HUNTING

How to Make A Bow: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything Archery

Making bow and arrows
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

Since this article aims to give you the basics of how to make a bow, you should first know that the bow and arrow is one of the most basic and primitive weapons there are. Which is why we thought you might need to know the how to’s and why’s of it, especially if you’re into hunting, camping or survival activities.

But we’re not just going to give you a simple tutorial consisting of the few steps for constructing this weapon, since having the bow is one thing, but knowing how to use it is way more difficult.

Understanding The Mechanics

If you understand the basic mechanics and principles of making a simple bow like the ones employed by ancient indigenous people will help you craft a bow of your own when you’re out in the wilderness. So let’s see the features that matter:

Flexibility

Ancient bows could be made from most types of wood as long as they were flexible enough. Bamboo was a personal favorite, but some of them found that animal guts worked even better.

Splitting bamboo for bow

Remember: this if you need a new bow and arrow when you’re out hunting: if you can’t find or chop the proper wood, use the intestines of a small animal you’ve already hunted. You can even follow the example set by the Native Americans when they improved this weapon with glue and tendons, as they found a way to stick sturdy tendons to the backside of their bows.

Strength

Asian indigenous people took things a step ahead and invented composite bows about 5000 years ago. These bows were manufactured with up to five layers of different substances mixed together, and the backside of the bow was strengthened with a few layers of chopped tendons put together with glue. The front side of the bow was also fine-tuned with a mix of glue and animal horns.

In fact, almost everyone thought of adding more strength and durability to their bows, using whatever materials they could find. Peoples from northern Europe found as early as 300 a.d. that they could use wood for this particular purpose, especially if it was a grind of hardwood taken from a chopped down tree. The core is amazing for taking denser wood, much better than the surface of the stem.

Sharpening

The arrows were, as you could probably figure out for yourself, made from wood shafts. Their heads had to be piercing sharp, so our ancestors used only the best materials which could fit this purpose. You most likely won’t find bronze or steel in the wilderness but you can find stuff like hardwood or even bone to make your arrows.

The Benefits Of A Bow And Arrow

Out on a hunting trip and somehow forgot to bring more bullets? Use an improvised bow and arrow to hit your prey.

Benefits of a bow and arrow

Having to survive in a zombie apocalypse and don’t want to attract the attention of your run of the mill zombie horde that’s out for your brains? Use a stealth but efficient bow and arrow.

Need to spend some quality time with your son and teach him some outdoor skills in the process? There’s nothing more fun than target practice with a bow and arrow, plus it has a number of recognized health benefits for:

  • Your arm and core muscles.
  • Balance and stability.
  • Your hand-eye coordination.

See what we mean? But there are also important benefits of choosing a bow and arrow over other weapons when you’re out hunting, for example. Below are several of the main benefits this weapon employs so continue reading if you’re not decided.

Easy to carry

Portability is a decisive factor when it comes to the equipment you’re taking with you on any camping or hunting trip. As such, a bow and arrow don’t weigh very much, and you can easily wear the bow on your shoulder and the arrows in a pouch. You won’t be inconvenienced by them, and you can stash them almost anywhere.

Cheap

A DIY bow and arrow with tools you already have and with stuff you can find lying around in the woods basically costs nothing.

Man with a bow and arrow

But even if you decide to buy one online, you’ll still be paying less than for other weapons.

Versatile

The bow and arrow don’t necessarily have to be used for hunting, target practice or killing walkers – which are already enough arguments to prove our versatility point. But you can make different bows and different arrows using a plethora of materials, and therefore:

  • Improve your DIY skills.
  • Learn new abilities.
  • Teach yourself about historical techniques for constructing bows and arrows from different ages.

Less paperwork

As you well know, there’s been a lot of fuss and debate recently about gun regulations and it only seems that the law will get more and more restrictive by the minute. Besides, you need a lot of paperwork when you’re going hunting with a rifle, so why not simply avoid a bit of annoying bureaucracy by taking your bow and arrow instead?

Stealth

We don’t need to explain this part any further; it’s obvious that using a bow and arrow makes less noise than your average gun.

Better Stealth

This means you can approach your target with fewer chances of being spotted or of attracting the undesired attention of other animals. Do read our piece on the how to choose the best bow string silencers for more information.

