Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.
In some more remote rural areas, archery ranges are entirely inaccessible or too far to warrant taking the trip out. As such, there are many people unable to practice and enjoy the sport in their community. When there is no access to an archery range or great inconvenience, how do you practice archery without a range?
The rules on where you can practice archery in your community will vary from place to place. Some cities allow backyard ranges, and other communities find it too dangerous to allow. Ideally, when practicing without a range, you want to set up your outdoor range to practice with. However, if it isn’t following your local legislation and guidelines, you may need to seek other options.
Some local governments don’t allow for the firing of any “weapon” outdoors, and in this rule, they may classify a bow and arrow as a weapon. In this case, you may need to check your area’s guidelines around creating an indoor range in a garage or basement where applicable.
6 Tips to Practicing Without a Range
Practicing Without Arrows
There are still methods to continue to practice for individuals without access to an archery shop or separate archery range. Purchasing an archery training band (also known as a stretch band) is one way to achieve this. An archery stretch band can help preserve muscle memory and train the muscles to gain strength for both experienced individuals and people new to the sport.
Training bands can help preserve an archer’s preexisting strength and mimic the weight and force of a real bow. Another option is to use your bow, and though you should never dry fire a bow, there are other ways to learn and practice when you’re unable to make it to a range.
To practice and maintain your muscle memory with a bow, do NOT load it with an arrow. Instead, anchor and draw as normal while holding for 3-5 seconds. Do this as if you were to draw usually, before slowly releasing the tension to bring the bow back to its standard shape without just releasing it sharply. Repeat this 6 – 12 times with 5 minute pauses in between each.
This exercise can help you stay in practice and with strength despite the inability actually to fire an arrow. Dry firing a bow will risk the bow splintering and breaking, potentially causing damage to the bow’s limbs and may ultimately break the strings. As such, it is critical to avoid a dry fire to maintain the integrity and safety of the bow in use.
Outside of archery specific training, it’s recommended that archery enthusiasts work out and train their bodies well. Whether it be at a gym or a home workout regiment, working out is a critical way to avoid physical injuries to the archer.
Though practicing without arrows may not be preferable, in winter months or in locations where there are no ranges, it may be the only option. When you find yourself unable to practice with arrows or a bow, it is still essential to keep yourself in “shooting shape” if you intend to pick up the sport again as soon as the opportunity arises.
Safety When Practicing At Home
Depending on the community, an option may be to create an at-home range. These can be either indoor or outdoor areas that allow you to practice without having access to a proper range. In an outdoor range, some essential pieces of equipment and safety measures will ensure the safety of participants and bystanders.
The first of these is preparing a backdrop. A backdrop in an archery range is a large dense object that sits behind and is bigger than the target. The backdrop is essential in catching wayward arrows from going too far, damaging property, and even injuring a person in the case of an accident. Backdrops should be at least 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide, to help protect against arrows that missed their mark by a large margin by accident.
There are multiple types of backdrops, such as hay, plywood, and densely compressed foam plastic. Whatever the material is, it has to be durable enough to withstand the arrow coming at it. In general, hay will become unusable much quicker than the other types of backdrops but would be less expensive in turn.
Before choosing whether or not you want to practice indoors or outdoors, consider that an indoor area will put you and bystanders at higher risk of injury. An outdoor range is safer if the option is there, as the close quarters of an indoor range leave little room for error on the part of the archer. These closer quarters leave room for higher risk of property damage, and personal injury even with the proper precautions in place.
When practicing archery, safety should always be the number one priority, no matter where you choose to practice. The safety measures in place, like backdrops and safe distancing between onlookers and targets, are in place to prevent injury but can not outright avoid injury. Archery injuries are common and can cause severe damage to the injured individual. As a courtesy, if you practice at home in a backyard or garden area, ensure that you warn your neighbors that you are.
Choosing and Setting Up a Target
There are two portable types of targets to choose from, a bag or a foam block. The differences are only in durability. Bag targets are lighter and more comfortable to remove arrows from but are much less durable than the foam blocks. If you’re not practicing in your backyard and need to move your target to your practice location, a bag may be the way to go.
By contrast, foam blocks are much more durable and can take more hits. It’s harder to get the arrow out of it, but because they have multiple faces, there are more sides to use as your target than just the one or two offered by a bag. However, they are also much harder to transport around and are better suited for being kept close to where you plan to use them. Their size, weight, and general shape make foam block targets cumbersome and harder to transport than the bag targets are.
Depending on your shooting habits, and previous experiences, one of these options may be better than the other for your at-home shooting range.
Another method of practicing when unable to access an archery range is to do research. Research can be overlooked for many new enthusiasts but is essential to being up to date with regulations and practicing.
Keeping up to date on the indoor and outdoor regulations will help you prepare your range when possible. One way to do this is to contact local law enforcement before even setting up your at-home range. Additionally, seeking out the local community center or government building can help you to find other alternatives to an archery range when one isn’t available.
Depending on the location, forests and schoolyards after hours may be available to use as a practice range with permission. The local law enforcement or government building would be able to inform you of your other options outside your backyard or home where applicable. Getting in contact with the proper authorities helps you keep the community, yourself, and property safe while keeping you out of trouble with the law.
Traditional and modern archers both state that archery is more than just the physical aspect of the sport. Though physical fitness and strength are essential to the sport, there is more to it than just form and accuracy.
