• Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

You can use an atlatl to hunt deer in Missouri. Here’s how they work.

ByMary M. Ward

Sep 22, 2022
  • Atlatls date back nearly 20,000 years
  • Missouri hunters have been allowed to use the old tool since 2010
  • Instincts can trigger when throwing a dart using an atlatl

The atlatl isn’t just a fun word to say, it’s a tool that predates the bow and arrow.

pronounced aht-laht-lThe atlatl is an ancient tool for throwing spear-shaped darts that has been around for thousands of years, according to the National Park Service. Evidence has shown that atlatls were used to hunt mastodons and other large mammals.

“It is not known in which part of the world the atlatl was first developed, but they were used by ancient hunters around the world, including here in North America,” according to the conservation department. from Missouri.

An introductory atlatl course was held in September at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery in Branson for people to learn more about using an atlatl. The class teacher was conservation educator Jordan Poe.

Atlatls were handy for hunting before modern times because they were easy to carry and you could throw them farther than just a hand spear, Poe said at the start of the course.

“It works completely differently than a bow and arrow,” Poe said, except that darts and arrows are fletched or have feathers on the back.

The ancient tool has been found on every continent except Antarctica and Africa.

“Now Africa, they believe they could have been used there, they just haven’t found any remains,” Poe said. “The Aztecs were still using them when they first encountered the Spaniards, so you know there were Spaniards who got darts thrown at them.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation hosted a

Poe learned to use atlatls from Dawn Wagner, who was the first modern woman in Missouri to take a deer with an ancient hunting tool in 2017. The MDC legalized the use of atlatls for hunting in 2010.

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An atlatl ‘acts like an extension of your arm’

Atlatls are not toys, Poe pointed out. They are a dart thrower.

When you load your atlatl with a dart, the throw can be instinctive.

“Like throwing a ball or firing a gun or lining up sights, and as long as everything is still while you’re pulling the trigger, there’s a lot of movement to throw it,” Poe said. “It’s something to feel and practice.”

Missouri Department of Conservation educator Jordan Poe talks about the history of atlatls during a class

Poe later said it could be similar to casting a fishing rod. You need to start a little higher with your throwing arm than you think and follow the throw completely.

“Essentially, (an atlatl) acts like an extension of your arm,” Poe said.

The back of the darts has a dimple that you line up with the spur of the atlatl.

“You throw that dart, and with that forward momentum, it stays on that spot until you hit the target,” Poe said. “So that extra leverage allows these darts to be thrown much farther and much faster than your typical hand-held thrower.”

Frederick Prohm, 12, uses an atlatl during a lesson

Depending on your height, you’ll want to use a dart about a foot taller than you for better accuracy, Poe said.

“The longer the atlatl, the more leverage you get and the more you can throw, but the harder it is to throw,” Poe said.

Atlatls can be made from different materials and there are outfitters that make them that you can buy, such as Atlatl Thunderbird.

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Matt Prohm of St. Robert uses an atlatl during a 'Primitive Skills: Intro to Atlatl' class Sept. 17, 2022, at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery in Branson.

Atlatls are legal to use for deer hunting during the archery and alternate methods portion of Missouri deer season. The archery season is from September 15 to November 11 and from November 23 to January 15, 2023, and the alternative methods part is from December 24 to January 3, 2023.

Sara Karnes is an outdoor reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow his adventures on Twitter and instagram @Sara_Karnes. Do you have a story to tell? Email him at [email protected]