This post will teach you how to make your own archery target for backyard or field practice.

The Design

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 its simplicity, the 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.

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 hard objects removed (zippers, buttons, etc.)

The 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

how to make an archery target


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.

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  1. Getting the materials needed

    The first step was going on a little shopping trip to get all the 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. The next stop was at the local farm supply store to buy a roll of 36″ chicken wire. I already had a large roll of weed control ground cover at home to finish things off.

  2. Cutting the 2x12s


    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. Using the oil-based stain and lots of it, the boards will survive well outdoors without needing any treatment other than a touch-up every couple of years to keep the wood from drying out.

  3. Cutting out the top hole


    Next was to cut the top hole into which the arrow-stopping material would be placed. I picked the tightest-grained, densest boards I could find, and not much would 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 cuts with the saw and then trimmed out what was left of the corners with a jigsaw.

  4. Squaring the frame before screwing it together


    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 tools go a long way to making this easy and possible. After the squaring jig and clamps were in place, I put four 6″ wood screws into each intersection of boards.

  5. Attaching the chicken wire


    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. Wrapping the wire around the sides of the frame a bit 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 and the side to anchor the wire solidly. After using the staple gun to place all the staples, a solid whack with a hammer fully seated them.

  6. Preparing the Clothing

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

  7. Stuffing the Target

    Now it was time to start stuffing the target with clothing. Hearing of other people’s experiences, I knew that denim would do well at stopping arrows but also tends to be tougher to pull them from. Because of this, I made the 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.

  8. Wire ties across the bottom layer of denim


    To prevent the chicken wire from bulging as the stuffing was piled up, I placed a row of three tie wires for about every 9″ of stuffing.

  9. Packing in the layers


    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 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!

  10. Put on the front face.


    Once the target was filled, it was time to put on the front frame and face. I decided to use a 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 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.

    The ground cloth was tacked into place with a few staples and then framed 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.

  11. first test shots


    The only thing left 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, resulting in just under 100 ft.-lbs. of kinetic energy; not an easy arrow to stop! The arrows penetrated about 6-8″ and stopped dead.


  • 2×12 kiln dried boards (kiln dried to minimize any future warping)
  • 1×4 framing
  • Tarp/burlap
  • Chickenwire
  • Filling: discarded clothing with hard objects removed (zippers, buttons, etc.)
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The total cost for this project was probably under $60 by the time I included all the materials I had on hand. The 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 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 I will be building a more permanent structure around it in the future.

2 Years Update and Maintenance

I already use this target for 2 years now. 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 noticed 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.


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 to deal with the bulge by pushing it back 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 target's body.) The board could possibly be covered in some 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 for a good general pack down from the top. Of course, the two sides of the chicken wire are wired together, and this method didn’t 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), stick it through the chicken wire, work the cloth downwards, and pack it tighter. Overall, this did a great job moving the material around and packing it tighter. However, some individual spots were hard to pack tight using this method, mostly due to the wire ties. The solution is simple: socks! I’ve been saving all my holey socks for just this purpose.

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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 a dozen 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 have severed the chicken wire. Rather than have a sharp wire poke out, I trimmed a couple of these back. When I replace the covering, I’ll remove the chicken wire and put a new layer in place.

DiY Target Refresh: trimming wires

All 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 figured I would have had to change it by now, 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 lying around. However, it turned out to be a great material, and I highly recommend its use to anyone considering a target like this.

I was somewhat skeptical about how well this target would perform when this project began. 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!

FAQ about this DIY ARCHERY TARGET project

  1. The last thing I want to do with my new arrows is shot at metal chicken wire which would rip them to shreds…why would this NOT happen?

    This question always comes up, and I thought the same at first! I have had zero damage to any of my shafts while shooting at this target. The arrow point will deflect off the chicken wire, forcing the arrow to the side. This does have the drawback of having the final resting point of your arrow be slightly off from where it originally hit if you hit the wire head-on, but it’s a minor complaint. I have shot everything from Victory VAPs (very small diameter) to GT 30Xs (very large diameter) shafts and have had no issues thus far.

  2. What keeps it from falling over with all the arrow force? It seems kinda high to be balanced that easily on 2x12s. Does it also look like it would weigh a ton and not be easily transportable for events?

    It’s actually very stable with the cross-beam feet on the bottom. You can make them as long as you want depending on where you are placing the target. If I were to place it out in the open with lots of wind, I might make the feet a little longer.
    I would not take my version to events as it is quite heavy. With the 2x12s and 3′x3′ face, that’s a lot of stuffing inside! Eventually, I plan on making a smaller, portable version that will probably use 2x10s and be 2′x2′ without the taller legs. That should make it about a third of its current weight.

  3. Would a plastic mesh work better than the wire, or no difference?

    Plastic mesh has been tried by people before with mixed results. The two biggest issues are that it will bulge and stretch more when packing the clothes in and that it will get shot up by the arrows and have to be replaced more often.

  4. Would this target work well with low poundage bows (25lb-35lb)? Would the arrows stick well? does it need to be 12 inches deep, or would 10 inches work?

    My daughters’ bows will sometimes bounce off, but they will usually stick fine. Even my son’s bow at 40 lbs maybe have an occasional bounce out, but even down to 20 lbs, they stick most of the time.

    For the depth I still prefer 12″, especially with my heavier, higher-penetrating hunting arrows. It’s tough to stop my Easton ST Axis arrows and I have to re-pack the material every now and then to keep things tight. Even my lightweight 3D arrows that are fatter will often poke out the back if I don’t keep the material packed well. I think you could get away with 10″ if you pack it tight and keep it that way, but I’d still recommend 12″ if you can do it.

  5. Any issue with the clothes getting wet and moldy? Would shrink-wrap material instead of clothes be better?

    I keep it covered with a tarp at this time. Eventually, I plan to build a roof over the whole thing, but that’s a project that keeps getting delayed! It has gotten wet occasionally, but a decent sunny day takes care of it pretty quickly. In the past, I have used different plastics/shrink wraps, and the biggest issue I had with them was that some would melt and/or stick to the shafts. I was constantly cleaning stuff off of the shafts and am much happier with the fabric now.

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