Category Archives: Hunting & Fishing

Articles related to atlatl hunting and fishing.

Atlatl Equipment and Preparations for Big Game Hunting

Anyone who plans to hunt big game with an atlatl needs to consider several important things in preparation for the hunt.

A large part of a successful hunt is good preparation.

You will need to do at least the following to prepare properly:

  1. Find a venue where you can hunt legally and with permission.
  2. Obtain darts that are the proper dimensions for the game you intend to kill. Make sure you have enough darts so that when you break or loose them you have plenty of replacements. Bring replacement parts and repair equipment.
  3. Choose an atlatl that works well with your darts. Remember on most hunts you will need to hold your darts ready for long periods of time. If holding your dart in the ready position causes cramping or stiffness in your hand you will need to take steps to correct this.
  4. Select or make dart points that are legal for the venue you plan to hunt and make sure that they are properly sharpened. Some states and localities require certain sizes or shapes of points.
  5. Allow yourself ample time and space to prepare yourself physically and mentally. You need meaningful practice at the various distances and elevations that you will encounter on your hunt. A few shots at a beer can after a two day road trip will not be enough. Practice at home for months and when you get to your location give yourself a chance to warm up by taking several shots. Keep your muscles ready by devising exercises you can do that do not call attention to your location. I use isometric exercises while sitting in my tree stand to help keep me ready to shoot.
  6. Gather together the accessories you will need on your hunt and make sure everything is working properly.
  7. Select your hunting partners well. Nothing spoils a hunt worse than having hunters with you who don’t share your values and morals.
  8. Make good plans with your hunting comrades so you know where they are and what to do in various circumstances. When certain circumstances arise be ready to react. You never know what is going to happen during a hunt but you can anticipate various scenarios such as what to do when someone makes a hit.

I will work on this more. This is part of an atlatl hunting book I am writing.

Bob Berg

State Hunting Law Information

An Open Letter To The Pennsylvania Game Commission

Pennsylvania Archaeologists have long known of the use of the atlatl in Pennsylvania’s prehistory. The atlatl and dart were used by the native population for hunting and fishing for longer than 13,000 years. It is therefore likely that more game has been taken in Pennsylvania using atlatls and darts than with modern weapons including guns and compound bows. It is an accident of history that the cultures that used the atlatl were displaced by European immigrants causing the use of them to be lost and nearly forgotten. It was only in the distant backwaters of our planet that vestiges of the atlatl’s use were still found by anthropologists. Even with this knowledge the atlatl was largely a mystery with no one knowing and understanding its usefulness as a superb hunting and fishing weapon.

In recent years there has been a resurgence in the use of the atlatl, but most people have used it for target shooting. The atlatl has provided Pennsylvanians and many other people who have traveled to Pennsylvania from as far away as Europe to enjoy this unique outdoor activity. Pennsylvania atlatlists count themselves as some of the highest scoring atlatl contestants in the world at the many atlatl meets that take place.

Meanwhile atlatl enthusiasts have also redeveloped atlatls for hunting and fishing. There are a few places where the atlatl is currently legal for hunting and fishing. Various hunting and fishing expeditions to these places in the spirit of rediscovering atlatl hunting and fishing techniques have proven the effectiveness of the atlatl in these sports. Hunting and fishing atlatl gear has been developed and tested that has proven to be effective for harvesting big game, small game, and rough fish.

Many atlatlists dream of a day when The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows the use of the atlatl during the archery seasons, with its status the same as a bow and arrow. Because of its similarity to the bow and arrow the atlatl would fit in with the archery seasons without causing any harm to the repose of the archery hunters and fishers.

Our task is to help educate and expose the public to this intriguing weapon and to ask Pennsylvanians to support us in our endeavor to bring back the atlatl to the fields and forests where it has been absent for so many years.

Bob Berg

State Hunting laws concerning the atlatl and dart

Alabama: The use of an atlatl to throw a spear is permitted. The regulation only requires the spear to be hand thrown. Hope this answered your question. If I can be of any further assistance please contact me.
Craig Hill, Assistant Chief
Law Enforcement Section

Alaska: I have been asked to respond to your question concerning the use of an atlatl to take game in Alaska. After reviewing hunting regulations, I do not believe there is a prohibition on using an atlatl. While an atlatl can be used statewide in hunts without weapons restrictions, all other hunting statutes and regulations do apply and I recommend you review our regulations to determine the species, season and location you would like to hunt. Once you have decided when, where and what you want to hunt, you can determine if an atlatl is an appropriate and legal method for taking the game.
If you have additional questions or I can be of further assistance, I can be reached by reply email or by phone at (907) 465-6197.
Ryan Scott
Wildlife Biologist

Arizona: please refer the Hunting Regulations Manual at the following link (go to pages 61-62 for legal methods of take R12-4-304):…t_regs.pdf
You may also refer the Fishing Regulations booklet at the following link: (refer to page 47, R12-4-313, lawful methods of take)…w_maps.pdf
Hope this helps. Thank you.

