Can You Shoot a Bow In Your Backyard Legally?

can you shoot a bow in your backyard

The tales of Robin Hood have always created idealized notions about archery. Hollywood movies like The Hunger Game films have led to a revived interest in the activity for adults and children alike (as well as hunting for arrowheads). You definitely don’t want to start aimlessly shooting arrows though. Many people often choose a place like their backyard to practice this skill, but can you shoot a bow in your backyard legally?

Whether you can legally shoot a bow in your backyard depends entirely on where you live. Every area has different municipality restrictions and these can vary wildly from place to place. Research your area to see what the municipality laws there are. Depending on the bow that you own, you may also need to acquire a license to practice.

Typically, archery is exciting and fun, but there are safety precautions attached to the sport, to prevent worst-case scenarios caused by wayward arrows. At the same time, while the professionals make the sport look easy, it takes skill, practice, and experience to master archery.

This article looks at whether or not backyard archery is legal and if licenses are required to own bows and arrows. We’ll also provide tips on how to build a shooting range in your own backyard, and the accessories you’ll need to get started, among other things.   

The Ins and Outs of Backyard Archery Law 

Laws about shooting on your own property

Archery might be fun and low-risk, but safety measures are of the utmost importance and must be implemented. 

Before you start building a target practice at home, research the area that you’re in to find out existing municipality restrictions. 

Even if you’re shooting arrows on private property, certain regulations govern target practice at home. Why? Because accidents can happen. People can get hurt from stray arrows.

If you’re living in a neighborhood where the houses are closely built together, there is always the risk that children, pets, or passers-by could get injured. The risk is heightened if there’s no protective fence shielding them from harm’s way. 

These differ from state-to-state, so if you aren’t sure of the laws in your community, it’s always a good idea to look them up or phone your local authorities to check. 

However, some requirements are universal and self-explanatory, for example:

  • Become familiar with the surroundings in your area, and be mindful of animals and people within a large radius of where you plan on practicing. 
  • Archery is a family sport that adults and children of all ages enjoy. That said, younger archers must be carefully supervised to avoid harming themselves or others. 
  • Do you plan to participate competitively in the sport and are in it for the long haul? Or want to transfer the skills learned to hunt? It’s a good idea to acquire proper techniques and safety tips from a trained and certified professional. Crossbow hunting, for example, requires a compulsory hunter’s education program.
  • You’ll need an adequate backyard archery set for protective coverage, which we will look at in detail later on. 

Do You Need a License for a Bow and Arrow?

Depending on the type of bow and arrow you own, you may or may not need a license for bow practice. 

For example, you will require a permit to own a crossbow, especially if your archery practice range is in your backyard. This is because observers or nearby inhabitants are in the firing line, so to speak, or when property damage can occur. 

Popularly used for hunting, crossbows are identified as an offensive weapon under the Crimes Act, which means you’ll need to obtain a license and extra permits to use them. Additionally, you may be required to undergo a course for training on how to properly handle the weapon if you plan to take part in the next hunting season. 

Where Can You Practice Archery if a Backyard Bow Range is Impermissible?

You might live in a city or urban dwelling that doesn’t have space or appropriate fencing to keep arrows out of your neighbor’s yard, so where else can you practice archery? Google something like “target shooting near me,” and you’re likely to find places to practice shooting. 

One place where you can shoot some arrows without concern is at your local archery shop. There may be a few indoor lanes that customers use to test bows and arrows. Some even have a complete archery range where you can shoot your bow for a small usage fee.

Local archery clubs also have indoor practice ranges; you might have one in your neighborhood without your knowledge. If you’re a beginner, becoming a club member may work in your favor because you can ask for advice from more experienced archers. 

Some of the safest and more convenient sites to develop your archery competencies are at public shooting ranges. If you don’t own equipment or can’t afford to, you can hire bows, arrows, and other equipment for your shooting session.

Archery programs commonly form part of high school curriculums, so why not phone up the local high school in your area to request permission? One thing to bear in mind is that you may only be allowed to practice after-hours or over weekends. If all else fails, ask if you can’t make use of their fields instead.

Parks may be another option worth exploring. However, it’s vital that you perform due diligence before doing so because it might not be allowed in the area. 

Public Places to Shoot a Bow and Arrow

Have you looked up the regulations in your area, taken the appropriate measures, and want to practice archery on public land? There are a few things that you should take into consideration to ensure that there’s no public endangerment.

Before you set up, make sure that there are no people in the near vicinity, or that you aren’t shooting in an area where individuals walk. 

The same with shooting in a backyard, you’ll need a backstop to prevent your arrows from moving further than your target, which can be made using various materials. 

