Poor Folk Bows
October 3, 2011 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Concerned about getting reasonably priced free-range grass-fed protein? Why don't you make your own archery bow, atlatl, slingshot or sling?
posted by leotrotsky (33 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
There seems to be quite a leap from the first sentence of the post to the second.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:17 PM on October 3, 2011 [10 favorites]

If you are serious about hunting, you are not going to want to hunt with an atlatl, unless you have a local atlatl instructor willing to show you the ropes. As someone who hunts for food, one of my main priorities is a quick clean kill. Having not grown up in a tribal culture where I practiced with a primitive weapon every day, I know I can only guarantee that with a compound bow or a rifle, particularly since I am a woman and have relatively low potential to gain the kind of upper body strength required to make a clean kill with a primitive bow. I know that if I don't make a quick clean kill I will feel incredibly guilty and will probably have to track a wounded animal for hours and perhaps even for days. Anyone who is interested in practical tips for getting your meat this way should check out Jackson Landers' The Beginner's Guide to Hunting Deer for Food.
posted by melissam at 12:19 PM on October 3, 2011 [10 favorites]

Because I live in New York City and I'm not interested in eating squirrel.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:33 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

There seems to be quite a leap from the first sentence of the post to the second.

With practice, this neolithic weaponry could allow me to take down a grass-fed antelope. If I and mine can wait out the zombie apocalypse long enough for them to rot to the bone, my post-apocalyptic clan will never starve. This will work far better than the persistence hunting strategy I was working on.

Unfortunately I've got nowhere to practice. I'll have to settle for building the boing box from link two and strumming away until zeke comes for me.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:36 PM on October 3, 2011

I know I can only guarantee that with a compound bow or a rifle

While the shotguns of the world feel a little left out, the pheasants of the world are comfortable in the knowledge that you're not likely to try to hunt them with a compound bow.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:41 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Or just buy a .22 rifle and learn to shoot rabbits like everyone else.

Kids these days, always gotta make everything hard!
posted by vorfeed at 12:43 PM on October 3, 2011

I get my free range, grass fed, protien from a local ranching co-op. Pretty reasonably priced too, roughly on par with the grocery store.
posted by sotonohito at 12:44 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I live in NYC. I get all my protein from the Midnight Meat Train.
posted by Eideteker at 12:53 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

No thanks, I'll stick to tending vats of fungi that produce porterhouses while consuming CO2.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:16 PM on October 3, 2011

Was this post inspired by last night's I, Caveman?
posted by The Tensor at 1:25 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pretty cool bow building. You could bag dinner with one of those. The atlatl? How accurate could that be, as impressive as the power may be? Suspiciously absent from this post - DIY blowguns with DIY poison tipped darts......
posted by caddis at 1:25 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I probably should have added snares as well.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:27 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ah, the "traditional Kuikuru spear thrower", make it and projectiles in 9 easy steps... all you need is a 1x4, dowels, cords, duck feathers, a saber saw, drill with several bits, matte knife, sandpaper, wood glue, hot glue gun and glue, and electrical tape. Just how we used to make it in the Brazilian rain forest.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:33 PM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

Go pig hunting in Sonoma. No season, no limit.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:01 PM on October 3, 2011

Check your local laws before hunting with . . . unusual weaponry.
posted by Seamus at 2:14 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't like the framing of the post.

Bow hunting methods are exceedingly cruel unless you manage a heart strike, and even then it's cruel for a few minutes rather than the few seconds a professional abattoir will manage with a stun/kill. Also, the meat tastes bad ("dark cutting") because of the stress surge and flight reaction of a wounded animal.

That said, bows and other traditional striking weapons are great sports when applied to target scoring. I enjoyed archery immensely.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:16 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I know I can only guarantee that with a compound bow or a rifle

After having used my recurve for a few years, I'm pretty confident that if I needed to I could bring down a deer with it, but as someone who gave up hunting quite a while ago, I'm pretty content with just practicing my craft on the target in my back yard or the butts at the local park.

