Some people don’t have archery clubs nearby, so they decide to start practicing in their backyard. It’s an excellent place to do some practice if all the conditions for doing it are met.
So, regarding the question “Can I practice archery in my backyard?”, the answer can be a bit ambiguous. I can answer both yes and no, depending on several factors. In this post, I will help you with that.
When I wanted to start practicing in my backyard, I did a thorough research about all the things I have to take into account before each archery session, and I show them here to you to aid you in avoiding having legal issues or hurting someone.
Is it a legal activity?
Before starting building your archery range, it’s very important to check if using a bow is allowed in your city/state. Sadly, there isn’t a site where you can put your zip code and it tells you if it’s legal or not to do it. The easiest way is to make a simple, short call. If your city has a complete City Hall, you can search for the legal department and ask there, they’ll probably know. Another option, if you aren’t sure if your City Hall has a legal department to contact, is to call the local police. Some of them might know and, if they don’t, they probably can advise you where or who to contact.
The last resource can be, if you have a local archery club, go and ask the instructor. He/She has probably been asked this before, and he/she surely knows. As a side note, I always advise going to an archery club. They have all the necessary safety measures to avoid accidents. Besides, they can provide you with equipment (from bows, arrows to finger tabs, protectors, targets, etc.), and help you improve your techniques.
If you already checked that it’s legal to shoot a bow in your backyard, you have to make sure to have all the necessary safety measures to avoid damaging neighboring properties and hurting people (either your neighbors or, eventually, someone who lives with you).
When I moved to my actual house, it has about 100 feet long backyard, so it’s ideal for some shooting. As I always say, I also go to an archery club. It helps me to improve my shooting, and having an experienced instructor helps me correct some things that I cannot do it alone, no matter how self-taught I am. But having such a large backyard was an opportunity I can’t miss. That’s why I started researching if it’s possible to make a completely safe archery range at home.
You might probably be a fine archer, with a considerably good aim (I don’t know you personally, so I can’t judge). Nevertheless, you have to be very careful in setting an archery range in a populated area, like your neighborhood, or a park. Regardless of your skills as an archer, there can always be accidents with your bow than can eventually result in a tragedy. Your string can snap during the draw, or your limbs crack when aiming, just to name a few, firing the arrow in any direction you can’t control. So, pay attention to safety measures.
Some key things have to be considered. Some of them may seem rather obvious, but I will list them anyway.
Where you should (or shouldn’t) put your target
First of all, try by all means possible to avoid setting your target against your neighbor’s limit, and even more if they have a fence. A misfiring in that direction can be disastrous. Sometimes it’s better to put the target against your own house. Doing so, it’s easier because you know who is at home (if you live with someone else), and you can control your accesses, like locking your doors and/or windows, preventing someone to go out when you are shooting. If you can cover those archways from the outside, it’s much better, you’ll also protect them in case of a misfire, especially the glasses from the windows.
Perhaps you, like me, have a large corridor on the side of your house, like a car entrance. Those places are great for setting a shooting range, with some considerations.
If you have a front fence at the entrance, please avoid it. First, there are a lot of slits and holes between the bars and the arrow can easily slide through them, hurting someone who is passing by (either a person, a dog or a passing car). Second, in the case or a misfire, the arrow can pass above the target and the fence, possibly reaching your neighbor crossing the street. There, the problem can be even bigger. In that case, it’s preferable that you put your target on the back of the corridor. The backstop will help your missed arrows to keep going through the back of your house.
If you have a large, solid brick wall to use as a stop, that’s great. Having a wall behind the target will obviously prevent the arrow to go through. But here’s a very tricky thing that may happen. If you throw against a solid wall, the arrow will hit that wall, and bounce back, probably towards you.
In that video, you can see how all the kinetic energy of the arrow is not absorbed by the wall, as it would be done by a rubber or cardboard backstop. So, that energy remains in the arrow and, if it doesn’t snap, the velocity reverts and the direction of the arrow inverts, returning to you. So, remember to also put a backstop here. Doing so, you’ll prevent from hurting you, or the arrow rebounding to any other random direction, and even avoid damaging the arrow because, although the arrows are not the most expensive gear in archery, they cost some money, especially if you bought some badass advanced arrows.
Shoot from the back to the front
If you definitively plan to shoot on your backyard to take advantage of its extension (like in my case), it’s better if you stand in the back of your property and shoot towards the front, i.e. to your house. As I mentioned previously, that’s your house. You know who lives there, or who is/isn’t there when you are shooting and can control better all the access, to avoid hurting someone. Moreover, in the eventual case you misfire and break a flower pot, it’s your flower pot.
Now that you know if practicing archery on your backyard is legal, learned some basic safety measures and finally decided to do it, it’s time to prepare the archery range.