Be considerate by asking people who are in the park if they have grievances about your target shooting. Most will probably be fine with it, but you may find that the activity frightens or unsettles others, such as families with small children. The last thing you want is for people to call the authorities on you. 

Shooting in areas where it’s not allowed could result in a hefty fine or even a misdemeanor. So if you’re not sure if it’s illegal to practice in these public spaces, head for a shooting range instead.

Shooting on Private Property: How to Build a Shooting Range in Your Backyard

how to build a shooting range in your backyard

If you love to shoot bows and arrows in your free time, why not learn how to set up an archery range at home? Setting up an archery range at home can save yourself a trip to the local shooting range and having to spend money on usage fees. 

Building a backstop 

It’s dangerous to practice archery without an adequately installed backstop. The role of a backstop is to catch arrows that don’t land on the target. Not having one could result in possible damage to your arrow or cause severe injuries if it hits someone. 

A backstop can be assembled using bales of hay that are five feet tall and five feet wide. If hay isn’t readily available in your town, foam blocks or thick plywood are viable alternatives that you can use instead. To protect their arrows, some archers staple carpets to the backstop. 

Something else to keep in mind is that you should always know what lies beyond. Therefore, it’s crucial to place your backstop against a secured fence or a wall, in areas of the backyard that aren’t facing public sidewalks, and away from the home. 

It’s also a good idea to place the backstop in an area populated by trees where arrows can land on. Trees can also conceal the area from curious neighbors and prying eyes. 

Pick Or Make A Target 

The target is what you’re aiming your arrow towards. What is the best material for archery targets? There are two: bags or foam blocks. 

The advantage of using bags for targets is that they’re lightweight, less cumbersome to move around, and easier to pluck arrows from. However, by using bags, you are limited to two-sided shooting. 

Foam blocks enjoy more widespread use because they provide multiple shooting faces. However, one distinct disadvantage is that they’re more challenging to move around. Unless you plan on keeping your target range in your yard year-round, you might have to endure some heavy lifting every time you want to set it up for bow practice. 

If You Aren’t A DIY’er:

  • Buy a Block Classic Archery Target here or a Morrell Double Duty back here.

Distance markers 

The average target shooting distance is 20 yards, but this can go up to 32 yards the more skilled and experienced you are as an archer. 

You’ll need to find yard markers to measure out these distances; we find that the best DIY tags include decorative stones or bricks buried in the ground. Be sure to watch your feet so that you don’t trip over them. Otherwise, professional field archery markers can be bought online. 

How to Practice Archery at Home: Selecting the Right Bow and Arrow Set for You

Bows and arrows have been used since the dawn of time, namely to hunt for food and used as weaponry during warfare. Since their invention, archery bows have completed evolved into the models you see today, comprising various features that help with aiming and shooting.

Today, archery is predominantly regarded as a leisurely activity, a competitive sport, or a tool for the controlled hunting of animals. There are four types of bows that you can use depending on your level of skill and what you use it for, which include the recurve bow, compound bow, longbow, and crossbow.

The beginner’s choice: Recurve Bow

You may be overwhelmed by your options because there are so many with various add-ons from which to choose. However, if you’re new to archery, recurve bows are easier for beginners to use.

 At the same time, if you’re looking for a shooting bow in the back yard, a recurve bow may be more permissible in your community or neighborhood and is considered the best bow for archery target shooting if you’re a first-timer. 

While conducting your research, you’ve likely come across a wealth of complicated and confusing terms. This section outlines the basic mechanics of a recurve bow so you can find the best archery bow for beginners. 

Riser

The riser is the central part of the bow. Essentially, this is what you hold onto when you’re aiming and shooting. Additionally, it’s where you place the arrows that are being drawn and to which various other pieces are attached. These include your bow sight (helps with aim), your stabilizer (helps you to keep a steady hand), and the limbs that we will discuss next.

Limbs 

The limbs are the second-most important part of the contraption because their job is to store and release energy that launches the arrows. The limbs are connected to the riser and bowstring.

The name of the bow is derived from the position of the limbs, which are curved outwards toward the archer, except at the top and bottom points which curve forward (hence, a “recurve”).

There are two types of bows you can acquire, which either have permanently attached limbs (one-piece bows) or detachable ones (takedowns). If you’re new to the sport, takedowns are advisable because you can purchase a bow with low draw weight. 

If you aren’t familiar at all with archery, the low draw weight refers to the resistance of the bow when you pull back the string. Once you’ve gained some experience, muscle and are a more capable archer, you can proceed to use higher draw weight bows. 