I'd love to learn the atlatl though. Just because I think it's a functionally beautiful weapon.
posted by quin at 2:17 PM on October 3, 2011

That I Caveman episode showed me mainly that people who never go camping, hunting or foraging are going to have a hard time. Same goes for people who can't kludge things.
People who are serious about wilderness survival need to practice making these hunting tools, from
non-modern materials. Water is
pretty important. I am really
surprised no one got really, really
disgustingly sick on I Caveman. Oh the fire thing, practicing flint and fire drill methods would be a good idea. Takes work to be ready for the Zombie Apocalypse!
So this is a neat post!
Oh the atl-atl site doesn't work for me.
The atl-atl link did not work for me btw.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:21 PM on October 3, 2011

I worked in a gun shop in the Kimberly region of Western Australia for a while. I didn't sell many spears. And I'm reasonably sure traditional hunting practices up that way have included firearms for at least a hundred years now. It was the sort of place where most ten year olds know how to shoot. That said, it's also the sort of place where there are still people who know how to hunt with a throwing stick, or a woomera and spear, how to make a traditional fishing line, or build a fish trap. Kids are still actively taught to make and use those things.

But the really important knowledge for hunters on traditional lands is not centered around the use of traditional weapons, traps, nets, etc. It's how to manage country to maximize its productivity. It's about what animals will be present in what areas at what times of year. It's about knowing how to find them (which involves knowing what they eat, what eats them, their breeding cycles, and much much more about how they behave and interact with the environments they live in). It's also about knowing what should and shouldn't be hunted.

A lot of that stuff spans divisions between what most westerners think of as knowledge based on observation, religious knowledge, and The Law. And that's sort of the crux of this for me..

If you want cheap meat, why not just drive down a rural road just after dawn and check out any roadkill you find? Examine it carefully for gut rupture, smell, presence/absence of insects (basically fleas/ticks good, flies not). If it's fresh and relatively undamaged, chuck it in the back. There's your cheap meat.

If you want the sort of participation in natural and wild environments that hunting with simple tools and weapons involves (though the same thing can apply to hunting with a rifle), be prepared to spend years learning a set of knowledge structures that go way beyond skills making weapons and skills using weapons. You should be learning as many aspects of the environments you hunt in as possible. You should be learning how to be part of those environments even when you're not hunting. You should be learning to care for those environments. You should be learning absolutely everything about the animals you hunt. And you should be learning how to increase the numbers of the animals you hunt.

Finally, without wanting to get too hippy about it, there's a point where all those things come together and you start putting your toes over a line where knowledge ends and spirituality starts. You become part of it. It's no longer you versus nature with a wooden stick or gun. It's you as part of nature. And in that process you become something both smaller and larger in relation to the world.

But you don't need to hunt to get most of that. You just need to go hiking, walk quietly, keep your eyes open, and check everything you see against a good flora/fauna guide, or with a knowledgeable friend. If you do end up wanting to hunt after a year or two of doing that, the knowledge will serve you well, and you'll start with some real respect you might otherwise have lacked.
posted by Ahab at 2:24 PM on October 3, 2011 [13 favorites]

knives, stabbing weapons
posted by nathancaswell at 2:27 PM on October 3, 2011

There are a few big problems with this.

While I love deer and squirrel, I would not want to eat any of the urban animals from say, down town Atlanta (we have deer in down town). Why? They have been eating garbage and who knows what else. And while any wild animal will eat anything it can, the chances that an animal has eaten something that might be nasty are compounded by how closely it lives near people (poison traps are especially a problem).

The second big problem has been mentioned: while I can get a very clean kill with a gun, my chances of doing so generally go down depending on what sort of projectile I'm using. I'd say with a good compound bow I'd be as likely to get a clean deer kill as with most guns at close range (tree stand aiming downwards). But I've had years of archery practice. I'd never want to shoot at squirrel or rabbit with a bow unless I felt VERY lucky. Birds? Forget it. Now, I might have a better chance getting a kill with a sling on smaller game, I wouldn't want to because the kills are rarely very clean. And honestly, I'd rather eat a farm bunny than a wild one any day.

