Will I be successful hunting with an Atlatl?

I have been fascinated with primitive tools since finding my first arrowhead when I was a kid. Recently I fashioned an Atlatl [seen here, here, and here] and I want to know how successful people think hunters were when using these? I’ll post pics of mine when I get home from work…but I am curious. It’s my understanding Atlatls were used to lob a long dart into a herd of deer, elk or other herding animal and not so much in close proximity.

The first time I used it the dart hit the ground in front of me…I don’t think I was throwing it right. Then I added a finger hold to the shaft and the first launch flew out over my yard [2.5 acres] and into the neighbors yard. I kept throwing until I could guide it, and when I was confident I could be somewhat accurate I started using pointed tips into the hay bails…Now I’m pretty accurate and can stick the dart into an old dead tree…

There are a lot of Elk around here, and if I got a tag I might consider this, my worry is that I won’t be accurate enough and will end up just wounding an animal and not killing it…I’d hate to have to bring a sidearm with me - not even sure that would be legal. The elk would be for eating if I ever got the gumption to go hunting…I don’t have a problem with hunting PER SE, as much as I do with the long range rifles they use up here in the Rockies where they can hit an elk from 1000 yards.

**This is just a thought exercise right now, I am not planning on getting an elk tag any time soon…

What’s the farthest distance you can hit with, and how deep does it penetrate?

You want to kill an elk with a glorified pointy stick? Good luck with that. And maybe get more life insurance before you try it. Do not see it ending well for you.

That is a good point. Is success deifned as merely killing the elk, or do you require that you also not get killed in the process as well?

Yeah, I’d go for smaller prey to start with.

Just be careful with that thing. You don’t want to aim for an elk and end up hitting something [Mildly gruesome links ahead …]
else or even this.

That’s like asking whether you can kill large game with a bow & arrow. Of course you can. It takes a LOT of practice, and a certain amount of luck, and the ability to chase the animal all day till it gets tired and gives you a half-way decent chance of holding still long enough to get a shot in.

I can hurl this thing easily 500 yards. The bigger darts go much further of course, and yet accuracy decreases with distance traveled. I hit our hay bail from our neighbors yard with no problem with accuracy at about 200 yards. The darts are 6-ft long with whatever tip you want on it. I am using a simple - quite blunt tip - for practice.

I’m not going to hit anything else - especially at home as it is a large wide open alpine meadow…well, I might hit a vole or something… Safety is a big concern as we are expecting our first child, so I have to be careful…with everything according to Mrs.P.

Also, I am just thinking of efficacy of the dart when lobbing it into a herd of deer. The ancients used these all the time and were pretty successful from what I have read.

Using one properly takes practice. There are several national competitions




By the way, as the author of a book on atlatl throwing suggested, adding a handle to your atlatl helps. I wrote to him and told him that some people think that American Indian birdstones were used for precisely that purpose.

The ancients depended on their skills to eat, and thus had a much higher motivation to develop said skill. Also, they likely would hunt in groups, with multiple guys throwing pointy sticks at the game. That said, any of them would gladly trade their pointy-stick thrower for a good rifle if they were shown how to use the rifle.

I know guys that go hunting (or they used to years ago, I haven’t talked to them in a while) with atlatls.

They don’t use primitive style atlatls or darts, though. Their atlatls are generally made out of wood, but the pins were little turned stainless steel balls, like miniature trailer hitches. They fit into rounded out sockets in the back of the darts, which were carbon fiber bowhunting arrow stock joined end-to-end. They used commercial bowhunting bladed broadpoints.

As I recall, they were all experienced bowhunters before trying the atlatls as something more of a challenge. I have no idea if they used treestands or stalked on foot with the atlatls.

Five hundred yards? Seriously, five football fields, back to back? That’s at or out of the range of the best archers shooting the heaviest bows. And hitting a hay bale from 200 yards away? That’s reasonably good shooting with a rifle. Are you sure that you’re estimating distance accurately? Your throws would be something like double the longest recorded atlatl throws. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlatl

A few states allow hunting for non-game animals with atlatl, and I think that others have flirted with allowing deer to be taken with atlatl. Don’t start with an elk, if you do try; pick a deer that can’t trample you quite as easily and do carry a firearm in case you only wound it. Someone hunting for survival might easily lob darts into a herd and then chase down the wounded animal; that makes a lot of sense from a survival point of view but not much to our modern sensibilities of hunting that prize a clean, merciful kill.

Basically, I think you could very probably kill a deer with an atlatl quickly and cleanly, but I wonder if you could do so reliably. I think you might wound the animals more often than not.

I’d start with joining a group that competes. FYI you can add more power to it if you use rope attacked to lever and wrapped around your wrist.

:stuck_out_tongue: :dubious:

Obviously untrue. As you say, that’s longer than the longest distance throws ever, and more than ten times maximum killing range for large game.

For hunting you are much better off being able to hit a paper plate at 50 yards than you are hitting a hay bale at 200.
When I started practicing to hunt with my pistol I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t even carry it into the woods until I could reliable shoot a paper plate from 50 yards in different body positions.

What do you do when your pointy stick cuts an 8 inch gash along the animals flank but doesn’t kill it? Have you ever tracked an injured animal before? Have you ever field dressed an animal before?

I know of one person who successful used an atlatl to hunt. Prior to trying the atlatl he was a very good hunter using modern rifle, muzzle loader, pistol and archery.

If I were you I would seriously consider practicing the atlatl for a few years while you hunt the modern rifle season and bag a few animals.

I’m not a golfer, and I’m a lousy judge of distance, but I do know my yard is 406 feet long at the longest point and I’ve chucked it [the biggest dart] into a neighbors yard well beyond my fence…so probably 200 yards…600-ft…Ok that sounds better. Again, I’m not a golfer :slight_smile:

I think the question is less distance and more of velocity and penetration at the target. Bouncing a stick off the side of a large elk may just annoy him :stuck_out_tongue:

When you hunt, you must always strive for a clean and quick kill. It is considered unethical, therefore, to hunt with a weapon if you have not acquired a certain level of competency with it. This is because incompetency will increase the chance of a poorly placed shot, thus wounding the animal and making it run off (and perhaps dying in a remote place).

It takes a certain amount of practice to become proficient with a weapon. Rifles typically require the shortest amount of time, followed by crossbows and compound bows. (Not sure where handguns would be.) I am guessing spears are last. So if you want to ethically hunt with a spear, you will need lots and lots of practice.

If you practice religiously for a year or two you can certainly whittle down the ethical concerns. An elk is overly ambitious and even though a deer seems doable, it doesn’t seem ethical to me.

What about wild pigs? They’re a terrible nuisance. If you don’t have pigs, maybe set up a bear bait. It’s exciting as hell to hunt a predator bait from the ground.

According to one of my professors, atlatl spears were made specifically to help an animal to bleed out, so I’d get more information if I were you before trying to hunt live animals. If you’re in an area with elk, you’re probably also in an area with atlatl enthusiasts. If you can’t find a group specifically for atlatls, find out where a bunch of archaeologists or collectors are. At least one of them is a flintknapper and has played with atlatls before, I can pretty much guarantee.