Arkansas: The state of Arkansas does not have any regulation or season where using an atlatl is legal, so therefore it cannot be used as hunting/fishing equipment in the state.
Information Officer
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
#2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, Arkansas 72205

California: There is no direct reference in the Code to use of an atlatl. But essentially, the atlatl would be considered a spear.

Hunting opportunities in this state with a spear (atlatl) are limited. No big or small game species could legally be taken with one. However, animals that are classified as “non-game” species could be (coyotes, rodents, opossum, etc). You would first need to obtain a non-resident hunting license.

Spear fishing is allowed in ocean waters. Spear fishing is restricted in inland (fresh) waters. I’ve included the appropriate code section regarding spearfishing in inland waters for your reference. Again, you would need the appropriate license before doing any fishing in CA. Good luck.

Lieutenant Liz Schwall
DFG/ Enforcement Branch
Investigations Unit/CalTIP Program

Colorado: Thank you for taking the time to research the legal use of atlatls in Colorado prior to venturing into the field on a hunting trip here. The atlatl is not a legal method of take for nearly every species of game or fish in Colorado. Our hunting and fishing regulations state that only those methods of take specifically authorized by regulation or statute are allowed in Colorado. The atlatl is not specifically listed and is, therefore, not legal as a hunting weapon in Colorado. The specific regulations in question are #103(A)(fishing); #203(A)(big game); and #302(small game). These regulations are available on the internet for your review at the following link:
Again, thank you for your inquiry.
Mike King
Colorado Division of Wildlife
Policy and Regulation Section

Connecticut: In Connecticut the method of taking wild birds and wild quadrupeds by hunting is defined in our hunting regulations. The regulations restrict hunting to firearms, high velocity air guns using a single ball or pellet type projectile, and compound, long, or recurved bow. As a result, the use of an “atlatl” would not be permitted under our regulations.
Captain Raul Camejo
Connecticut State Environmental Conservation Police

Delaware: According to our regulations you would be o.k. to use your atlatl to fish but would be illegal for hunting in Delaware. Our code is fairly specific as to the method of take for hunting.

Florida: The only legal methods of taking game in Florida are rifles, shotguns, pistols, longbows, compound bows, recurve bows, crossbows and birds of prey. I checked with my Law Enforcement officers and they are familiar with the atlatl, but it cannot be used legally in the state. I hope this helps answer your question. Please contact me if you have additional concerns.
Karen Parker
Public Information Coordinator

Georgia: 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. Thanks for contacting WRD with your question.

Alfred C. Mauldin II
Region III Fisheries Supervisor
Georgia Dept of Natural Resources
Wildlife Resources Division
2123 Hwy 278 SE
Social Circle, GA 30025

*Hawaii: unavailable

Idaho: You would be limited in what you could use the atlatl for in Idaho. It could be used to spear tag carp, which is allowable during a regular fishing season. You will need a fishing license to do that. It would not be legal to use it for big game hunting, but you could use it for hunting forest grouse. You would need to have a small game-hunting license to do that. Please check the regulations for seasons in the area you will be in.

Illinois: It would be an illegal hunting weapon in Illinois. It could be used to spear rough fish, which include carp, carpsuckers, buffalo, sucker, gar (except alligator gar) and bowfin. Spear fishing is not allowed in waters listed as “two pole and line fishing only” in our fishing digest. If you would like a digest, send me your mailing address and I’ll put one in the mail. –
Jill Willis,
Duty Officer, IDNR, Office of Law Enforcement.

Indiana: In hunting, it is permissible to use atlatl for those species for which legal hunting equipment is not set by rule. For example, a person cannot use atlatl to hunt deer, turkey or waterfowl. For a list of our hunting regulations, please see the following link:
Thank you for your interest with the Indiana DNR and Division of Fish and
Dawn Krause
Program Director
Division of Fish and Wildlife
Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Iowa: It would be legal in Iowa to use the device/weapon you described (atlatl) for small game and fish only. Small game and fishing licenses would still be required of course.
Waterfowl; deer and turkey have specific weapon requirements and as a result the “atlatl” would not be legal for hunting these species.

