If you’ve priced 3D archery targets at all lately, you probably found that they’re a bit pricey. With Rinehart and Delta McKenzie (the leading 3D target manufacturers) you’re pretty much guaranteed quality, but most of their targets aren’t cheap.
You do get what you pay for when it comes to buying 3D targets, and the better, higher quality targets tend to be on the expensive side. You could buy a cheaper, economy target, but those don’t tend to last nearly as long (or look nearly as good) as a quality 3D target.
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to shell out $200 and up for a high quality 3D target, what about making some for the backyard. With a few bucks, a little imagination and a spare afternoon you could throw together some pretty cool 3D targets that will keep you shooting without breaking the bank.
Let’s take a look at a few different types of 3D archery targets that you can make at home. These designs are all intended to use materials that almost anybody should be able to get their hands on. You can get most of them at any of the big box types stores, and if you can’t find them locally they can all be ordered online.
Before we get started, no matter what type of 3D target you decide to build, buy or put together, get yourself one of these – it’ll make things a whole lot easier when you’re using them.
Turkey Decoy 3D Target
A few years ago I was walking through a Walmart and decided to check the clearance aisle. This is the aisle that has all of the clearance items of the entire store, not just the sporting goods section. I found two turkey hunting decoys for about $5.00 each if I remember it right.
Even though I’d never been turkey hunting, I bought them both figuring that I’d find some fun use for them at some time. Besides, they fold up so they’re easy to store anyway.
A year or two later I came across them while I was looking for something else and thought “I wonder if these could make decent 3D archery targets.” They didn’t really cost me a lot, so even if I were to accidentally ruin them trying to make a 3D target – it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Well apparently I’m not the only one who’s wondered this, and this guy’s built one. One of the main reasons that I never went ahead with the project was that I didn’t think a target from a decoy would hold up to shooting as well as it did. Well, this guy’s video proved that wrong.
His target seems to be working well, and his video went ahead and filled in some of the blanks when it came to how to construct such a target. Check out the video below to see how to build this target design as well as see the target in action:
Other Decoy 3D Targets
Apart from turkey hunting decoys there are lots of other decoys out there, and some of them make great makeshift 3D targets. If you take a look around your local Walmart or Dick’s Sporting Goods store you’ll see decoy crows, doves, geese, duck hunting decoys and more.
Always check the clearance aisle of these store like I did, you might find some good deals. I haven’t personally tried it yet, but my guess would be that the best time to check these is after each hunting season has closed in your area.
So for the turkey decoys as discussed above, hit the clearance aisles of your local Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods a week or so after duck season has closed in your state.
Don’t forget to check stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s which carry predator animal decoys used for scaring / keeping away nuisance birds. Some of these make great 3D targets as well.
Most of these are made from hard plastic, so you’ll have to keep that in mind if you’re think of using them as a 3D targets. These are obviously not meant for shooting, so proceed with caution.
You may just want to only use crappy arrows when shooting at these targets until you see how they handle being shot. If after shooting them a few times they don’t seem to be damaging the arrows at all, you may be able to shoot your good arrows at them without fearing any broken arrows.
You can fill these with expanding foam, which is the main stopping power of these type of 3D targets, it’s cheap and can be found at almost any hardware store. Check out the insulation aisle of the store and look for expanding foam window insulation.
If you can get a hold of some cheap foam duck hunting decoys, you’ve got some ready made, fun 3D targets. Foam decoys are great because you don’t have to worry about screwing up your arrows in any way, and they may hold up better as well.
Depending on the type and quality of the foam that they’re made from, they might actually be somewhat self repairing. These types of decoys are great as they hold up well and look good too. Have a fellow archer friend over and set up a few of these on a shallow pond and you’ve got a fun set of moving (or swimming) targets.
Repair Some Used 3D Targets
Check with any local 3D archery clubs in your area and see if they are planning on getting rid of any of their old 3d targets. If they’re not planning to now, ask when they might be in the future. Leave your contact information with the people in charge of replacing their 3D targets.
You may be able to score a great deal on a used 3D target, but be aware that used targets from clubs are usually very shot up. However if you take some time and use some air drying putty to fill the holes that aren’t on the target’s vital area, they’ll usually look a lot better.
