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Make a Target Hoop for Archery Practice

May 23, 2012

This is a fun project all on its own, but it is also the first step in making a primitive backpack.  After we have made a target hoop I will do a post on how to take two of them and turn them in to a very effective backpack.

Target hoops were used by Native-American boys to practice their hunting skills.  The hoops were rolled across the ground or tossed up into the air, and the boys would try to shoot an arrow through the hoop.  The target hoop is basically a hoop made of wood with a rawhide netting woven into it.  It looks very much like what most people know as a dream catcher.  Pictured below: Dream catcher and target hoop, look a lot alike don’t they? 

Since I have never seen any historical documentation of dream catchers prior to 1900, I have often wondered if some white man didn’t see a target hoop hanging in a teepee somewhere and when he asked what it was he was spun some yarn about how it was there to catch bad dreams.  Who knows?  Anyway, this is how you make a target hoop.

First we’ll make the wooden hoop.  For this we will need a nice flexible sapling.  Willow was commonly used for this purpose, but any kind of sapling will do.  Since we are going to eventually turn this into a pack, we will make our hoop a little larger than the traditional ten or twelve inch target hoop.  Cut a sapling that is about as big around as your index finger at the base and about five feet long.  This will give you enough length to make a hoop that is about sixteen inches in diameter with a foot of overlap.   You can leave the bark on or take it off.  Since I’m going to keep this one for a while I’m going to go ahead and take the bark off.  While the sapling is still green and flexible, go ahead and bend it into a hoop and tie it off.  If you have time to let it dry for a few days, that’s good; but it’s not totally necessary.  Pictured below:  Pealed sapling tied into a hoop

Now we need to weave in the netting.  You can make the netting out of store-bought cordage or hand-made cordage, but the traditional material was rawhide.  I like to use rawhide because it is very strong, and since it shrinks as it dries, it makes a nice tight hoop.  Check my post of 12/19/2011  for information on how to make rawhide.  Pictured below:  Rawhide that is being cut into a long thong.  Notice how I spiral around the edge to get the maximum length out of a relatively small piece of hide

To begin the netting tie one end of your rawhide lace to the hoop and then make a series of fairly tight loops all the way around the hoop.  When you get back to where you started wrapping, drop down and keep going.  You will be creating a series of diamond shapes as you continue lacing.  The series of pictures below will show you how to lace the rawhide better than I can tell you with words.

First course close-up


First course finished


Second course close-up


Second course finished


Four courses finished

As you continue spiraling around you will notice that the diamonds get smaller and smaller.  When the diamonds get to small you can do a row where you lace the thong through every other diamond.  Then go back to lacing every diamond.  Pictured below: On this row I am skipping every other diamond

When you get to the middle of the hoop, tie the thong off, and set the whole thing aside to dry over night.  Pictured below: Finished target hoop

If you are going to make a backpack, go ahead and make a second target hoop the same as the first one, but make the second hoop a little more oval in shape.  Pictured below: Two finished hoops that we will use to make our back-pack




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