Making a hunting bow and arrow for a survival emergency

Have you ever imagined how you would survive if you got lost in the woods? Do you know how to make a hunting bow or traps to help you catch food? Do you know how to process the food you catch? The wilderness is all fun and games until you’re left with nothing but your skills to survive.

So, what do you think? Do you want to learn how to put together the tool that might save your life someday? If yes, continue reading and, our recommendation is to try this at home before putting your skills to the test in the woods. Practice makes perfect so don’t be shy about it!

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. This 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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.

Step-by-step Tutorial to Making A Hunting Bow

Initially, the task may seem difficult but you shouldn’t take after appearances. It is a lot easier than what you make of it! You do not have to be an expert with bows or even wood. All you need is a set of tools to begin your construction and the work will proceed smoothly.

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


  • 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.

Here are the steps to be followed in order to treat yourself with that exquisite hunting bow!

Step 1: Choosing the wood

This is one of the most important steps in the whole process. The material used for the hunting bow can make or break the tool. So, one must choose the wood carefully.

Choosing the wood

In general, there are four major types of wood available for the bow. These include yew, bamboo, willow and lemon. Each of these types can work well for your gear, but you must keep a few things in mind before making a choice.

  • It is essential to choose a piece of hardwood that is dry and dead. All the four types of wood mentioned above could work to your advantage here.
  • The ideal length for it should be 1.8 meters or roughly 6 feet.
  • Wood that is free from knots and twists would be the ideal choice.
  • If the branch of wood is thicker towards its central portion, your work is made easier.
  • The wood chosen should be somewhat flexible that would help you work around it easily.

Important tip: It is best to avoid green wood since it does not have the same power as dry and dead wood.

And what would you require with the wood? A sharp knife! Make sure you sharpen it before you start building the bow.

Step 2: The natural curve

When you are making your own hunting bow, you would want to have something that is strong and durable and not a product that snaps after the first use. For this, you have to understand how the piece of chosen wood works. In this scenario, it is essential that you identify the natural curve of the wood and make your carvings likewise.

The natural curve

For this purpose, place the stick on the ground with one hand placing it in its position. Using the other hand, you could press against the central portion such that the piece rearranges itself to make its natural belly face you. Voila! You have successfully identified the natural curve of the wood.

Step 3: Shaping the bow

The next important step includes carving the wooden piece in order to give your bow a shape. How do you go about it? The trick here is to cut the wooden piece in the shape of a boomerang. The central portion should be large and broadly cut in comparison with the ends. To give you an idea of the measurements, let us provide an example.

Shaping the bow

If the central part of your bow is about 1 inch thick, the sides should be ¾ inches thick. This will give your bow sufficient support. Apart from that, it will be sturdy and will help the arrows out with a lot of speed. Identifying the handhold and the limbs is essential to the shaping process.

Target the center point of the bow. Anything within 3 inches above or below the point forms the handhold and the portion outside forms the limbs. Make sure to carve the wooden piece right from the belly such that there is no unnecessary and excess pressure exerted.

Any wrong movement or pressure here could break the whole construction. The limbs should be very flexible and should form mirror images of each other in order to ensure stability.

Video instructions you can check below:

Step 4: Choosing the bow string

Now that the basic structure of the bow has been made, the next step includes making the bow string. How does it work? It is essential to remember one thing here. The bow string needs to be flexible. The main support is provided by the wooden framework; this is what gives the power.

Choosing the bow string

Hence, in these situations, you need to have a rather stretchy string that can work around the commands of the hunter. Now, you might encounter a number of different materials for making your string. Choosing the right one is essential here in order to get the desired strength. Here are some options you could choose from:

  • Rawhide
  • Kevlar
  • Dacron
  • Thin nylon rope
  • Hemp cord
  • Fishing line
  • Cotton or silk from caterpillars
  • Ordinary twine threads

Once the string for the bow has been chosen, the next task ahead of you is to make the string durable and tight. For this, it is best to wax it and make it fit for different situations such that it does not get worn out due to repeated usage. Your string must look strong and durable. A weak and flappy string might not bring your good results for your hunting trips.

