What Everybody Ought to Know About Bow Hunting For Survival

by JimShyWolf

Pic of Boy Shooting survival Bow Let’s clear the air first. I’m not a professional archer or survival bow hunter. I’ve never published an article in BowHunter or Archery magazine, nor have I ever competed in the Olympics in any venue, let alone archery. (Regardless what you may have heard to the contrary.) Nor have I ever traveled out-of-state to hunt any animal with a bow (and only did it once with a rifle, so am no expert there, either). Nor have I any formal education beyond what a college phy-ed class attempted to teach me after I’d been shooting and studying archery for twenty years. When push comes to shove, I am a ‘purist’ but I don’t let that stop me from using modern materials or style of bow.

At 64 years of age, what I have is more than fifty years experience shooting, hunting, ‘kind of’ studying archery from the bowhunting and zen aspects, and shooting since I was eleven because Mom didn’t think kids should have guns before they could walk. So my career with archery began as many do: parents don’t equate bows and arrows with their ability to kill. And, as any child of a parent knows, they’re wrong. A 45 pound draw hunting bow has the killing ability of a 30-06 rifle. Actually, in expert hands and in the right circumstances, even a 25 pound draw weight bow will have the killing ability of a 30-06, or any other shoulder fired weapon you want to stack against it.

Please note: I did not mention anything other than killing ability. I did not say “at 800 yards” or “point-blank range” or “with a 220 grain JHP” or any other round. I said “ability”. There isn’t an animal on earth that has been killed with a rifle before it was killed with a bow. We won’t get into how the first bow was accidentally made by a caveman when he discovered his fire drill bow would shoot sticks across the fire faster than he could throw it, or how Nimrod was the first Mighty Hunter with a bow.

But how does a bow have the same killing capacity as a 30-06?

Because of much the same reason a bullet does: blood-letting. A bullet has ‘shock’ value as well, yet an arrow will bleed even more quickly than a bullet because of it’s cutting edges. And when hunting or speaking of hunting, the arrowhead is equally as important, if not more so, than the bow or arrow. Let’s look at this from the beginning, getting to the arrowhead in a few minutes.

When it comes to surviving in a true wilderness setting, a bow, In My Opinion, is the absolute best weapon you can have. Better than a rifle or pistol for several reasons.

First: a bow can be made from almost any hardwood material, especially the maples, yew, ash, and best of all, the Osage orange. Birch, some pines, and aspen can be used as well, with brittle oak being a fairly down-the-line choice. There are exotics that can be used, but we’re talking survival in North America so will limit our choices to anything growing around us.

Second: an arrow can easily be made from reeds (think cattail for one) or whittled from other woods, Port Orford Cedar being the most commonly used (until the Spotted Owl terminated the harvesting of it, and over harvesting as well, to be totally honest). Cedars make the best wood arrows because they don’t warp as readily as most other woods, have a more stable grain pattern and can be reaved most easily into sheaves for arrow stock, and can be compressed most readily.

Arrowheads can be chipped from flint, or other stones, even panes of glass, any bone, or just the fire-hardened tip of the arrow itself. If you’re industrious, you can file steel down to a very serviceable point. But, we’re talking survival and what’cha got with you, not what you’d like to have.

Bowstrings can be spun quickly from the inner bark of many commonly available plants- milkweed being a common material or cut from any animal hide or, in a survival situation, from the cords of one’s jeans. (Just don’t tear away your groin cloth, Tarzan!) Now: name one bullet you can do this with. ‘Nuffa that. Now let’s get to the bow.

Regardless where you live, any archery shop now is going to convince you that “you must absolutely gotta have the very bestest top of the line got more speed than light double helix hyper snappy wheel compound that we happen to sell right here” bow. I won’t say BS on that, but I will tell you this: a salesman’s job is to sell. Not necessarily what you want or need, but to sell.

Here I’m going to state my opinions, not some scientific hyperbole an engineer came up with or what a catalogue will say. What kind of bow you get- be it traditional longbow, recurve, or compound- is up to your preferences. I’m going to tell you mine.

I shoot them all. I love them all. All are very serviceable and sturdy. The newest bow I have, a Fred Bear compound, is darn close to 30 years old and shoots as well today as it did the day I bought it- only more accurately ‘cuz now it’s got ‘sperience. It’s also the only bow I have sights on. The oldest I have is 53 and my son learned to shoot with it as I did: one arrow at a time. My second oldest- 39- is the original Fred Bear takedown with two sets of limbs (one target, one hunting) on a B riser (it came with choice of A,B, or C- diferentiated by length of the riser, which also was the deciding factor of draw weight). There are others in my collection- a Ben Pearson takedown (TD) a year younger than the Bear, a Paul Bunyan fiberglass longbow, and a very antique pure aluminum bow made by ParX of Jackson, Michigan. (I should google them to see if they still make bows.) Sorry- thinking out loud again, and digressing. Some odds and ends complete the collection.

My point is, it won’t matter what style of bow you choose, just be sure it’s the one you want and dream about. If your imagination is filled with Robin Hood or Fred Bear or Ben Pearson or Howard Hill, you would probably feel more comfortable with a longbow or recurve. Either will be a fine choice.

Longbows have a tendency to ‘stack’, which means they get harder to draw as you draw them. If it’s a very short bow, it will stack more than a longer bow. Recurves stack less than longbows due to the curve. Too, the length of your personal draw will also cause it to stack more or less.

