Is It Illegal To Shoot A Bow And Arrow In Your Backyard?

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart
Bow and arrow enthusiasts are understandably hesitant to practice in their own yards for fear of penalty. Luckily, it is legal to shoot a bow and arrow in your yard in most states, but some counties may prohibit it. Whether it be local laws or regulations, let’s take a look at whether or not it’s safe to shoot a bow and arrow in your backyard.

Throughout the country, there’s a new phenomenon occurring. As our civilization becomes more densely populated, we’re starting to see a lot of the activities that once were deemed harmless to become a major nuisance to neighbors. For example, lighting fireworks or having an unfenced pool can be considered risky. But, what about practicing your archery?

It is legal for you to shoot a bow and arrow and practice in your backyard in most counties. Some counties prohibit the use of bows and arrows at your residence, and some require inspections. Check with your local municipality to make sure that it is okay for you to use a bow and arrow in your backyard.

While most areas will be amenable to letting people practice archery, the truth is that an increasing number of towns bar people from shooting bows and arrows in their yard. Before you pick up those arrows, read this guide regarding your freedoms in your backyard.

Archery Legal Restrictions By State

CaliforniaLegalArrow point must be connected by line to the bow or reel
ColoradoLegalBow’s string is not drawn or held mechanically under tension. String or mechanical releases must be hand-held with no additional attachments or connections to bow
OhioLegalMust have a working safety and a stock more than 25 inches long
IllinoisLegalMinimum pull of 40 pounds at some point within a 28-inch draw. Minimum arrow length is 20 inches
IdahoLegalLong, recurve, or compound bows must have a peak draw weight of less than 40 pounds up to or at a draw of 28 inches. Any crossbow having a peak draw weight of less than 150 pounds
PennsylvaniaLegalBow’s draw weight must not be less than 35 pounds, crossbows draw weight must be at least 125 pounds, but not more than 200 pounds
New YorkLegalBow’s draw weight cannot be 35 lbs. or less
New JerseyLegalCrossbow must have a minimum peak draw weight of 35 pounds and a minimum draw weight of 75 pounds
MontanaLegalAt least 28 inches in total length. Arrow must weigh no less than 300 grains with the broadhead attached.
South DakotaLegalArrows must be larger than 26″ long and a compound bow must measure more than 28″ in length.

Why Would Archery Be Illegal In My Backyard?

When most of us think about backyard activities, practicing sports is a fairly common activity. Things like soccer or golf are normal activities to practice in a backyard, but there’s a difference when it comes to issues like archery or sharpshooting. Archery and similar activities can be dangerous to people and animals around your home. An incorrect shot can kill a person in some circumstances.

Many towns now make a point of barring or requiring certification for a person to shoot bows and arrows in their backyards. It’s a way to make sure that people stay safe.

How To Find Out

If you want to start making your own archery range, it’s a wise idea to remember that you don’t just have to research your town or HOA bylaws. It’s also a state thing, too. Here’s what you need to do to find out how you can legally practice archery:

  • Find out if there are any state laws regarding archery in a backyard. The vast majority of states have little, if any, oversight regarding practicing your archery in your backyard.
  • Check out county, city, and local laws. Most of the time, rural areas will not care if you decide to practice archery in your home’s area. This is because there isn’t a big chance of you shooting someone else. However, if you live in the suburbs or in a city, there will almost certainly be at least some type of ordinance dealing with archery and sharpshooting inside a backyard.
  • Take a look at the regulations for your local HOA. If you belong to a homeowner’s association, you may need to see their own unique set of rules before you decide to start target practice. Even if they are not official laws, disobeying your HOA rules can lead to fines and even eviction from your own home.
  • If you need to have an inspection done on your property or a type of certification, find out the details. You need to make sure that your backyard has a range that will be deemed safe for practice use. You also will need to know what process you need to go through if you choose to proceed.


