Using a Bow for Hunting and Self Defense

Dies the Fire - S.M. SterlingIn the post-apocalyptic series “Dies the Fire,” (by S.M. Sterling) a mysterious white flash instantaneously sends the world back into the stone ages. The electricity is gone, gunpowder no longer works, and people quickly begin to fashion swords and bows for hunting and self-defense. Eventually, Medieval-type fiefdoms emerge as well as war. The ability to make a bow quickly became an incredible asset.

Now, while it is unlikely that gunpowder will stop working — thus making a transition to swords and bows necessary — I would still like to examine the advantages and disadvantages of using a bow for subsistence hunting as well as for self-defense.

The History of Bows

Bows have been around for centuries and used by militaries all over the world. Cave drawings and paintings depict them from ancient times. There is even evidence that they pre-date recorded history.

Bows were a primary weapon of warfare until the widespread adoption of gun power in the 16th century. However, there are reports that the Kisii and Kipsigis tribes in Sub-Saharan Africa still use them in warfare today.

Bow hunting has also been a part of human history for thousands of years. Furthermore, new Movies like the Hunger Games and shows like the Walking Dead have fueled the imagination of many young people and inspired them to have an interest in archery.

But do these shows, and people’s perception of using a bow accurately reflect reality. Are they useful as a weapon and for hunting today?

First, let’s take a look at the different types.

The Longbow

The first to enter the scene is the longbow. The longbow is straightforward and pure in design, with just an arc and string connecting two points as depicted in the picture below.

The Longbow

The Recurve Bow

Next is the recurve bow or just recurve. This bow is very similar to the longbow but has some modifications. The ends of the recurve are curved out so as to make an s or serpentine look to them. This enhancement to the longbow shortened the overall height while maintaining the power and force of the weapon. This design became popular because of the versatile advantages of a smaller weapon.

The Recurve Bow

The Compound Bow

Then came the compound. The youngest and most complex of bows is the compound. This bow is designed to allow ease of aiming. Most have a pulley and cam system that allows let-off poundage so the archer can hold the arrow in the bow more precisely.

So after that quick history, let’s talk about the practicality and use of a bow and arrow.

NOTE: As a bowhunter, I prefer the compound bow. I love the customization and capabilities it provides. Compound bows are much easier to shoot with sights, and arrow rests and other gadgets that make shooting more fun.

The Compound Bow

Effectiveness for Hunting and Self Defense



Unlike a firearm, using a bow will not alert those in your vicinity to your activity. The “stealth factor” is a major benefit.


Bows provide the ability to reuse “ammunition.” With a bow, you can use your arrows over and over and over again, while with a rifle you must purchase or reload ammo every time.


Don’t get me wrong; the initial startup fee can be expensive if you buy everything brand new. However, the cost to own and use a bow are significantly cheaper than that of a rifle. (Considering you don’t lose your arrows, or shoot your fletching)


Effective Range

While bows are considerably quieter than rifles or handguns, the lethal range is significantly less. Taking a shot at an animal that is more than forty yards away is not best. Not because a bow can’t shoot that far, but because the possibility of only injuring the animal is considered inhumane. That said, a good compound bow can be used to take the big game such as bear and elk.

Learning Curve

Can anyone use a bow effectively right away? Well, like with anything in life you are going to need to practice. Practice, practice, practice before trying to take big game.

Also, consider the poundage and let off of your bow before you purchase. Many state regulations require certain poundage to hunt with one legally, and some don’t allow certain percentages of let off as well.

In conclusion, if you are considering using a bow to hunt — do it now! It is critical to sharpening your bow hunting skills and prove that you can sufficiently rely upon it for subsistence. Merely having a bow tucked away in your closet, without the knowledge and skill to use it will be useless in time of need.

Also, I encourage you to learn how to fletch your arrows and glue in inserts. Having this knowledge will save money and ensure that you can make repairs in a time of need.

Also, consider learning how to craft bows. Bowmaking could prove to be an invaluable skill if Sterling’s white flash ever occurs.

Keep on shooting my friends!

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