Draw length is measured the old-fashioned way: Hold your arms out in front of you, fingers extended, to make an arrowhead. The distance from your fingertips to your chin is your arrow length, your draw length is from your wrist to your chin. Bowyers have simplified this for us, however, and make their bows with an ‘average’ draw length of 28 inches. The reason for the arrow length? So you don’t cut your fingers with the sharp broadhead, it extends beyond your hand. Arrows can be cut to length as required, even simply at home with a sharp knife.

If your dreams extend to the modern mystique of wheels and pulleys, cams and short, snappy- and very fast arrows- then you may be dreaming of a compound. Other than Bear, I won’t comment on who makes the best, but there are many out there. Some very good bows are made by some very unknown people, and a good way to learn about some is pick up a copy of a Bowhunter magazine. (No plug, just reference.)

Compounds do send arrows down range faster than other bows and use very light arrows. (Do not use a wood arrow on a compound bow- ever. Nothing may happen, but then again, you may end up with an arrow shaft in your forearm, or worse. That’s experience talking, and manufacturer’s direction.) If TSHTF, my choice will be the recurve or longbow because of the simplicity of their design, maintenance, and ease of repair. I just don’t have the shop to rebuild steel/aluminum/magnesium pulleys and steel cable strings.

Not to mention, compounds are much heavier than stick bows. I’d rather carry more arrows than more bow.

Arrows for longbows and recurves run from cedar to esoteric compunds like graphite. In short, any arrow can be shot from a stick bow. Wood and aluminum have been around for… well, ever, almost. OK- when Alcoa came out with their first aluminum arrows, I was skeptical. Still am, but dang, they shoot nice. Almost as tough as wood. Almost. In some instances, tougher: and they can be reasonably straightened of mild bends. (Wood can as well- use steam and pressure to do that, though.) Fiberglass and graphite… well, you ain’t gonna straighten those breaks. Some have told me graphite is tougher than wood, but my opinion is still out- and will be until I test some, which I don’t intend doing.

Compund bows shoot aluminum, ‘glass and graphite with equal aplomb, but never wood. (Don’t ask.) With today’s compounds, the biggest ‘thing’ is the speed factor. Everyone’s trying to get their bow to shoot as fast a 30-06 bullet. Or so it seems. I’ve heard excuses (ok, reasons) from things such as “the deer don’t jump the string” (which I laugh at), to “the lighter arrows need the speed” (which I agree with). To gain this speed of arrow, they use the lighter carbon or graphite arrow, which usually weighs less than the broadhead on the end. And speed creates penetration- which the lighter arrows need. Badly.

So my opinion of light arrows is still out. In “the old days”, we used to ‘spike’ our aluminum arrows with a wood arrow to increase the weight so they’d get better penetration. We didn’t need speed- we had power. Arrows are ‘fletched’ with feathers- real turkey feather is best and be sure they come from the same wing- or plastic vanes. The debate rages as to which is best. I’ve used both, have some mighty old arrows with turkey feathers. And some mighty old vanes as well.

The biggest problem I’ve had with vanes is cold temps. They seem to stiffen and don’t stabilize the arrow as quickly. But that may just be my imagination. Some say feathers aren’t as waterproof as vanes, but I don’t see that. I sprayed mine with Camp Dry once and forgot it. No problems. Water runs off like a duck’s back.

Some people also claim wet bowstrings stretch and make the bow lose power due to less ‘fist’ in the bow. To which I say nonsense: I’ve never lost ‘fist’ with a string or cable. (‘Fist’ is your hand-made to a fist, thumb extended upward, and from the riser to the string is the height of the string from the riser.) I will admit that a vegetable fiber string will most likely stretch, as will leather. Soak them in tallow before use.

What does make a bow lose power can be on the string, though. Silencers. Attachments that quiet the string vibration after the shot- which vibration is also what the animal hears and causes it to ‘jump’ the string- and evade the arrow. Silencers can be as simple as a feather tied to the string, both ends of the bow, or as complicated as gobs of rubber bands woven into the string layers. Here, less is more. Go as simple as you can get away with. Some people don’t use silencers at all.

Arrowheads (told’ja we’d get here) are what does the killing with an arrow. Where I live, there are several rules to follow with arrowheads used for hunting. (Note: in a survival situation, there is only one rule: survive. So forget about ‘nice’ and ‘laws’ and ‘fair chase’.) MN requires arrowheads “be of barbless design with at least two blades and a circumference of two inches for three or more blades and weigh 125 grains”. Which just means, go to your local sport shop and buy what they sell cuz they’ll most likely not be selling illegal products.

If they are, call the local game warden and let him know and your butt is covered when you go to court. Other states probably have similar rules, so check yours if you’re interested in being ‘legal’. Fred Bear makes the Bear Razorhead, which was an original design two-blade with a third and fourth blade insert, and which has probably killed every animal on the planet. They’re extremely difficult to find these days. Now hunters are using all kinds of jury rigged designs, some utilizing real jenyouwine razor blades as cutting edges.

Complicated monsters that cut quickly and cleanly, to be sure, but no where near as hardy as the old Razorhead. The closest I’ve seen to the Razorhead is the Magnus two-blade, and they’re great. Not to mention, take a very fine edge. Oh, yes- I sharpen all my broadheads. Not something you’ll do with the more modern designs- all you need with them is more razorblades. And a few hundred bucks. Dang- those heads are very spendy now!

