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When you’re preparing for any outdoor excursion or survival scenario, it’s wise to bring a generous supply of food with you. This ensures that under normal circumstances, you’ll have enough to eat until you can make it to safety and resupply. However, there are some cases when resupplying or scavenging is not an option. If you become stranded, or the food distribution network is interrupted, you’ll need to go hunt for food — and make it quick, because your food reserves will dwindle with every passing hour.
Obviously, having a hunting rifle and plenty of ammo is the best-case scenario. When you don’t have those items, you’ll need to improvise. One tool that can provide an effective means of hunting is a bow, and it’s possible to craft your own bow with some sturdy yet flexible wood and a sharp knife. Primitive cultures have been making simple wood hunting bows for centuries.
In the following 10-minute video, YouTube historic hunter Shawn Woods makes a minimalist survival bow out of ocean spray wood. The only tool he uses is a sharp knife, namely a square-tipped stainless fixed blade called a takenata hatchet. In an ideal world, you’d want to season and treat the bow wood for maximum longevity, but this simple bow works surprisingly well, even using living green wood.
Shawn selects a thick and pliable piece of ocean spray bush, also called creambush or ironwood, and cuts it into the bow stave. He intentionally leaves the bark intact on the back (outermost portion) of the bow, and shaves down the belly carefully to allow the thinner wood to bend. At first he works with a chopping motion, and then uses his blade as a draw knife to smooth out the limbs. After forming a tapered handle and adding notches, he can string the bow.
Paracord or any manmade cordage could work as a bow string, but if that’s not available, you’ll need to make your own. One traditional method uses animal sinew — in other words, dried tendons which can be broken down into individual fibers. These fibers are then moistened, and twisted together in a two-ply braid, with new fiber fed in gradually until the desired length is achieved. The video below shows the complete method:
Of course, you’ll also need arrows and arrowheads, but that’s yet another project. Shawn Woods covers numerous arrow designs on his channel, including Cherokee two-fletch arrows, Norwegian slate arrows, and ancient mesolithic microblade arrows. Check out his channel if you’re interested in learning more about survival bows and primitive archery.