There are many reasons why you may want to practice archery at home..
Maybe you have a hectic schedule and can’t afford wasting time to travel to the range.
Or perhaps you can’t get enough of the sport out there and want to continue working on your form when back home.
There are even days you can’t go out due to inclement weather yet you love to shoot every other day.
Or could be you lack good ranges nearby and the only way out is setting up your own backyard archery range…
And so forth.
Well, whatever your reasons, I will be showing you how to practice archery at home to help you get the most out of your backyard archery range while playing safe.
How to practice archery at home: The basics
Before you even think of shooting a bow at home, you need to find out what your local laws say about bow shooting in residential locations.
That’s because not every town/city permits shooting bows and arrows in residential zones.
Your first step is thus to visit your town hall or local authority offices and find out if they have bylaws prohibiting shooting in your own property.
You will get all the information about what you can shoot, when, and where.
You want to have fun and not fall foul of the local laws so this is important.
And what options do you have if backward archery is disallowed in your place?
Well, you’ll have to look for alternatives; you can, for instance, approach the local archery shops and ask them about potential practice locations.
Shooters at your club can also share ideas on convenient practice ranges.
On the other hand, your next question should be on where to construct a backyard target range if backyard archery is perfectly legal (lucky you!) in your area.
Where to construct your backyard target range
You can set up a backyard range easily and affordably so long as you have space.
Speaking of space, you actually don’t require massive free are- I have about 25 yards of space and I find it quite comfortable to work with.
Like I hinted earlier on, more important is implementing enough safety considerations. Indeed, you don’t want to harm your pets and neighbors.
Kids are especially nosy and you need to be extra careful (More on safety later)…
Back to construction and the first thing to set up is a backstop…
1. Setting up your backstop
The backstop will arrest arrows that miss your target. This is arguably the most fundamental part of your backyard archery range.
I say so because while you can even shoot 1000 or even 5000 arrows just fine, all it takes to mess up is a single misfire and you have an arrow heading to God knows where.
And you know the repercussions: it could even land you in court if it ends up injuring people.
Backstops also ensure that you don’t lose your arrows in the backyard.
I know you can buy a good backstop but for most shooters, DIY backstops are fun and way cheaper to construct.
Let’s look at the best materials to use first:
Now, backstops should be made of thick, spongey materials as these greatly absorb an arrow’s shock.
For this reason, Hay bales are quite practical and normally the most affordable option. Having said that, some shooters prefer to use plywood or compressed foam plastic since the latter two last longer.
You can as well build yours using foam play mats or other types of floor mats for that matter.
The actual construction
If you’ll be using hay bales, ensure you provide a large room for error by stacking them about 5 feet tall x 5 feet wide (minimum).
Hay bales are fine if left free standing (another advantage) but for other materials, you often have to create a frame or a stand.
Make your backstop sturdy
Lastly, your backstop is also supposed to be sturdy especially if you pull a higher draw weight (this means you shoot arrows more forcefully).
You can add more layers of foam mat or stack more materials besides ensuring that the stand and the frame are firm. Some shooters mount their backstops against a fence to give them extra reinforcement so you can consider this.
As you can see, it’s not going to cost you an awful lot neither will constructing a backstop take much time.
2. Installing an archery target
Next, you automatically require a target and again you need to get it right.
And like with backstops, the inexpensive way to own targets is building your own.
For instance, third-hand archery range skins come to about $35 a set. You then add $20 for lumber at most and some old clothes and you’re done.
This is super affordable vis-à-vis commercial targets..
Read this: Best Ways To Make an Inexpensive DIY Archery Targets article to learn how to quickly construct DIY targets in your backyard.
An alternative: Buying an archery target
For those of us who don’t have time or passionately hate DIYs, buying an archery target is the only choice, though you ought to have a couple of considerations in mind.
You will need to choose between foam layer blocks or bag archery targets.
Generally, this is a question of your shooting practices and personal needs.
However, most archers who typically shoot broadheads order foam targets.
This is because these often last longer.
On the other hand, if you shoot field-points and/or target-points, and you’re interested in a lightweight target, bag targets are likely to serve your needs best.
Needless to say, you will need 3D foam archery targets if you’re preparing for real-world hunting situations.
These come in myriad animal species and show the vitals (on the outside) to help you know where to precisely aim your arrows.
3. Distance markers
You might want a distance marker on your ranges if you’ll be practicing gap shooting or to help you judge yardage.
Many archers I know innovate distance markers by measuring out every 5 or 10 yards and then digging out the ground.
They then stick down bricks flush to the ground and finally mark them with the actual yardage.
You could as well try this.