Between a two blade and three, or four, blade the biggest difference is cutting power. Or cutting ability. An arrow kills by bleeding the animal out- so expect it to run and have to track it- like cutting its throat. The more blades, the more damage to arteries and muscle and veins and… you get the idea, and the more easily traqcked. The more damage, the faster it bleeds out. Too, shot placement may be a bit more precise with an arrow than with a gun because arrows do not go through bone. Hitting the critter in its vitals is, well- vital.

So practice-practice-practice! Side note on broadheads: round over the tip so it passes by bone rather than trying to penetrate it and getting stuck. You don’t need a pointy point, you need something that slides past the bone. Also, an arrow wound to a non-vital spot with a rifle can wel cause an animal to bleed out, so there are more areas to aim at with a bow.

Also, MN does not allow crossbows unless one is handicapped and proven by a doctor’s permission slip. I’ve shot crossbows, don’t own one, and have little to say about them. I have considered getting one just ‘because’ and no other reason. A friend uses one, loves it, and has lots of fun with it- but he’s not a hunter. Some compounds will draw hundreds of pounds and shoot a bolt (arrow) fast as… ummm… litning… but they lose speed, therefore power, quickly. Maybe others have more experience with them and can comment. Some states do allow hunting with crossbows, so they can’t be all that bad.

When it comes to shooting, a crossbow is probably the easiest to learn quickly since it’s so much like a rifle. Compounds are easy to learn and be accurate with when loaded with sights- and some with stabilizers, levels and flucks (or whatever they’re called)- but have their limitations in those condiditons. (More on that in a minute.) Most difficult- but certainly not hard- to learn is the recurve and longbow using instinctive shooting techniques (my fave method).

Shooting a bow is relatively simple. Nock and arrow on the string, push-pull the bow and string apart, bring the hand to your cheek, look at the target as you point the arrow at it, and let the string go. All bows are shot in that manner. The hardest part is doing the same thing over and over again and never varying that technique.

Let’s examine the shooting aspect a moment.

‘Instinctive’ shooting is how archers first shot. By looking at the target, pointing their arrow at it, and releasing. No sights, no levels, no floofloos. Use a push-the-bow-pull-the-nocked arrow method as you raise the bow to point the arrow at the target. The string hand anchors someplace on your face- usually the corner of the mouth- prior to releasing the shot. The bow arm is extended almost straight out, with just a slight curve, the uper body leans forward slightly and the head is ‘cocked’ over the arrow.

Focus on the target- a small patch of hair (in hunting)- and not on the arrow. Let your eye aim the shot just as you would by pointing your finger at it. Release smoothly- release smoothly- release smoothly- by extending the shooting fingertips. Right: don’t go past the first joint on your finger to pull the string-arrow. Just open your fingers and let the arrow go. Once released, hold the bow in place- don’t drop it or let it fly into orbit. And don’t let your release hand fly off into space, either.

Instinctive shooting can be done with any bow in any position. If you’re laying on your back, you can shoot with this technique holding the bow level with the ground, no need to bring it to a vertical position. If you’re leaning forward ducking under a branch, the bow can be shot without lifting it to a vertical position. If you’re hanging by your hair or the skin of your teeth, a bow can be shot without having to bring it to a vertical position.

Now let’s talk about sights and levels and stabilizers and… all those modern contrivances that require a bow be held vertically and level before it can be shot. Which usually includes all the compound bows being sold today because they ‘just gotta have all this stuff to make them work’. BS. IMO. Sights are wonderful on bows, just as on rifles and handguns. But they do limit a bow a lot more than a rifle- kind of.

When useing sighted bows, the weapon must be held in a vertical position for the sight to be any use. In short, you can’t ’tilt’ your bow and expect the sight to be ‘on’, ‘cuz it won’t be. Any deviation off the axis the bow was sighted in at will negate the sight. And in the bush, you’ll have a lot of fun trying to find a vertical position 100% of the time. For sure, it’s not the most difficult from a stand- though some shots from a stand with a sight are nearly impossible and only uncomfortable with instinctive shooting.

I enjoy the sights on my compound for tournaments and field shooting at the club, but for hunting I feel they’re pretty ‘iffy’ if I’m stalking. As to having a sight level… I ain’t building a house, I’m shooting a bow, probably at a deer or pesky wabbit or partridge… I don’t need no stinkin’ levels.

Two additional items you’ll need- again, don’t ask why, just trust me on this- are some sort of finger protection such as a glove or tab. Mechanical releases are very good, make the release butter smooth, but again, use the KISS principle. Unless you absolutely positively gotta have the latest gizmo… I prefer the glove because ‘it’s on my hand and no fiddling involved’ when I want to use it. Not the best for some, but for me it removes a lot of other dilemmas.

An arm guard is mandatory, especially if you’re shooting with a jacket or ghillie suit or long sleeves- anything the string can whack on its way to resting. And it’s doubly mandatory if you’re shooting sleeveless. You don’t need broken blood vessels in your arm swelling to the size of a birthday party baloon. Trust me on this- I know. (Don’t ask!)

If you’re going to hunt with a bow, be sure to spend time honing your tracking skills as well. Nearly any animal shot with a bow is going to move out of the area before it bleeds out and you don’t need to waste a life or food. After all, that food may save your life, or that of someone you love.

I know a lot of people have spent gazillions on their armories and think they have all the bases covered, but until they have a bow, they’ve only got to third base. Home plate is a long way off- about 90 feet, which is farther than the average deer shot with a bow. So might I suggest getting a bow and half-dozen or more arrows, a finger glove or tab, an arm guard, and a few hours practice to really round out your survival preps?

