Part of the fun about being a hunter and owning a crossbow is actually shooting your bow. Just because most crossbows have a scope mounted to them and the learning curve is generally a lot shorter than that of a vertical bow, doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice with one. And to be able to practice with your bow, you’ll need a target. Not just any target, you’ll need a good one. Most of today’s targets don’t even come close to being able to stop an arrow launched from today’s modern crossbows. So you’ll need to find a target that can or you’ll be spending more time re-fletching arrows that penetrate all the way down to the fletchings. Or worse, you’ll be spending time looking for arrows in your backyard that have completely passed through the target. Another important thing to consider when purchasing a crossbow target is aiming points. The more aiming points the better when it comes to crossbows. But, you can always use stickers to add more aiming points, or simply add some with a sharpie. Because modern day crossbows can be so accurate, it is very common for hunters to damage arrows when sighting in their bows. If you’re shooting broadheads, don’t even think about group shooting. Doing so will most likely end up with a trip back to your local pro shop to purchase more arrows and broadheads. So you’ll want a crossbow target that has a large face with multiple aiming points.
There are many types of targets that are suitable for use with a crossbow. Some crossbow targets are made just for shooting practice points, some are just for shooting broadheads, and there are hybrid crossbow targets that you can shoot either type of points into. I can tell you from years of experience that each of the point specific crossbow targets do a pretty good job doing what they are designed to do. The hybrid crossbow targets that are designed to be able to shoot both practice points and broadheads into, do a good job too, but only for a short time. So my recommendation would to be to buy or make a target for each type of point you will be shooting. It may cost more at the beginning, but you will be glad you did in the long run. So let’s take a look at your options when it comes to crossbow targets.
Bag style targets for crossbows are the most popular for many reasons. They stop arrows very well and allow for very easy arrow removal. This is important when it comes to practicing with your bow. Targets that a hard to remove arrows from discourage hunters from wanting to practice. Pulling arrows from a target should not be a two person job. Bag targets do a very good job making arrow removal very easy. Many of them advertise two finger arrow removal. The best thing about a bag target is that you can make one with items you have at home. With an old feed sack or pillow case, stuffed with old clothes, towels, blankets, or sleeping bag, you can make a bag target that will stop even the fastest bows on the market. The tighter you can pack it the better. One important note is to remove any zippers or buttons on articles of clothing you may use. Hitting them can cause damage to your arrow. Bag targets are only good for shooting practice points into. Shooting broadheads into a bag target will make arrow removal almost impossible and in most cases will damage or break your broadhead.
Crossbow targets made from solid foam are great for shooting broadheads into. The dense foam allows broadhead tipped arrows to penetrate without breaking or damaging blades. Because the blades of the broadhead actually cut grooves when entering the foam, they can be retrieve fairly easily. However shooting the same spot repeatedly with result in chunks of foam falling out of your target. So if possible, you’ll want to rotate the areas you aim at while shooting broadheads. Because of the dense nature of the foam used in these types of targets, removing a crossbow arrow tipped with a practice point is almost impossible. If you must shoot a foam target with your practice point, I highly suggest lubing your arrow first. There are a few manufacturers of archery lubes and waxes that make a lube specifically for shooting arrows into foam targets that will make pulling your arrows much easier.
The third type of target is what as know as a layered foam or hybrid target. With this type of crossbow target you can shoot both practice points and broadheads into the same target. These targets have individual layers of foam that are highly compressed and stop your arrows by using friction. They work well with field points, however some crossbows have no problem burying an arrow down to the fletchings even on a brand new target. They also stop broadheads well when the targets are new, but once you shoot the same area a few times, the layers of foam fall out and you will have to aim at another spot or else you’ll be looking for your arrows that blow out the back of the target.
Unfortunately with todays offerings for crossbow targets, there doesn’t seem to be one winner that does it all. Bows keep getting faster and more powerful but the crossbow targets seem to be a step or two behind. With the bulk of your practicing most likely going to be with practice points, I would recommend purchasing or making a bag target since it will see more use than a broadhead target. On the flip side, I do very strongly recommend practicing with your broadheds too. If only at least to see if they are hitting at the same point of impact as your field points do, or if you need to make a sight adjustment before entering the woods. At that point a smaller sized less expensive foam target designed just for broadhead use may be all you need.