Preparing the shooting ground
All the safety measures shown above will help you to decide if your backyard is in proper safety conditions to practice archery. Together with the confirmation that it’s legal to practice archery in your background, you’re almost ready to start. But first, you need to do some arrangements on your future shooting ground
First of all: a backstop
Regardless of where you put your target and the type of target you use, you must always have a backstop behind it. In case you miss the target or the arrow misfires, it’s best to have something to stop the arrow to wander around. You can buy it, or you can build a homemade one. It’s absolutely inexpensive and very easy to do. The easiest way to do it is to stack some layers of semi-hard material, like styrofoam or cardboard. A good addition is to use some rubber tiles, like those used on the gym’s floor. They’re affordable and will hold the arrow. Build it as large as you can. If you have a 1ft x 1ft or a 1.5ft x 1.5ft target, then the backstop has to be, at least, 6ft x 6ft or 7ft x 7ft. The larger you can do it, the better, and do it of 3 or 4 inches thick. The thicker the backstop, the fewer chances of your arrow to pass through it. You’ll catch almost every wandering arrow.
Check the ground
Find a clear and solid portion of the ground. If it’s a concrete or slabs (or something similar) floor, that’ll be better. This is not a mandatory condition, but not doing so will annoy you when you start shooting. It’s ok if you are using your backyard and you step over dirt or grass. But, please, make sure that it’s mostly plain. If you prefer, you can cover the shooting line zone with some wooden planks. This, will not only give you a more plain area, will prevent that it turns to mud after a rainy day, so you don’t lose a single practice day. Also make sure that you can stand in your shooting line with no obstacles like, for instance, flower pots, or buckets. You may trip on them, or hit the lower limb of your bow with them and, trust me, you’ll feel it on your very soul. So, in summary, a small plain lot around your shooting line to have a clearer shooting procedure.
Your backyard isn’t large enough? There are solutions
After you have your shooting range prepared, I want to give you some final things to have in mind.
Go for smaller targets
If you don’t have a large backyard or corridor it’s perfectly fine. You can practice anyway in a 30 or even 15 feet-long shooting range, no matter if you usually shoot at 100+ feet. One way to come around this issue is by using smaller targets, to compensate for the distance reduction. If you are used to big, 20in x 20in targets, you can change them by several 4″ x 4″ ones. In that way, you’ll have to aim better, since their golden zone is way smaller. Or you can invent some small games, like shooting to a given spot, and trying to shoot at the same spot, or shooting the three arrow in a straight line, each arrow at the same distance from the others. This kind of practice will also help to improve your aim.
Sometimes, for backyard archery, it’s preferable to have a low-poundage bow. It’s not necessary to have a whole new bow. If you are short on budget, you can just buy a new set of limbs, and both pairs of limbs will share the same riser (with all its accessories) if they are ILF. Doing so you will have two bow configurations: a low-poundage one for backyard, low-range shooting, and other with higher poundage for practicing in the archery club, or hunting, or whatever you like to do.
Alternative archery types
You may probably know by now, there are more types of archery than target archery and hunting. If you don’t know them, you can check this post where I describe different types of archery. I mention this because, among all types of archery, we have rather new disciplines, for instance, 3D archery or field archery. On this type of archery, you’ll shoot at 3D models of actual animals of, if you don’t like killing animals (not even plastic ones), some people use targets or other inanimate objects to replace the animals. These models are put on different parts of the range at different altitudes. Moreover, sometimes the shooter is at different altitudes, too. Unlike target archery, with that configuration, the shooter doesn’t know beforehand the exact distance to the target. So, you’ll have to compensate for the distance measuring and the difference in altitude, since most of them will be over the ground. This practice, not only is useful if you don’t have much room but also, by putting the targets over the ground, they’ll be lower, decreasing the chances of making a too high shot.
If you don’t have much room in your backyard, or the activity isn’t legal in your region, or it is, but you don’t want to risk hurting a neighbor or your own family, you can use your backyard practice to improve your technique, and increase your body stamina. If you manage to find an archery club near you, then in your house you can just simply practice drawing and undrawing your bow, like a stretching exercise. But remember, don’t do the dry firing, it will damage your bow and reduce its durability considerably (see here the risks of dry firing). There is an accessory that goes strapped on your forearm and is attached to the string, so you can draw/undraw without risking to release it, causing a dry fire.
A cookie for the road
Let me give you a final idea. This one is, perhaps, a personal preference. If you have a large mirror on your home, those that are a human-like height and you can see from your feet to your head, you can stand in front of them, with your chest facing it, and draw your bow. You can see in the mirror your posture, and it will help you correct them. I can bet you my socks that you surely have something in your posture that needs fixing. Of course, if you are a more experienced archer, those things would be minimal, but this is a perfect occasion to correct your form and then, at the archery club, you’ll occupy your time in just shooting.
You also have to take into account that, if you are a novice archer, or if you didn’t start yet, it’s a great occasion to invite you to read this compilation of 9 beginner mistakes, together with the way to fix them. You’ll be months ahead of other novices. If, on the other hand, you already initiated in archery, let me share with you these tips that I wish I knew when I started.
Disclaimer: All the recommendations that I put here on this post are merely suggestions. You’ll have to be completely sure if archery is legal in your zone, and you take all the safety measures to avoid harming other living beings or properties. If you plan practicing archery on your background, Archery Passion will not be responsible for any damage or injury caused by you, by following some of all recommendations shown in this post or the entire blog. You’ll be doing it at your own risk.
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