ARCHERY TARGET SELECTION GUIDE
CHOOSE YOUR TARGET
Selecting an archery target can seem like a daunting task. Ten years ago, choosing your archery target was as simple as going to the feed store, picking up some hay bales, compressing them with the bumper of your truck and banding them up tight. Today's archery equipment pushes toward the bleeding edge of energy storage and efficiency. The result, of course, is a bow capable of dumping a massive quantity of kinetic energy into a target downrange. To make a long story short, the hay bales that worked for our recurve bows and early compounds just won't do much when confronted with a modern, high efficiency compound. Fortunately, for those of us who require practice to maintain proficiency, targets have kept up with the technology curve.
Archery targets, for the purposes of this section, can be divided into 4 primary categories:
- 3D Competition Targets
- 3D Practice Targets
- Foam Layer Block Targets
- Bag Targets
3D COMPETITION TARGETS
3D Competition Targets come in all shapes, sizes, proportions, and positions. If you can find a game animal in the woods or water, there is probably a 3D target that can duplicate that scenario. Competition targets are built to withstand the arrows from dozens of shooters, day after day. For the purposes of competition and practice for such, the scoring rings of the target are quite important. Scoring types for 3D Targets fall into one of two specifications normally, IBO and ASA.
IBO SCORING TARGETS
IBO is the most common scoring method encountered on the range. The scoring rings of an IBO target consist of an 8 ring that roughly approximates the heart, lung, and liver area of the animal as well as a 10 ring consisting of a circle inside the vital area. Also, there is an 11 ring which is 1/4 the size of the 10 ring and centered inside it. A hit on the body of the target outside the 8 ring scores a 5, provided it hits the actual body colored shape of the target, and not horns, hoofs, extra material from the molding process, or material meant to assist in fixing the target to the ground. Arrows not stuck in the target, with the exception of pass-thrus, robin hoods, bounce outs, etc.. are scored a 0. If more than one scoring area of a target is visible from the shooting position, either scoring area can be used unless otherwise noted at the stake. Complete official rules and regulations are available on the International Bowhunting Organization's website.
ASA SCORING TARGETS
ASA Scoring is similar to the IBO method in many ways, however there are some exceptions. Notably the omission of the 11 ring and inclusion of a pair of 12 rings, and the 14 ring. Under ASA rules, arrows in the corresponding area of the target will be scored with point values of 5, 8, 10, 12 or 14 as shown in the diagram to the right. Each target will have two 12-rings, but only one will be scored each day as specified by the Tournament Director. Knowing the correct 12-ring for that day’s competition is the responsibility of the shooter prior to beginning the round. The 14 ring is the highest scoring ring on an ASA target, as well as the riskiest to attempt. A false move on a shot for the 14 ring, will net you a 5 or an 8. There are several other differences in the rules and regulations of ASA shooting. For a complete guide, please visit the Archery Shooter's Association website.
UNIVERSAL SCORING TARGETS
When shopping for 3D targets, you will also encounter another available scoring layout available from McKenzie, Universal Scoring. A number of McKenzie Targets, such as the XT Series and the HD Series, now utilize Universal scoring rings-with the ASA 14 ring, two ASA 12 rings, and the center 11 ring used in IBO tournaments. By incorporating Universal scoring rings into their targets, the same target may be used by both leagues, a feature that has been welcomed by shooters and clubs. Universal scoring rings were originally incorporated into the 20 McKenzie Targets used in the 2007 ASA Pro/Am Tour, and the feature continues to be offered on more and more targets. If you are setting up a range, and plan to have shoots with both leagues, Universal scoring may be something you will want to have a look at. Hunter's Friend carries the full line of McKenzie 3D Targets.
Regardless of the scoring method you choose, the scoring rings of your target are extremely important in accurately judging the score of a shot. As a target reaches the winter of its life, the rings may become almost indiscernible from the rest of the, now rather well aerated, target. Fortunately, in most cases, you don't have to replace your entire target to bring the scoring area back to life. Most large game 3D targets on today's market include replaceable sections and/or vital cores to restore the target to its original level of usefulness. This feature can significantly reduce cost-per-shot, and greatly increase the lifespan of a 3D target.
3D PRACTICE TARGETS
3D practice targets are the ultimate tool to hone your skills for that big hunt. As fun and challenging as recreational or competitive archery on a conventional round or square targets is, there is no substitute for shooting at a reasonable likeness of your quarry. Practice targets may have one of the above mentioned scoring patterns, could be bare, they can even have an overlay of the actual animal's anatomy such as McKenzie's Carbon Buck. Some practice targets such as McKenzie's "Tuff Buck II" and Delta's "Broadhead Buck" even feature a layer target core so you can practice with broad-heads. The main feature you are going to want to look for in a 3D practice target is the replaceable core. If all goes well you are going to wear them out over time, and it is a very nice option not to have to replace the entire target when it is only the vital area which has worn out. There are also targets on the market which are available with both replaceable midsections and cores such as the McKenzie XT Series. These targets come highly recommended as they expand your options for replacement to include the entire midsection when the need arises. With proper care, and some shooting finesse, the front and rear of your target should never really show much wear, and when the middle wears out, you can just replace it, and do so for considerably less money than purchasing a complete new target.