Step 5: Stringing the bow

Choosing the string of the bow is an important aspect of the whole process, but your work doesn’t end there. After making a strong and stretchy string, the next process involves attaching it to the bow. How do you do it?

Stringing the bow

You have to cut notches on the wooden piece. Use your knife to make these cuts towards the sides and curve closer to the belly and further into the handhold. Finally, you should have a set of two notches made on the edges of the bow. Ideally, 1 to 2 inches from each end of the bow, there should be a notch.

This is where the string will be attached to complete the bow. Making the notches is an important task. It has to be just the right depth such that you do not reduce the strength and capacity of the wooden bow. They should be just enough to hold the strings in place.

Next, tie a loose loop with a strong knot on both ends of the string. Thereafter, gradually slip it over the lower limb and then the upper limb of the arrow. This takes care of the attachment of the string to the bow. Also, make sure that the length of the string is shorter than the length of the un-flexed bow. This ensures that the bow and string arrangement is tight and stable.

With that, now you are the proud owner of your very own hunting bow! The essentials are to have a strong support base with a sturdy wood and a flexible yet strong string. But what good is a bow without an arrow?  Hence, for the next step, we move on to making the arrow for your bow!

Making The Arrow

The hunting arrows should be done very carefully. They need to be strong such that they can withstand the pressure from the bow and also hard enough to hit your prey successfully. They should be long sticks that can fly from the bow, but not excessively long such that they break during their mid-air flight.

One of the two ends of the arrow will have an arrowhead. What about the other end? Well, you could attach some features to give it the best flying experience.

Making The Arrow

Things you need to make your arrow: String; 30” tall straight wood sprigs; Knife and feathers.

Step 1: Choosing the right material

When you are trying to build your arrow, the first thing you need to be cautious about is the material you are using for this purpose. As you know, most of these arrows are made from trees, so here you will first need to choose the right trees. For starters, it is worth mentioning that you can use almost all kinds of trees for getting the perfect wood to make your arrows. But the woods that you try to get should be the ones which are preferably dead and dry.

Another type of wood which is also known to produce decent arrows is the ones which are a little slippery. One thing you have to remember is that the sticks you choose for this purpose should be straight in shape. You can also check out our reviews of the best hunting bows so you’ll know the best features to look out for.

Here you will find green wood to be extremely useful but you need to make sure that it is completely dry (you could put it over a fire in order for it to dry). The reason for this is that the sap which comes from the wood has a tendency to spontaneously ignite.

Right material for making arrows

Moreover, the green wood has a habit of splitting which is why putting shellac on the wood from the onset would be a wise thing to do. It is always advisable to find strong wood, which is why wood from trees like Mullen and goldenrod work best here. Another reason for using these plants is that they are easily available as they can be found in open fields.

Step 2:  Shaping the arrow

Ideally, your arrow should be either half the length of your bow or should be equal to the length of the pullback of the bow.

Always remember, the arrows you make should be good enough to be pulled back as much as the bow allows.

Shaping the arrow

The first thing you need to do when you are shaping the arrow is to properly carve it along the circumference of the arrow. Now for this purpose, it would be recommended that you choose the cleanest and straightest side of the tree you can cut down for this purpose.

See also: Best Beginner Recurve Bow: How to Make The Right Choice

The dimensions you need for a standard arrow should be around 16 to 18 inches in diameter with a length of 6-7 feet. If you are using a slippery wood for making your arrows, keep either the limb wide or simply make the width 1 ¾ .

In order to shape the arrow properly, you will need to get rid of any excess wood.

Important tip: If the wood is not getting straightened even after carving and shaping, then there is one clever method to do so. Here you will need to carefully heat the shaft of the arrow on top of two hot coals.

As soon as you are done straightening your arrow, you will have to further carve out a small area at the end of the arrow. This is where you place the bow string and this is known as the nock.

