If the teetering economy collapses and food becomes scarce, how will you eat? Sure, you can farm. Sure, you can fish. But my oh my, those are so boring! You must be thinking that there’s got to be a more exciting way to feed your family. Well, what’s more badass than hunting for food using a bow and arrow you made yourself? Nothing. That’s what.
So don’t wait for the collapse when good bow and arrow making materials may be at a premium. Prepare yourself now by following these instructions from Mat Stein, author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency.
The following is an excerpt from When Technology Fails. It has been adapted for the web.
The bow and arrow is probably the most effective of the traditional hunting weapons, and is not too difficult to make. Seasoned, resilient, long-grained woods are best for bow making. English longbows were traditionally made from yew trees, but fir, cedar, hickory, juniper, oak, white elm, birch, willow, hemlock, maple, and alder will usually do. “Green” wood bows tend to lose their strength or crack after a couple weeks, needing replacement. Traditional crafting of bows often extended for over a year, beginning with the careful selection and curing of wood for the stave.
For the short-term, crude bows of many different green woods will suffice. For durable bows, select strong, straight, resilient, knot-free young saplings such as yew, greasewood, ironwood, hickory, or ash. For the bow stave, select one or two supple limbs, about 1½ to 2 inches thick in the middle, and free of knots and branches. Fire-killed standing wood has already been seasoned. Test the flex of your chosen wood and discard if it shows any signs of cracking. Depending on the stiffness and spring of the wood, either shave flats in the center section of each stave and fasten two curved staves together for a double bow (see Figure 6-35) or shape the stave so that it is about 2 inches thick at the handle, tapering uniformly to 5⁄8 inch thick at the ends (see Figure 6-36). Notch the ends for the bowstring. Repeatedly greasing and heating a carved bow in front of the fire over a period of several days will deter cracking and make it more durable. The best strings are made from sinew (see Chapter 10 on textiles) or rawhide, but you can use any strong string or make your own cordage from animal fur, hair, or plant fibers (see Chapter 4). Rather than twisting extra-thick clusters of plant fibers, stronger bowstrings are made by braiding or twisting together multiple strands of finer cordage to make thicker cordage. When not in use, loosen the bowstring to save the bow’s power. Once a bow has lost its power, throw it away and make another one. A cloth or piece of leather strapped to the inside of your forearm can help prevent chafing from the bowstring.
Any straight wood will do for arrows, but birch and willow sucker branches sprouting from the base of tree trunks work particularly well. Make arrows about ¼ inch in diameter and the length of your arm. Notch one end for the bowstring to catch on (the “nock”). Some type of fletching should be attached about 2 to 3 inches in front of the nock to stabilize the arrow and ensure a reasonably straight and long-distance flight. Split feathers work best for fletching, but paper, cloth, or even split leaves will do. Attach three or four feathers to the shaft. The simplest arrowhead is a sharpened and flame-hardened wooden point. For larger game and more durability, fashion arrowheads from sheet metal, stone, or bone (see Chapter 4 for basic flintknapping). Attach the arrowheads and fletching to the arrow shaft using fine cordage. Wet sinew works best, because it shrinks and sticks to itself as it dries. Seal the binding with boiled pine pitch to prevent unraveling.