Kansas: An atlatl would be defined as a spear, so it would be legal for non-sport fish – carp, gar, buffalo, etc. – but not sport-fish or hunting.

Kentucky: It is illegal to hunt with and you could only use it for fishing during the gigging season. Fish gigging season for rough fish is February 1 through May 10th.
Billy Mitchell
Information Center
Ky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources
1 Game Farm Road
Frankfort, Ky 40601
1-800-858-1549 ext 324
Fax 502-564-6508

Louisiana: It is not legal in LA to hunt with this or a any other type of spear. We really have not had requests for this. I think Alabama allows it during their archery season.

Maine: This would not be legal in the State of Maine.

Maryland: Hello Jack, I wasn’t sure what a atlatl was so I had to pass your question around. The following link will take you to a summary of our tidal water regulations/rules concerning fishing in tidal waters.…awful.html
If you need any additional information, please feel free to contact Dianne Samuels directly. Her info follows
Paul Genovese
Dianne Samuels
MD Dept of Natural Resources
Fisheries Service B-2
580 Taylor Ave
Annapolis MD 21401
(410) 260-8273
In Tidal Waters: 1. Between June 15 and December 31 of each year, for an individual to take or shoot fish, within specific seasons and limits established by the Department, with a spear gun and spear.
2. To take or shoot, carp, garfish, skate, bull fish, shark, oyster toads, or swelling toads (blowfish), American eel, sea lamprey, stingrays or other ray fish with a spear gun or spear at any time.

Massachusetts: Our hunting and fishing laws are posted on our agency website. Suckers, carp, and snapping turtles are the only species, which may be taken with “spears” in Massachusetts

Michigan: No, such device or a spear or dart is not legal for the taking of game in Michigan. The only legal means of taking game is by firearm, bow and arrow or slingshot. In addition, handicapped persons with a permit may use a crossbow and anyone 14 and older may hunt deer with a crossbow during the November firearm deer season.

*Minnesota: Hello Jack, Sorry for the long delay. But Minnesota only allows for firearm and archery. Not atlatl and unfortunately there are no plans to add that weapon.
good luck
James Abernathy
DNR Information Consultant
500 Lafayette Rd Box 40
St Paul Mn 55155

Mississippi: No. The Atlatl is not currently listed as a weapon legal for hunting or fishing in Mississippi.

Missouri: The Wildlife Code…r/3csr.asp does not mention that implement as a legal method for hunting or fishing. Thanks for your interest in conservation.
Ken Drenon
573/552-4115, ext. 3848

Montana: Game animals, by law and rule in Montana, can only be hunted by licensed hunters with certain, specified weapons – and an atlatl is not one of them. However, non-regulated wildlife may be taken with any type of weapon, any time of year, and no license is required. These include squirrels, porcupine, raccoon, coyote, weasel, skunk, badger and red fox. Fish that you could take with an atlatl would be carp and sucker. Almost all birds are either game animals or protected under federal regulation with the exception of rock dove (pigeons), European sparrows and eastern starlings. I hope this answers your question.

Nebraska: Depending on what you are hunting—it would be legal for rabbits or squirrels. I don’t believe it would be legal device for fishing. You may wish to call me at 404-471-5003. I will also check a couple more regulations out and get back to you—-mj

Nevada: Thank you for your email. You can only use the atlatl to hunt unprotected species in Nevada (such as coyotes or blacktailed jackrabbits) You can find legal weapons listed on page four on this PDF of this section of our Hunt Book…/sec5.pdf.
If you have any other questions, please let us know.
Thank you,
Nevada Department of Wildlife
1100 Valley Road
Reno, NV 89512
(775) 688-1998

New Hampshire: Pursuant to the law here in NH, wildlife may only be taken by “gun fired at arm’s length or bow and arrow, unless otherwise specifically permitted” (trapping is the other method). Fish may only be taken by angling, with the exceptions of:
1. Carp may be taken by bow and arrow with cord attached in the Merrimack River and Mascoma Lake
2. Suckers may be taken between March 1 and May 31 by bow and arrow with cord attached, or spears (in hand)
The atlatl would not be a legal weapon for taking either wildlife or fish here in NH. There would have to be a change in current law through the NH Legislature to allow its use.
I hope this was helpful.
Sgt. Bruce Bonenfant

