Getting better at archery takes a lot of practice, so naturally, many people want to practice in their backyard. It makes practicing so much easier than lugging everything to a field or the range every time. But is it legal?
Can you practice archery in your backyard? Generally, yes you can practice archery in your backyard. Some counties will require your backyard range be inspected by an ordinance officer who will issue a permit if your range is deemed safe. Other counties do not allow archery practice within city limits.
So how do you find out if you’re county allows practicing archery? There is more information to cover and some helpful things you can do to make sure you’re following the law.
Find Out If Practicing Archery Is Legal In Your Area
Disclaimer: This article is simply research I have done on my own to help answer this question. I am not a lawyer. Contact your lawyer for legal advice.
Legal Authorities To Consider:
First, lets consider the laws at the state level. I could not find any state that outright did not allow practicing archery. There are states that have laws requiring cities to implement some sort of restrictions though. For example, you may have to be a certain distance away from a dwelling.
Whether or not a state enforces it, some cities and counties will implement their own laws regarding shooting a bow and arrow. It may be helpful for you to check your state laws, but for most of the country, you will need to check your county laws, and city codes if you live within city limits.
So next we want to consider the county laws. In many cases this is as easy as contacting your local police department or county commissioner. Many towns and counties will have a website that will directly answer your question.
Many cities do not allow archery practice on private property within city limits. There are some exceptions to this, so your best bet is to again call your local police station to inquire about any restriction about target practice within your cities limits. For a majority of you, you will find that you can legally practice archery in your backyard. But it’s always best to do the research before hand.
Some areas are even encouraging archery for hunting purposes. Here’s a quote from published journal about using bait to increase archery deer harvest. (source)
In Connecticut, USA, hunting over bait on private land was recently legalized to increase harvest opportunities. Our objective was to assess bow‐hunter willingness to use bait and effects of bait type, hunter disturbance, time spent hunting, and property size on deer‐harvest potential in a suburban landscapeUse of Bait to Increase Archery Deer Harvest in an Urban–Suburban Landscape
HOWARD J. KILPATRICK ANDREW M. LABONTE JOHN S. BARCLAY
One thing many areas don’t allow is shooting over a road. You will see something about public roadways in the local codes with possibly a distance requirement. I would generally suggest that you avoid shooting near a road or over a road anyway. But do be aware, most areas will have restrictions around practicing archery over a road.
Terms To Watch Out For
When reading through your local codes and laws you may come across some terms that will prohibit practicing archery in your area, but it’s not crystal clear every time that’s what they mean. For example, if you see the phrase ‘projectile or missile’ be careful.
A projectile or missile can also be referring to anything you can throw, such as a rock. Yes, your city might not allow you to throw rocks. This can be a grey area but typically an shot arrow will be considered a missile or projectile. Call your local authorities to ask for clarification, you may come to find that archery is accepted, but you can’t throw a wrench.
Another term to watch for is: ‘May not be used near occupied dwelling’ with a distance requirement of some kind. Many areas want you to be a certain distance away from buildings when shooting a bow. Sometimes this only applies to firearms, and other times it’s ok to shoot with the property owners permission.
Make A Safe Backyard Range
You may find out that your county or city will allow you to practice archery in your backyard only after your have been issued a permit. In some cases, to get a permit, an ordinance officer will need to inspect your range and the area you will be shooting for safety. Make your backyard range as safe as possible so you will pass this inspection.
A safe and sturdy back stop is key to a safe range and to passing any inspections you may be required to have. A backstop is an area behind your target to safely catch any arrows that miss your target. Many archers stack hay bales behind their target as a backstop.
In our backyard, we shoot at our fence so we put up a combination of plywood, hay bales, and rubber mats as our backstop. An arrow from a high powered bow can penetrate a fence, so an inspector will be looking for that. For more information and ideas to create a safe backstop, check out my Archery Backstop Guide I made to help you out.
Having an archery safety checklist is probably not required, but will show the inspector you mean business when it comes to safety. We have an archery safety sheet we keep near our range because we have kids that shoot there. But it certainly won’t hurt for an inspector to see it.
Visit my Archery Safety Guide page to see what we do, and get the free safety rules print out I put on that page for you. Print off the safety rules sheet and pin it up somewhere near the range. You want everything about your range to scream safety first.
Keep the area of your range clean and neat looking. You don’t want obstacle in front of or behind your target and backstop that could cause distraction. Also consider having your target at a downward slope from your shooting position. It’s not required, but it does make for a safer range setup.
After you’ve checked the rules, laws, and maybe even called your local police, you find that you can practice archery in your backyard. Even though you may be sure that you’re good to go, I would consider talking with your neighbors and letting them know. This is especially needed if your neighbors live close by.
Just saying something as simple as, “hey I’ve gotten the ok from the county to practice archery in my backyard, I just wanted to let you know about it”, can go along way. The problem with a neighbor not knowing you are legally allowed to do this, is that they may still call the police if they feel concerned. The police will most likely still show up even if you are doing everything by the book.
I find it best to just avoid law enforcement involvement all together by just letting your neighbors know what you are doing, and that everything will be perfectly safe. Hey, your neighbors may even want to come over and try it out sometime.
Check With Your HOA
Even if you local laws allow target practice, and your neighbors are cool with it, your HOA may have rules against it. If you don’t live in an HOA, lucky you, don’t worry about this section. You know those documents you signed without reading when you moved into the HOA? There may be some rules in there that don’t allow archery in your neighborhood.
For the most part, the HOA won’t have any legal way of getting law enforcement involved to stop you. By they are legally allowed to fine you for practicing archery if it violates one of the covenants or rules of the home owners association. I suggest just checking with them about it before you start getting fines.