Who knows- the opportunity may arise you want a silent shot… and we haven’t even gone fishing or bird hunting yet.


  1. STL Grandma says:

    Thank you very much for this post. I’ve bought Bow after Bow for my sons, over the years and they are efficient with them and can make their own from fletch to string but guns.. well, none of us own any guns and all the talk about needing a gun made me really worry. The boys (who are all well near their 30’s) kept saying that a silent weapon would be the better home defense and they were much more capable with several esoteric weapons like staves and polearms, in addition to the bows. We don’t want to have to hurt anyone, but we do want to defend our place.

  2. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Jim, very informative. I have seen some documentary films about Ishi, the last “wild Indian,” and noticed that he often held his bow at an angle and never anchored his draw hand. I wonder if that was a technique used for only short shots? Do you happen to know?

    • I love the vids of Ishi, Lint. Ben Pearson did a pretty thorough study of his shooting technique and discovered that American Indians didn’t always use a facial anchor point, dependant upon the target and distance.
      One of those who taught me also had no idea what an anchor point was and sometimes would draw the arrow to his chest midpoint and release from there. He was pretty accurate up to thirty feet or so. Again, it was all distance-to-target dependant.
      I’ve tried using ‘floating’ anchor points but have had such terrible success with it I stopped trying, settling on useing the corner of my mouth with the pointer finger. If the shot is beyond 40 yards, I tend to lock my thumb behind my ear to stabilize the anchor even more.
      Shy III

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        Ishi was a true survivalist, until the government found him, and ultimately that is what did him in. There’s a lesson to be learned there. Thanks for the great reply, Jim. Good luck with the writing contest.

  3. Excellent article! I used to have a small compound bow for target plinking, and have been toying of getting back into archery…

    • You’ll never regret it, Dustin. Archery is one of the most fun sports still legal in America. MD’s links will bring you to some very reasonably priced bows and accoutrements if you decide to gofer it.
      Shy III

  4. Very good article. Sure made my archery class in high school look stupid. You have really made it to where all can understand the in’s and out’s of a bow.
    I don’t think I will be getting a bow. Unless it comes with a handsome man to use it. I would have to wait till the enemy or game was within 2 foot of me and then the arrow fall off the bow on them.
    I do appreciate the quiet aspect for hunting, but for home defense think I will have to stand by the gun.

    • Looking for a volunteer, Ellen? 😀
      (Can I say ‘hint-hint’? Ain’t that a good looking guy in the picture? He’s single and… LOL)
      Oh, yes- for home defense or any kind of combat, I’d much rather use my handguns or a rifle, but if I have to head for the hills and survive, a bow will be on my back.
      Thanks for commenting- hopefully it’s not too concise or too technical, but it’s hard when you don’t want to write a book or novella on the topic.
      Shy III

  5. Down South says:

    Nice post, I just got a cross-bow.

    • Suh-weeet, Down- let us know how it works out for you. :) What draw weight is it? Didja get a compound style or traditional? Are the bolts wood or glass? Are you thinking of hunting with it? It’s just too kewl, Man!
      Thanks for reading.
      Shy III

  6. axelsteve says:

    When I was a senior in hi school i used to work part time for a boat builder who also owned a bow shop. He sold jennings and psi bows.This was on Whidbey island Washington. From previous experience I knew that I could not hit a house with a bow so I never took it up. I have no disrespect for bow hunters or shooters though.Ya get the point,he he just a littel humor. Steve

    • During the college course the instructor required we do some things that were totally contra to what my body wanted- such as hold the draw for 15 seconds before releasing- and one day I almost hung myself with the bowstring in protest.
      I wonder, though- could I hit thebroad side of a barn with an arrow? Ummm… dang, more field work!
      Shy III

  7. I have never seen anyone who actually faced (versus theorizing from a distance) both bows and firearms who thought the bow had more killing power than a long arm. That is true of the Elizabethian period in England when the Long Bow was being phased out, and true in the American West where bows were still being frequently used well into the 1870s.

    If you look at the results from the many battles out in the American West, the arrow appears to have about the same injury/kill effect as the pistols they were using. Now I don’t want to be shot by a pistol either, but given a choice…. In any case, just as with pistols, injuries from arrows frequently were unable to imobolize and/or disable an opponent. Just as with pistol injuries, you would get occasional one shot kills, but also lots of recoveries from mulitple injuries.

    The bigger hole theory is argued a lot with regards to pistol caliber. But obviously bullet energy (and configuration) matter a lot too.

    • Russell, I understand exactly what you’re saying: “If bows are so good, why do we need guns?” is kind of the question.
      It isn’t the ease of use or range that makes the weapon deadly, though. I agree a rifle is superior to a bow in many respects, but it doesn’t negate the fact that if you can kill it with a gun, you can kill it with a bow and arrow- or a spear or knife, even.
      Killing power of the weapon is dependant upon blood loss for the most part- a spinal cord severed with an arrow is as deadly as one cut with a bullet- so the biggest factor in which is ‘better’ is really just one of several other factors pertaining to ease of use, such as: Distance to target (greater for bullet); ease of use/speed of use (follow-up shots faster); learning curve (much shorter for guns); and size of projectile.
      No argument that a bullet hole will bleed out faster- sometimes- than an arrow, but dead is dead.
      Too, there’s a difference in a human being shot by an arrow compared to an animal that does not percieve the problem for what it is, and could not remove the arrow if it did, nor could it staunch the flow of blood after removing the arrow.
      Would I prefer a gun for combat? You betcha- but when it comes to several years surviving in a wilderness setting, I’d prefer a bow and arrow once the ammunition is gone. Which, really, is my point though I don’t always state things clearly.
      As to bows being phased out- there are SpecOps groups who are phasing it back in for certain situations, so all things come full circle, even the ‘hawk which is probably an older weapon than a bow.
      Shy III

  8. I was just thinking the other day that I should probably get into archery and even try to make my own bow at some point. I found this article very informative, simple and easy to understand.

