Can You Legally Shoot Your Bow Inside City Limits?

[Updated 1 July 2022] Buying a bow is an exciting experience, and you will want to use it as soon as you get it home. Even if you have had a bow for a while you may be chomping at the bit to start shooting before the season opens. There are a lot of precautions that you should take before you start shooting your bow, but where do you start? Excitement and convenience spur a lot of people to shoot in their back yard without asking an incredibly important question. Can You Legally Shoot Your Bow Inside City Limits?

Whether or not you can shoot a bow in your backyard depends entirely on city ordinances. Most states allow bow use, except for a few types of bows. Regulations from city to city vary, so it is essential to check with your town for their exact rules. Some bows may require a license, while others may not have any restrictions. Once you know what is legal and what isn’t, there are a few more questions you should answer before you pull that string back.

Where Else Can I Shoot?

If you live in a semi-rural area, the chances are that you’ll be able to head to a quarry or field somewhere out of town. Many suburban areas have dedicated archery ranges as part of their parks systems. A quick internet search will show you ranges in your area as well as any rules the parks may have.  In urban areas, things get a little tricky because there are likely more ordinances against archery in city limits but fewer places to practice. Indoor ranges that specialize in knives, axes, and bows are growing in popularity, but they are still not as abundant as one would want. Some archery and sporting goods stores will have a few bow shooting lanes in store to test the products. Some will allow you to use the lanes for practice for a few dollars per session. 

Are there precautions you should take?

If you are participating in target practice in your back yard, there are several precautions you should take before you start. Bow Shooting_BackyardPrecautions

  • Inspect the area behind the target for anything that will be hurt or damaged. If you have a fence, make sure that you look behind the fence, an accidentally well-placed shot will still go through a fence even if the gaps are small. 
  • If there are neighbors behind your target area, you should wait until they are gone or at least let them know your plans. 
  • Inspect your bow and arrows before use to make sure they are in a useable condition that won’t be potentially harmful to you. 
  • If you are shooting a bow purely for target practice, there is no reason to use real tips. Exchange your arrowheads for bullet tips, which will cause less damage in the case of an accident. 
  • Clear your field. No matter where you are shooting, you should make sure your field is clear, which includes pets, kids, and adults who would put themselves between you and the target. 

What Kind of Targets Can You Shoot?

Before you choose a target, it is vital to set up a backstop. A backstop is anything that is behind your target and the surrounding area to stop a stray arrow. One of the most popular backstops is bales of hay, which will stop even the fastest arrow, but you may need to be more inventive in town. Many people have found great success using an old rug for a backstop, especially when using dull tips like bullet tips. Once you have a backstop, you’ll need to choose a target. TargetsToShoot

  • Bag

Bag targets are popular because they are cost-effective, but like most cost-effective items, they have their downsides. Most bags need to be stored because they are heavily susceptible to the elements. They are filled with synthetic fiber that efficiently stops an arrow; but they also leave a hole where the arrow lands. Also, just like any bag, the contents may shift and the bag will lose its shape which doesn’t make it useless but it’s a bit annoying. 

  • Foam Cube

Although they look solid, these cubes are layers of thin foam stacked on top of each other. When your arrow hits the target, it slides between these layers of the foam; allowing friction to stop the arrow without leaving any noticeable damage to the target. Be aware that removing arrows from this material can sometimes be challenging. This is the most popular type of target because it is durable to both the elements and the punishment from repetitive strikes, but it is still budget-friendly. 

  • 3D

3D targets are some of the coolest targets out there, especially for hunters. These specially designed targets are the same shape as game animals, and most of them have marked “sweet spots” for archers to aim.  These targets are best for those looking to fine-tune their accuracy versus novices. They are not cost-prohibitive, but it will get a little annoying on the wallet to have to replace them frequently if you are chipping away at the non-lethal areas. 

Does it matter if it is a compound or traditional bow?

Just like being able to shoot at all, the types of bows you can shoot depending on city ordinances. Shooting crossbow in town is a no in most places, but even differences in traditional bows can affect their legality. 

Whether the bow is compound or traditional will probably not matter much, but its draw weight and the arrow length and tip may be an issue. In most states, your bow will be legal as long as it has a draw weight of at least 40 pounds. A lot of states have regulations on the length of the arrow and the style of the arrow tip. 

Related Questions

Can I Hunt in Town?

While most people would believe this is a resounding no, the answer is more complicated than that. There are some instances where a city starts to be overrun by an animal and allows for hunting in town. This occurrence is few and far between, but when it does happen, cities would rather have arrows flying in town than bullets. 

Can I Shoot a Crossbow in my Backyard?

In most cases, the answer is a resounding no. A crossbow is considered more of a firearm than a bow, which classifies it differently. There are very few, if any, cities that would let you practice using your crossbow in your backyard. 

How do I Protect Myself While Bow Shooting?

If you are concerned with the safety and legality of target practice in your backyard; you are probably worried about your safety as well. While archery is a relatively safe sport, there are a few accessories you can buy to keep yourself safe. These are especially important for beginners, but archers of all skill levels use them. 

Bow Shooting_ProtectionWhileShootingFinger Protector

A bowstring is not a piano wire; but it is still pretty thin, and repetitive use will quickly start to take a toll on your fingers. You will find that at the very least they hurt but more often than not; especially with beginners, the string will start to cut into your fingers. A leather finger protector is a simple solution that puts a barrier between your fingers; and the string so you can practice your aim as long as you want with no pain. 

Arm Guard

Many archers will tell you that this is the most crucial piece of protective equipment you can have. The sting of the bowstring slapping your forearm is enraging, and you never really build a tolerance for it. These can be made out of several materials, but leather is still the most popular, and it slides over your bow arm like a piece of armor to protect from the string, inevitably snapping your forearm on release. 

Chest Guard

This one is for the ladies. For the same reasons you want an armed guard, you will want to look into a chest guard, especially since your chest is more sensitive than your forearm. They come in several designs, and while they are not required, you will be happy you have one. 

The Long and Short

Shooting in your backyard offers all sorts of benefits. There is a decent chance that you will be able to practice your bow in your backyard; especially if you have a tall fence. It is still necessary to check city and state laws; to make sure that you are doing everything by the book. 

Even if it is legal to do bow shooting in your backyard; you should take every precaution necessary to make sure that it is a fun and safe experience for everyone involved. When safety is a top priority, you will find that archery target practice in your back yard is not only more convenient than going to a range, but it holds unique advantages. You may find that backyard target practice becomes one of your family’s favorite past times. 

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