Another essential part of archery is concentration, mental acuity, and focus. If your mind is unfocused and anxious, your aim and attention may slip along with it. Mental awareness and fitness are just as crucial to the physical fitness aspects of archery.
To practice this part of archery when off the range is a lot easier than practicing the physical aspect. These mental preparations and practices can all be done at home and before stepping onto the field.
Concentration and focus are essential aspects of the practice of archery. With a distracted and unsettled mind, the focus required to aim safely will suffer. Meditation is an extraordinary way to nurture focus and concentration while teaching your mind to block out external distractions. All of these skills are critical to being successful in archery, and the act of centering yourself through meditation while off the range can help you continue to practice focusing.
In a sport that is much less team-oriented, goal setting is critical to keeping yourself accountable. Through setting performance goals, accuracy goals, score goals, or otherwise, an archer can find themselves motivated and excited for the next opportunity on the range. Setting goals can help an archer subconsciously work harder in those areas, even without meaning to when given a chance.
Visualization is similar to goal setting in that it can help an archer connect with their desired outcome. Through visualizing techniques, goals, and forms, an archer can connect their mind with their physical goals and outcomes. Allowing seeing it to become achieving it. This form of practice is another form of manifestation that helps archers begin to believe in their abilities and enjoy the sport while off the range.
The importance of mental fitness and awareness cannot go understated. Just like every skill, it takes a lot of devotion and attention to hone your craft into something to be proud of. Through giving all of your attention to the enhancement of your skills, you can develop your concentration and focus on the sport even while off the range.
It is incredibly important to keep your mental goals and attention to remain connected to the physical act of participating in the sport. Maintaining mental accuracy to the sport, you can find that your physical awareness and accuracy can be enhanced. As such, it’s important to remember the essential role your mental fitness plays in archery and the physical fitness and demand of the sport.
Keep It Exciting
When practicing outside of the range, it can be hard to find the motivation to keep practicing. Though caution and safety should always be considered, making a game out of it can help keep you actively practicing from home. Whether you practice hitting hanging fruit in front of your target and backdrop or paint-filled balloons, whatever you do keep it fun.
These games can be an easy and fun way to challenge yourself with new targets and to maintain focus. Another way is to challenge yourself with new goals or film yourself practicing to watch back later. Archery is a sport and a fun pastime, and through practicing should be taken seriously, there is nothing wrong with having fun while you do it.
Why is Practicing so Important?
Whether you are playing recreationally or competitively, practice is an essential aspect of improving your skills in any sport, craft, and task — archery is no different. Unlike sports like soccer, football and volleyball, however, archery is an incredibly solitary sport. Archers are only accountable to themselves, and unless they choose to join a competitive team, they are solely responsible for their success and failures.
Competitive archery isn’t nearly as common as recreational archery, meaning most archers choose to practice alone.
Though archery requires a different kind of skill than most other sports, it can be classified as both a pastime and a sport depending on the individual. An archer who chooses to take up archery as a sport may seek fairs, archery ranges, and competitions. This is in contrast to archery as a pastime, as it’s less formal, and the archer may never see competitive or performance firing at all.
However, regardless of how an individual chooses to participate, an essential aspect of all forms of archery is practice. To be successful at the sport archery requires a substantial amount of focus, concentration, and attention. An archer needs to be able to block out external distractions and focus on their mental acuity.
Archery is a well-rounded sport that demands highly of an archer. Professional and recreational archers need to be incredibly flexible while maintaining high muscle strength and general stamina and endurance. All of this while still keeping incredible concentration on the target, the arrow, and the trajectory. Archery takes a great deal of agility, strength, and mental acuity to perform well in any capacity.
As such, regularly practicing is essential to maintaining and achieving a high level of demand archer requires. Though taking a break can be important to avoid physical injury, losing muscle memory and strength can often be detrimental to archers’ performance. Additionally, without practicing, you can risk losing the intensely focused and concentrated state of mind that should come easy to a practiced archer.
Archery is an incredibly inclusive sport, that can support high levels of performance from individuals of all ages and disabilities. With the correct equipment and precautions, children can participate safely and benefit significantly from the practice. Furthermore, there are wheelchair adaptive equipment for those who need them when they want to participate
This inclusivity can show many levels of performance and discipline and help archery be one of the most rewarding sports for many. Through practice, discipline, and attention, individuals of all skill levels can perform well and start seeing the benefits of a focused mind and a constructive pastime.
Regardless of how you wish to participate in archery, practice is the best way to keep yourself and everyone around you safe. Practicing is also the best way to improve your mental and physical skills when it comes to archery.
Practicing is an essential part of archery, regardless of your skill level or performance expectations of yourself. However, circumstances can bring you to a location without a range to practice at and force you to improvise from home. There are multiple ways to ensure that your mind and body remain in “shooting shape” while you are unable to practice at a range.
Archery is a sport that demands a lot from your mind and body, requiring a lot of trained and practiced skills to get it right safely. By practicing at home both physically and mentally, you can maintain your current strengths and challenge yourself to further your skills. Whether through making a game out of your practicing or focusing entirely on the discipline of the task, the most critical part of the practice is to keep practicing. Finding a way to continue practicing is essential to maintaining your skill even when there isn’t a range available to practice.
Finally, it’s critical to remember to check with your local regulations and law enforcement before you even launch your first arrow from home. For the safety of you, your community, and the property around you, your first step should always be to ask the authorities.
Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. He has been hunting and fishing since a child, and has over 20 years of experience in the outdoors. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.