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Archery Target Distance, Balancing Safety With Success

Line of Success

In 4-H archery instructor training, the shooting line is referred to as “The Line of Success”.  This means the target distance should be set so that the child can succeed with their first shots. That is a great concept to build a sense of achievement and self-esteem, unless it conflicts with safety.

A successful young archer having a great time.

Gavin in Brevard County has immediate success with his new bow.

This is to all those archery coaches out there (parents included) who want their young archer to have success in making their first shots. Being close enough to hit the target, or perhaps even the bulls-eye means that the target needs to be at whatever safe distance is necessary for the arrow to hit its mark. Depending on the archer, the equipment and the target, a commonly used distance of 15 feet or 5 yards may, in fact, be posing a danger to the shooter and others on the range.

Close Call

Recently on the archery range, one of our young shooters shot a 10-pound draw weight bow, into a commonly used archery target rated for bows and target arrows up to 40-pound draw weight. The arrow bounced out. It didn’t just bounce and fall, it bounced with such force that it came all the way back to the shooting line and was caught by an instructor over the heads of other shooters and spectators!

If that arrow would have struck someone, it certainly penetrated the skin or other soft tissue. The target that was used was too dense for the arrows being shot and was made of closed cell foam, which is common in the industry. A much safer choice in this circumstance would have been a target made of open cell foam. For those who do not know the difference, open cell foam is commonly seen in the white $2 insulated coolers, and closed cell foam is used in camping mattress pads and door insulation.

The bow and target pictured above are a great combination for a young archer’s first shot. Gavin is holding a Matthew’s Genesis bow, set at about a 10 lb. draw weight.  He is standing in front of a Drew Foam archery target made of open cell foam, covered with bulls-eye faced plastic for immediate use and weatherproofing.

Balancing Your Program

In a well-rounded archery program the equipment will match the skill levels of the students. Having both open and closed cell targets, and alternative bag targets will allow for shooters with varying equipment, and at different skill levels to have a safe and rewarding experience.

Cover photo courtesy of VA Cooperative Extension Service 4-H Summer Camp 

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