How to practice shooting technique at home / apartment
Besides your standard shooting practice, there are a number of other ways you can practice and improve your shooting technique in your backyard.
SPT (Specific Physical Training)
SPT helps you increase endurance, flexibility, structure, strength/power, and more and entails going through different variations of SPT exercises as I explain next.
You want to elevate your perseverance so that when you do go out there, you can better control your shots.
Here you draw your bow normally, using the correct technique. You, however, don’t mount an arrow at this point.
You will hold it for between 30 seconds-1 minute and accommodate rest times before each repetition.
For example, you can hold the bow for 35 seconds then rest for 70 seconds. You can then take a 2 minutes rest after several repetitions (for example 10) before repeating the exercise.
There are dozens of possible variations where you change the hold periods, repetitions, rest periods, and even tempo as you work on your endurance.
I suggest that you mount a mirror to give you visual feedback for purposes of checking your alignment/posture throughout.
For a start, hold 20 seconds, then rest 40 seconds. Aim to repeat 10 to 20 times while working your way up.
Flexibility (movement) exercises
This exercise is aimed at increasing your range of movement.
First draw the bow normally up to your regular holding position. You then continue expanding the draw gradually.
Your goal is to draw between 1 to 1.5cm (3/8 to 5/8-inches) past the clicker while maintaining the same posture.
You can repeat 5-6 times after a rest of about 30secs between every repetition. You will ultimately be able to move your upper body better when aiming.
Devices such as a bow shot trainer and archery form master can sometimes help you maintain proper back tension, expansion, and follow through.
The purpose of this exercise is to give you a feel of where both your shoulders should be for efficient shots when shooting out in the field.
Here you pull the string behind the neck while “listening” out for your best shoulder point and is most helpful if you have been having problems attaining optimal shoulder positions.
It also pays to sometimes work on your shooting psychology. In fact, many Olympic level shooters are known to practice mental shooting ahead of competitions.
Here you simply go through the motions of aiming and releasing a bow and arrow but without the real gear.
The idea is to test whether your motions remain correct without a bow in a pressure-free environment.
Like I have repeatedly mentioned, its safety above everything in backyard archery, so you will want to check on the following:
· Avoid dry-firing
I cannot emphasize this enough- dry firing is just a no-no.
Even if you’re a veteran and super confident that you can never make such a basic mistake, the reality is that you are never in full control of your equipment not to mention that equipment do malfunction.
And it can malfunction at the very worst time when you’re drawing so be sure to never release a bow string minus an arrow.
· Rethink your backyard archery range
If the background behind your targets/backstop doesn’t provide for a misfired arrow to land safely, consider modifying your range.
You can, for instance, add some more mats behind your target for extra safety.
In addition, consider stacking more layers of materials (for your backstop) to create sufficient soft landing space.
· Stick to the rules
No matter the kind of backstop or targets you are using, always follow the very basic safety rules to the latter.
For example, you should never shoot towards areas frequented by people including houses and sidewalks.
Moreover, always beware of your targets and whatever lies beyond during sessions.
This means that no human activity should be taking place behind your target area whatsoever during practice time.
Moving on, irrespective of whether you have installed a backstop net or not, you shouldn’t allow anyone else to enter your range while you’re shooting.
You might also be aware of the other dos and don’ts including:
- Don’t: Never raise your sights above a target.
- Do: Always draw towards the ground.
¾ Bring the right accessories
Always carry essential accessories. For instance, an arrow puller will help you remove stuck arrows safely (arrows easily break up when yanked out).
¾ Make practice a team game
You can invite a friend and engage in friendly backyard contests to make it more fun. All you need to do is be a bit creative to motivate competition. You can, for example, strike a deal that will see the loser pay for dinner.
¾ Don’t ignore the warm-up
Before every session, participate in some warm-up exercises.
This helps you stimulate your muscles and get your entire body ready for sessions.
You can use stretch exercise bands or other helpful aids.
¾ Break it down
When you have more hours, breaking down practice into multiple sessions and include warm-ups, warm-downs, and mental breaks in between sessions.
This paced nature of training ensures that you’re ready and more relaxed so the quality of your shots will be high.
Wrapping it up
If the law allows, you can easily set up an archery range at home to help you shoot all year round.
All you have to do is create a backstop then order/build the right target plus distance markers (if need be).
Have in mind all the basic safety precautions while building your backyard archery range and remember to have fun, for example, by inviting friends and simulating real-life shooting situations.
I can promise you this: if you do it right, you will never again want to waste time (and money) travelling to your regular range.
Above all, shooting from the privacy of your backyard and at your own pace can be incredibly fulfilling!