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This design was originally inspired by Tracy Bullock’s thread on Archery Talk (unfortunately the link to the thread had to be removed as it no longer exists.) The design appealed to me because of the simplicity of the design, easily available materials and the ability to refresh the target to a new state.  It can be made to fit any size area and if the right lumber and other materials are used, should last a very long time.

The Design

All frame materials are readily available at any lumber/hardware store:

  • 2×12 kiln dried boards (kiln dried to minimize any future warping)
  • 1×4 framing
  • Tarp/burlap
  • Chickenwire
  • Filling: discarded clothing with any hard objects removed (zippers, buttons, etc.)

Full height of the target design is 60″ with a shootable area of approximately 36″x36″.  All wood is sealed and waterproofed.

The frame is fastened together with screws and the front cover that holds the target face (tarp/burlap) in place is held on by screws. This will make the cover easy to remove and replace without damaging the main frame.

DiY Target Plans

The Build

I had originally planned on making the target 10″ thick but after reading more about similar targets and considering that I want to shoot high-energy and small diameter arrows (Easton ST Axis or similar), I decided to go with a little more stopping power and a 12″ thick target.

The first step was to go on a little shopping trip to get all the necessary materials for the target. A quick trip to Lowes resulted in a couple of eight foot long 2x 12s, two eight foot 1x4s, some 3/8″ staples and a bunch of sizes of wood screws since I was running low on them anyhow. Next stop was at the local farm supply store to buy a roll of 36″ chicken wire. At home I already had a large roll of weed control ground cover to finish things off.

Main frame pieces cut and ready to go

Next I cut the 2x12s into two sections, a five foot length and a three foot length. This resulted in zero waste of the wood and exactly what I needed. Using oil-based Minwax, all boards were thoroughly stained with a couple of thick coats to protect against the elements and give the wood a nice rustic look. By using the oil-based stain and lots of it, the boards will survive well outdoors without needed any other treatment other than a touch up every couple of years to keep the wood from drying out.

Next up was to cut the top hole into which the arrow-stopping material would be placed. I picked the tightest-grained, densest boards that I could find and not much is going to cut through them than a good solid blade. For this the trusty ol’ Porter Cable radial saw was the perfect tool. After marking out the cut-out, I made for cuts with the saw and then trimmed out what was left of the corners with a jigsaw.

Cutting out the top hole

The main target frame consists of the two five foot boards forming the vertical sides with the three footers forming the top and bottom. A long time ago I learned that if you want a truly square structure, a couple of clamps and squaring tool go a long ways to making this easy and possible. After the squaring jig and clamps were in place, I put four, 6″ wood screws in to each intersection of boards.

Squaring the frame before screwing together

With the frame complete, it was time to break out the chicken wire and get it into place. Because the actual target area is three feet square, the 36″ chicken wire was easy to cut and line up. I used a very generous amount of staples to secure the wire. By wrapping the wire around the sides of the frame a bit, it will prevent the chicken wire from coming off after all the abuse the target is sure to go through. There are rows of staples along the front of the frame as well as the side to solidly anchor the wire. After using the staple gun to place all of the staples, a solid whack with a hammer seated them fully.

Attaching the chicken wire

Now it was time to start stuffing the target with the clothing. From hearing of other people’s experiences I knew that denim would do well at stopping arrows, but also tends to be tougher to pull the arrows from. Because of this I made the very bottom layers out of our discarded jeans where the arrows are less likely to hit and saved the shirts and other thinner cloth for the top layers. To prevent the chicken wire from bulging out as the stuffing was piled up, I placed a row of three tie wires for about every 9″ of stuffing.

Wire ties across the bottom layer of denim

Before beginning to stuff all of the clothes and rags in, I made sure to remove anything that could potentially damage an arrow. All zippers, metal buttons or other hard objects were removed. Any clothes with silk screens or anything I thought might rub off on or melt on an arrow I separated and put towards the edges of the target.

As the layers built up I altered between stuffing and rolling the clothes up to get the densest packing possible. By making rolls of cloth and packing the spaces between with cut up pieces the arrow stopping power should be increased. It takes a lot of clothing to fill up a target this size. The picture below shows the target after putting in about five large garbage sacks!

Packing in the layers

Once the target was filled it was time to put on the front frame and face. I decided to use weed barrier ground cover for the face because of its durability and soft texture. In the past I have used the ubiquitous blue tarps for target faces and found them to be very noisy (the arrows make a loud “smack” on impact) and the blue coloring will rub off on the arrows. The soft, yet durable weed barrier will hopefully make a quieter and more user friendly surface. I also like the black color because when setting a bow up and shooting with bright fletchings, it’s easy to see how the arrow is flying against the black background color.