Step 3: Sharpening the arrow

The real weapon in the hunting world is the arrow which pierces through the body of your prey; so, sharpening it would be a good idea. In order to do so, you can create the simplest arrowhead possible and this will be placed at the front end of the arrow.

Sharpening the arrow

You can easily sharpen this arrowhead with a knife in order to give it a pointy shape and finish it off by placing it on top of two hot coals like you did in the previous step. Here, you will have to be extra careful about not burning the wood as it will destroy the arrowhead and render it useless.

Step 4: Fletching

It is true that not all arrows have fletching but if you want better flight capabilities for your arrow then you should consider doing this. In order to make fletching for your arrows, you will need some feathers which you will attach at the base of the arrow with glue (or resin).

Another way of attaching fletching to your arrows is by splitting the base of the arrows minutely. You can put in the feathers and then keep them there by tying them tightly with the help of a thread which should be really thin.

Make arrow Fletching

If you are opting for this particular method, you will be able to use any material for fletching and your options will not be restricted to feathers. What fletching does is help the arrow reach its intended target with absolute accuracy.  They basically glide the arrow through the air which also works towards improving their range. This means that they can travel a longer distance with relative ease.

Step 5: Making the feather

Since we are talking about hunting arrows, the feathers integrated into the arrows are of great importance. These feathers help the arrow reach the target accurately; so understanding these will work to your advantage. These feathers not only help the arrow to reach the target but do it at high speed, hence increases the agility.

The best kind of feathers you can use here are bird feathers as they have a natural tendency to glide through the wind. The feathers used here are cut in triangular shape and are spaced on the arrow evenly.

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.

Are You Ready to Go Out And Experiment?

Once that is done, you are all set to start on your new hunting expedition. Bow hunting is a lot different from gun hunting and a lot more exciting as well. However, it is essential to master the techniques of bow hunting before you approach the prey with a weapon as silent as this. For your experiments, keep in mind to have the right stance, grip, and target. Only a good hunter can appreciate the value of a sturdy hunting bow.

Ready for use

So, as you can see, making a bow is not as difficult as you thought it to be. With a few tools that any outdoor enthusiast should carry, you can actually make a sturdy hunting bow, right in your own backyard.  Of course, the first time might be a little untidy, but we assure you that the second time is going to be a charm!

While it is always a shorter route to go to the store and get a new gun for the hunting experience, having your own hunting bow makes the whole process a lot more personal and you will get to learn a valuable skill.

Just make sure that you make the right decision when choosing the wood for the bow, the string with the right strength and power and a strong arrow to increase your chances out there in the field. Precise cuts on the wood will bring you luck for your hunting trips.

For more information and tips on how to make a DIY bow for your archery needs, check out our article on this topic.

Once you are ready with your all-powerful weapon, it is time to set out for testing your skills and encouraging your passion for hunting. Do you have any tricks to make strong and durable hunting bows? Do share your ideas with us in the comments!


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.


  • In order to eliminate the discomfort when letting off arrows, the string may injure the hand and spoil the boom, because of the intricacies, it is necessary to add an additional layer of string, which will reduce the pressure on the boom and on the arm of the man who shoots.
    In the wild, the bowstring can be made from tree bark, fabrics, plants and other scrap materials. You will act relying on the resources that you possess.

    • Adding another layer of string is a very practical solution to avoid hand and finger injuries – a problem often encountered by amateur and even experienced archers. It reduces friction and makes shooting smoother and less abrasive.

  • For hunting large animals, you can use modern arrows from fiberglass or carbon fiber. They are very durable, have a “correct” center of gravity.
    The plumage of the sports arrows is shorter than that of hunting. Arrows for hunting you need to be quickly stabilized in the air. The length of arrows from fourteen to nineteen inches and they weight about 1.4oz (forty grams).

    • Fiberglass and Carbon Fiber arrows are also known to be more reusable than traditional arrows thanks to the strength of the materials to support their strong piercing power.