If your town or city has regulations regarding backyard safety in an archery range, then there’s a good chance that you may need to make some preparations before your backyard gets inspected. Though the actual details of the regulations tend to vary from place to place, most municipalities will have rules that address the following:

  • Space. Smaller backyards are more likely to be rejected for a permit than larger ones. If you don’t have at least 200 square feet of space, the chances of you getting accepted are slim to none.
  • Archery Setups. Many groups will also ask that you have a full-fledged archery range with protective gear to prevent errant arrows from hitting your fence. Protective gear can include specialized boards, hay bales, or just targets that are placed on a tripod.
  • Fencing. Almost every town that has ordinances regarding shooting a bow and arrow will demand that you have fencing that extends at least six feet in height. This is done as a way to ensure that errant arrows don’t end up in someone walking by.

Do You Have To Have A Certain Skill Level To Get Approved For A Home Archery Range?

The term “skill” here is arbitrary, but there are some features that government groups look for when it comes to issuing permits. The most common things that are required include:

  • Age. Over 18 is the most common requirement. How enforceable this is, is up to debate.
  • Hunting Permits. This is one of the rarer requirements that you might see when it comes to archery range permits, but it happens in some cities. Having a hunting permit tends to denote a higher level of responsibility than people who don’t have one, since the screening process is bigger. As a result, towns tend to smile upon hunters.
  • Clean Records. People who have been found guilty of violent crimes are likely to get applications denied, especially if they live in regions that are tough on crime.


Let’s say that you have checked the local codes and your backyard has been deemed unsafe for archery practice. That’s rough, but that doesn’t mean your days of archery are over. There are still several ways that you can potentially practice archery. These options below are the most common ways to make it happen:

  • Improve your backyard’s safety. If it’s just a matter of not passing an inspection, the best thing you can do is talk to the people in charge and find out what you need to do in order to make your backyard safe. This can include doing things like repairing your fence, getting targets for your practice sessions, as well as trying to buy extra land for your home.
  • Try to get the law or regulation overturned. It’s a long shot, but if you are truly disgusted by the idea of not being able to practice in your own backyard, you might be able to make a petition asking the county (or town, or city) to allow it. With that said, getting a law repealed is a long, arduous process. It’s not usually worth it.
  • Practice archery in a park. While this isn’t always allowed, some public parks do have their own dedicated areas for archery. Even if they don’t, most places won’t stop you from using your bow in an open area. Check with your local public park system for the scoop.
  • Go to an archery range nearby. Though this isn’t always doable, many parts of the country have archery ranges where you can practice your shooting, compete with others, and also learn new archery techniques. You will have to pay a small fee to use the range or even get a membership, but it will be the easiest way to ensure that you will be able to enjoy your sport.
  • Consider putting together a basement archery range. Are you really interested in practicing your aim, but don’t want to deal with local laws getting in the way? If you have a basement or an extra room, you might be able to turn that extra space into an indoor archery range. Of course, this assumes that you have a lot of extra space in your home to use. Some people might also find that they can use a garage for similar purposes.

Related Questions

Are you allowed to shoot a bow and arrow over a road?

Though many cities and counties are open to having people shoot a bow and arrow over their property, shooting a bow and arrow over a road is almost always banned. This is because you run the risk of shooting a person who could be driving or walking down the road by accident. Doing this would make it a clear case of assault, landing you in jail.

Can plywood stop an arrow?

Arrows are known for having a lot of force behind their launches, which is one of the reasons why so many areas have rules against practicing shooting bows in backyards. Plywood can block arrows, but only if the plywood in question is thick enough to do so. The best way to make sure that you can stay safe is to use multiple layers of plywood as a backdrop when you’re shooting away.

Is it legal to walk around with a bow and arrow?

The laws on walking around with a bow and arrow vary from place to place. However, most regions are totally fine with it as long as the bow isn’t strung up or if the arrows in question are in a zippered case. Some areas will ban it, though, so make sure that you are legally allowed to do it in the city that you’re in.

Summing It Up

You can legally practice archery in your backyard in many states and counties. However, not all homes qualify for at-home archery and you may not be allowed to shoot a bow and arrow in your backyard. Some counties require an inspection to make sure that you backyard is safe for the practical use of a bow and arrow.

If your home doesn’t qualify, you will have to seek a practice space that is legal in your county. You can practice at a range or a qualifying park if your home is unsuitable for it or if laws won’t allow it.

Related Guides

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

More by Ossiana Tepfenhart