All framed in

The ground cloth was tacked into place with a few staples and then framed in with the 1x4s and a few screws up each side. When the target face wears out, it should be a simple and quick task to remove the screws, attach and new face and replace the frame. Even though the weed barrier should weather well, I plan on putting a lot of arrows into it and want to be able to replace it easily and quickly.

The only thing left to do was to stick a few arrows into the target and see how it would perform!  It sure looks nice, but that means nothing if it doesn’t stop arrows well.  These first shots were taken with a Bowtech Destroyer 350 and a 490 grain arrow which results in just under 100 ft.-lbs. of kinetic energy; definitely not an easy arrow to stop! The arrows penetrated about 6-8″ and stopped dead.

First test shots

The total cost for this project was probably under $40 by the time I include all the materials I had on hand. Time to build was around three hours with several interruptions. Anytime the target begins to get shot out, the cloth inside can be re-packed and/or new stuffing added and it should literally last a lifetime if cared for. For now the target is covered in a tarp when I am not shooting to protect it from the elements but in the future I will be building a more permanent structure around it.

Update and Maintenance

It’s time to take a look at the target I built approximately two years ago (spring 2010) and see how it is holding up and what needs to be done to maintain it. Since it was meant to last a lifetime, we’ll look at how it’s doing and if it’s on course to last.

Last spring I had noticed that there was a noticeable bulge out the back of the target that resulted from many thousands of arrow impacts. I tipped the target onto its face and stomped on the back of the target to flatten it back out. It seemed like it would be a good idea to add some reinforcement to the back of the target in the form of a couple of 2x4s screwed across the back face to try to stem the backward bulge from happening again.

DiY Target Back Supports

This ended up working well for a short time, but the high energy impact of repeated shooting actually popped the screws right out of the back of the target and blew the 2x4s right off. I tried much longer screws and this lasted a bit longer, but in the end the result was the same. The sharp, repeated impacts of the arrows were too much for the supports and I eventually abandoned the idea. Lesson learned!

For now I’ve decided just to deal with the bulge by pushing it back out every 6-8 weeks. I have contemplated putting a hinged plate that covers the entire back of the target that would be made of particle board (not as rough on arrows as plywood should they make it through the body of the target.) The board could possibly be covered in some type of rubber and the hinge would allow it some give to minimize the chance of arrow damage.

Otherwise the material in the target needed some refreshing as there were some weak spots where the material had been shot a lot or otherwise moved around. First I used a pole to do a good general pack down from the top. Of course the two sides of the chicken wire are wire together and this method didn’t really move the material around the ties too well.

DiY Target Refresh:  packing the material

The second step was to take a rod (old arrow shaft) and to stick it through the chicken wire and work the cloth downwards and pack it tighter. This did a great job overall in moving the material around and packing it tighter overall. However, there were some individual spots that were hard to pack tight using this method, mostly due to the wire ties again. The solution is simple: socks! I’ve been saving all my holey socks for just this purpose.

DiY Target Refresh: adding socks

Using the rod again, I pushed the socks into individual voids that could have used a little extra filler. Other small rags or torn up t-shirts would work just as well, I just so happened to have a plethora of socks to use. All this packing left a bit of a void up top so I packed in a dozen or so old shirts to top the target off.

The front of the target that is covered with the weed barrier is finally showing some decent wear and I’ll probably replace it in a couple of months. There are a few spots where direct hits with arrow points has severed the chicken wire itself. Rather than have a sharp wire poke out, I trimmed a couple of these back. When I replaced the covering, I’ll also remove the chicken wire and put and new layer in place.

DiY Target Refresh: trimming wires

All of this work took maybe half an hour, and the target is packed tighter than ever and ready for more shots. It’s stopping arrows better than ever with the newly packed material and other than the face showing some wear after nearly two years, it’s going strong.

The target face made of the weed stopper fabric has performed much better than I had expected. I had figured that by now I would have had to change it, but it’s still holding up quite well even in the most worn sections. This choice of material was made somewhat because I had some laying around. However, it turned out to be a great material and I would highly recommend it’s use to anyone considering a target like this.

I must admit that I was somewhat skeptical when this project began as to how well this target would perform. So far I have almost zero complaints and though I have had to do a little maintenance here and there, the work has been minimal and the shooting has been great!

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