Which is the third issue. With smaller game, while yes, I can get them by hunting, I honestly would spend more money on ammo, transport, cleaning, etc. to kill my own than I would going to the local butcher and getting one fresh. But I'm lucky in that I have a butcher who has locally farmed rabbit, and gets game birds regularly.
posted by strixus at 2:59 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even if you don't hit the rabbit in the heart or lungs, an arrow will fuck 'em up enough that they're really easy to catch. Same goes for birds, I imagine.
posted by ryanrs at 3:52 PM on October 3, 2011

The hard part would be getting a hit. Rabbits and birds are FAST and except for quail, they are clever at evading hunters.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:05 PM on October 3, 2011

Back when I was in high school, a friend of mine was telling me about a guy he knew (so, yeah, friend of a friend from 17 years ago) who liked hunting. His thing was to use an atatl to hunt boar. Something something effective range in feet, something something angry boar. Never met the guy, still hold him in a kind of awe.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:24 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even if you don't hit the rabbit in the heart or lungs, an arrow will fuck 'em up enough that they're really easy to catch. Same goes for birds, I imagine.

This is true, but the chances that they'll be clean kills (and thus edible afterwards) are low -- big, messy wounds ruin the meat. With small game you want a head-shot if possible.

The hard part would be getting a hit. Rabbits and birds are FAST and except for quail, they are clever at evading hunters.

I don't know much about birds, but for rabbits it depends on the species and amount of available cover. Jackrabbits usually run, so they can be difficult to hit without a shotgun, but cottontails will often instinctively freeze when startled. They can be very easy to hit in areas of sparse cover. If s/he was patient I'm sure a good archer could hunt cottontails, though again, s/he wouldn't be likely to get dinner out of it.
posted by vorfeed at 4:57 PM on October 3, 2011

A few years ago I had the good fortune to sample some roast wild boar which had been taken by atlatl and butchered using only obsidian tools. The gent who provided the feast gave us a compelling demonstration of the power of the atlatl. Since those days he has apparently gone into business and makes some really beautiful weapons--check out his catalog.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:35 PM on October 3, 2011

big, messy wounds ruin the meat

I used target points and finished with a knife. YMMV.
posted by ryanrs at 5:36 PM on October 3, 2011

I managed to take down a rabbit with a 12" throwing knife back in college. Caught it in the side right behind the shoulder. Had to sever the jugulars, though.

Wished youtube was around then; but then again, having (worked towards) a biology degree was good for something. Still, it was a nice bbq (albeit a pretty small one) - there's something about procuring your own food that makes it taste even better.
posted by porpoise at 6:19 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check your local laws before hunting with . . . unusual weaponry.

That link has some real gems:

"The spearing of fish, other than game species and all catfish species, is legal in Georgia waters; "....provided the person engaged in the act of spearing is completely submerged." Therefore, the use of an atlatl is legal for some fish species provided that you are submerged." (emphasis added)

"There will be a Conservation Congress advisory question again on the '05 Spring Hearing questionnaire. The question has failed on two other statewide votes. Currently they are illegal [in Wisconsin]."

I didn't realize there was such a persistent (albeit ineffective) atlatl hunting lobby in Wisconsin.
posted by jedicus at 6:50 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Surely we'll all have chicken nubbies soon?
posted by arcticseal at 7:28 PM on October 3, 2011

I didn't realize there was such a persistent (albeit ineffective) atlatl hunting lobby in Wisconsin.

I suspect it is because of the sizeable Native population and spearfishing/spearhunting rights; those have been points of some contention, historically. I tried a quick google to verify that and failed, but did find this.

However, I seem to recall having read that somewhere a long time ago.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:36 PM on October 3, 2011

Reading this thread reminded me of a story my high school history teacher told me; apparently, the quarterback of the football team of the school he taught at prior to ours came into is class one day completely covered in cuts and scratches.

He sheepishly admitted that, while hunting, he was reminded of the stories of the area Native Americans who would chase down deer and kill them by hand with their knives (supposedly, in the woods where the deer can't sprint as easily, and can be outpaced by human long distance stamina, this is plausible) and when he saw an eligible candidate, the excitement of the idea overcame him and he threw down his rifle and went after it.

As the story goes, he did manage to catch it, but only after nearly beating himself to death on every face level branch the forest had to offer.

It was a good story (although, in retrospect, most likely apocryphal), but it did teach me one useful lesson: some people can accomplish amazing things with just their athleticism, fortunately, the rest of us are smart enough to use the damn tools we've come up with to compensate for the fact that we won't always, or ever, be teenaged athletes.
posted by quin at 8:10 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

@quin, Hear! Hear! The tools humans invented for hunting made all the difference. Why make things pointlessly hard on ourselves, as hunters, or on the prey?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:09 PM on October 3, 2011

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