How To Make An Archery Target: 5 Target Examples


Not too long after buying our first archery target it was torn up quite a bit and we needed another one. But before buying another archery target, we decided to see if we could make one ourselves. After doing some research, we found there are a few good ways to make an archery target at home. Here is what we learned about making our own archery targets.

To make your own archery target you will need a frame for the target and material to put inside it. The material and frame need to be strong enough to withstand the impact from an arrow. The target size, weight, and construction all need to be taken into consideration when building an archery target.

Here are 5 DIY target ideas and how we ranked them:

Archery Target TypeDurabilityConstruction Difficulty
Hay TargetLowVery Easy
Cardboard TargetMediumEasy
Foam Mat TargetHighEasy
Wood Box TargetHighMedium – Hard
Carpet TargetHighMedium

We included a section below showing step by step how to create each of these targets. But first, I wanted to talk about some things to consider before you start building your target. For one, you will want a picture of a target face for most of these targets. You could draw your own rings on these targets, but here is a print out of a target face if you want one.

Archery Target Size

Depending on your needs and uses for your archery target, you will want to consider what size the target is going to be before starting the build. Which bow you use might affect your decision a bit as well. For example, in international competitions, a target for a compound bow is a little smaller than a target for a recurve bow, but the compound bow archers will stand closer to their targets.

A standard competition recurve bow target will be about 4 feet in diameter with 10 rings. Each ring will be about 4.7 inches wide. The outer ring will count as one point with each ring increasing in point value with the center ring being 10 points.

A competition compound bow target will be about 2.6 feet in diameter with also 10 rings. Each ring divided evenly across the target will be about 3.15 inches wide. The rings will increase in value from one to ten as you get closer to the center of the target.

If you’re not training for international competitions, take all those target measurements with a grain of salt. I just wanted to point out the official regulations so you can make a better decision what will work best for your target size.

For most people practicing archery in their backyard, you can sort of eyeball the size of target you will want. Keep in mind the size of the target if you plan on storing the target when not in use, you will need to be able to easily move the target around.

Archery Target Weight

Consider whether or not you want your archery target to be portable. If you do, the weight of your archery target is a big deal. You will want to be able to easily pick up and move the target by yourself. The cardboard or foam targets may be your best bet from a portability stand point. But you can also make the other targets smaller, or with lighter material to reduce the weight.

If you decide to go with the wooden box target, I’ve found using thinner plywood really cuts down on the weight of the target. Just try to keep the materials you’re using in mind, and how much they will make your target weigh when all put together.

1. Hay Archery Target

The hay bale archery target is one of the most common targets made for at home use. They are very cheap and easy to setup, but they do come with some drawbacks. Another straw target option is the coiled straw archery target. I have never made one of these, but I have seen them for sale online.

How To Build:

  • Decide the size of target you will need
  • Get enough straw hay bales to cover that size (usually 4-6)
  • Stack the hay bales or position them in an enclosure or target stand
  • Print out a paper target to attach to the hay bales

When I built a hay bale target I ended up paying about 30 bucks for 5 hay bales at a local place. You can buy hay bales online, but if you have a place nearby that sells them, I suggest just getting them there. I just use paper plates that I draw circles on, or print out a paper target to attach to the hay bales.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Easy to build
  • Stops an arrow
  • Doubles as a backstop

Cons:

  • Maintenance headache
  • Rain makes them heavy and fall apart
  • Attract bugs
  • Can be loose, allowing arrow to embed up to fletching

What I like about the hay bale target setup is that it also acts as a backstop. The only reason I don’t use this type of target anymore is the mess it makes and the maintenance required to keep up with it. When the hay bales get wet, they become very heavy, and then fall apart when you try to move them.

If your arrows are going into the hay bale up to the fletching, the hay is too loose. Try using ratchet straps to squish the hay bales down and compress them some. Some places even sell compacted straw hay bales, but you might be paying a little more for those types of bales.

2. Cardboard Archery Target

If you have a good backstop already setup, I prefer the cardboard box archery targets over the hay bale targets. They are really easy to make and last a good while. You won’t want to leave them outside when not in use. But you can make them so light, it’s not a problem to bring them inside after shooting.