    I think JimShyWolf has posted the best article yet in this contest and wins my vote for best non-fiction writting contest. Its really motivated me to seriously get started!

    • Gosh, Joe (I’m blushing), thank you. 😀
      NOW I’ve gotta get an arrow to deflate my swollen head…
      Thanks for the compliment, Joe. (Check’s in the mail.)
      If you want to make your own bow, you may want to check out Bingham Archery Products for information, DVD’s, books, supplies and jig-making ideas. Also, if you can find anything by Howard Hill, you’ll get a Master’s Class in building longbows.
      Shy III

  9. What a great article — so informative and detailed! As a teen, I took archery classes (longbow) from my own mother who taught others. I stuck with the sport for years because it was so fun. She, my dad, grandfather, and uncle used to hunt and I always wanted to tag along but never invited.

    For the past few years, I have been interested in making a longbow. Sure do see the potential value of its skillful use in the future, too. Crossbows are a turnoff to me, though — they’re such a “contraption”. lol

    Anyway, thanks for the great piece on such a fine topic.

    • Lynn, you’re “a woman after my own heart”! I really do despise ‘contraptions’- hence only one compound in my collection and no crossbows.
      Your mother taught you to shoot- how COOL is that? WOW.
      Time consumption is the biggest factor in making your own bow, and Bingham Archery has some great plans, vids, supplies and accoutrements for longbow and recurves- you may want to check them out.
      I’d love to see you get back into archery, if for only to remember good times with Mom, and you don’t need an invite to go hunting, just go do it and learn as you go. (Of course, reading MD’s blog is a good instruction manual as well. [Color that a plug 😉 ] LOL)
      Thank you for the fine comment.
      Shy III

  10. Patriot Farmer says:

    Great posting, love archery. I have been a bow hunter since 1972 and have killed many deer and turkey. I have been a crossbow hunter for the past two years. Archery is very theraputic and frustrating at the same time. I believe stick and string is a legitimate method for taking game of all sizes but given the choice I would have my ’06 in my hands.

    • Oh, yah- that 30-06 makes short work of hunting for meat.
      Of course, we all know JFK created the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and archery is one of the recommended sports. Frustrating it can be- but the good kind of frustration, not the kind you get when the boss is yelling at you to beat the deadline or the neighbor’s whining cuz your grass is feeding the local livestock.
      One thing I really enjoy about deer hunting with bow is the long season- almost four months in MN. Lots of time to spend in contemplation of one’s naval on the stand.
      Shy III

  11. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Shywolf, that was an excellent article on bowhunting and your opinions on how and where it works. Your time and hard work definitely shows here – Thanks!

    I’m a total hobby bow shooter, and actually have not shot any of them since last November so not an expert at all. But I have shot enough to know that become a good shot takes practice, at least once a week, more preferably. Its a good workout for sure, especially with the traditional (non geared) bows.

    Those of us who live in the city or suburbs have a handicap – where to shoot. Like air rifle shooters / plinkers, finding a place that affords safe practice shooting lanes is hard to find, with what small city lots. Shooting along side the side fence can be done, but you are stuck shooting to the back of your lot (with a GOOD backstop!), putting in full view of the neighbors and passersby. You definitely get some attention is all I’m saying . . . :^) Living in the country definitely is a major asset.

    My bows are simple, a few old ‘snot green’ fiberglass bows of two pulls, 25# and 40# pounds respectively. I have a take-down PSE too, that one nearly 50 pounds, but a rotator cup injury years ago limits my use of that one, unfortunately.

    For an emergency short range highly concealable design for shooting arrows, check out Dave Canterbury’s altered slingshot with arrow bisquit cable locked to yoke – pretty slick for a rucksack or pack. And except for the bisquit, pretty low cost start-up – I wish I knew of this when I was a kid!

    Thanks again – great article.

    • Thanks, JR- and you’re right in trying to find a place to shoot. Every cityhas a range, I’m sure- or one close by- but they can be spendy and in this day and age… ugh!
      Mom gave me the first bow at Christmas and, being the brat I am, convinced her I could shoot it in the basement. So, filling a cardboard box with newspapers, I commenced to tear the brick wall apart until I learned to hit what I aimed at. (Do you know what it feels like to dodge an arrow ricocheting off a brick wall? LOL! UGH-LEEE!)
      Those old ‘snot green’ fiberglass bows are the cat’s whiskers, my Friend- tough as a crowbar compared to many made now. MN has a minimum 40 pound draw for deer hunting, and that’s more than adequate. Most deer are shot at less than ten yards with a bow.
      Oh, yes- I remember that arrow slinging sling shot! Gawd, the memories. Never coould convince Mom it was worth the ten bucks, though. (Mothers just don’t understand things like that, I guess. Or kids just don’t understand a dollar, not sure which.)
      I tore my rotator cuff badly in several places in an accident and it still gives me problems. There are exercises I do that strengthen it, and going slow with the bow does help. Can’t shoot the Greeners any longer cuz they rip the cuff all over again.
      Thanks for the comment.
      Shy III

  12. If you are serious about surviving a long-term collapse you should invest in archery equipment. Mr. ShyWolf’s post covered the witchery of archery fairly well. I carried a gun in the Army for most of my adult life, but when I go to the woods, I carry a bow and arrow. Even a fairly dinged up aluminum arrow is straighter than what Native Americans used to garner game with during colonial times and earlier. Every thing mechanical can fail and a simple recurve bow with a half dozen arrows could be the difference between going hungry or not. The bottom line is… as much as one should be proficient with firearms or gardening, they should be proficient with the various other weapons that are out there that they may have to use or barter for when conditions are at their worst.