Multi-purpose

When it comes to this particular point, imagine all the wonderful uses of the individual parts used to assemble your bow and arrow. For instance:

The shaft used to make the bow is great for:

  • A hand to hand combat weapon.
  • A walking stick.
  • A fishing rod.

The string is good for:

  • Building traps.
  • Hiking activities – if it’s paracord.
  • Trawls.
  • Making a fire.

The arrows also have multiple uses, such as:

  • Acting like mini-spears for fishing.
  • Building a spear-like weapon when you attach them to non-flexible shafts for self-defense.

Making you smarter

Yes, that’s right. Learning how to properly use a bow and arrow is something that will make you smarter in the long run, because it develops new skills and abilities, forcing your brain to coordinate and manage the actions of different body parts. The skills you learn will improve your brain’s plasticity helping you become a better person.

Building A Bow And Arrow: Tutorial

‘Enough chit-chat, tell us how to make a bow and arrow!’ We bet that’s what you’re thinking right now, but you should know that everything we’ve talked about by now is beneficial in regards to figuring out the mechanical principles of building such a weapon. Even knowing its advantages is enough to make you want such a thing in your gear.

Flat bamboo stave for bow making

Making the longbow is the easiest way for you to have your own personal bow, because its design is fairly simple and it’s a DIY project that requires only basic materials and tools. Traditionally, longbows are made of yew or elm woods because they’re pretty sturdy and rather common.

Now, when you’re making a longbow you should take into account that they have to have approximately the same height as you do, in order to aim for up to 320 yards. In the long-forgotten times, archers were able to shoot farther and 4 times faster than crossbow users, so you’re at an advantage once you learn how to make yourself a longbow.

Bow and arrows

For starters, you’ll need the following items mentioned below and you can also watch video instructions:

Materials

  • Flexible wood: 6 inches in circumference; 5 feet in length for the bow.
  • Flexible wood: 3 inches in circumference; 1 feet in length for the arrow.
  • Bowstring made from:
    • Rawhide.
    • Nylon rope.
    • Hemp cord.
    • Fishing line.
  • Knife.
  • Hot coals or another source of heat.
  • A piece of metal or stone for the optional arrow head.
  • Small rock for chipping the arrow head.
  • A bit of cord or rope for securing the arrow head and the fletching.
  • Feathers or streamers for fletching.
  • Optional glue – but you don’t really need this if you have a cord, rope or thread.

Instructions

  1. Chop the wood from a smaller tree. The wood you chop should be dead, hard wood, and not green wood because that doesn’t store enough potential energy. The shaft should be pretty smooth, making sure you don’t have any knots in it and that it’s thicker in the middle. Also, make sure the wood is flexible and strong, without being too thick.
  2. Find the natural curve by putting the bow shaft on the ground, whilst holding one of its extremities in your hand. Press the shaft gently in order to make it swivel. The natural curve of the wood is one of its inherent properties and it’s what will help decide where everything should go.
  3. Figure out where the handhold should be, by finding the center of the bow. Make a couple of marks about 3 inches left and right of it: this is your handhold.
  4. Find the limbs: the upper limb is above the marks made at the previous step, while the lower limb is beneath the marks made at the previous step.
  5. Give shape to the bow by holding its lower tip with your foot and its upper tip in your hand, and then pressing it outwards. This will tell you exactly where the shaft is more flexible.
  6. With the use of your knife, mark the places where the wood is inflexible on the bow’s belly, making sure that the upper limb and lower limb have a similar curvature. The bow should be stronger at the area of its handhold in order for it not to break.
  7. Cut 2 notches at both extremities of the shaft used as a bow with your knife, about 2 inches from the tips. You should start from the extremities and then chip inwards, in the direction of the bow’s belly and then in the direction of the handhold. The notches shouldn’t be made on the back, or very deep.
  8. Get the proper string for your bow, making sure it doesn’t stretch very easily, in order to achieve more potential energy. Also, select a sturdy bowstring that doesn’t break easily so you won’t have to replace it every couple of shots.
  9. Put the string on the bow, by tying a larger loop at its extremities. The string should be shorter than the bow. Make sure the knots are tight and hold in place these loops.
  10. Slip the loops over the upper limb and then over the lower limb.
  11. Place the bow on a tree branch and then pull the string gently in order to tiller your bow. You have successfully done that when you can stretch the string so that your arm is extended completely and the limbs have an identical bend. That completes your bow.

