Leaving Archery Targets Outside: Which type is best?

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Snow storm in a neighborhood

There are a number of different types of archery targets you can use. If you’re like me and have the option to shoot in your back yard then you may be wondering about leaving your archery target out in the weather, and which type will hold up.

Most commercially available targets are ok to leave outside. This includes bag type targets, foam targets, and 3D targets. Anything made from compressed paper products should be kept out of the rain, and ALL targets will benefit from being out of the sun. UV rays will cause damage to archery targets over time.

Types of Targets for Outside Use

There are many different types of targets you can buy or even make yourself. Some will be fine for outside use and some are not. It really comes down to the material the target is made from. Be sure to check out my recommended targets also.

Bag Targets

This type of archery target is very popular because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find. The shell (or bag) is typically made of woven polypropylene and is stuffed with foam scraps.

The polypropylene bag and foam inside of it will hold up quite well to rain, wind, and even mild winter weather. However, the UV rays from the sun will weaken the bag over time.

If you’ve ever had a tarp outside for a long period of time, you know how the suns rays can cause damage to materials like that. They get brittle, rip and fall apart easily.

To avoid this you have a few options if you want to shoot Bag Targets.

  • Bring the Target in when not in use
  • Keep the Target in the shade
  • Cover the Target with something when not shooting

Foam Layer & Block Targets

One type of target that’s become very popular amongst bowhunters and target archers alike is the block style target.

This includes foam layer and solid foam targets. Both are similar in terms of durability and weatherability.

The material that these targets are made from hold up very well to the elements. Solid targets are made from an expanded self healing foam. Layered targets are also made from a type of foam but the target is made up of multiple layers of foam compressed together.

The foam material, whether layered or solid, fairs quite well against wetness. So rain, sleet, and snow are of little concern.

While these also hold up better to repeated sunlight than the bag targets, I still would suggest keeping them out of the direct sun. The heat and UV rays can damage the foam, making it crumbly and less effective.

3D Targets

This type of target is definitely the most fun to shoot, but typically also the most expensive.

You can get all sorts of creatures including, deer, turkey, moose, elk, and even dinosaurs and zombies to name a few. You can have a lot of fun with these targets especially if you can afford to have multiples.

The target itself is made from a self healing expandable foam and many good manufacturers such as Rinehart and Delta McKenzie offer targets with a replaceable kill zone.

A big advantage with these is that they are manufactured with the outdoors in mind and hold up very well to weather. Years ago I helped setup for 3D archery competitions and we often left targets outside for most of the shooting season.

Once again, I’d caution from leaving the target in direct sunlight for long periods of time. UV rays are quite damaging to foam over time so if your target is going to spend a lot of time in direct sun, I’d cover it up.

DIY Targets

So without going into detail on all the different ways you can make DIY targets, my best suggestion is to use common sense on weather or not you can leave your homemade target outside.

Keep in mind the materials you’re using to build your target, both the inside and outside. I had made a target one time from a cardboard box stuffed full of used shrink wrap.

I left it outside for a week or two and it rained, a lot. The cardboard got soggy and fell apart and then all the shrink wrap fell out all over my lawn. Lesson learned, remember to bring your non-weatherproof target in when you’re done.

Ways to Leave Archery Targets Outside Without Ruining Them

As I mentioned above, many types of archery targets can be left outside in the elements. But even the ones that are made to take some abuse from mother nature would benefit from some protection.

Use a Cover

The cheapest and simplest solution would be to get a cover of some type to keep over your target. This could even be a cheap Tarp. Let the tarp take the beating and replace it once it’s ruined.

Build Shelter

This is something I’ve considered doing. If you always keep your target in the same place when shooting, you might give some thought to building a little shelter for it.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant, basically a couple poles and a roof of some kind will do. Just something to keep the sun from beating down on your target and maybe keep it dry as well.

If you build a nice sturdy structure and add some eye hooks you could use it to hang bag targets from also, giving it double duty!

The Bottom Line

Most commercially available targets are made to be left outside at least short term. Give thought to what the target is made of. Sometimes the manufacturer will even mark on the packaging that the target is weather resistant.

All Archery targets are likely to benefit from being kept out of direct sunlight. The UV rays are damaging to plastics and foams and cause them to crack, fade, crumble, and dry out.

With a little bit of thought and care you can leave your target outside and keep it safe and functional at the same time.

Jason Brooks

Thanks for taking the time to read my article, I hope you found it helpful. I've been shooting bows for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. To read more about me, CLICK HERE

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