Making a Survival Bow
While we all hope it won’t ever happen to us, there may be a time when you are faced with a survival situation. I write a lot of things about survival skills, but I always remind you that it is your mind-set that is the most important factor in survival. I have written a lot of things about finding direction, finding water, building shelter, and finding food. Now I want to teach you how to increase your chances of getting some solid food by making a bow and arrows. With a rudimentary bow and arrows you can get anything from small game to something as big as an elk if you know what you are doing.
The first thing to do is select a piece of wood for your bow. While it would be good to have a nice piece of seasoned wood, that is not feasible in a survival situation. You will likely have to make a bow from green wood, and you have to understand that a bow made from green wood will lose its strength in a short amount of time, so be ready to build two or three bows. A good piece of wood for a bow is not a sapling of any kind, but instead a piece of a hardwood tree that is spliced out of the tree, and then formed into a four foot length bow. Obviously that is going to be a challenge in the wilderness, and you wouldn’t cut down a tree to get that piece of wood, you have to find it from a tree on the ground. Across the northern hemisphere, Yew is the best possible wood for a bow, but you are more likely to find hickory, birch, juniper, oak, elm, cedar, ironwood, and hemlock as your best choices for a bow.
Once you have a good piece of wood, shave it with your knife to be 2” wide at the center, tapering to a little more than a ½” wide at each end. At each end cut notches for the bow string. You can make a bow string from paracord, which you should have either in your boot laces or your survival gear. Take the inner fibers of the paracord and make a bow string of 8 strands. To string the bow, set the bow string in the lower notch, then position the bow against your left ankle while you push the bow downward with your right hand to accept the bow string on the upper end of the bow.
To make arrows, look for the straightest pieces of wood that you can find. Hardwoods make the best arrows because of their overall strength in the fiber of the wood, but in a survival situation, use whatever straight pieces of wood you can find. For each arrow, cut a slot in both ends; one for the bow string, and one for the arrow head. In general, an arrow has to be at least two feet long, and you need fletching on the arrow so that it will fly straight with a twisting motion. Fletching can be made from bird feathers, paper, or even duct tape. The illustration to the left shows how to use a bird feather for fletching.
For an arrow head, most often you can use a sharpened stick, hardened by fire, as a projectile. If you need a broad head projectile, you can form an arrow head from a flint stone, from a tin can, or from bone. Whichever arrow head you choose, it can be lashed onto the arrow with plant fibers, small twine, or fibers from your 550 paracord.
A primitive bow is a great survival tool, and something fun to practice just in case you ever need one.