When the huge whitetail buck walked below his tree stand, Paul Gragg wasn’t sure he would be able to make the shot.
Gragg, 49, was hunting in late October (2015) with a prehistoric atlatl — a wooden throwing device that a skilled user can launch a 7-foot long hunting dart with remarkable speed and power.
The buck walked straight under Paul’s stand. When it moved out to about 8 yards and swung its head to the right, Paul extended his left arm and let fly. The broadhead-tipped dart hit home center above the front leg.
“My first thought was how easy that dart went in him,” Paul said.
The 15-point buck jumped and ran about 40 yards before it fell dead.
According to the World AtlatlAssociation, this ancient weapon preceded the bow and arrow in most parts of the world, and it was one of humankind’s first mechanical inventions.
An atlatl (pronounced at-latal or atal-atal) is a foot-and-a-half long stick with a handle on one end and a hook or socket that engages a light spear or “dart” on the other. The dart is a 4-to-6-foot long spear-like projectile tipped with a large broadhead.
The dart is placed along the shaft with its back end resting in the socket. The hunter grips the atlatl near its front end and throws, using the upper arm and wrist. The flipping motion of the atlatl creates angular momentum that propels the dart with greater speed and power than can be achieved with the arm alone. Darts thrown from the weapon can achieve velocities of nearly 100 miles per hour.
Paul Gragg said that on a whim, he bought an atlatl and got on the Internet and watched guys throwing it. He set up hay bales in the yard and honed his throwing movement until he could hit a bale consistently from 15 yards. Then he practiced every day for 4 months, throwing at a pie plate.
“At 15 yards, if you can throw 12-inch groups you’re doing something,” he said.
The atlatl is legal throughout all portions of Missouri’s deer season, from September 15 through Jan. 25.
Killing any deer with a spear is an accomplishment, awesome Paul!