Archery 101: Finding the
Perfect Target Archery 101: Finding the Perfect Target

Archers have never before been offered a wider selection of targets than they are today. Whether you love precision and can land your arrows in a tiny “X” centered in the middle of a bull’s-eye, or have an imagination and want to take down the likes of Bigfoot, velociraptors or a zombie apocalypse, there’s a target for every purpose! Here’s everything you need to know about picking a target that fits your needs:

Bag Target

A bag target is a soft-sided bag filled with a dense fiber material. Bag targets are lightweight and have target faces on the front and back sides of the bag. Photo Credit: Shannon Rikard

Perhaps the most common target found in backyards is the bag target. As its name implies, this target is a soft-sided bag filled with a dense fiber material. These are great because they are lightweight and have target faces on the front and back sides of the bag. One of the target faces is usually a conventional bull’s-eye, while the other might have a series of small dots or animal silhouettes. After getting sighted in on the bull’s-eye target face, make a game or competition out of your backyard shooting by placing a value on the smaller targets on the opposite side. You can play tic-tac-toe or even just see how many times you can hit the center of the tiny circles!

Block Target

Block-style targets offer multi-sided shooting faces and are usually made of high-density compacted layers or self-healing foam. Although they are heavier than bag targets, block targets usually last longer than bags. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Similar to the bag target, block-style targets offer multi-sided shooting faces that range from bull’s-eyes and animal silhouettes to patterns of small circles or diamonds. Block targets are usually made of two different types of material: high-density compacted layers or self-healing foam. You can identify layered targets by the hundreds of layers stacked on top of each other, while self-healing foam targets are smooth to the touch. Because block targets are cube-shaped, they offer four target faces, as opposed to two faces found on most bags. Although they are heavier than bag targets, block targets usually last longer than bags.

Foam Mats and Pads

Foam mats are made of a heavy-density foam and, therefore, can withstand lots of arrows. In most cases, foam pads and mats do not come with target faces, which gives you the freedom to choose a paper target face based on your archery goals. Photo Credit:

One of the simplest targets archers can find is the foam mat or pad. The name says it all for this target: It is simply a foam pad roughly four-inches thick, or a large round “mat” with heavier-density foam. The pad is a very lightweight target that most archers use when they’re just getting involved in the sport, while the mat is much heavier weight but can stand up to lots of arrows, and often has a replaceable center core. In most cases, foam mats and pads do not come with target faces. However, you can find Olympic-style bull’s-eye target faces (and compare your shooting skills to the world’s best), five-spot targets made up of five separate miniature bull’s-eyes, or even draw up your own tic-tac-toe board or other game on a piece of paper or cardboard.

3-D Targets

3-D archery features life-sized, three-dimensional, foam animal targets. They feature everything from Bigfoot to white-tailed deer, and everything in between. Photo Credit: ATA

Have you ever imagined taking down a velociraptor, or even Bigfoot, with your bow? If the answer is yes, you can stop imagining! New 3-D targets resemble everything from Bigfoot to white-tailed deer, and everything in between. These targets are great because they allow archers to take a break from shooting dots or bull’s-eyes, and infuse imagination into taking aim at something else. Whether or not you’ve considered hunting with your bow, you’ll definitely enjoy the change of scenery in your sight picture. Most 3-D targets are made up of self-healing foam, so although they’re heavy, they last a long time. Over time, you just might create your very own 3-D shooting range made up of velociraptors, bears, turkeys, or anything else you can imagine in your own back yard.

It’s up to you to choose which target best fits your needs. Will you be bringing your target into the backyard every time to shoot? If so, then a lightweight bag target is probably best for you. If you’ll be shooting hundreds of arrows each week, then a block target will hold up to your repeated use, or you might consider a foam mat with a replaceable core. Not sure how often you’re going to shoot, but want to get involved in archery? If so, the foam pad is a perfect gateway target to your involvement in the sport. Lastly, if you daydream of hunting someday or just want to pretend you’re taking down an exotic creature, then you’ll want to invest in a lifelike 3-D target.

If you’re still not sure, no worries: head to your local archery shop, where the technicians can tell you what’s best based on the type of bow you shoot and what you’re looking to do with archery. No matter which target you choose, when you’re shooting a bow and arrows, the focus is always fun!

Looks Like You're In 

Not the right location?

Comment on this Article