Cory here. Go read this story in the U.S. section of The New York Times today about hunting with the atlatl.
Brief interviews therein with Arron Hendershott (Missouri Deparment of Conservation), Ron Mertz (Missouri Atlatl Association), John Whittaker (anthropologist at Grinnell College), Gene Morris (museum curator in Alabama), and Ray Madden (somehow killed a squirrel with an atlatl) target the issues of hunting with the atlatl and the possible heritage of spear dart throwing. We’ve pondered atlatl hunting on this blog before. Funny headline too. I’m not sure what “heritage” there is to atlatlism either. But, sadly, Malcolm Gay didn’t provide much description of atlatling as a sport of accuracy or sculpting craft. Those are the biggies for us, at least.
Oh well, maybe next time! Dear pioneers of journalism — we’re happy to provide high-resolution images and rambling interviews. Just let us know.
So, the other day I saw this video in a forum thread titled “Seven-Year-Old Takes Deer with Atlatl!”
As my Dad (Ray — the owner of this site) used to be a hunter when I was kid but stopped long before he started atlatling, I thought I’d ask him about the video and what he, as an atlatlist, feels primitive weapons hunting policies should consider.
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CORY: Have you seen this video? What do you think of it?
RAY: I have seen this video. As far as I know, it’s real. But I can’t imagine that the seven-year-old threw a dart hard enough to clean-kill the deer. Maybe Dad delivered the coup de grace. I didn’t see.
What do you think about it?
CORY: I think it raises some issues — like “should children be allowed to hunt?” and “should people be allowed to hunt with atlatls?” and “is one method of hunting more humane than another?” You’re an experienced hunter and atlatlist but you’ve never hunted with an atlatl, right? Do you think hunting with an atlatl is humane or no?
RAY: When talking about hunting with the atlatl, I have always suggested that perhaps states should use the ISAC as a test for who can get a license to hunt deer with an atlatl. Anyone scoring above 70, fine. Below, no.
CORY: Do states test gun hunters?
RAY: It’s been a while since I hunted but I believe licensing requires the hunter to pass “safety classes” in a number of states, if not all states. Do those classes feature discourses on humanity? I’m going to guess ‘probably not’ but I don’t know.
CORY: So, do you think hunting with the atlatl should be legal, in Ohio for example?
RAY: Yes, I think hunting with the atlatl should be legal in Ohio. I think the state should use either the World Atlatl Association’s ISAC (70 or better) or the Ohio Atlatl Association’s Ohio Standard Accuracy (100 or better) as the testing means. Both are posted on the Internet.
CORY: Why do you suggest an accuracy test?
RAY: 1) Because an inaccurate atlatlist is more likely to make a sloppy kill. 2) Because such cooperation between atlatl organizations and the state departments in charge of hunting would be good for the organizations’ growth. More people (hunters) would attend ataltl events just to get their scores recorded. And 3) … Because accuracy is good for the sport and good for the sportsman.
CORY: Do you think hunters would go for an accuracy test?
RAY: I can understand why hunters would prefer not to have to prove they can hit the broad side of a barn with an atlatl dart. Does that answer your question?
CORY: You’re concerned about the hunter’s ability to clean-kill. Is accuracy enough? Does the atlatl dart hit hard enough?
RAY: Well, if it’s all about “penetration” and clean kills and whether or not the atlatl has enough power or causes undue suffering for the deer, I have personally seen gun hunters blast away with multiple shots from high-powered rifles, shotguns, and pistols at everything from fully grown deer to Bambi babies, only wounding the poor things. And I think Bob Berg has proven the penetration power of the atlatl with his numerous boar hunts in which his darts pass through and stick out a foot on the opposite side of the boar.
However, if you’re getting back to the question of “should a seven-year-old hunt deer with an atlatl?” … I don’t know. I’m not even sure where it’s legal for a child that young to hunt, period.
CORY: What about frogs and fish?
RAY: People already hunt frogs with frog gigs. It is not much of a stretch to launch the pole with the atlatl. And it’s also legal to hunt fish with bow and tethered arrow. According to my reading of Ohio Fish Laws, “trash fish” (carp) can be hunted with just about anything. The atlatl was used for fish hunting along the coasts of North and South America for 1000s of years. It is already a proven equipment for that purpose. However, I would not limit atlatl hunting to fish or frogs.
CORY: Do you think gun and bow hunters should look into the atlatl?
RAY: Yes, give the atlatl a try in a target range, competition setting. If you like it, lobby for its inclusion in the primitive weapons season. The myth that atlatls would steal deer from archers is insane. Cars kill more deer every year than the number of people attending atlatl events. I estimate that less than 20 percent of atlatlists would hunt anything anyway because most atlatlists are attracted to the atlatl because of its cultural history, not its thrill of the kill.
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Anyhow, I’m Cory. I help my dad run this site and I like atlatls for sport but I’m not into hunting. I’m not anti-hunting or anti-gun or anti-weapon but I don’t hunt and I don’t recommend people seek out atlatling as a new venue for killing animals. However, I would like gun and bow hunters to learn more about the atlatl. The more popular it gets, the more people are going to try it out — as seen in the video. I would prefer that their be a legitimate set of rules and testing established state by state to make sure people know how to do it efficiently.