Gear Guide: Best Archery Targets for Bowhunting 2017
Bowhunters and target shooters alike need good archery targets to build their skill. The problem is, with all the different kinds of bows, arrows, and broadheads, it can be a chore to figure out which archery target is best for your needs.
The best archerytargets for broadheads aren’t necessarily the best for crossbow shooting, and 3D targets won’t help you with sighting in a bow. It’s important to match your target with the type of shooting you are doing.
In general, there are five different types of archery targets: foam blocks, bag targets, 3D targets, crossbow targets, and homemade targets. You may find that you prefer some types of targets over others, so it’s worthwhile to try a few different types and brands to find what you like best.
Foam block archery targets are lightweight and very durable. Foam blocks are the bread and butter of any target shooter. You can set up foam targets nearly anywhere; the range, your backyard, or even a basement converted to a practice site.
Foam blocks are difficult to destroy because the layers of foam absorb the impact of hunting arrows by spreading its power rather than centralizing it in a single location. In fact, the most damage you do to a foam block may be pulling out the arrow too hard and taking a chunk of foam with it. They are equally capable of stopping simple field points or sharpened broadheads. They come in a wide variety of styles from simple bullseyes, to multi-faceted targets that look like dice.
Frequent use of broadheads will tear out chunks of foam, although most will stand up for several seasons. When a broadhead lodges deep within a foam target, it’s easy to pull out pieces of foam with your arrow. Shooters should setup their targets with the layers upright facing them, and shouldn’t shoot across layers of foam targets.
Foam archery targets are best used for bowhunting target practice, competitive archery, tuning and sighting bows, and anyone who wants to shoot from home. Stick with lower powered bows as arrows can become too deeply lodged into the foam with the higher powered compounds.
Rinehart 18-1 Target
The 18-1 is a uniquely shaped archery target, named for its 18 shootable faces. It is a highly rated bow hunting target that has become well known for its durable, self-healing foam. At 15” long on all sides, it is not a large target, but the faceted body makes it portable, and provides a variety of looks in your target practice. There is an integral rope handle that allows you to toss the target down field, leaving you with varying size and angle shots.
Rinehart says you can shoot both field points and broadheads into the 18-1 Target, and is suitable for either compound bows or crossbows. To get the most life out of the target, you’ll clearly want to stick to field points. You will occasionally pull out small chunks of foam using broadheads, and that will shorten the usefulness of that area of the target.
The main complaint with this target is the amount of force it can take to remove arrows, especially in colder weather. This is understandable seeing how it is made of high density foam. If you buy this target and have some difficulty, you can always get an arrow puller to aid in removal. On the bright side, users have reported getting over 2 years of heavy use out of each target. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
The Rhinoblock is not your average cube archery target. It is built from the same high density foam as the 18-1, and has 6 shooting surfaces, 2 of which have 3D deer outlines highlighting the vital organ areas, and 2 of which having replaceable cores (target circle sides, not the deer sides).
The quality foam has lasted shooters for years, and when the target cores wear out, you can get a replacement for the fraction of the cost of a whole new target. You can shoot broadheads into this target without much issue.
If you are shooting a crossbow, you should think about a few things before buying this target. The Rhinblock is tough enough, but because of high speeds they can actually “fuse” with the foam making it nearly impossible to remove the bolt. That being said, many users still use the Rhinoblock target for crossbows because it stops the bolts well. You can grease or wax your bolt shafts prior to shooting, or use an arrow puller. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Block Vault Foam Target
The Block Vault target is another cube style target that is tough and can handle compound bows or crossbows, while shooting field points, broadheads, or mechanical heads. The target is constructed of a high density open layer core, with the layers parallel the direction of the incoming arrows. This utilizes friction rather than force to stop the arrow. It gets the name “Vault” because of the polybutyl outer shell that encases the core.
The Vault is good for shooting a compound at close range, such as in a garage or basement for practice and tuning. Even though only 4 of the sides can be shot at, it is durable enough to withstand thousands of arrows. More than a few reviewers reported getting multiple years of use out of one target.
