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Is Backyard Archery Dangerous? Limiting Risks

Year after year, archery increases in popularity. New archers are inspired to take up the sport after seeing it at the Olympics or in films like The Hunger Games. According to a survey completed by the National Sporting Goods Association found that participation in archery grew 107.2% from 2003-2017.

All those new archers need somewhere to shoot. Because archery ranges can be inconvenient to get to, many people consider installing backyard ranges. There are legal and safety concerns to backyard archery, so it might not be possible or a viable alternative for everyone.

If you are thinking about putting an archery range in your backyard, you need to look into your state or town’s laws and learn the steps you need to take to make sure it is safe. Read on for more information about backyard archery.

Why Shoot in the Backyard?

The more convenient your sport or hobby of choice is, the more likely you are to keep up with it. If you have to drive miles to be able to practice, it becomes easier to find excuses not to go, and then, before you know it, you no longer practice the sport. This is true of sports like archery, which require ranges for practicing.

Since going to the range can be inconvenient and time-consuming, some archers decide to set up shooting ranges in their backyard. Having a range so easily accessible lets them practice their skills year-round.

When practiced in the right environment, archery is a very safe sport, with less than one in 2,000 participants being injured (Wired).

The Risks Involved

There might be a low risk of injury, but there is still a risk nonetheless. Most of the injuries that are not self-inflicted, like bruising from the bowstring, occur in unsafe areas, such as a poorly fenced backyard. You might be thinking that since you have a large, completely fenced-in yard, you’re all set to go.

Before you build that range, there are a few things to consider.

Is Backyard Archery Legal?

Many states and local jurisdictions have regulations that prohibit archery in backyards, parks, and other areas.

Bows and arrows are considered weapons, and as such, there are strict rules surrounding their use. Consult your local county or city to determine the rules regarding backyard shooting ranges where you live. You can also call the police and find out.

Your Insurance May Prohibit It

If you live in a jurisdiction that does allow shooting in backyards, your homeowner’s insurance also may not allow it. Archery ranges carry special insurance in case of accidents.

Should you set up a range, and if a stray arrow did hurt someone, your homeowner’s insurance might not cover the claim, opening you up to lawsuits. 

Watch Out For HOAs

Some communities operate under another level of rules and regulations set by a homeowner’s association. Many HOA rules pertain to aesthetics, but they could extend to prohibiting an archery range or shooting a bow and arrow in the neighborhood. Don’t forget to check with them while you do your research.

What You Can Do To Minimize the Risks

If you’ve finished checking legal restrictions and talking to your insurance agent, and finding out that you can operate a range in your backyard, you still need to be safe.

You should not just set up a target and start shooting. Although an injury is rare, it can still happen, so taking steps to minimize the risk is something all responsible archers should do.

Take a Class From a Professional

Beginner archers need to learn how to shoot properly from a professional class before setting up a backyard range. When you take a class at a shooting range or from an individual, you learn proper shooting techniques and safety procedures.

Understanding how to stand and hold your bow goes a long way toward preventing stray arrows.

Install a Backstop

When you practice archery, you are shooting towards a target. What happens to the arrows that don’t hit the target? Even if you have a fence behind the target, you probably don’t want to damage it with arrows. If your fence is not very tall, you’ll need something else. That’s where a backstop comes in.

Check out my in depth article about Building An Archery Backstop for more information.

A backstop is a material that goes behind the target to catch arrows. It can be a heavy-duty sheet of netting that is attached to a frame or a barrier made of a spongy material that can absorb the arrows.

A common DIY backstop is a pile of hay bales. If you use bales, stack them at least five feet tall by five feet wide to create a large area.

Pick the Right Target

When it comes to choosing a target, you might be overwhelmed by all the choices. For ease of set up and maintenance, you have two options to choose from:

  • Bag Target: These targets are lightweight and make arrow removal easy. They stop arrows quickly. However, they only work with field tip arrows, not broadheads, and only have two-sided shooting. They need to be replaced fairly regularly.
  • Foam Block: A popular option, these targets come in various sizes for various arrow weights. Some come with a replaceable core, so you don’t need to buy a whole new target. They are bulkier and heavier than bag targets, but they can take any kind of arrow tip and are affordable.

Or visit my article about How To Make An Archery Target if you like to do it yourself.

You will probably end up choosing your target based on the arrows you shoot. Check with archery ranges to see what they would recommend for you.

Make Sure Your Gear is in Good Shape

You should check your set-up every time you start a practice session to ensure that everything is in place and that nothing is abnormal. Create a checklist to follow so you don’t forget to inspect something. Keeping your gear and set-up in good shape will help eliminate any accidents.

Let Your Neighbors Know

Imagine walking down the street with your dog and looking over to see someone with a bow and arrow in his or her yard. You might be a little concerned. If you do set up a backyard archery range, let your neighbors know. Tell them about all the safety precautions you’ve taken to keep everyone safe. Being a good neighbor is important when practicing archery.

There are other basic safety precautions you should take if you choose to shoot in your backyard:

  • Never leave beginner archers and children unattended.
  • Don’t shoot towards other houses, sidewalks, or anywhere else there may be people.
  • Take your time and be safe.

Train at Home Without Shooting

What can you do to train at home if you cannot set up a backyard archery range? Archery is both a physical and mental sport. Incorporating exercises that can train your body and your brain will help you when you make it to the archery range.

When you work out, add these exercises to your routine to build the muscles you use in archery:

  • Single-arm Dumbbell Row: This exercise strengthens the back muscles, which you use when drawing the bow. 
  • Single-arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise: Lateral arm raises focus on the deltoids. These muscles help you hold the bow with the front arm and draw the string.
  • Side Plank: Planks and side planks increase core strength, which helps to stabilize your body while shooting. Side planks increase strength in the obliques and quadriceps.

To improve your focus and concentration, incorporate breathing exercises and meditation into your daily routine. You can even practice yoga to work on your mind and body at the same time.

Have Fun and Be Safe

Archery is popular because it is fun. It’s a great way to meet new people. As a low-impact exercise, many people can practice archery and improve their skills.

If you can set up a backyard range, just remember to follow the safety precautions we suggested. If you cannot, train at home and practice at the range. You will still be able to have fun with archery.

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