    • Brona, you are so correct about learning to use the old tools of hunting and self defense. One never knows when they’ll be accosted or a emergency arises and all theyhave is a stick or spear or tomahawk or bow, a spear, or just the arrow. Having both the mindset and skill set to use anything available as a weapon is the mark of a true survor.
      As to wandering the hills with a bow- nothing makes me feel more in tune with who and what I am.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Shy III

      • STL Grandma says:

        That’s kinda what I was trying to say. My boys were facinated with weapons and wanted to learn how to use all kinds of them.. I had a very bad experience with guns as a teen, so I was ok with letting them have bows & axes & staves & polearms & flails & knives.. lots of knives.. & blowguns.. and and.. Well, I have four sons.

        Point being, if someone takes a gun out of my hand, they can immediately use it on me. If someone takes a 6 foot staff out of my hands, chances are likely, that I’ll be able to retrieve it from badguy the first time he swings it.

        Granted, I will never be able to beat a gun and most of the weapons I mentioned are close quarters, which is why all my sons said, “Ma.. we gotta get more arrows and set up a blind, so they can’t see it coming.”

  13. Great article! Brought back many memories of my days if shooting at matches and hunting with my bear whitetail two set at 60 pounds draw weight. That was back un the day before kids and when there was clear distention between my chest and stomach. Now they both blend aerodynamically and where on starts and the other ends is anyone’s guess. Well the other day I happened into a pawn shop and there hanging on the wall was a bear whitetail two. I bought it and then acouple arrows with target tips and a target. I brought it all home and there un my own backyard I attempted to draw the bow string back. It wouldn’t budge. I actually heard a very unmanly grunt come from myself. I never imagined that you could comPletely loose a set if muscles that took years to develop. The bow is hanging in my shop. When I figure out a way to bring it down to a 15 pound draw weight I’ll try again. Brad

    • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

      Funny, funny, funny! My chest has become my gut, so I can totally identify with your comment.

    • Oh, gawd, do I resemble THAT remark! I’m beginning to look like a pear! OOPS- wasn’t s’posed to mention that!
      You bring up a great point, BC- drawing the bow. I was gonna mention it, but forgot to, so I’ll do it here.
      Most people think a bow is drawn with the arms, but they aren’t- not totally, anyway. What you want to use is your upper back and shoulder muscles- the same muscles used in a pushup.
      Begin the draw with your back- like you’d do if you’re opening your arms wide- do it slowly and hold your muscles tight, you’ll feel which I mean. That’s the first half.
      Once you get the bow to shoulder height, then your shoulder muscles will take over, and the delts will feel the pull.
      Holding the bow at full draw is the responsibility of the back muscles agin.
      Thanks for the reminder and the chuckle. (Gotta work on that pear!)
      Shy III

  14. I never got into bows but I had 2 friends who did. I think I learned one thing from them. One of them had a lot of arrows from various places & I could never hit anything at his place. The other had a few matched arrows & I surprised my self at how well I could shoot his rig. I think if you must save money do it on the bow get the best set of arrows you can afford.

    • Absolutely right dead center, Larry- the arrow is the most important part. I read an old Saxton Pope article once where he said “any bow will shoot an arrow, but only a good arrow will shoot right”.
      I’m sure I can safely say that most archers will do with their arrows what riflemen do with their bullets: find one that shoots better than all others, and stick with it.
      Full disclosure: I’ve named my arrows- all 48 of them!- and I know which shoot true and which don’t. When it’s time for accuracy, I grab the best shooters.
      Thanks for the comment- I hope you get into archery soon.
      Shy III

  15. SrvivlSally says:

    Great article, JimShyWolf. You would surely have some fine steaks and burgers wtshtf, even if a son had to take on the entire responsibility. You provided a good course in bows, arrows and hunting and I truly appreciate it. Thank you.

    • Sally, you are so welcome- and yes, that’s my kid practicing Yabusame when he was five or six. And he will provide the steaks. (Brat outshoots me every time now! – color me crying gray.)
      Thank you, Fine Lady.
      Shy III

  16. Shy,
    Great and informative article. While all of my bow hunting has been either a compound or a crossbow, I would concur that a longbow or recurve would be the better choice for a long term survival tool, primarily, because you can fashion your own arrows. The basic wooden arrow was used for a millennium or more before the aluminum and composites, and the materials are much more readily available.
    One of the other advantages of the bow is that in a pre-SHF situation you will generally have more opportunity to hunt with a bow than with a gun. Here in Ohio we have a 1 week deer gun season with perhaps another split up week for muzzleloaders, but the bow season last for about four solid months. Additionally, we have urban deer zones the can often be hunted with only a bow, and affords one the opportunity to take as many as 6 or 7 deer in a season.
    Finally, the bow makes you put in the effort and learn the skills for hunting that many gun hunters do not. Knowing the game, its habits, the terrain, etc. are absolutely required for a successful bow hunt, since you will nearly always be up close and personal. Many gun hunters don’t bother to acquire the skill level required to bow hunt, but those skills when developed for bow hunting will also make you a more successful gun hunter