You can buy replacement vital areas for most 3D targets. If you can find the right vital area for your target you could fill the area with foam instead. Finally, give the target a new paint job with appropriate color spray paint. You can also give it a couple of coats of Thompson’s water seal clear outdoor sealant to help it hold up longer out in the elements.
Sculpt Your Own Targets
There are more than a few people on Youtube who’ve sculpted their own 3D targets out of large foam blocks. Making a target like this would be far easier using an electric hot foam cutting tool, and they also give you a lot more precision in creating the details of the target.
Your target is limited only by your imagination and your skill at sculpting what you’re visualizing. The qualities of these on Youtube varies greatly, as some of them are just silly looking – while some are quite impressive sculpts.
If you’re good at woodworking, you could also cut out and paint life sized 2D targets using a jigsaw or table saw.
Burlap 3D Target
Another method to making a 3D archery target is to make a rounded long target, similar to a deer’s body ad attach legs and a simple tail and a head. First get a length of burlap about 2 feet by 3 feet: large enough to wrap around a 12” circle and be three feet lengthwise.
You’ll also need a large chunk (or several small chunks) of foam, as this will be most of the stopping power of the target. Put the foam in the very center of the target, which is then filled out with old clothes or towels. All of that is then wrapped in the burlap and then play with it a bit until it starts to take the right shape.
The burlap can then be sewn and or sealed with thick duct tape. Doing both will help the target hold together far better. Now that you’ve got the main body shape, we just need to add legs, tail and a head.
Thicker wooden dowels, chair legs and other long and thin circular wooden shapes can work great as legs. Check out your local Home Depot or Lowe’s and see what kind of shapes they have.
A tail can be easily made from some bits of fake fur glued together, while a head will take a bit more work. Making the head is down to your ingenuity or how well you can sculpt a deer’s head.
If you can find a fake deer head, great. If not, you can sculpt a head with a Styrofoam ball and some self hardening clay. First, hit the craft store and get a Styrofoam ball about the size of a deer’s head. While you’re at it pick up some self hardening clay – the kind that will harden without needing to be heated in an oven.
Get a large metal rod, about 10 to 12 inches in length and ¼ inch thick. Have the rod sharpened at both ends and insert one end of it into the Styrofoam ball and use the clay to sculpt the head. Once you’re satisfied with the sculpt of the head, leave it to dry according to the package’s directions.
Once the head has dried, insert the other end of the rod into the main target body. You can also use some heavy duty, outdoor glue to help secure the head to the body.
Using brown spray paint, paint the target using several thin coats. Don’t use too much at once, thin coats will also dry much faster. Once you’re satisfied with the look, hit the target with a couple of coats of Thompson’s water seal or another clear outdoor sealer.
Random Fun Targets
You’d be surprised at some of the cool, random things that you find in different places that are perfect for 3D targets. If you search online for home made archery targets you’ll see all kinds of ingenuity and creativity going into people’s targets.
I’ve seen everything from old basketballs, boxes, layers of carpet to old car seats used to make home made targets. Looking at some of these might just give you an inspired idea to create a target of your own.
Sometimes you find things that are almost perfect as 3D targets just as they are. Last Halloween I was at a Michael’s craft store where I saw two great, ready to use targets on the shelf.
A large foam hanging bat and a life sized foam cat. These were made from dense foam that was pretty good at reshaping itself, and they were both already painted and ready to shoot.
The hanging bat made for somewhat of a moving target, which added a little more of a challenge to it. These cost $30 and $20, respectively – a great deal for two make shift 3d archery targets.
I’ve also heard of a guy who bought a bunch of Christmas decorative reindeer at a huge discount right after the holidays. He quickly fixed them up into a yard full of 3D “deer” targets for his backyard the following spring.
It just goes to show you that there are cool potential 3D targets out there – you just have to keep your eyes open at all times! Be on the lookout for good targets and great deals all year round. You’ll often find the best deals in the off seasons.
While you’re out it you can also check out this guide on different ways to find good deals on cheap 3D archery targets, maybe you’ll score a great deal.
I hope that this has inspired you to get out there and start making a few of your own targets. If you do come up with a great target idea of your own, shoot some quick video of it and post it on Youtube. It may help others to create new fun targets of their own.
There are plenty of other archers out there that would love to make inventive 3D targets, and we all help each other by posting new ideas that we can all benefit from. So get started on your own 3D target, and have fun shooting!