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  • Give the Gift of Gear: For Hunters

    Give the Gift of Gear for Hunters

    Deck the halls and hark the heralds! It's our favorite time of the year over here, and our little preparedness elves have been very busy brainstorming gifts for everyone on your list—the naughty and the nice. And the prepper. And the canner. And the gardener, the gadget-mad, and the outdoor guru. In fact, no matter who you're buying for, you'll find something perfect in our 2014 Holiday Gift Guide.

    But just to make it even easier (because we're helpful like that), over the next few days we'll be writing about some of our favorite gifts by the unique and distinctive interests of the people you love. And to start, we present…

    Best Holiday Shots for the Hunter in Your Life

    Under $25: Make sure that his or her stocking is full of something other than cold, wet toes. We can't imagine anything more welcome in a frigid duck blind than an armful of hand and body warmers. Lasting up to 18 hours (“Just ten more minutes—I swear I heard a rustle in those reeds!”), these neatly-sized little packs can be slipped into pockets, gloves, boots, and just about anywhere else that might need heating up.

    And speaking of pocket-sized presents, these 400-calorie Millennium Food Bars could keep a hunting party going on even the most elusive trail, and the 9-bar combo pack is on sale for the holidays. So is this High Uinta Gear 13-function utility knife—a must-have for anything from dislodging jammed shells to changing the spark plugs on the four-wheeler.

    Under $50: We can think of lots of great things in this price range for the hunter on your gift list—everything from the SOL Origin survival pack to these Mountain House just-add-hot-water, cook-in-the-bag meal kits. But let's not beat around the bush: the most crucial and most appreciated gift under the tree will be the Black Pine Turbo Toilet. Lightweight, high capacity, and available in (wait for it…) camouflage, this is the item that will have the relieved hunter in your life singing your praises.

    Under $100: Chances are, if you're moving up the price scale, you're dealing with someone particularly special to you. Someone whose well-being you care about. Someone who would make you sad if he came home with his foot impaled on a chopstick-sized splinter. Prevent heartache and ER bills by giving the gift of safety. This Medic’s First Aid Kit comes with 175+ paramedic-grade supplies, including a wilderness medicine book for all those, um, specialized injuries.

    Over $100: Really need to impress? Give the gift that keeps on giving. Let your hunter turn his fantastic kills into tasty jerky year after year with the Excalibur Deluxe 9-Tray Dehydrator. And then, when deer season is over, you can sneak it out and make fruit leather and sun dried tomatoes. Seriously, it’s a win-win.

    Any other great ideas for the hunter in your life? We’d love to hear them! And don’t forget to tune in again soon for our elves’ handy suggestions for the other giftees on your list!


  • DIY Bow and Arrow


    Once a weapon of myths and legends, the bow and arrow can now be found in any sporting goods or outdoors store for bow hunting enthusiasts . . . And while there is a large selection of bows and arrows to choose from, have you ever wondered what it’d be like to make your own handcrafted bow?

    In a survival situation, knowing how to make your own bow and arrow could help you get food to feed yourself and your family—if you run out of MREs and Mountain House pouches and have to hunt. Also, if you know how to make a bow and arrow, you’ll have a back-up if yours breaks or you can’t take it with you when you evacuate. Knowing how to make a bow and arrow will make you more self-sufficient.

    So let’s put another notch in your survival tool belt. Here’s a basic how-to that will help you make a hunt-worthy bow and arrow set.

    Survival Bow Instructions

    The folks at Wildernesscollege.com came up with, what they call a “quickie” bow tutorial for beginning bow crafters. The reason why it’s called a “quickie” is because it is “made at the time the wood is harvested instead of waiting a year plus for the wood to cure (as is typical for regular bow construction.)”  The advantage is that this is ready to use right away (for survival situations); the down side is that it  may crack or break as it dries out.

    1.      Choosing Wood

    Some of the best woods for making bows include osage orange, yew, ash, black locust, and hickory, though most hardwoods can work (oak, maple, beech). Find a relatively straight 5 foot long (1.5-2 inches in diameter) section of sapling or branch that is free of knots, side branches, and twists. Cut this carefully so not to crack or split the wood.

    2.     Finding the Belly, Back, Handhold, and Limbs

    Stand the stave (the limb you just cut) on the ground and hold loosely with one hand, then push outward lightly on the middle of the bow. The stave will swivel to show you which way it is slightly curved. The outside is the “back” and the inside is the “belly.” Do not touch the back, as it receives most of the tension and damage can cause the bow to break.

     DIY Bow and Arrow

    Photo Courtesy of Wildernesscollege.com

    Find the middle and mark out your handhold area (3 inches from the center in both directions). The area above the handhold is the upper limb; the area below is the lower limb.

    3.     Shaping

    Put the bottom tip on your foot and hold the top tip while pushing outward from the belly (only push a few inches). Look at how the limbs bend and observe the areas that do not. Remove wood from the belly of the limbs where they do not bend and leave material where the limb bends a lot (DO NOT REMOVE WOOD FROM THE BACK!). The goal is to get the limbs to bend evenly. Remove material slowly and recheck frequently. The handhold and tips should remain straight or have very little bend.


    4.     Notches for the Bow String

    Once you have achieved even flex throughout the length of the limbs, you can carve small notches on both sides of each tip, being careful not to carve into the back of the bow.  They don’t need to be very deep, only enough to keep a string in place. Tie the bow string on (nylon, sinew, or plant fiber) so there is about 5 to 6 inches between the string and the handhold when the bow is strung. Do not pull back on the string yet.