    • Absolutely correct, OP- I find that when I hunt with a bow I am much more relaxed, less of a hurry and take my time to LOOK at the track, the terrain, to ‘get down’ and see what I’m doing, nearly totally in tune with the world. I’ve had so many wonderful oportunities with the bow that I’m constantly amazed at the wonder I don’t see from the stand.
      I’ve ‘snuck’ up on covey of partridge while traveling on all fours, had squirrels chew seeds on my arrow and had deer walk right up to me while nibbling grass six inches from my nose.
      The wonder and pure joy of seeing wildlife ‘up close and personal’ while sitting still or crawling through brush is a rush I wish every person could enjoy in the wild. Words simply cannot express the feeling in your whole body of what it’s like to have a deer sniff you or feel the breath of a bear on your face (and talk about the smell!) as you sit frozen, almost filling your pants until they wander off.
      Gosh, the things a person can learn on their knees with a bow. God sure is gracious to us humans.
      Thanks for the comment.
      Shy III

      • Even if you’re hunting from a blind or an elevated stand, bow hunting requires that you be close to the game you’re hunting, and requires knowledge of the animal, it’s habits, and the terrain for placement of your blind or stand. Water sources, bedding areas, and wind direction all play a part in placement, which means you have to get out in the field and gain some knowledge prior to the hunt. Sometimes that part if hunting is as good as the hunt itself.

  17. Nor Cal Ray says:

    Jim, just wanted to say this was a great article. I shoot all 3 types of bow. I have a Pearson Long Bow, 2 pearson recurves, and a Bear Black Mag compound that is 25 or 30 years old. All 3 shoot straight if I do my part. I also shoot instinctive with the 3 stick bows & have sights on the compound. I have an old Barnett 150lb recurve Crossbow and it is awesome. I use aluminum bolts with it as well as the other 4 bows.

    • Thank you, Ray. Barnett is the brand my friend has and he just loves it. He had a problem finding bolts one year so asked if I could throw away some old aluminum shafts his way. He cut them from 32 inches to 16, fletched and nocked them, put on tips and had a great bundle to play with.
      Shy III

  18. axelsteve says:

    Mt younger son has a longbow. One day some idiot on a dirtbike kept speeding by our house.My son got his bow and shot an arrow down the driveway across the street into a tree(we live in the sticks) the kid on the bike slowed down and looked into our garage as he rode by. He kept his speed down for the rest of the day after that. Steve

  19. Tom Kortkamp says:

    Comprehensive and well written.

  20. Doug Owen says:

    Wow, a great post! I have friends and 2 neighbors who have the best of the best compound bows. I have often thought of diving into that arena. Now….I am thinking this winter I’ll give a hand made bow a try!

    Thanks for spending sooo much time and effort to generate this post.

    Doug in NE WA

    • You’re welcome, Doug- glad MD gave me the opportunity. I think you’ll have a fun filled winter working up a bow. Be sure to have your friends take you shooting and get a good idea of what you’re looking to build. Not to mention that shooting will keep you encourged.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Shy III

  21. I have a crossbow . Its easy to use and you can get very good with it in a pretty short amount of time . I cant hit the broad side of a barn with a bow and arrow ( at any range )

    • Shhhh, T.R- we’ll keep that secret between ourselves. No one needs to know how safe they are if they’re our intended target. 😉
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Shy III

  22. I used to gun hunt only. Until I discovered the bow.
    Now it’s archery only, along with a 454 Alaskan under my left armpit.
    Never know when Hogzilla’s gonna want ya fer lunch !

    Bow hunting is pure and effective for producing meat. Don’t try surviving without it.

    3 Recurves/ 200 arrows
    4 compounds , all Hoyts- 737, ultratech,x-7 and contender elite
    400 carbon arrows
    100 aluminum
    lots of broadheads

    I can eat a long time with those
    long after I run out of bullets, which won’t be soon…

    • Hiya, Spud- glad you could stop by.
      That .454 is a bit more than my wimpy wrists can handle- but Hogzilla is a darn good reason to carry it. MN recently made it legal to carry a sidearm while bowhunting- something to do with ‘coup de grace’ that I don’t understand, but I’m just a simple guy and don’t understand a lotta things.
      Those Hoyt are some sweet bows- the let-off is huge compared to the older compounds. And a guy can never have too many arrows. (Funny story about arrows… one of my sisters asked me one day how many arrows I had in my quiver. 25, I replied- why? ‘The Bible says happy is the man who has a quiver full of children.’ We laffed- couldn’t imagine having 25 kids. Heck, that’s a whole city!)
      Unless we get into a raging war or something similar, I’ll be a long time running dry on ammo, too- can’t have too much.
      Thanks for stopping by, it’s appreciated.
      Shy III

  23. robert in mid michigan says:

    oki have thought about this for a while now. just the ability to hunt and not draw attention to your location was my initial thought. but here in michigan bow gets a couple more months not sure, but also allow for two more deer per year.

    my question is for recurve bows fiberglass or wood which do you feel is going to last longer?

    i want to buy a bow but looking at less than a hundred hundred fifty for the bow. just started getting seriuse about prepping so lots to do thier but bow is worthwhile definatly but hard to spend the money when the 30-30 will put game on the table.