New Jersey: Since a license is required for hunting, and only firearm and archery licenses are issued, I would presume it is illegal to hunt with an atlatl. I would consider it spear hunting. I’m not sure if it would take legislation or a change in the Game Code to allow it, but either would be unlikely at this point in my opinion. To garner support for it I would suggest becoming involved with the State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs ( or other group and submit comments to the Fish and Game Council and address the council at the public Game Code hearing held each year. Watch our homepage for an announcement. PT
Paul Tarlowe, Wildlife Education Specialist
The N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife is a professional, environmentalagency dedicated to the protection, management and wise use of the
state’s fish and wildlife resources.

New Mexico: This weapon is NOT allowed in NM, the chance of it being legal is slim, sorry!
Thank You!!

New York: An atlatl, or spear, is currently an illegal implement for use to take fish or wildlife within New York State. There are no current proposals for the DEC to legalize this implement. You may contact the Bureau of Wildlife at to make such a proposal and supply the appropriate justification and documentation. Thank you for your inquiry to what appears to be an interesting device. If I can be of any additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at 518-402-8814 Sincerely, Colonel Robert T. Lucas Assistant Director

North Carolina: It is not legal to use an atlatl to hunt or fish with in North Carolina. I have not heard of any movement to make them legal. This is not a rule that the North Carolina Wildlife Commission can enact; it would have to be done by the North Carolina General Assembly.

North Dakota: Atlatl’s are not currently useable in ND. I doubt they will become a legal “weapon” .

Ohio: No, it is not legal to fish with an atlatl in Ohio. There are no plans to change this rule. Thank you.
Div. of Wildlife
1-800-Wildlife (945-3543)

Oklahoma: As long as it is legal to use a spear for specific species, it is legal to use an atlatl. Ex.: with rabbits and squirrels, you can use a hand propelled missile (spear) so you can use an atlatl. With deer, you cannot use a spear, etc.

Oregon: The atlatl can not be used to harvest game fish in the State of Oregon. It is also not a legal weapon to harvest game animals. However, it could be used to hunt “predatory” animals in the State of Oregon such as coyote, rabbit, feral pig and exotic sheep.

Pennsylvania: It is not legal to use in Pennsylvania.

*Rhode Island: unavailable

South Carolina: As far as opportunities to use one in SC. There are 11 Game Zones in the state and the laws establishing season in 8 of the zones specify the weapons that can be used, e.g. bow and arrow or firearms. However, in Zones 3, 6, and 11 (the lower coastal plain) there is no mention of specific weapons, only the season dates. Therefore, it would not be a problem using the atlatl in those zones. You may get some funny looks but that is not the question.

South Dakota: An atlatl could be used to spear fish where and when the spearing season is open as spears are legal. But as far as for small or big game, they would not be allowed. There are restrictions on pull and etc on archery seasons, muzzle energy on firearms and these devices do fit any of that. SDCL 41-8 is pretty clear on how most critters can be taken. I attached the law on small game. There are several laws that pertain to big game for each type of allowed weapon type.
41-8-31. Hunting methods restricted–Violation as misdemeanor. No person may at any time hunt, catch, take, attempt to take, or kill any small game or game animal in any other manner than by shooting the same with a firearm, except:
(1) Game birds and animals may be taken with birds trained in falconry or with bow and arrow;
(2) A disabled person who is missing an upper limb, physically incapable of using an upper limb, or confined to a wheelchair and who has obtained a disabled hunter permit may use a crossbow to take game birds and animals; and
(3) A legally blind person, who is legally licensed, possesses a disabled hunter permit, and is physically present and participates in the hunt but cannot safely discharge a firearm or bow and arrow, may claim game birds and animals taken by a designated hunter in accordance with the license possessed by the legally blind hunter. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Thank you for your question.
John Forney
South Dakota Division of Wildlife
Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks

Tennessee: An atlatl is not considered a legal weapon for hunting and/or fishing in the State of Tennessee. If you have further questions, please feel
free to respond to the e-mail.
Cathi Lasater
Law Enforcement Division

Texas: Hello and thanks for your interest. The atlatl is legal for non-game animals and exotics (feral hogs), but it is not a legal means of take for deer. A hunting license is still required. Let me know if you need anything else.
Kristal Cain
Wildlife/ Public Hunting Info
Texas Parks and Wildlife

Utah: No, atlatl is not a legal weapon in Utah. Thank you for contacting us! State of Utah Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division
1594 W North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84116

Vermont: It would not be legal in Vermont to use an atlatl for hunting.
John Hall
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
103 South Main Street, 10 South
Waterbury, VT 05671-0501

Virginia: VA law prescribes specific weapons that may be used to take wildlife, and prohibits those that are not specified by law. The atlatl would be unlawful for hunting in VA.

