By Tracy Breen
-- If you are an avid bowhunter, you have probably had a bad experience with an archery target. Here's the scenario: You try to pull an arrow out of the target and realize you need to tug a little bit. You tighten your grip on the shaft and pull harder. After several seconds of not seeing any results, you tug on the arrow even harder. You eventually realize that the arrow is not coming out and if you pull any harder the only thing that will give will be your innards!
To save yourself a trip to the hospital for hernia surgery, you take a break and return to the target when you are fresh or when your hands aren't so slippery from sweating profusely trying to pull the arrow out. You might even be the guy who gets ticked off and pulls, bends and tugs until the arrow comes out - even if it is in pieces and the broadhead and insert are still in the target.
Either way, pulling arrows from a target can be a chore.
For the most part, the above illustration is in the past as most archery target companies have set out to solve this problem. Many manufacturers now offer block-style targets that are durable and offer easy arrow removal. In case you haven't noticed, the problem is that many of these targets come with a gold nugget in the center - at least that's what some hunters think after looking at the price tag.
Below are five block targets that won't break the bank or require reconstructive surgery after you're finished pulling a few arrows out of them. I will rank each target with a rating: 1 is the worst; 5 is the best.
Block 4x4 Pup
Block - 4x4 Pup
Field Logic is the company responsible for starting the portable target craze with a simple, foam-layered design to stop arrows between the target's layers. Field Logic, parent company of Block archery targets, has made several key improvements to its products as most are now made with a layered foam core that is surrounded by a dense foam outer shell.
The outer shell of the Block 4x4 Pup has a deer vital area on a couple of sides and regular shooting dots on a couple of sides. The dots and the deer vital areas are offset from each other so that after weeks of shooting, the target does not develop soft spots.
The target has four sides that can be shot at. Field tips and broadheads can be removed without requiring a lot of effort. The downside of the Block 4x4 product line is the fact that these targets are somewhat pricey as only the Pup can be purchased for under $100. The Pup is small at 16x16x12 and weighs 12 pounds.
Anyone who regularly shoots will burn through a Block 4x4 in several months. I think that is partially due to the fact that this target was built with easy arrow removal in mind.
I give the target 4 out of 5 points because the arrows slide out like they are coated in hot butter. But if you shoot a lot, plan on replacing the target every year. If you are a casual shooter, the target should last a few years.
Morrell Manufacturing Yellow Jacket
Morrell Manufacturing - Yellow Jacket
The Morrell Yellow Jacket broadhead model is a four-sided target with dots on all four sides. Morrell improved the target this year by adding more permanent dots on two of the four sides.
In the past, the target came with paper dots that could be placed on the foam target. The only problem is that the paper dots would have to be replaced after a few minutes of shooting. The product has been improved a lot since then. The other two sides are covered in a plastic shell that have shooting dots imprinted on the plastic.
The Yellow Jacket is available in two models - one designed for broadheads and the other for field tips. Their motto is to make great targets that are good at stopping either broadheads or target points, not both. I shoot at the broadhead model most of the time and have been pleased with its performance. Pulling arrows out of the Yellow Jacket can be a chore until it is broken in. In return, you end up with a target that lasts awhile.
The Yellow Jacket is made up of different types of foam that are arranged in vertical layers - not horizontal layers like other targets. Regardless of how fast your arrows travel, the Yellow Jacket rarely has trouble stopping them.
My favorite feature about the Yellow Jacket is its price. You can purchase the broadhead target and the field point target as a combo for less than $100, which is a great bargain! Plus, it is large at 22x23x19, and weighs only 121/2 pounds. The field point target is like a stuffed bag. The arrows come out of the bag easily.
I give the Morrell Yellow Jacket 4.5 out of 5 points. It would be nice if the arrows came out of the broadhead target a little easier.
Hips Targets Stalker
Hips Targets - Stalker
One of the oldest target companies in the business is Hips Targets. Hips offers more styles of square targets than almost anyone in the business. They have a super-small block target called the Kick-N-Shoot, which was designed to be kicked around and shot at. My favorite is the Stalker, which is large - 18x18x18 - and only weighs only 7 pounds! Like all of Hips Targets, the Stalker comes with layers of foam that are heat-welded together.
Instead of having several individual layers of foam like many targets do, Hips Targets are actually one large block of foam, which makes them long-lasting and durable.
"Our heat-welded construction turns several layers of foam into one solid block of foam, creating a super-strong, extra-durable target that costs less than other targets," said Darren Brown, president of Hips Targets.
Most targets on the market today offer two or four sides to shoot at. However, all six sides of the Stalker target can be shot at. With two extra sides, the target lasts longer. Arrows can be removed from the Stalker quite easily. Fixed-blade broadheads, expandable broadheads and field points can be shot into the Stalker. This target is long lasting and a great value at $95.
It gets 5 out of 5 points because it is durable, affordable and lightweight!
McKenzie Targets ShotBlocker Bowhunter
McKenzie Targets - ShotBlocker Bowhunter
McKenzie Targets has been around for a long time and has several block-style target offerings that are great for shooting at, whether the targets are set up in the back yard or on an archery range.
One of those that caught my eye is the ShotBlocker Bowhunter target. It weighs 12 pounds, measures 18x18x14 and retails for $75. This target features welded foam construction, which reduces foam slivering and the need for bands, cardboard and other materials to hold it together. From what I can see, welded foam targets tend to last longer than layered targets, and the ShotBlocker is no exception.
Another nice feature is the fact that it can be shot at on all four sides with two of the sides offering deer heart, lung and liver shots. When sighting-in your bow, you can shoot at the two sides that have nine shooting dots on them. When you are sighted-in, you can shoot at the deer target, which prepares you for the field.
This target is probably one of the best available for the money. It also gets 5 out of 5 points because it holds up well and doesn't cost a lot.
Cabela's MDL XL
Cabela's - MDL XL
Bowhunters on a tight budget may want to consider the Cabela's MDL XL target. It can be had for $50. Most targets cost twice that much. This foam-layered target is similar to most of the others out there but it is thicker and wider than most other targets thanks to its 20x20x18 measurements. A lot of targets are 14-16 inches wide. The added inches of foam help to stop those speedy arrows from slicing through the 9-pound target.
The MDL XL uses multidensity foam that is layered from low to high to slow the broadhead in stages, resulting in easy arrow removal and a longer lasting target. Some targets only use one density of foam to save money, which causes the target to rapidly break down.
The Cabela's target gets 4 out of 5. The downside of the target is you can only shoot at it on 2 sides instead of four or six like other targets. This target, like all of the targets I've reviewed, is intended for broadhead use. If you shoot field tips into it, plan on going to the doctor after you retrieve your arrow; you probably pulled something!
It has been my experience that although all of the targets I reviewed last awhile, if you shoot all the time, you will be buying at least one target a year. Another tip: if a target is designed for broadheads only, don't shoot field tips into it. If you do, you will be asking for trouble.
To learn more about the author, visit www.tracybreen.com.
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