There are 4 sizes of Vault targets, ranging from 16”x16”x12” up to 22”x22”x16”. Crossbow shooters would be well served using one of the bigger XL or XXL targets to make sure it’s big enough to stop high powered bolts. Compound bows can be used with any of the sizes. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Best Bag Targets
Simplicity is the hallmark of the bag target. As the name suggests, these targets are fabric bags filled with a stopping material like straw or fiber and then positioned wherever is most convenient. The large shooting surface creates ample room for stray shots to hit the target even if they’re not dead-center.
Bag targets are perfect for taking the high volume of shots that comes with target practice. You can add more stopping power to the target by simply adding more material. It is easy to remove arrows from bag targets without damaging the target or the arrow.
Bag targets should not be used for broadhead target shooting. It is difficult to remove broadhead arrows from the fabric and usually results in a ripped up bag. Keeping the bags out in the rain and suns UV rays can deteriorate the bag material, shortening their lifespan.
While some bags are marketed as weather-resistant, storing them indoors is still a smart move. Bag targets tend to be heavier than foam, which can make setup and take-down more cumbersome. Bag targets are great for beginners, and great for taking the abuse of repetitive daily target practice.
Morrell Outdoor Range Bag Target
Morrell is the most popular bag target brand, and they have a variety of commercial and consumer grade bag targets. The Outdoor Range target is marketed as a commercial model, but is still available for anyone to buy. That’s a good thing, because this is a really great bag target!
The stuffing is a finely shredded material that is packed together to form a dense core. It is heavy enough (50 lbs), and large enough (29”x31”14”) to handle any compound bow, as well as most crossbows.
This is a field point target only, and can withstand thousands of shots before needing a new cover. If you like to hang the bag from a frame, like at a range, you’ll have to either build one, or buy one separately. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Morrell MLT Super Duper Target
The MLT Super Duper Target is a lower cost alternative to the Outdoor Range target, even though it’s built from with the same multi-layered density design. I like the bright green visibility on the Super Duper targets. It makes it easy to see in all light conditions, and from distance.
The target uses the Morrell internal frame system, which is a fancy way of saying you can shoot nearly anywhere on the bag without issue.
I like the designs on the bag. One side has target circle, while the other has deer vital organs drawn inside a large target ring. Those are really useful layouts for deer hunters. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Best 3D Archery Targets
3D targets are the choice of bow hunters everywhere. They are lifelike and mimic the shape and size of whitetail deer, turkey, and even bear. You can find virtually any animal species in 3D form. The best 3D archery targets can help improve your ability to deliver a clean kill shot by pointing out vital organs or arteries that will quickly take down an animal.
The other great thing about them is that you can simulate shots on an animal from any distance and angle imaginable. Most 3D targets are relatively lightweight and can be easily moved and positioned as needed.
If you shoot from a tree stand, you can practice that exact shot. If you hunt from ground blinds, you can simulate that exact scenario. While there’s no substitute for the real thing, lifelike targets are great at preparing bow hunters for the real thing.
3D targets do tend to wear more quickly than other targets due to the frequency of shots focused on the main organs. The region on the target where a deer’s vital organs are located will get much more attention from bow hunters than its hindquarters. Some of the top 3D archery targets are designed with replaceable foam cores. Once you’ve worn out an area of the target, just swap out the foam core with a new one. Since broadheads will cut and bury into the foam, most 3D targets should be used with field points.
Rinehart Woodland Buck
The Woodland Buck is a scaled down whitetail deer 3D target that is approximately the size of a 100 pound deer. The buck is not the largest 3D target out there, but it is big enough to provide a realistic shooting experience, and gets high marks for quality.
You can shoot the Woodland Buck from either side, and features a really nice sized vital area core. The core is made from the famous Rinehart self-healing foam found on their block targets. If you shoot a lot of arrows, you can always buy a replacement core (although can be hard to find sometimes).