Washington: Thank you for your email correspondence to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Fish Program. Evan Jacoby in our Enforcement Division has provided the following response for you:
The atlatl is not a legal hunting method in Washington State. It is also not a legal fishing method, except, possibly, for carp. It is lawful to take carp by spearing. Since there is no restrictive description of the spear, the atlatl dart could be construed to be a spear. This is, however, problematic, as I am unaware anyone has ever speared carp with an atlatl.
Evan Jacoby, Counsel
Fish and Wildlife Legal Services

West Virginia: There is not currently an atlatl season in WV. However, I am unfamiliar with this instrument. If you would care to further describe this instrument it would be very helpful. Please provide your proposal to our wildlife resources general mailbox for their consideration.
Lt. Colonel Bill Daniel, Deputy Chief
WVDNR Law Enforcement Section
Bldg. 3, Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
Tel: 304.558.2784
Fax: 304.558.1170

Wisconsin: 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.
Tia N. Kropf
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Internet Manager, Bureau of Wildlife Management
101 S. Webster Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53707
(608) 266-2194

*Wyoming: unavailable

Fishing With Atlatls On The Rainbow River In Florida

Fifty-five inch gar landed.

The sun turned the sky to brilliant red as it sank beneath the tree line along the western shore of the Rainbow River. In the evening calm the clear water was glass smooth. I held my atlatl and harpoon dart ready in hopes I would get a clear shot at a fish. We could see occasional ripples cross the water around us, telling of fast moving small fish attempting to escape the clutches of some of the larger predatory species. But the sun reflecting off the top of the water kept everything below the surface hidden from view.

We talked for a while, waiting for the darkness to settle in. In the distance vultures coming in from every direction landed in a giant cypress tree that grew out of the shallow water of the flats. A symphony of alligators chortled in every tone belying their various sizes from small to very large. Earlier that day we had seen several large alligators sunning themselves on fallen logs. We weren’t here for alligators but anywhere you see gators you will see gar.

To spear gar with an atlatl you have to be able to see them well and they need to be in reasonably shallow water. At night with the Colman lanterns we have rigged to the bows of our boats you can see the gar as deep as twenty five feet swimming along like submarines barely wavering from their characteristic straight line course. You can see the inverted crossbows that we just purchased, they are great bows. The skin of a gar is like armor with the texture of rough sandpaper. To get a dart through this you need sharp points and enough energy to break through a quarter inch of bone like skin. It can be done with a bow but the arrow looses energy much faster than a harpoon dart. The added length and weight of the dart allow deeper penetration of the water, with enough energy left to penetrate the thick hide of the gar.

Leggs spotted the first giant gar as we entered a lagoon. He was not ready for it but I was. I had to cast at just at the right time to make the shot. I hit it right in the middle of its five foot long body and it took off. I let the line go as it retreated until I had nothing left but the float at the end of my line. I hung on as the fish dragged the boat several hundred yards. As the fish tired I pulled it closer to the boat. Leggs, being the bravest of us gaffed it into the boat. It slashed with its razor teeth just scratching the back of Leggs’ hand. He stowed it under the deck where it could not hurt us after we took several pictures.

It is an annual event for us to go to Florida in the middle of February to enjoy our atlatl adventures. We meet at Payne’s Prairie Campground where the annual Knap-in occurs. The park has great facilities and is perfectly situated for us to be able to go to the various places in North Florida to hunt and fish with our atlatls. Also Florida’s fish and game laws allow the use of the atlatl.

The sun drops below the treeline.
The sun drops below the treeline.

Red sky at night, sailor's delight.
Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

First atlatl shot with a harpoon...
First atlatl shot with a harpoon…

And first big gar, harpooned with an atlatl.
And first big gar, harpooned with an atlatl.

Fifty-five inch gar landed.
Fifty-five inch gar landed.

Andy with his gar. That's Micah behind him.
Andy with his gar. That's Micah behind him.

