The Total Archery Challenge has spent the last few summers as bowhunting’s “it” thing. It’s easy to see why. It takes off-season practice to an insane level with awesome locations and dozens of challenging archery shots. Imagine if you could recreate that experience right in your backyard? Well, okay, maybe not. Unless you happen to own a ton of acreage, a few dozen top-end 3D targets, and have the time and equipment to build and maintain a course, this isn’t realistic. But you can take the concept and adapt it to fit just about any size yard, and you can do it for a lot less money and effort than you might expect.

Make Sure You Have a Good Backstop

Your first consideration should always be safety. It starts by making sure the area you live in allows you to shoot. Some areas have local ordinances that prevent the firing of firearms but not bows. Others lump bows in with guns. So check the regulations where you live.

My backyard course is set in a way that I’m never shooting toward a neighboring house, and I shoot from an elevated position most of the time which adds another level of safety because the arrows are heading toward the ground.

That said, while my neighbors are fairly close I don’t live in a subdivision. If that is your situation, you need to take every effort to make sure your arrows are contained. Backstops can be helpful, and Amazon has a number of archery-specific backstops that aren’t too expensive. 

Man and woman shooting compound bows next to each other.
Shooting the course from different positions gives you a variety of angles and ranges. Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

How Much Room and What Archery Targets You’ll Need

To get started, you’ll need to line up the necessary items for your backyard course. The goal is to build a 12-shot course that utilizes four targets, designed in a way that will fit into your available space. There is a minimum size requirement in terms of space needed. For reference, my personal course takes up half of my 60-by-25-yard backyard. 

You’ll need targets, of course. You could certainly add more than four if you’d like, and you could get away with less. But four seems to be a sweet spot. Targets can be pricey. For my course, I have two life-sized Rinehart deer targets and two block-style targets. I’m a whitetail hunter so I chose targets to match, but you can certainly pick any species and could swap out the two block targets for other 3D critters.

You’ll need a way to support the targets, too. Block-style targets can be placed on the ground, but the 3D targets will need something to keep them standing. I use steel rebar rods. You can pick these up at any big-box home improvement store on the cheap. Just pound them into the ground with a hammer and slide the targets onto them (most targets have metal conduit molded into the legs for this).

Of course, you’ll need your bow and arrows, but I’d also suggest practicing with a rangefinder. Knowing the exact distance to a target leads to more precise shot placement, and that’s what practice is about in the first place.

Layout Your Backyard Archery Course

Lay your course out in the rough outline of the letter “V” with your shooting position at the point (this will change as you move through the course) and your targets along the legs of the V. Take two targets—one block target and one 3D target—and place them up the left leg of the V. Then repeat with the right leg of the V. 

A man shooting a bow at four targets in his backyard.
Set your targets in a V shape with your shooting position at the point. Tony Hansen

Space the targets at whatever range you want to shoot (and space allows for). Typically, I place the 3D targets at the furthest distances and the block targets about halfway. My personal limit is about 35 yards. I just don’t want to shoot at an animal that’s farther than that. On the left leg of the V, I have a deer target set at about 38 yards and a block at 15. On the right leg, a deer target is at 27 yards and a block at 10 yards. And when I set the targets on each leg of the V, I offset them a bit for so I can see them both when shooting from one position. 

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How to Shoot Your Backyard 3D Archery Course

Using the four targets in the V formation, I can easily get 12 different shots without having to move too much or adjust targets. Starting at the point of the V, I take four shots—one at each target. I then take four more shots by walking through the center of the V, turning around, and shooting from the opposite side. After that, I’ll move left or right for four more shots at different angles and distances.

I’m fortunate to have plenty of trees in my yard. If you do too, try setting up a treestand or saddle for elevated shots on the same four-target course. If you’re more of a ground-and-pound, spot-and-stalk hunter, you can still employ the V set range. Work in obstacles like patio chairs, rose bushes, or swingset, and practice from kneeling positions, peaking around available cover.