If you run out of bullets or didn’t bring a small caliber rifle with you, the rabbit stick is the first hunting weapon you should craft. If made from wood, it should be around two feet long, curved in the center and thrown like a boomerang. The sides should be flattened and beveled for fast throwing and hard-hitting results. A large jaw bone is nicely suited for throwing and needs no carving. Either one can be thrown using 3 methods.
1. Straight up and down for penetrating dense brush.
2. At a 45-degree angle for power and a large impact area.
3. Side arm for targets either on the ground or on the water.
A short club can be assembled using a large vertebrae, lashing and a straight stick.
With a little practice, a primitive knife blade can be chipped from obsidian and tightly lashed to a slotted handle. This modern version has been effectively used for skinning deer. Obsidian spear and arrow heads will puncture thick hides but knives are more prone to break when opening a new cut. Start skinning at the entry wound to avoid breaking the blade.
The rock sling is very simple to make and use but accuracy takes practice. With 2 cords somewhere under 3 feet long and a 4 x 6 inch cloth or leather pouch you can be practicing in a few minutes. Tie a loop in one end of the cord to fit over a couple fingers so the sling will open properly and stay under your control. The stone should be about the size of a chicken egg. The sling can be used either overhand or overhead. It can easily throw well over 50 yards but the effective hunting range is more like 20.
To make a BOLA you will need three stones and about 9 feet of cord or rope. Cut the rope at 6 feet leaving a 3 ft. section. Tie pouches containing rocks or just rocks to each end of the 6 ft. cord and to one end of the 3 ft. cord. Make an overhand loop in the center of the 6 ft. cord and tie the short cord firmly to the loop. The BOLA is thrown by whirling it overhead while holding one of the 3 stones. If thrown properly, the weights should spread out evenly in flight. The object is to either stun or entangle the prey long enough to dispatch it with a club or other weapon.
Making a high quality bow and arrows is obviously an art form. Making a functional bow begins with finding a 2-inch diameter, knot, twist and limb free pine sapling approximately 4 ft. in length. Young saplings tend to taper quickly and have knot swirls that are close together so trimming down a taller tree is preferred. A knot swirl in the center of the bows limb will prevent it from flexing properly.
Dead dry wood is more powerful but green wood is easier to shape and can be used if necessary. After you have selected and cut your stave, remove the bark, soak it in water for easier bending and determine the natural curve. To find the natural curve stand your stave on end and press down on the top. Accurately mark the direction it wants to bend.
The outside curve will be the front and the inside curve is the back of the bow. If you use green wood warm it by the fire and allow it to dry for two or three days. Start the shaping process by shaving wood (only) from the inside of the curve on the thickest end of the bow until both ends are equal in bend resistance. Go easy thinning the limbs or you will severely weaken the grain. The thinner the limbs the wider they need to be to prevent breakage at full draw.
A sharp ax can be used to shave the excess wood during the initial shaping process. Be very careful when aggressively shaving away the wood layers. If a cut goes too deep and catches the grain the stave may split all the way down and ruin the bow. If it is necessary to remove wood from both ends of the stave leave the center 6-8 inches thick for added strength. The thick section can also be shaped into a comfortable grip and small arrow rest.
Carve your string notches about 1½ inch from each end of the stave. Oil the bow with fat or grease after it dries and all the rough edges have been scraped and rubbed smooth. This bow will not last long but it can be wrapped with string or rawhide for added strength and stability. In the primitive weapon category the bow and arrow is the leader for taking down large game.
NOTES: Never fire (dry fire) your bow without an arrow on the string. Keep the weapon dry and unstrung when not in use.
Strings can be made from sinew, bundled nylon thread, fishing line or some type of cord. Loop one end and tie the other end permanently to the bow. The string must be strong enough to hold the strain without stretching and small enough to fit in the arrow notch. The string can be twisted for added strength or to shorten its length and increase the bows power.
Arrows can be made from a straight dry stick, reed stem, cattail, or sapling of the appropriate length and diameter. If you can’t find dry material let green arrow shafts dry naturally. Arrows can be either blunt for stunning or sharp for penetration. The head of the arrow can simply be a shaved point or made from wood, bone, ivory, metal (tin can or copper) glass or stone. Arrowheads can be fit into a socket and lashed or riveted into place. For the best flight, the largest/heaviest end should be used as the tip. An arrow that’s too short for the bow can fall behind the rest and go through the shooters hand upon release.
The fletches can be fashioned from halved feathers and lashed with string or glued in place using resin. If you’re fishing with your bow aim a little high and forget about fletching the arrows. The arrow will need a notch for the string to fit and the shaft may need to be lashed to prevent splitting. You can straighten arrows by heating or steaming them (avoid scorching) and holding them straight by tying them to a straight object for a couple days. Arrows can also be blood grooved to reduce warping.
Wrist guards can be made from leather or any other appropriate material and tied around the forearm to protect the archer from painful string slap. A split leather or cloth finger tab may be strapped around the wrist when using heavy draw weights to protect the fingers from string friction and pinch. Quivers can be fashioned from forming wet rawhide around a straight limb and allowing it to dry hard. A shoulder strap can then be added to keep both hands free for shooting.
The atlatl is a 2 to 3 ft long launching device with a rounded “nub” protruding up and then forward towards the opposite end. It is used for throwing darts. The dart has the appearance of a large fletched or veined arrow. The dart has a bowl shaped depression on the fletched end for receiving the nub on the atlatl. The ½ inch diameter dart can be anywhere between 5 and 8 feet long.