How To Build:

  • Determine the size of the target and find a cardboard box that will fit those dimensions (I suggest getting a box that is as deep as it is wide)
  • Fill the cardboard box with material that will stop an arrow (rags, old clothes, more cardboard, plastic wrap, packed newspaper, etc)
  • Pack the material into the box and seal the box nicely
  • Draw rings on the box to aim at, or attach a printed out target

I can throw one of these targets together so quickly now that it doesn’t bother me when they wear out. I simply pack a large cardboard box with a bunch of other cardboard boxes and old newspaper, and staple a paper plate to the front of it.

Pros:

  • Easy to build
  • Very cheap target
  • No maintenance
  • Recyclable

Cons:

  • Can’t leave outside
  • Does eventually allow arrows to pass through
  • Can leave debris in the yard
  • Requires a decent backstop

I still make these and use these targets all the time. They work perfect for light backyard target shooting. If you plan on using a strong bow with a draw weight above 30 lbs, this might not be the target for you. If you have a good back stop, you won’t have to worry too much. But it’s hard to pack enough material in the box to stop a fast moving arrow every time.

This is one of the cheapest target I’ve ever made. It virtually costs next to nothing because I use material that I was recycling or getting rid of anyway. For light backyard target practice, or for kids, the cardboard target is one of the better options.

3. Foam Mat Archery Target

This is a fun target to make and they tend to be pretty durable and will last quite a while. After a while this type of target will need some repair. But if you make the frame right, changing out mats that are falling apart is simple. There are two ways to go about making this target, stacking the mats vertically or horizontally.

You Will Need:

  • 50 or more mats (5 packs of 10 or more)
  • 4 lengths of 2×4, longer than your target width (3 or 4 feet)
  • 4 lengths of threaded rod, longer than your target height (5/16″ diameter will work)
  • 8 nuts (5/16″ or same size as threaded rod)
  • 8 washers (inner diameter to match threaded rod)
  • Piece of cloth or carpet (optional)

The foam mats I’m talking about are pretty common and you’ve probably seen them or heard of them before. Sometimes referred to as puzzle mats, you will most commonly see these used in kids play areas or in a gym workout area. The foam mats can be locked together by the puzzle shape on their sides. They usually come in packs of 10 pieces, of 1 foot by 1 foot mats.

How To Build Horizontal Stack:

  • Connect mats together to make the width of target you want
  • Stack mats on top of one another until you’ve reached the height of target you want
  • Add a few more mats to the top
  • Drill holes in each end of the 2×4’s big enough for the threaded rod to pass through
  • Place the threaded rod through the 2×4’s one on both ends
  • Put the washers and nuts on the threaded rod
  • Place the stack of mats in between the 2×4’s with the threaded rod on each side
  • Tighten the nuts on the threaded rod to compact the mats tightly
  • Attach a printed target to the side of the mats to aim at

The end results should look something like this. The 2×4’s are compressing the mats onto each other and holding them tightly in place.

How To Build Vertical Stack:

You will follow the same steps as you would to create the horizontal stack, except keep in mind that the target face will now be the flat part of the mat instead of the sides of the mats stacked together. So you will want to lay and connect your mats together to make your target face size first. for example 3′ by 3′ or a grid of 9 mats if using 1′ by 1′ mats.

You will still stack the mats and clamp them together with 2×4’s and threaded rod, but you won’t need to stack so high. The amount you stack will now be the depth of your target rather than the height. I suggest at least 10 mats deep or so, depending on the strength of your bow and type of arrows you will be shooting.

Pros:

  • Easy to build
  • Not very expensive
  • Easy to repair
  • Can leave in the weather
  • Can withstand field point arrows

Cons:

  • Foam mats will rip and tear over time
  • Can leave debris in yard
  • Not very nice looking
  • May need a stand if target is small

The foam mat target is a good one for archers shooting field point arrows or hunting arrows. The sharp arrows will eat at the foam mats over time, but they are easy to replace so not a big deal. If you’re just going to be shooting bullet point arrows or target arrows, you may not need this type of target.

4. Wood Box Archery Target

This is one of the more difficult targets to make, but it will last you for years to come. The only maintenance for this target is to replenish some of the stuffing and replace the target face. You probably will only need to do this every other year though.

You Will Need:

  • 8, four foot long 2×4’s
  • 4, 2′ by 4′ pieces of plywood
  • One 4′ by 4′ piece of plywood
  • Tarp, burlap, or old grain sack
  • Deck screws or drywall screws
  • Staple gun with staples
  • Packing material (plastic pallet wrap)
  • Spray paint (optional)

This target is basically a wooden frame, stuffed with arrow stopping material and a tarp or burlap target face holding everything in. This target can get heavy once fully constructed, so I suggest adding some way of wheeling it around.