GENERAL PRACTICE TARGETS
FOAM LAYER BLOCK TARGETS
Most likely if you looked closely at every shooter's target collection, he has at least one Layered Foam Block Target. Layered Foam Targets represent some of the most economical and durable targets on the market. They are the light weight, portable do-all target and come in dozens variations based on the same simple target design, almost all of them work well. Layer targets are equally as comfortable stopping a razor-sharp broadhead, as they are stopping a field point. A couple of the more popular models on the market are the McKenzie ShotBlocker Backyard Target featured at the right and the Magic Stop Camp Target featured below.
When taken care of, a layer target will last through several seasons of use without a notable decrease in performance. One important, but not often considered, factor of layer target performance is shooting angle. Ideally you want arrows hitting the target so that they can go between layers. Pretty much no matter what you do, some part of the arrow is going to make it in between layers after the shot, this is largely why layer targets last so long in comparison to solid foam blocks. When shooting from an elevated position, it is best to turn your target so that the layers are arranged vertically as in the image to the right so that the arrow will be free to go between layers and not through them.
If you practice a lot through the year with field points, the Bag Target is your best friend. Bag targets offer the easiest arrow removal of all target types, their fiber fill does a wonderful job of arresting an arrow flying at high velocity, but they are more than happy to give you the arrow back after all the action stops. One of the nicest bag targets you will find anywhere is the Magic Stop Infinity Cube Target. These targets are very large for the money, offer HUGE shooting surface, and will stop even the meanest bow system. If you really hate the effort required to withdraw arrows from a target you are a prime candidate for the purchase of a bag target. All of that ease however, comes at a price. Bag targets are not light by any means, and if not kept in a dry place out of the sun, the lifespan of the target will be dramatically reduced. Also, these targets were never meant for broadheads, many broadheads will just hang up inside the target, buried forever, and some broadheads such as the American Broadhead Sonic & Liberty will just cut through it without even slowing down. Nonetheless if you shoot mostly field points, and prize easy arrow removal, bag targets are the right medicine.
A subject of importance before we get too far into maintenance is the matter of arrow lubrication. 3D targets, often cannot be as thick as a block or layer target, and need to be made of higher density material to effectively stop an arrow. When an arrow is shot into a 3D target, there is a great deal of friction created between the foam and the porous surface of the arrow. Believe it or not an arrow sort of gets glued in place by the plastic melted during entry. This melting does little to help stop an arrow, but it can certainly make pulling your arrows significantly more difficult. I am sure you have all noticed target residue on your arrows after withdrawing them from a "tight" target. To prevent this you need to use a release agent of some sort. This release agent can take the form of an arrow lubrication tube & lube, or more commonly, a simple bar of soap. Lubricating your arrows can stop stuck arrows before they start, and prevent you from having to use improper arrow pulling techniques.
Maintenance of targets is fairly easy to do, since there really isn't much maintenance associated with targets. When cores wear out we replace them, when blocks and bags wear out we purchase new ones. There is however a greater enemy to your target than the arrows it was designed to stop, Mother Nature. Tenfold more targets die a premature death of dry-rot and other "natural causes" than actually get shot to death. Your target, if left outside in the weather for a few months, can become a haven for all sorts of little creatures, some furry, some not so much. Bugs love them, birds and squirrels use them as nesting material, and snakes absolutely love the tall weeds that, inevitably, end up under or around them. The long and short of it is, mother nature wants to consume your target, and will do so if you allow it. Even the best UV resistant paint, can only take so much of the Arizona sun beating down on it, and even the highest quality mesh can only be frozen and re-frozen so many times before it begins to rot away. Store your targets in a dry place out of the sun, and you may have just extended their life expectancy beyond what you ever dreamed possible.
You've chosen the perfect bow setup, the perfect arrow, and now it is time to find something to shoot at. You may be wondering why there was no mention of the Polystyrene Foam targets available for $15.00-$20.00 here and there. The truth of the matter is, they are indeed something to shoot at, and they will actually stop an arrow from a pretty fast bow, once or twice. Polystyrene Foam makes pretty dang good coffee cup. It functions very well for soup. On the matter of stopping arrows however, the shortcomings far outweigh the merits. I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent searching for an arrow that zipped through one of these compressed ramen cups, leaving little white pellets of foam floating on the wind. Speaking from a strictly financial standpoint, the cost of a couple of those targets and a lost arrow, will pretty much pay for a nice entry level layer target such as the Magic Stop EZ Hunter. The $40.00 EZ Hunter will take far more arrows than a pallet load of those Polystyrene wonders.
When you choose your target, consider what you will actually be using it for. If you are just one person doing the shooting, and don't need the slickest arrow removal, one of the less expensive 3D targets such as McKenzie's Hunter's Buck II may be right up your alley. When the time comes to do some broadhead practice, the Delta Broadhead Buck is standing ready to take all you want to dish out. If you want to step it up a bit, and get something a bit more durable with a MicroCellular core and scoring rings, Delta's Elite Series was made for you. If you are going to be shooting with a small group of people and need a target that can really take the hits and keep coming back for more, McKenzie's XT Series of targets is just the medicine. If you want your targets to look as real as they can get, have a gander at the McKenzie Natra-Look Targets. Archery targets come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and configuration, from cubes to carp, squirrels to trophy elk, there is a target out there to fit your needs.
As always, if you have any questions feel free to give us a call or send us an email, we're happy to help!.