Atlatl enthusiasts resurrect a prehistoric form of hunting in MIssouri

Marc LaVoie
January 03, 2019 - 6:28 am

ID 100724806 © Praveen Indramohan |


A dedicated corps of outdoorspeople in Missouri are helping to revitalize an ancient form of hunting that utilizes the atlatl.

The atlatl is usually made of wood, and it is about a foot or so in length. It extends the length of a hunter's arm, which allows him or her to throw a projectile at very high velocities. 

A group called the Missouri Atlatl Association works to promote the devices.

Called darts, the arrow-like projectiles can measure up to seven feet in length. 

"As opposed to throwing a spear -- a person could be very limited in how far they could throw a spear -- with an atlatl, you can cast the dart up to 100 yards," said Brian Flowers, regional supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Skilled hunters with atlatls can bring down large game, including deer. Atlatl hunting has been legal in Missouri since 2010. The devices can be seen on cave drawings from thousands of years before man domesticated animals or devised written languages.

"It predates the bow and arrow in the archeological record and it's known on most every continent on earth," Flowers said.

Atlatl hunting is for people who are fascinated with pre-historic technology, and like a challenge beyond bow-and-arrow or muzzleloader hunting. Because the method is difficult to master, only a few deer are harvested each year with atlatls. Some people make their own darts and cap them with arrowheads made of stone. 

Conservation experts encourage all methods of ethical hunting. Hunters are needed to manage Missouri's whitetail herd, which is at an all-time high of about 1,000,000 animals, Flowers said. Harvesting about a third of the herd each year helps reduce problems caused by deer.

"The number of deer struck and hit on highways, the number of deer that do crop damage, the number of deer that are eating somebody's flowers in their backyard," Flowers said.


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