Compound Bows 

Compound bows feature an intricate system of cables, pulleys, and eccentric cams. The system, while complicated, is said to help the archer better their precision and aim. However, it does require much muscle strength to operate, which a novice won’t likely possess.

Apart from being a powerful machine, it’s also durable and able to withstand changes in the environment, such as humidity and temperature. 

If you’re wondering how far a compound bow can shoot and prioritize distance, you’ll be impressed by this bow’s capabilities. Depending on the archer’s skill, an arrow can reach over 1000 feet (333 yards).  

Longbows 

Longbows are possibly the least popular modern bow because they aren’t installed with the various bells and whistles, such as sights and stabilizers. They only consist of a long piece of curved wood. Without the add-ons that other models have, archers will struggle with aim and speed.

If you’ve decided to purchase a longbow against all the odds, understand that it takes endless patience and painstaking hours to master. 

Crossbows 

Allegedly, crossbows were the first handheld firearms invented, said to have originated from China as a weapon of warcraft. 

The bows have been modified since then and are now typically used for hunting and target practice in an archery practice range. 

One of the primary advantages of using a crossbow is that it’s easy-to-use. Once you have locked your string in place, the machine does the rest of the work for you. This is essential to most hunters who want to focus more on targeting game than fiddling around with their bows. 

You can also enjoy the perks of better accuracy because the device is fitted with a sight. As we’ve mentioned before, the sight of a bow helps with aim and is a small peephole that the archer looks through when the bowstring is at full draw. 

At the same time, unlike other types of bows, the power of a crossbow does not depend on the archer’s technique. Once you fire, the arrow will more than likely reach its intended target. 

How fast does a crossbow shoot? It carries quite a speed. Depending on the animal you’re targeting, an arrow can hit a small animal at approximately 107 fps (feet per second). However, this will need to be faster for larger game. 

No device is perfect, and you may struggle with the weight of the crossbow, contend with the frustrations over how long it takes to reload, and the noise it makes, which may scare away animals. 

The laws and regulations relating to crossbows are strict, must be complied, and vary between states because crossbows are identified as a weapon that can cause severe injury. So if you want to know if it’s legal to own a crossbow, it depends where you live. For your interest, we will have a look at some of the individual state laws later. 

Best Backyard Archery Sets From Amazon 

Genesis Original Kit

Why buy it? It’s ideal for beginners, designed with single-cam technology. There are no tuning issues, there are less recoil and noise, and the machine allows for more accurate shooting.

The “wow” factor: It’s the official bow of the National Archery in the school’s program.

Learn more here

KESHES Takedown Hunting Recurve Bow and Arrow

Why buy it? It’s a high quality, takedown recurve bow, designed for beginners and advanced hunters. 

The “wow” factor: includes a beautifully crafted riser and wooden limbers layered by durable fiberglass. 

See more options here and here.

How Far Can a Bow and Arrow Shoot?

Next to purchasing a suitable bow, you’ll need to acquire arrows. Finding an arrow is an integral part of archery. While, for the most part, the distance the arrow travels and the accuracy of the shot largely depends on the skills of the archer, what arrows you use could influence your chances of better precision and aim. These are the best arrows for target practice. 

The properties of the arrow come into play here and could affect your shot, namely the weight, and the strength.

The weight, which is measured in grains, depends upon the construction of the bow, which means the heavier the bow, the heavier the arrow needs to be. 

There are pros and cons to both light and heavy arrows, where light arrows move fast quicker yet fail to penetrate targets while heavy arrows do the opposite. 

The strength of the arrow depends on the kinetic energy that is built-up when the archer pulls the arrow back against the string. 

The material the arrow comprises is also important, which is either carbon fiber, aluminum, or wood. Carbon fiber arrows are recommended because they’re lightweight, which allows for consistent performance and good speed, as are the ones that are made from wood.

If you’re considering aluminum arrows, it may be best to reconsider this purchase because they’re heavier and don’t travel as fast. 

Where to Shoot a Bow and Arrow Indoors?

If you’re not allowed to set up your archery range outdoors and you aren’t close to a public shooting range, why not create one indoors?

We aren’t suggesting that you turn your house upside down by replacing your couch with bundles of hay, but rather convert your unused garage into a place for target practice. 

There are numerous benefits to playing indoors. Firstly, you don’t have to obtain permission from higher powers because you’re practicing within your home. Another reason why you might prefer indoor over outdoor shooting is to sharpen your skills.. 

Whether you’re a beginner or a competitive player, the elements, such as strong winds and rainfall won’t hamper play, and you can master techniques unaffected by the weather and other extraneous conditions, such as nighttime hours. 