    • Robert, hands down, I feel the technology for laminates these days is so good that to really harm a modern bow material, you’d have to be trying.
      Fiberglass is strong, but once it begins to splinter, it’s done and nothing will stop it. Dropping something with a sharp corner onto it, or it onto a sharp corner, or scratching through to the second layer of material and it’ll begin splintering.
      The wood laminates, because wood is more forgiving of dings, won’t splinter or crack as quickly and are usually the outside layer of a composite bow- though most the composite bows use a skin of fiberglass on the face of the bow.
      As told in the article, I’ve a fiberglass bow that’s 53, but I’ve always been careful of it. The Bear TD is nearly 40 years old and made from some space age material Fred invented and has withstood decades of hunting and field abuse with nary a problem.
      So I guess what I’m saying is that in my mind, it doesn’t really matter which material it’s made from so long as you’re pleased with it. The links MD supplied for longbows, recurves, and compounds show some very reasonable prices for each. As a point of interest, to me mostly, I checked the Fred Bear site and priced my bows- and nearly choked. To buy my TD today it’d cost nearly $900! Talk about sticker shock! I paid less than $200 for it forty years ago. My compound, Bear Brown Bear, isn’t made any more, so its price is moot. It, too, is composed of wood and glass material.
      When you buy, try to not buy used, or have a pro shop check it out first, being especially alert for checks and cracks in the material. Also, try to shoot any you’d consider buying to be sure it’s what you can handle- don’t ‘over bow’ yourself with purchasing a 60+ pound draw weight thinking you’ll get used to it, ‘cuz it’ll just teach you bad habits and throw off your game.
      I think Michigan is like MN and allows both longer season and more deer, and areas to hunt such as local parks (thinking of the special early season in Duluth here) and preserves that are closed to gun hunters, such as Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge.
      Another thought for you to consider is what kind of country do you hunt in? If there’s lots of brush and low trees, a longer bow would be a hindrance, so think in terms of shorter is better.
      So true about the 30-30 putting meat on the table, but there’s lots to be said for ‘more hunting season and multiple tags’ with the bow. Plus you can hunt the rifle season as well. Double the time you get to spend wandering the wonders of nature and enjoying days afield.
      Welcome to the world of prepping, too. There’s lots to do, but I’m sure you’ll find you may have most of what you’ll need to survive already in your posesssion since you’re already a hunter. Now you just have to refine your goals, how you percieve events to unfold and what you can do to shore up your current supplies.
      Wish I could’ve been more help on making your decision, but it’s a tough call with modern materials’ lifespans.
      Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your future.
      Shy III

  24. Shorthair says:

    I’ve been a archer for go’n on fifty years. It has stuck with me all along. I have started several people along the way most have seemed to gravitate to compounds. Although I really don’t shoot long bows. Recurves and instinctive shooting seems to come natural after all these years. There is no doubt the compound is more accurate. However shooting instinctively is more rewarding. IMO

    • Short- isn’t it a good feeling to know you’ve put someone onto something they’ll enjoy all their lives?
      Yes, I think the majority will go compound because it’s so easy on the body- for the most part- and it’s the rave now. I’m not too certain they’re more accurate, but they are easier to hold at full draw. But there’s so much to be said for longbows and recurves and the local bow-guru here is finding he’s getting lots more orders for recurves and longbows than he has for many years. So either people are wanting to get back to basics, ro they’re thinking of SHTF scenario.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Shy III

  25. I’ve been a bow hunter since 1992 and have killed many elk and deer with them. Elk are easier to kill than deer – at least in the heavy brush of the Pacific Northwest — elk make a lot of noise and if you slip in on a herd and are downwind they are not as elusive as a little deer.

    I enjoyed the article and especially concur about the Bear Razorheads. I use them exclusively and have found supplies available from ebay sellers. All being said though, the best survivalist method of meat acquisition is trapping and snaring. Though restricted by most states because of leftist political ideology it is still the most effective. A trapper will get far more meat with far less effort than any hunter.

    Check out Buckshot’s website for books, videos, traps, and snares at http://snare-trap-survive.com/Buckshots-Snares-S.htm

    • Right on, Darrel- trapping is an excellent means of getting food for the pot. Even deer if the snare is large enough.
      And, truthfully, if someone is thinking they can get all the deer they want for meat, they’re misjudging both the deer herd and their ability. Small game will be ‘where it’s at’ when it comes to hunting, and deer, bear, moose, etc, will be the ‘occasional’ fare.
      Thanks for the link and for stopping by.
      Shy III

  26. KTMrider says:

    I want to buy a new bow and archery supplies, where can I find these links on MD’s site?

  27. Hi, KTM- thanks for stopping by.
    You’ll find the ‘links’ written in blue and underscored throughout the article.
    Also, you can google Bear Archery, or Martin Archery, PSE Archery… each will give you links to where the main business site is, as well as many links to stores that sell the products.
    Shy III

  28. Very nice article. I am and avid bow hunter from Ohio. I personally shoot a High Country compound bow and enjoy archery shooting with it. Ohio is one state that allows cross bows for hunting. Several years back I tore up my right shoulder and was unable to draw my bow back, thanks to a Horton compound cross bow I was still able to enjoy the deer season that year. I even got me a nice 8 pt. buck. My shoulder has since heeled and I’m back to shooting my compound bow again. We have two daughters 12 and 14 that are both shooting Bear compound youth bows and enjoy it very much. I would recommend any one that has ever though about archery to give it a shot. Good luck on the contest.

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