    DIY Bow and Arrow Photo Courtesy of Wildernesscollege.com

     5.     Tillering

    This is the most time intensive part. Hang the bow horizontally on a branch or piece of scrap wood by the handhold. Pull down on the string a few inches and observe how the limbs bend. The limbs should mirror each other. If they do not bend evenly, continue shaping until evenness is achieved. Continue pulling down on the string until you are able to pull it to your draw length with the limbs being even (Your draw length is determined by holding the bow and pulling the string to your upper jaw).

    DIY Bow and Arrow Photo Courtesy of Wildernesscollege.com

     You also need to have a draw weight. 25-35 pounds is for small game, 40-60 pounds is for larger animals. Test draw weight by placing a five foot 2x4 piece of lumber vertically on a scale, balance the how on it horizontally (forms a T shape with the handhold resting on the lumber) and pull down on the string to the full draw length. The scale registers the draw weight.


    DIY Bow and Arrow Photo Courtesy of Wildernesscollege.com

    6.     Finishing

    You can now use the bow as-is. Do not fire the bow without an arrow. If you want to finish your bow, you can sand the belly smooth and oil it to prevent it from drying out too quickly. You can continually adjust the tiller and oil as necessary.


    Arrow Instructions

    Finished arrows need to be lightweight, yet strong. They also need to be straight, well-fletched (has about 3-5 feathers or other materials at the end to help them “fly”), have the right spine (rigidity), and be the right length for your bow. This arrow tutorial was found at Survival.Outdoorlife.com.


    photo courtesy of Survival.Outdoorlife.com

    Collect branches and straight saplings that are at least 30 inches long and have a diameter between 3/8 and ½ inch. Trim off side branches (or find some without side branches).

    Remember that the extra water of green wood will make the shaft heavier (unless you dry the wood for a couple months). Peel off the bark carefully and carve off any knots or branches. Straighten crooked spots by heating them for 30 seconds over an open flame, bend it a little beyond straight and hold until it cools.

    Cut a notch about ¼ inch deep into the end of the shaft (to attach to the bowstring while shooting). Be careful not to split the arrow. Cut a similar one in the head to receive a stone or metal arrowhead. Make a metal head by grinding and filing thin, flat steel pieces. Stone or glass can be chipped into an arrowhead. Add glue to the notch, insert the arrowhead, and wrap with twine or other fibers. Seal with more glue.

    DIY Bow and Arrow

    Photo courtesy of Sensible Survival Blog

    Fletch the arrow by gathering and splitting bird wing or tail feathers in half (they need to all be from the same side of the bird). Shorten to 4-5 inches and 1/2 inch wide. Space equally around the arrow and glue. Secure with the same cord used on the arrowhead (you can substitute duct tape for feathers in a bind).

    DIY Bow and Arrow

    Photo Courtesy of Primitiveways.com


    There you have it! Bow and arrows. Have you made some before? What are your tips for making or shooting?


    Additional Tips and Sources

    Survival Mastery: Bow and Arrow

    Field and Stream: Bow and Arrow

  • How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow

    Shooting bows and arrows at my great-grandpa’s house was one of my favorite pastimes as a child. There are few things as satisfying as seeing your arrow hit its mark! On the one hand, shooting a bow and arrow feels quite natural and can be somewhat self-explanatory. On the other hand, there are many things you can do to improve your accuracy. Here are the basics for proper form.


    How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow—the Basics

    Archery is a fun hobby and competitive sport, but it also has a much more practical side in terms of emergency preparedness: the ability to take game to feed yourself and your family. Your shooting form and accuracy play a large role in helping you get food, so it’s important to learn proper form and to practice it now before an emergency hits.


    How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow

    Stance: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Angle yourself so that once you draw the bow, you will be able to aim comfortably at the target. If you are right handed and right eye dominant, you will be holding the bow in your left hand and the arrow/string with your right hand (and vice versa for lefties/left eye dominant; those who are cross dominant typically choose to use the hand that will allow their dominant eye to aim).

    Nock the arrow: Attach the arrow to the string by placing the indentation in the back of the arrow over the string. Hold the arrow on the string between your index finger and the 2 or 3 lower fingers of your hand according to preference.


     How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow


    Draw and Aim: Hold the bow at the handle and raise it to shoulder level, looking over your front shoulder at the target. Your bow arm should be straight, but don’t lock your elbow. Hold your forearm so that if you were to bend your elbow, it would bend to the side, rather than up or down. Holding the bow in this manner will help keep the string from zapping your forearm when you release the arrow (you may also want to invest in an arm guard, which will give you extra protection—even the pros use them).

    While lifting the bow, draw the string back fluidly. You should “anchor” your aim each time by touching the string to the same part of your face, usually the side of your chin, just before the corner of the mouth, on the same side of your face as your hand drawing the string (or draw hand). Aim the arrow at the target by focusing your eyes on the target as you look down the shaft of the arrow (most bows will come with devices that will help you aim).




    Release and follow through: Tighten your back muscles to pull back a bit more on the string and then relax the draw hand to release the string. Your elbow should pull backwards naturally as you do so. During this process, keep your bow arm up and your head looking at the target. Your draw hand will ultimately end up over your rear shoulder.

    And hopefully you’ve hit your target. Now go have some fun and get some practice!

    Check out our article “DIY Bow and Arrow” for tips and tricks for crafting a bow and arrow for a survival situation.


    Have you shot a bow and arrow? What was your first experience like?





    Archery: The Ultimate Resource for Recurve and Compound Archers, USA Archery, Editor, 2013.

    Archery-Second Edition: Steps to Success, by Kathleen M. Haywood and Catherine F. Lewis, 1997.



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