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One Throw, One Kill

Dec 14, 2011

Missouri in 11,000 BC was home to mastodons and the primitive humans who hunted them. The humans were continuing to improve their weapons for taking game. The hand-thrown spear, or dart, had been modified to include a throwing device that gave the hunter the ability to throw the dart much harder and farther. Now called an atlatl, it is a hand-held wooden or bone shaft, the other end of which fits into the hollowed-out aft end of the 5- to 8-foot long dart. A quick thrust of the arm and flick of the wrist propelled the dart through the air and hopefully into the vital organs of the elephant-sized mastodon.

The bow and arrow wouldn’t be developed for about ten thousand more years. According to information from the World Atlatl Association, the atlatl continued to be used in some areas after the advent of the bow and arrow because it had some advantages:

  • It could be used with one hand.
  • It could propel heavier projectiles, delivering more momentum.
  • A line could more easily be attached for harpooning.

Fast-forward to Nov. 12, 2011. A Missouri deer hunter in St. Louis County bags a white-tailed deer with an atlatl, the first known Missouri deer harvest by that method in modern times. The next day another deer is harvested by atlatl in Grundy County by another hunter.

I can’t explain why the successful Missouri resumption of this ancient hunting method is so comforting and reassuring to me. I’m sure that it has to do with our species’ long history of hunting and the continued presence of that genetic memory in modern generations. With all of our modern hunting technology, we can still do it the ancient way, like starting a fire with no matches or modern tools. Congratulations to the atlatl hunters . . . and to us all.


Anonymous: Here's a link to an article from our website on the first atlatl kill:

JHuff: My article gives Nov. 12, 2011 as the date of the first atlatl kill. That is during the November portion of the fall firearms deer season. During the 2011-2012 deer season, atlatls could only be used during the firearms deer season, excluding the muzzleloader portion. Beginning with the 2012-2013 deer season, atlatls will be a legal method during the archery deer and turkey hunting season as well as the fall firearms deer season, including the muzzleloader portion.

Smith2: I don't think your statement about use of the atlatl during fall deer season is correct. Everything I've seen and read shows atlatl listed as a legal method only during the 2011 Firearms Deer Hunting Season. Atlatl is not listed as a legal method during the 2011 Archery Deer and Turkey Season. Can someone from MDC verify this? I'd also like to understand why the atlatl is not included in archery season? Makes perfect sense that it should be to me, its not a firearm, it has to be launched/released like an arrow, and harder to harvest with than a firearm. What's MDC's criteria for inclusion in archery season? Any plans to change this in 2012-2013?

I think this is really amazing and I like the idea of hunting with this method. I'd like to hear from the two gents that harvested deer with atlatl this year. How long was the arrow/spear used? Was it homemade? Maybe some description and pics of the atlatl's they used. The idea that I can make a device to hunt and extend the season sounds great (as opposed to laying out $500+ for a compound bow). Maybe someone can do an interview/article with these gentlemen in the Conservationist?

Its amazing how much man has improved weaponry to destroy himself. Real sad.

Anonymous: No one is arguing that the atlatl is an advanced weapon. During the past deer season, we allowed limited opportunity for atlatl use to evaluate public perception of that method of hunting. For 2012, the regulations for its use have been changed to allow atlatl use during the fall archery deer and turkey seasons and the muzzleloader portion of the firearms season.

They are more primitive than bow and arrow. Why are they only allowed during gun season ? That is really upsetting to think that someone with higher authority is trying to convince the general public that it is too advanced to use during bow season . I would like a logical explanation.

Its true what they say. If you really need it you will find a way to do it. Humand back then were the same. Incredible.

It is amazing how they made the tools that they used. I couldn't make these tools using my power tools. Amazing stuff!

whats next?Slingshots

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