Combining Modern Gadgets with Ancient Weapons for Hunting and Fishing

Some new Possibilities for Sportsmen:

We kept our atlatls ever ready, searching the depths for Talapia, the boat gliding slowly across the dark waters on that moonless night.

Among the weeds in the deep, clear water, we made out shapes of various creatures. Some were alligators; most were Gar or Bass, lingering in spaces between the lumpy masses of algae. They were all well lit by lamps fastened to the bottom of a shooting platform on the bow of Wooly’s boat.

Sometimes we could make out strange animals like rays, and an occasional Plecostemus, an overgrown algae eating escapee from someone’s aquarium. Painted turtles with multicolored shells sometimes materialized, only to quickly disappear into the green masses at the bottom of the stream.

We were fishing the pristine North Florida waters, which flow in a stream, from Salt Spring to Lake George. The harpoon tips of our darts were fastened to a 12-inch foreshaft and inserted into the large end of a six-foot ash shaft.

The shallow dimple on the dart’s back end rests against a small bone hook at the end of the atlatl. The atlatl is a two-foot long device that helps the shooter to propel his harpoon deep into the water. Atlatl darts penetrate the water to a depth of 10 or 12 feet, whereas arrows shot from a bow barely go half that deep.

Now and then, Leggs or I would shoot into the water at the quickly fleeing Talapia. Talapia, another fish transplanted to Florida waters, appear dark blue beneath the water. They also have a fairly scaly body. Wooly, a.k.a. Wendell Adams, navigated with the low power electric trolling motor as we went, while Wooly operated a high-powered portable halogen lamp, lighting things of interest in the stream’s unbelievably clear waters. It was a little noisy with the Honda generator’s constant hum. Our catch for the night was a Catfish, a few Gar and a Plecostemus.

In 2002, we hunted fish in the Rainbow River that flows into the Gulf of Mexico on the opposite side of the State of Florida. I managed to land a 53″ Gar. It was the second large Gar I shot. The first one, which was much bigger, broke the dart and got away. We also got two nice sized Bowfin, a rather formidable predatory fish, with teeth as sharp as those of the gar.

What a contrast of equipment: high tech electric motors and lights for the purpose of hunting fish with the ancient spear throwing weapon called the atlatl. Such is the interesting, on going evolution of the atlatl. The atlatl is a weapon, that only a dozen years ago was relegated to museums, the backyards, and college quads of a few archaeologists who would bring out the implement to demonstrate it to students.

For those who are not familiar with the atlatl, it is an ancient weapon that predates the bow and arrow.

The atlatl is a handle measuring approximately the length of the thrower’s arm that hooks into the back of a large arrow-like spear commonly called a dart, or when fishing, a harpoon.

The handle amplifies the power and the accuracy of the thrower by allowing him to apply power to the dart over a longer period of time.

I’ve seen darts that were anywhere from about four to eight feet long, with most of them being six or seven. In my experience, hunting darts work best if they are long and heavy, and made from hardwood such as ash. For hunting I use seven-foot darts that weigh about eight ounces. They are fletched with full-length turkey wing feathers and pointed either with stone or steel. I often use stone points for aesthetic reasons.

Many atlatlists who shoot target darts prefer cane shafts that are half the weight of hunting darts. I tend to shy away from the light stuff because it affects my hunting when I change to the higher weight.

I use a braided 200-pound test line on my harpoon darts that is about 30 yards long, attached to a small float that I keep in my pocket. I hold the line loosely in my left hand so I can play it out when I shoot.

Atlatls resurfaced in earnest about a dozen years ago as small groups of atlatl wielding enthusiasts started finding each other, through the Internet, The World Atlatl Association, and at knap-ins. Knap-ins are gatherings where people get together to make flint arrowheads. (A phenomenon in its own right.) The World Atlatl Association is an organization that has four or five hundred members who get together for competitions and other events, with the objective of furthering the knowledge and use of atlatls.

The art of hunting and fishing with atlatls was virtually lost as a cultural expression to the world, except to a few scattered indigenous people where its use has lingered, until several people from Michigan, New York, Kentucky, and Georgia came together with the idea of trying atlatls out on wild boar.

Lou Becker of Michigan was the first person I knew to kill a wild pig with an atlatl. His efforts lit a few fuses and the explosion was on. I took the baton next and experimented with atlatls and darts that were designed to work well for taking down wild boar and deer. It took several years to come up with equipment that worked well. We tried both flint and steel points. Both worked well, but the discovery that made the most difference in our success was finding the right combination of length, weight, material, fletching and diameter for our darts.

