The modern hunter has come a long way from those of days past. As technology has advanced, we've been able to take advantage of high powered scopes, precision rifles, and perfectly tuned bows. Although this is great for us, it wasn't always this way. Hunters in history have used other options to feed themselves and their families. One of those methods was the atlatl.
Atlatls came to be long before the bow and arrow and have historical ties to much of the world. They are basically a spear with a launching mechanism that allows for a faster, more forceful throw than the human arm alone can produce. Due to the increased leverage it provides, each throw of the atlatl is met with more velocity and thus makes it an effective hunting tool. The atlatl can be thrown with a single hand, allowing freedom to use your other hand as needed. Though throws of 850 feet have been seen, in order to use the atlatl to kill a buck, you're going to need to be much closer than that as hunter Paul Gragg could attest.
Photo: FGCU Pinnacle Magazine
At the Missouri Deer Classic and Outdoor Expo held in 2015, Paul Gragg first came across the atlatl. He was introduced to it by the Missouri Atlatl Association and from then on out, it became his mission to master the atlatl. With his own atlatl purchased, he practiced frequently until confident in his skills. He then set his eyes on whitetail season.
In order to achieve the best chance of a kill, being able to get close to his quarry was essential. To do so, he opted for a 15 yard distance. This became a reality by perching in a 12 foot ladder stand that was positioned over a trail. As he waited from this perch on October 24th, the buck he'd been seeking made an appearance around 3:30 in the afternoon.
As the buck walked beneath him, Gragg got ready to make his throw. So as not to startle the buck with the launching movement of the atlatl, he waited for the buck to be adequately distracted before throwing. The buck provided him with the perfect opportunity as he stopped to groom and just like that the atlatl was cast. The dart, outfitted with a two bladed broadhead, hit its mark.
The dart itself was found to be embedded 11 inches into the deer after contacting his body just behind the shoulder. When the buck fled, the excess dart snapped off, but the damage was already done. Though the deer did not go down immediately, he was only able to cover about 40 yards of distance before collapsing and dying.
The buck in question was impressive, touting a 15 point rack. Regarding the animal, Paul Gragg had the following to say to Wide Open Spaces:
"I've killed lots of big bucks before, so I didn't get too worked up when he was in front of me. It wasn't until I'd actually hit him and he went down that I got the shakes and got excited."
Though this particular buck was not the first atlatl kill in Missouri, it is the biggest as of now. Paul Gragg did encounter some doubt at the hands of hunting buddies when he set out on his atlatl journey, but it is safe to say he proved those doubters wrong. Moving forward, he intends to continue using the atlatl in his hunts in hopes of more hunting accomplishments to come.
Have you ever used an atlatl? Would you consider adding one to your whitetail hunting arsenal? Let us know in the comments.