What If It’s Not Legal
Unfortunately, some of you may find that practicing archery is not legal in your area. If that’s the case, there are some other alternatives to think about. You might find that your best bet is to go to an archery range every time you want to practice. For me, that is not ideal. Whenever I can only practice at a range, I notice that I practice a lot less than I’d like to.
- A Park
- Friend Or Relatives House
- Open Field (private property)
- Basement Range
- Garage Range
Consider setting up a range at friend or relatives house. Hopefully, not too far of a drive away from you. But if it’s somewhere you will likely visit anyway, that opens up more opportunity for you to get some practice time in. If you have a basement or large enough garage, you could build an indoor range. Also, some local parks may allow archery target practice.
Can I Practice Archery At A Park?
During my research, I have found some parks that allow you to practice archery in them. Most parks will have stated rules somewhere near the entrance, but just because they don’t specifically prohibit archery does not mean you can go and start shooting your bow there.
In fact, most parks that do allow archery, will have a posting somewhere stating that they do allow it. If they don’t allow it, it may or may not be posted. Most parks and recreational areas will have a website with more information than what is posted on location. Check out the parks website or call your local parks and rec department to see what they will allow.
If you live in a rural area, you will most likely be able to find an open field or open area to practice archery in. You’ll want to find an area with limited people around that could take issue with you being there. If you can find the property owner of that land, get their permission to shoot there. Most people are ok with stuff like this and might even want to join you.
Build An Indoor Archery Range
If you have enough space in your garage or basement, you could simply build an indoor archery range to get around all the legal requirements in your area. The back stop becomes more important indoors and also the strength of your bow and type of arrows.
A high powered bow with sharp arrows heads, like field point arrows, could potentially penetrate a garage door. Many garage doors are made out of thin sheet metal like material, so keep that in mind when building an indoor range.
Usually if you can get about 10 to 20 yards of space, you can make a decent indoor range. 20 or 30 feet could even work out well, it seems like very limited space. But you will be able to work on your form and accuracy still. I would suggest using bullet point arrows or target arrows inside, you could possibly do a lot of damage to your interior with hunting arrows.
It should be pretty easy to create a backstop indoors, I wouldn’t use hay bales, but you will most likely have a wall you could use. I suggest leaning a piece of plywood against the wall and stapling some foam pads or a yoga mat to the face of it. The foam mats will protect your arrows and minimize the arrows bounce back from hitting the plywood.
With a nice backstop setup, simply place a target in front of it and start practicing. You may want to consider using smaller targets with a smaller indoor space. Here is a page I made to give a closer look at the Best Targets for archery shooting. Consider having a system of letting people in the house know when you are practicing to avoid anyone running into the room or distracting your shot.
Backyard Archery Range Benefits
The number one benefit of having an archery range in my backyard is the convenience. I spend so much more time improving my archery skill now than I ever have before. Being able to walk out back and be shooting at targets in a couple minutes is amazing.
Another benefit I didn’t see coming, is that I spend more time with friends and family practicing archery. To get people to go to a range to practice archery was like pulling teeth. With everything we need right in the backyard, we spend a lot more time together.
I also like the feeling of the range being ours. Sure it’s small with only enough room for one or two targets, but it’s ours, I built it myself. No need to wait for a range to give the go ahead to shoot. When we have multiple people shooting at our we practice range safety and range commands. But it’s only us, so everything moves a lot quicker.
You can actually build your own range with a backstop, targets, and everything you need on a budget. Here are some helpful links if you want to know more.
Are There Any Legal Restriction To What Bow I Can Use?
Montana and South Dakota are the only states that have legal restrictions to the size of bow you are allowed to use. Arrows must be greater than 26″ long and a compound bow must measure more than 28″ in length. Many states have legal restrictions for minimum draw weight a bow must have to hunt with, but not for target shooting.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In Texas?
The state of Texas does not have any law preventing you from shooting a bow in your backyard for target practice. However, some areas like Cedar Park does not allow it. Austin and Dallas have no specific ordinance preventing you from practicing archery in your backyard.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In Florida?
You can shoot your bow in your backyard or on private property in Florida. Florida state has no law preventing you from practicing archery in your backyard, but some counties may not allow shooting within city limits.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In Wisconsin?
Wisconsin does not have a law preventing you from practicing archery in your backyard. But they do require some cities not allow shooting a bow within 300 ft of a building. Some cities allow it with permission from the building owner, but this varies from area to area.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In California?
California state law allows you to shoot a bow in your backyard. But many of the counties and cities in California will have much stricter rules. In California it’s best to check with your city and county codes before practicing.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In Colorado?
Yes, you can shoot a bow in your backyard in Colorado. However some cities do not allow discharge of a weapon within city limits. Whether weapon includes a bow and arrow or just a firearm is up to your local city codes.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In Illinois?
There is no state law in Illinois preventing you from practicing archery in your backyard. Check your local laws first, but generally, Illinois allows target practice on private property.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In Ohio?
Yes in Ohio you are allowed to shoot a bow on private property in a safe manner. You must have permission from the owner of the property and a proper backstop to make sure arrows do not leave the property. Some townships may change this or have alternate laws you must follow.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In New York?
New York state has no law prohibiting archery target shooting. However, New York City does not allow the use of a bow and arrow, and it is illegal to bring one into a park. Check with your local town hall for local restrictions or requirements.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In Idaho?
Yes you can shoot a bow in your backyard according to Idaho state laws. Local county, city, or town laws may restrict shooting a bow in your area. Check with your local town hall for rules in your area.
Can You Shoot A Bow In Your Backyard In New Jersey?
New Jersey state has no law preventing you from practicing archery on private property. However, some cities in New Jersey do not allow firing a bow within city limits.
Disclaimer: I am not lawyer and can give no legal advice. Contact your lawyer for legal advice. This site is not responsible for anything you do with the information in this article.
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