I have hunted a lot of different ways in my life, but my all time favorite way to hunt is with an atlatl. I enjoy the whole experience of it, from knapping the flint points and hafting them with traditional handmade cordage to tracking the animal after its been hit. I like the excitement of getting close to the prey and trying to figure out how to get the best shot. I enjoy the hours of solitude, sitting high above the forest floor in a tree stand or the act of silently stalking a wild boar through a swamp. It’s also fun to relate the stories of my deeds and misdeeds with the atlatl. (I have more stories about my misdeeds.)

I guess one reason I get such a thrill out of atlatl hunting is that I can manage to harvest fish or big game animals with a weapon that is both simple and effective. The atlatl has the power to bring me back to my primal roots, letting me use my instinctive skills to feed my family and myself. I find incredible satisfaction in doing that, gaining an immense sense of self-confidence and accomplishment.

Deer and wild boar hunting offer the most challenge. Both can be hunted from the ground or from a tree stand with an atlatl and the hunter needs to practice different throwing techniques for each. The difference is that you cannot typically take a full step into your shot from a tree stand, whereas from the ground you can shift your entire weight into the shot.
The distance that I am comfortable shooting at large game is less than 20 yards. The closer the better. The close distance requirement is a major factor that makes atlatl big game hunting so challenging yet so interesting and exciting. It takes a lot of skill to get that close to deer and wild boar.

I have spent hours on my hands and knees crawling in the underbrush to get closer to a heard of wild boar, only to have them discover me and scatter seconds before I could get a good shot off. I have also had deer so close to me that I could almost touch them with the tip of my dart. I have touched alligators with the tip of my dart in an act of counting coup, like the Indians, because we didn’t have a permit at the time to take an alligator. Once I accidentally shot a 5-foot alligator when attempting to shoot a gar. We released the alligator only slightly wounded in the tail. It was however an interesting event that proved to me that alligators could be harvested with an atlatl.

Success rates with the atlatl are fairly good, if the hunter is willing to put in some time practicing. It has been my experience that if you feel confident when you go out in the morning on your atlatl hunt you will make that critical shot. It’s the same with any weapon, I suppose. Practice and confidence, coupled with a desire to succeed will get you to the place you need to be to take your quarry.

A small group of intrepid atlatl hunters gathered in Moundville, Alabama the spring of 2002 to plan and execute hunting forays into the deep, dark backwaters of the hog infested swamps of the Tombigbee River Basin. Since then we have had many success stories to tell.

Several people in our small group have been looked over aerial photographs and topographical maps, checking out likely places to hunt. Hunting parties composed of members of our group tentatively calling themselves the Alabama Atlatl Hunting Association, formed up at the Moundville Archaeological Park, and headed out to either scout for or hunt wild boar. We plan to do a little atlatl rough fishing in the process.

We chose Alabama as one of our hunting venues because it is legal to hunt deer and wild boar there with an atlatl. It is also legal to hunt wild boar in several other states such as Texas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, and possibly several others. Before hunting with an atlatl check with your local authorities.

This sport may be far from the mainstream of outdoor activities, but every person on the face of the planet probably had in his or her background an ancestor who has survived because of the atlatl or a weapon closely resembling it. Anyone who wants to know more about the atlatl can search the net under the word “atlatl” and find 1500 pages of information about it.

Hunting Wild Boar with the Atlatl and Dart

Gary's Boar

We got started early in the morning. We went out to the land we planned to hunt which is a parcel of several thousand acres along the banks of the Oklawaha River in the neighborhood of Ocala, Florida. We had our rifles and rangefinders in hand and ready to go. I was excited to try out the new long range rangefinder I just bought, read more about long-range rangefinders. The terrain consists of recently cut pine forest, cane break, and virgin cypress swamp, in roughly equal measures, depending on its elevation above the Oklawaha. The property is contiguous with tens of thousands of acres of similar land along the Oklawaha, offering incredibly good habitat for wild boar.

There are also plenty of deer and other wild life in the area including black bear, which we were able to see two years ago in this same location. We have seen osceola turkeys, alligators, squirrels, and monkeys in this location. It was easy to imagine oneself in this setting to be back in the days when atlatl hunting was an every day event.

Warm spring winds blew gently through the palmedows and cane. In the distance I could see a vulture in the tree tops drying its dew soaked wings, outstretched to catch the morning sun and breeze. I hunted from a ground blind that I had hastily constructed out of forest debris that morning in a relatively sparse part of the cane break.

