The bottom line is you CAN leave your archery targets outside, but long term, you really SHOULDN’T! We discuss what happens if you leave them to the elements and what you can do to avoid it.

You can’t beat the convenience of using an archery target in your own backyard. It gives you the opportunity to practice, tune your bow or familiarize yourself with a new bow sight whenever you like.

The temptation of leaving your target, no matter whether it’s a range target, block target, bag target or a 3D target can be strong.

Try to overcome it.

Sure, your target will be undamaged if you leave it out overnight. But, sure as eggs, that will lead to a second night and then a third.

Pretty soon, your target will have been outside for months. And it will have started to fade and degrade.

Better to get in the habit of protecting it after use. The result is the opportunity to extend the target's lifespan.

Types of Archery Targets

Targets are made from a variety of materials so will respond slightly differently to the abuse of being left to the elements. We'll look at each type individually.

Bag Targets

These types of target are particularly popular. They’re light, easy to move and relatively inexpensive.

Most archery bag targets use a woven polypropylene cover and are foam scrap filled. These are pretty hardy materials but they are prone to the effects of the weather.

If left in the sun the UV rays will quickly begin to break down the bag. Moisture can penetrate the holes created by arrows and begin to rot it out from the inside.

The estimation is that, should you leave the target outside permanently, you can expect to get 12 months out of it…at best.

As the inner fill crumbles and degrades it will lose its stopping power. Arrows will penetrate more and more deeply and complete pass-throughs become more common.

This means you’re at greater risk of damaging your arrows. It could become expensive.

Block Targets

Bow hunters who want to practice with their broadhead tips will be more likely to use block or cube targets.

These targets are more solid and consist of some type of expanded self-healing foam or sheets of compressed foam layers.

As with the bag targets, the external covering is usually a polypropylene type of material that hard-wearing over the longer term.

Prolonged exposure to the elements can cause the internal foam to begin to crumble, particularly when moisture penetrates through the arrow holes.

But where there is really going to be some degradation is through the UV exposure after it is left in the sun. Not only will the external surfaces fade but the internal foam will deteriorate and crumble.

The same actions suggested for the bag targets will be effective in protecting your block target.

Sure, the target is going to be heavy and it might be an onerous task to lug it into a shed after use but you will certainly prolong its life by doing so.

3D Targets

3D targets provide you with the most realistic target practice, particularly the life-sized versions.

But they are also the most expensive types of targets. They need careful treatment to preserve their viability over the long term.

Delta McKenzie, manufacturers of a wide range of 3D targets puts it very succinctly:

“Our targets are not recommended to be left outside in the elements due to weather conditions that can deteriorate the target and fade the paint.”

There have also been reported instances of birds taking pieces out of these types of targets when left outside.

They’re lightweight so pick them up and put them inside when you’ve finished practice. You don’t want the expense and hassle of having to go out and buy a new 3D target because your last one crumbled apart.

Protecting Your Targets

There are a few simple ways you can protect your bag target to increase its lifespan:

  • Take them inside after use. This may be moving them into a shed or the garage or even into a lean-to shelter where there is overhead protection
  • Cover the target with some form of protection such as a tarpaulin or a gas-grill cover
  • Build a small shelter specifically for your target. Fit it out inside with padded walls and doors to protect against misses. Simply open the doors when you need to use the target
  • Target manufacturers such as Bulldog Targets make Sun Covers for their targets. These are specifically to protect the target from the damage caused by UV rays. Using one of these would be a very worthwhile investment

Summing Up

For the short term, commercial archery targets are robust enough to be left outside. The materials will withstand all types of weather and birds and animals are unlikely to attack them.

The problems arise when you forget about the target for long periods of time.

And the same problem will apply to youth archery targets. Best to instill good habits early by teaching younger shooters to take care of their equipment.

It may look perfectly fine from the outside but the interior may have crumbled and deteriorated. You’ll find out when you fire the first arrow at it and it embeds itself so deeply into the target you have trouble removing it.

As with all hunting equipment, it pays to maintain your targets. Keep them in good working order and they will repay you well for years to come.


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