 to $200 for quality mats or curtains.
Another option for arrow stoppers, square hay bales can be stacked at least two deep and two high to create a backstop. A sheet of plywood behind the hay bales might be needed for added protection if the bales are not tightly compacted enough to completely stop an arrow.
After establishing an emergency backstop, move the targets in position. There are many different types of portable targets for backyard archery shooting. If you plan to do a lot of practice, multi-sided targets are a smart choice. These cubes or squares can have different faces for various aiming points.
One critical aspect of bowhunting is judging the distance to the target. This is where a backyard range can be beneficial. Setting up multiple targets at various ranges helps build the mental picture and ability to correctly estimate the distance to the target.
“Place the targets at known distances to help in making the proper shot,” Fielder mentions. “Portable targets make it easier to change up the distances.”
One target can be sufficient to help your aiming or sight picture in judging the distance. Small cubes or bag targets are perfect to move about the range at various yardages. You and a hunting buddy can each contribute a couple of targets together to create a larger backyard range.
If space or shooting area will not allow moving multiple targets, move your position relative to the target. Change the angle of the shot and back up or move to either side to change the distance. Be sure to watch the area behind the target for safety reasons.
For the first couple of practice sessions, put the target as close as 10 yards. This distance seems close, but at first concentrate on shooting form and making certain your bow and accessories are performing as they should.
“It is better to shoot five good arrows than 50 bad arrows,” Fielder advises. “The first few times shooting, get your form down and your muscles tuned to shooting.”
Regular archery practice is beneficial, but shooting too often can produce negative results. Too much arrow shooting can cause strained muscles and fatigue. Also, you can burn out and loose interest in practicing altogether. To break up the shooting, grab a couple buddies and take turns estimating the distance to each target.
After shooting the same course and targets for a while, monotony can set in. If possible, change up the course. Have a buddy move the targets to other distances on your range. Use different style targets on the course. Combine bag, block and 3-D targets if possible.
Create Realistic Hunting Situations
A backyard archery range should be as realistic as possible. Most bowhunters hunt from an elevated stand. This can be simulated by shooting from the deck on the back of your house. Some decks or porches may only be a few feet off the ground while other may rise up 10 feet or more.
Decks make great places for archery practice if there is room below for targets. As always, safety should be the number one factor before releasing an arrow. If the deck is high enough or the angle to the target steep enough, a miss will send the arrow into the ground.
“Practice like you will be hunting,” Fielder comments. “Shoot off a stand if you plan on hunting from a stand.”
“Block or bag targets are great to get started, but, a 3-D deer target makes the backyard range more realistic.”
Fielder suggests practicing from a tree stand if possible. The target view and sight picture is different from a tree than when shooting on the ground. He also suggests to practice shooting from a seated position. It is much easier to do this on the backyard range before heading to the woods.
Some serious bowhunters have constructed their own shooting platforms in their backyard. A couple of 4×4 posts, some braces and decking can create a simple shooting platform. To help cut expenses, a couple hunting buddies can chip in to share costs and construction.
Block or bag targets are great to get started, but, a 3-D deer target makes the backyard range more realistic. The 3-D targets are not cheap, but they will help in distance estimation and presenting a good aim point. I haven’t seen any deer with little orange dots on their sides.
If a 3-D target is out of your budget, opt for a bag or block target that has the deer vitals printed on one of the target faces. Also, small cardboard targets with the deer vital area printed in color can be pinned over a cube or bag target. They are fairly inexpensive and give a good sight picture.
The purpose of a backyard archery range is to get the practice you need to become proficient and accurate with your bow before opening day. Also, even after archery season begins, it is important to continue some practice sessions to keep your shooting muscles in shape and maintain accuracy.
A simple backyard archery range can help you stay on target this season. When the moment of truth arrives to release an arrow on that buck, your confidence will be high and you know it will be a great day outdoors.