I heard the crackling of wild boar approaching though the dry thatch of dead palmedow leaves. I had been hearing them for a while. But they were now on the other side of the boundary beyond where we were allowed to hunt. My hope was that they would eventually come my way.

Those gentile winds were, however, not blowing in the right direction.

The swine started to put up a squall. I thought they must be fighting over something. I decided to go over and investigate.” The figured the worst thing that could happen is that they would run away.

The squealing became more intense as I got closer. I don’t think they ever noticed me as I approached . The wild pigs were now about fifty yards behind my ground blind in a cane break thicker than the weave of a picnic basket. Atlatls don’t work that well in brush that thick, but you never know, you might get a shot in anyway. My heart pounded as I got closer.

I bent to look under the palmedows and saw the first pig only twelve yards away. I was looking at him looking at me. The jig was up. That pig and the rest of the wild boar herd with it melted into the underbrush. The first sighting of wild boar was getting me excited about the hunt.

We hunted for a few days without much action until one evening on the way out of the woods we encountered a herd of small wild boar crossing a logging road. Normally I don’t think I would have shot at such a small animal but predatory instinct got the best of me. I took a shot at fifty yards and connected— with a little fifty pound pig. I had to shoot the dart at a high angle to get it there. The fact that it hit was either incredible luck or a case of predatory instinct taking over my mind and body. In any case the little boar turned out to be the finest meat we had eaten in a while.

Our next encounter with a boar was the next morning. We had made extensive plans the previous evening, which fell apart as soon as we reached the hunt site. The elusive wild boars were slinking into a large clear cut just as we walked up to it. We put our plans on the back burner and went to plan omega three.

I started out by taking a shot at about thirty five yards but missed. I pursued the boars into the field, knowing Big Wooley and Leggs would get into action and form up a triangle around them. We had talked it over many times in the past about what we would do in a situation like this, so I knew I could count on them. As we closed the triangle in we knew that our quarry would have to go by at least one of us to escape. Leggs signaled me that they were coming my way so I crouched low behind some tall saw grass.

They came out in two groups of three or four each. I stayed low until the first group went by. I had my dart knocked and laying against the back of my left hand which now held five darts. Those five darts were across my knees in the proper position for a quick reload. I stood up and chose the last of the first group of boars as my target.

I shot, leading the running boar just enough. I hit it right behind the left shoulder. The dart drove the three inch flint point deeply into the vitals of the boar. The half inch ash shaft bent but did not break as the boar beat its final retreat toward the row of pines and palmedows.

We even butcher the hogs we kill like cave men. We use stone blades knapped from flint blade cores that we carry in our pockets or leather pouches. At the hog hunt at Cold Brook three years ago the guides were amazed at the efficiency of our stone tools, but they are actually sharper than typical metal knives.

A chill went up my back as I began to hear movement behind me in the pine thicket where I chose to conceal myself. In front of me was a sandy red dirt South Georgia road riddled with gullies carved in it by torrential downpours over the last few years. I knew from experience that the noises I heard were from several wild boar and that they would be crossing the road in front of me pretty soon. Could I move out there where I could take a better shot with my atlatl, without the hogs noticing me? I checked the wind and realized that those hogs already knew I was there. The wind was blowing directly from me to them.

They must have been lying in the thicket since I got there two hours before, from the sound of it. Now they were just shuffling off at a quick pace to avoid me. Nevertheless, I carefully slipped out of my ground blind and brought up my dart, turning just in time to see the last big hog disappear from view on the other side of the road. I was a second too late to shoot. Oh well, at least I got to see one.

A while later Mark came up the road with a somewhat frustrated look on his face. His account of the evenings proceedings was much the same as mine. He told me that he thought it might be just about impossible to ambush a boar in these thick southern yellow pine woods. I agreed with him as we set off for his van. Next time we need to get a little altitude in order to get a clean shot especially if we are going to use atlatls which have a range limited to about 20 yards in the open, with any accuracy. We also need to place ourselves between the hogs bedding area and their food recourses, yet in an area that is somewhat clear.

A clear area in these parts is unusual. Unless someone has made a clearing such as a greenfield, you may not find such a thing in the South Georgia forest. You need to take advantage of open spots such as dirt roads, streams or those rare places under the canopy of hardwood trees. I think I would like to try a tree stand in a hardwood tree next time I go.