The Woodland Buck can be shot with all types of arrows and heads, although you’ll have the best results with field points and compound bows. The foam is dens enough to stop crossbow bolts, but you may want an arrow puller to extract deeply embedded arrows.
One common complaint about the Woodland Buck is the length of rebar protruding from the feet. They leave you about 2” of rod to spike into the ground, which doesn’t provide the greatest holding strength for taking arrows and bolts from powerful compounds or crossbows. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Rinehart Woodland Turkey
The Tom Turkey is the best 3D turkey target I have seen, and a must have for bow hunters looking for realistic target practice prior to your turkey hunts. The Tom Turkey measures a full 30 inches from tip to tail, making it a full size replica of a wild turkey.
The features on this turkey target look great, and the base is wide enough to create a stable shooting platform. There are no highlighted “kill shot” zones, but it does have a replaceable vital organ insert. One trick you can use to add highlights is to take a bright yellow marker and outline the vital zone insert. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
GlenDel 3D Buck Targets
GlenDel Targets offers a very popular series of 3D whitetail deer targets. They range from 200-300lb scale replicas, and standing over 5 feet tall. The Rinehart Woodland Buck in comparison is just too small for some bow hunters, and the best place to turn is the GlenDel series. I really like how these targets assemble together and are positionable to create realistic shooting scenarios.
Full Rut Buck – As far as I can tell, there is no bigger 3D archery target than the Full Rut Buck. It measures a stout 37 inches at the shoulders, and just over five feet tall overall. This 3D target is a great option for trophy buck hunters as it pretty accurately imitates a 300lb whitetail. The vitals inserts is very big at 14”x14”, providing a large area to pound your arrows. Check Price on Amazon »
Pre Rut Buck – The Pre Rut Buck is just like the Full Rut, but is scaled down by approximately 20% to a 250lb animal vs 300lbs. The shoulders are 30 inches tall, and the antlers top out at 60. Being a slightly smaller deer, the replaceable vital zone insert is dropped down to 12”x12”. Check Price on Amazon »or Cabela’» s
GlenDel Buck – Finally, we have the Buck model. This is a small scale 3D whitetail target, essentially a smaller version of the Pre Rut and Full Rut models. The vital organ insert on this one is smaller yet at 11 inches square. If you want a more compact and portable 3D deer target, the basic GlenDel Buck might be the way to go. Check Price on Amazon » orCabela’s »
The stopping power of crossbow targets makes them idea for hunters using the powerful new crossbows that have become so popular. Standard archery targets may not be able to stop a crossbow bolt traveling 300+ feet per second, which may result in a dangerous deflection. Crossbow targets have extra density and depth to stop bolts, and a shot from a low powered compound bow may not even puncture past the tip of the arrowhead.
Crossbow targets come in two styles; practice, and discharge. Practice targets are like regular foam targets. They are larger in size and have several aiming spots, making them great for sighting in crossbows and target practice. Discharge targets are small targets that are meant for simply unloading a crossbow that has been loaded but not shot.
Homemade archery targets can be cheap or even free if you already own all the necessary materials. The important thing to think about when learning how to make archery targets is that safety should be the top priority. Not all stuffing materials are suitable or capable of stopping an arrow. If the target is improperly built it can result in bent shafts and dangerous deflections. It is up to you to make sure your homemade target foam or filler can withstand today’s powerful bows.
How Long Will an Archery Target Last?
A good archery target should last at least a full year of daily shooting. So you can plan on multiple years of use if you don’t shoot full time. If you think your target is wearing out prematurely, there are some tricks you can do to improve the life.
Make sure you use field points for the majority of your shooting. Broaheads will greatly accelerate target wear. Also, if all you do is pummel the bullseye, you will wear out the target. Change things up from time to time and aim at different spots on the target.
The target that you choose will go a long way towards improving your bowhunting skills. Choose a foam target for general target practice and use with broadheads, and a bag target for your daily target practice use. If you want the best simulation of a real life hunt, pick up a 3D target. Whatever your goal, choosing the best archery targets for target practice can help you hone your skills for a successful hunt this fall.