There are several killing devices that you can construct to help you obtain small game to help you survive. The rabbit stick, the spear, the bow and arrow, and the sling are such devices.

Rabbit Stick

Rabbit Stick or BoomerangOne of the simplest and most effective killing devices is a stout stick as long as your arm, from fingertip to shoulder, called a “rabbit stick” (also called a throwing stick, throwing club, killing stick, baton, boomerang, and kylie).  The stick may be straight or slightly curved.  You may even choose to carve a handle to make the stick easier to grip.  You can throw it either overhand or sidearm and with considerable force. It is best thrown so that it flies sideways, increasing the chance of hitting the target. It is very effective against small game that stops and freezes as a defense.

Rabbit stickYou can also choose a slightly shorter, more curved stick and hone the edges to make it more aerodynamic (e.g. boomerang).  These sticks are particularly good at gliding just above the ground when thrown side-arm.


Samples of spearsYou can make a spear to kill small game and to fish. Jab with the spear—do not throw it.  You can make a simple wooden spear by simply sharpening the end of a straight, hardwood, stick.  After sharpening the stick, harden the wood by sticking it over a fire until you see a small flame emerge on the wood.  Then sharpen the stick on a rock and repeat the fire treatment.

Alternatively, you may attach a blade to the end of a long, straight stick.  Use a knife to cut a notch in the stick and insert a blade (or sharp rock) into the notch.  Fill any empty space in the notch with glue or tree sap.  Then lash the blade firmly to the stick using cording or moistened rawhide (it will shrink, and draw up when it dries).

Bow and Arrow

Bow and arrow with arrowhead closeupA bow and arrow is an excellent tool for bringing down wild game.  A good bow is the result of many hours of work. You can construct a suitable short-term bow fairly easily. When it loses its spring or breaks, you can replace it. Select a hardwood stick about 1 meter (3 feet) long that is free of knots or limbs. Oak, Hickory, Yew, or Teak are good hardwoods for a bow.  Try to find wood that is free of knots and limbs.  Dry wood is preferred but green wood can be soaked in water to promote flexibility.

Bow and arrowShape the stick so both ends are the same diameter.  Then shape further so the middle is thicker than the ends.  You can also wrap the middle two thirds of the bow with wet leather and then allow the leather to dry.  This will strengthen the bow and contribute to greater arrow velocity.  Try to use the natural curve and shape of the wood if possible.  Careful examination will show the natural curve of the stick. Always scrape from the side that faces you, or the bow will break the first time you pull it. Dead, dry wood is preferable to green wood. To increase the pull, lash a second bow to the first, front to front, forming an “X” when viewed from the side. Attach the tips of the bows with cordage and only use a bowstring on one bow.

Schematic of an arrowSelect arrows from the straightest dry ticks available. The arrows should be about half as long as the bow. Scrape each shaft smooth all around. You will probably have to straighten the shaft. You can bend an arrow straight by heating the shaft over hot coals. Do not allow the shaft to scorch or burn. Hold the shaft straight until it cools.

You can make arrowheads from bone, glass, metal, or pieces of rock. You can also sharpen and fire-harden the end of the shaft. Fire hardening is actually a misnomer. To fire-harden wood, hold it over hot coals or plunge it deep under the coals in the ashes, being careful not to burn or scorch the wood. The purpose of fire hardening is to harden the wood by drying the moisture out of it.

You must notch the ends of the arrows for the bowstring. Cut or file the notch; do not split it. Fletching (adding feathers to the notched end of an arrow) improves the arrow’s flight characteristics. Fletching is recommended but not necessary on a field-expedient arrow.  To fletch, you can split the wood, slide a feather into the notch, and wrap tightly with a thin thread.


Drawing of a slingHow to use a slingYou can make a sling by tying two pieces of cordage, each about 60 centimeters (24 inches) long, at opposite ends of a palm-sized piece of leather or cloth. You can also braid #18 nylon mason twine to form a tight cordage that is great for slings.  Braid the cord just like you would braid hair, trim the ends, and melt to keep ends from unraveling.

How to braid twine into ropePlace a rock in the cloth and wrap one cord around your middle finger and hold in your palm. Hold the other cord between your forefinger and thumb. To throw the rock, spin the sling several times in a circle and release the cord between your thumb and forefinger. Practice to gain proficiency. The sling is very effective against small game.