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Spear a Deer

Atlatl_1  Like a good keg party, leave it to the authorities to end a fun time. Pennsylvania hunters had proposed allowing the atlatl to be used during big game hunts. According to a recommendation from the state’s Game Commission, the atlatl isn’t lethal enough to drop a deer in the hands of an “average hunter.”

Are the staffers crazy? Not lethal enough? Last time I checked my caveman history, our hairy, loincloth-laden cousins were taking down mastodons with darts. But maybe the 6-ton wooly mammoth had a soft hide, compared to the thick skin of a whitetail? Hey, I’m trying here. If every state in the union is complaining about an outrageous deer surplus and you’ve got a few guys that want to don bear skins and take to the woods equipped with a spear, at least give them a chance. A deer that falls in the woods, is one less that’s going to play Frogger with cars on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

A little background: The atlatl is considered the oldest modern weapon. It consists of a wooden handle and a dart. The handle helps increase velocity when propelling the dart, which can travel as fast as 80 mph. Historians suspect usage in Pennsylvania goes back at least 8,000 years. 

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Where in the heck would one buy an atlatl? I don't think they sell those at Bass Pro...


You can probably get them custom made, or maybe the Boy Scouts will create a merit badge requirement.

Jeff Drenning

I'm not big on this idea, I mean, how many hunter's have ever seen an atlatl much less be skilled enough to harvest a deer. Maybe there could be some kind of registration class with the DNR before the hunter is licensed to hunt with one, but thats pretty far out there.


I think the more you have the DNR regulate types of hunting with prerequisite classes, extra licenses and so on, the fewer hunters you will have in the woods. Safety is obviously a concern, but when you have to get certified for bow hunting, muzzleloaders, rifles and then handguns it makes sense why hunter numbers are dwindling.


Yes, I think maybe a class for the atlatl is overboard, BUT I don't know anyone who is qualified to use one. Aside from javelin on my old track team....

Jeff Drenning

That's very true, and I see what you mean. It could actually be turned into a tool to monitor weapon ownership as well, but it's an extremely long shot to go from having registration for atlatls to bowhunting. I mean, bowhunting and muzzleloader hunting have been popular for many years, and while the atlatl was an important insturment in our being here I very seriously doubt anyone has used one for ages.



There was a time when you could have said the same about bow hunting. Or muzzle loaders.

Technically, the physics involved in propelling the dart are much the same as an arrow rather than a thrown spear. Think of it as hunting with a huge and incredibly powerful bow.

I think atlatl hunting is a great idea and I support it's being included in the bow hunting season.

However, the fact that our ancesters used this weapon to bring down very large game such as wooly mammoths doesn't mean a whole lot. It's very likely that they put a couple of darts in the beast, ran away to avoid getting trampled and then spent the next week tracking the animal and waiting for it to either die or grow weak enough to finish off up close. It's hard enough to get a decisive double-lung shot through something as tough as an elephant with modern firearms, let alone an atlatl.


Spear hunting is a legal method of deer hunting in Alabama.


Look I throw javelin in college and from what I've gathered from looking into atlatl is that it is even easier to throw than a jav. If you can throw a ball you should be able to throw an atlatl. Its just another instance of PA bureaucracy at work.

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