Making the arrows

  1. Give shape to your arrow by chiseling and straightening the stick. Tip: the arrow can be straightened by putting the stick over a source of heat and then keeping it perfectly straight while it cools down.
  2. Make a nock at the back end of your arrow for your bowstring.
  3. Make a sharp, pointy end by carving the front side of your arrow: use your knife for chiseling and then heat it without burning it.
  4. Make the arrow head out of a piece of metal or stone, by chipping it with a small rock and then tying it to the stick. The stick can be notched a bit in order to protrude inside the chip you’ve made on your arrow head.
  5. Make a fletching to improve your game with some feathers you can find. You can use glue to make them stick to the arrow. If you don’t have glue, use your knife to split the arrow and stick them inside it, then secure them with a piece of cord or rope.

How to Shoot Like A Pro

While there are many methods that aim to teach you how to shoot proficiently, we will discuss one of them in particular. This is called instinctive shooting and is incredibly useful for people who don’t want to learn by applying some theoretical steps, but by appropriating a skill through practice.

What you’re doing is teaching your body a move, which it will have to repeat every time you’re shooting at something. Check out our tips for beginners on how to shoot a bow and arrow, it’s a must-read!

Shoot like a pro

So once you’ve checked your equipment, making sure that it’s in top shape, you will have to learn the proper stance:

  • Feet shoulder width apart.
  • Non-dominant leg a bit forward.
  • Grip the bow with your non-dominant hand.
  • The index finger should be pointed at the target once your bow is up. This may seem pretty weird, but rest assured you won’t have to keep your finger like this forever. It’s just until you’ve accommodated with the grip, after which you can let your finger down. Point it up again only if you’ve lost the grip.
  • Keep your finger, wrist and arm in a straight line. This may take you a bit of practice with your DIY longbow, since they need a bit of minute setting.
  • Don’t grip the bow with your palm pressed into its handle. That will bend your wrist, breaking the alignment of your finger, wrist and arm.

That’s the proper stance. Now you can learn how to shoot:

  • Place an arrow under your bow’s nock point.
  • Take a hold of the string with your dominant hand, using the tips of your fingers like this: the index finger above the arrow, the middle finger and ring finger beneath it.
  • Draw the bow by pushing with the non-dominant hand and pulling with the dominant hand. Remember that the dominant hand and the arrow should form a straight line before this point, and try not to shoot if you don’t have an arrow, because that will break your bow.
  • The bow should be drawn so that your middle finger touches one of your mouth’s corners in order to create an anchor point.
  • Shoot the arrows by focusing on the tiniest spot you can find on your target, even after you shot the arrow, because instinctive shooting is equivalent to maintaining focus.

Making And Shooting The Bow – Your Thoughts

Making a bow and arrow isn’t just as easy as chopping down a dead tree branch and tying a cord around it. That may be fine for a kids’ game, but it’s certainly not enough for survival or hunting purposes.

We strongly feel that in order to make full use of your bows and arrows you need to know all the principles for making them, what the advantages are when using them, as well as how to maximize the impact and effectiveness of your shots.

Ready bow

We know it takes a lot of time and patience to master the art of shooting a bow, but so is everything in this world that’s worth having. For great tips on how to make the best hunting bow, read our article on this topic.

Have you made your bow yet? Let us know your experience using it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Harrison
Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.

  • Jason Delgado

    I never knew how much goes into making a bow. I was under the impression that if you had a bendable stick and some string that you could use that. Well that is not the case, it is important that you follow the guidelines that this article covers, otherwise you could hurt yourself.

    • Shawn Harrison

      Thanks for your comment, Jason. These are some of the information we are trying to provide our readers because making a bow is one of the most misunderstood processes in hunting and survival.

  • Justin Banks

    Real fighting or hunting bow is not done in one day. The wood you plan to use, must prepared from the “birth”. Wood for the bow needs to go through many stages of preparation, so that is quite a long process. Thanks to the careful preparation, combat bow, which is done by traditional technology, can last a long time. Of course, that using this guide you can’t make a professional bow for survival, but it can help to make a simple, good and powerful homemade bow.

    • Shawn Harrison

      Indeed, Justin. What some people don’t understand is that the bow itself requires a particular duration to attain a good shape and balance. This is something that cannot be achieved in a single day. Of course, emergency bows can be done in less than an hour, but if you want a long-lasting and accurate bow, it will require skill and days to make one.

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