You don’t need to use pallet wrap packing plastic if you don’t want to either. It’s just really easy to get a hold of, most places that receive goods are just throwing the stuff out anyways, they’ll usually give it you for free. You could also use old clothes, rags, newspaper, or cardboard. The pallet wrap plastic is a lot easier to top off and maintain though.

How To Build:

  • Attach 4 of the 4′ 2×4’s to make a perfect square
  • Attach the other four 2×4’s to make another perfect square
  • Attach the two frames together with a piece of 2′ by 4′ plywood
  • Attach 2 other pieces of 2′ by 4′ plywood leaving one end open
  • Attach the 4′ by 4′ piece of plywood closing up the back of the target
  • Staple the target face (layers of tarp or burlap, or grain sack) to the front of the frame
  • Stuff packing material into the opening of the frame
  • Compact the packing material inside the target frame
  • Put on the last 2′ by 4′ piece of plywood to close up the target
  • Spray paint target spots on the target face (optional)

You don’t need to use the same materials I did, this is just an example of what I know will work for you. Also consider the lengths of the material and what size target you will want for yourself. I suggest adding some wheels to the bottom and a handle to wheel the target around as it can be pretty heavy.

Here’s a great video I found on YouTube creating a similar wooden box target to give you a better idea:

Pros:

  • Long lasting
  • Durable
  • Easy to maintain
  • Takes any arrow

Cons:

  • Usually have to buy materials
  • Have to gather packing material
  • Heavy, hard to move around

The maintenance on this target is a breeze. Every now and then you may want to reapply some of the target face material, and open up one side of the frame to stuff more packing material into it. Typically I will just staple another couple layers of an old grain sack to replenish the target face when it needs it, and will only need to add packing material every other year or more.

This target will take hunting arrows, broadhead, and field point arrows no problem. It’s a bit overkill for someone who is just interested in target practice, but many hunters like to train with the arrows they will be using on the actual hunt.

5. Carpet Archery Target

This is a good option if you have any old carpet laying around. It can be a really cheap target to make if you already have these materials. If you don’t, I wouldn’t go buy any carpet to make this one. The construction is similar to the foam mat target, so I would just build that one instead.

You Will Need:

  • 2 pieces of wood, 2″ thick, 1′ wide and 4′ long
  • 4 pieces of threaded rod (5/16″ will work)
  • 8 washers (inner diameter to match the threaded rod)
  • 8 nuts (size to match the threaded rod)
  • Roll of old carpet

You will need strips of carpet all cut to the same length. The carpet will be stacked and held together so I suggest cutting the strips at least a foot or two wide and 3 or 4 feet long. Make sure you have a stack of carpet strips as tall as you want your target height to be, and then a little more.

How To Build:

  • Drill holes into each corner of both wood boards (holes need to fit the threaded rod)
  • Slide one threaded rod into each corner hole of the wood, connecting the two pieces of wood with threaded rod on each corner
  • Place the washers and nuts onto the threaded rod
  • Insert the carpet strips in between the two wooden boards
  • Tighten down the nuts on the threaded rod to compress the carpet
  • Place a target print out or paint your own target onto the carpet

This target is pretty easy to make, and carpet stacked this way is surprisingly durable. This isn’t my first choice of archery target to make though. If I had to go out and purchase carpet to make this, I wouldn’t even do it. If you have old carpet you can use, you can practically make your self an archery target for free.

Pros:

  • Can be done for very cheap
  • Takes all arrows
  • Last a long time

Cons:

  • Doesn’t look very nice
  • Replenishing carpet is a pain
  • Bigger size targets are heavy
  • Carpet can grow mold if left outside

This target will handle hunting arrows and field point arrows pretty well, and will last a good amount of time. But when it comes time to replace the worn out carpet, you better hope you still have plenty lying around. I didn’t want to purchase carpet, so once I ran out, I was done with this target.

Buy A Target

If you decide you don’t want to go through with building a target yourself, there are some good options available to purchase. My favorite target is the Morrell Supreme Range Field Point Bag Archery TargetOpens in a new tab. on Amazon. But for some archers, that target may be more than you really need. Check out my Recommended Archery Targets page where I list a few options to consider based on your needs.

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Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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