You can also replace outdoor shooting with indoor shooting during winter when it’s too cold and unpleasant to play outside. That way, you won’t lose the skills you’ve acquired.

Bowhunting in City Limits: What Are the Rules?

Can you hunt on your own property?

If you’re new to bowhunting, you’ll soon learn that obtaining a license is an intricate process that isn’t always guaranteed, and can be a complete information overload. 

The first thing you’ll need to know is that you’ll obtain a license in the state you’re in, which is subject to specific regulations, according to the terrain and the population of animals in the area. 

As every state is different, you’ll need to find out which license you’ll need to apply for specifically. For bow hunting, you may need a regular hunting license and additional permits for using different weapons, i.e., a crossbow, and to hunt different classes of animals. 

It’s also important to note that acquiring a hunter’s license is different from obtaining a driver’s permit; only a limited number are issued per year. On top of that, it’s mandatory to take a hunter’s education course, which tends to fill up pretty quickly.

If you decide late into the season that you’d like to try your hand at crossbow hunting, you’ll very likely have to wait another year because it’s probably too late. 

While on the subject of hunting education courses, these aren’t only mandatory but also informative. Not only will you learn in-depth details about the local ordinances of hunting, but you’ll also be taught vital pieces of information to help make your hunt more successful. 

Is It Legal to Bow Hunt in City Limits?

While there are safety precautions in check which must be strictly adhered to, controlled bow hunting in the name of culling has become necessary where overpopulation is concerned, like that of deer. 

If left unchecked, an increase in the number of wild animals in cityscapes could destroy property. Ergo, in some areas, not only is bow hunting permissible but encouraged where animal populations are otherwise untenable.

States Where Crossbow Hunting is Legal

Can you shoot a bow in your backyard? It depends on the state you’re in. 

You’ll find some of the legal crossbow hunting states listed below. However, it’s important to note that regulations change quickly, so it’s best to verify these before you do anything that could be dubbed unlawful. 

Alabama 

Legal throughout the hunting season.

California 

Can you shoot a bow in your backyard in California? If you’re an archer in these parts, you can hunt during season and shoot recreationally following regulations. 

Colorado

Crossbows are permissible during gun seasons and for handicap players for archery season.

Florida 

In 2011, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) passed a law that not only allows crossbow permit holders to hunt but also grants them an extra month to shoot. 

This begs the question, “can you shoot a bow in your backyard in Florida”? You can, but the state has its own set of rules and regulations. 

Illinois 

You can hunt, but there are conditions. You will need a permit, and provide an official form of ID. 

There is also a minimum and maximum weight limit for the crossbow used.  

Can you shoot a bow in your backyard in Illinois, though? It’s fine to shoot a bow on private land, but make sure you’re doing it safely. 

Texas

Can you shoot a bow in your backyard in Texas?

It is now legal for anyone to use a crossbow during archery and general seasons (except Grayson County).

Wisconsin

Crossbows are not legal to use, except by disabled hunters in possession of a crossbow permit, as well as hunters 65 years of age or older who have been issued a valid archery hunting license.

Can you shoot a bow in your backyard in Wisconsin? You’re able to, but if you invite others to partake, you are liable for accidents that may occur. 

Other States Include:

  • Alaska 
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut 
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii 
  • Idaho 
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
    Kansas
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana 
  • Maine 
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • & more 

Learn more here.

Recap: Can You Practice Archery in Your Backyard?

The answer to this question isn’t a straightforward yes or no answer. Archery, whether it’s viewed as a leisurely activity or as a weapon of choice for hunting, can yield risks if proper safety procedures aren’t adhered to correctly. 

  • Municipal regulations differ from state-to-state, so you must look up the laws online or call local authorities before you create a DIY backyard range as you don’t want to cause a neighborhood stir. 
  • If you don’t have the space for backyard target practice, where are other places in which to shoot a bow and arrow? Local archery shops, public target ranges, and archery clubs are popular places to practice shooting and better your skills from the help of experts on hand. 
  • Indoor ranges are also possible to set up if you have space inside your home; an unused garage is ideal for the archer.
  • If you can use a bow in your back yard, you will need the proper equipment, notably a backstop and an appropriate target.
  • There are various types of bows available for online purchase, although we recommend recurve bows for beginner archers. 
  • The arrow you choose is also important for aim and precision; choose from aluminum, wood, and carbon fiber. 
  • Bowcross hunting is fast becoming popular across America for leisure hunting and culling, but permits and licenses are imperative and can be complicated to obtain.