When most sportsmen think about primitive hunting methods for pursuing deer, round-ball black power rifles and archery hunting with recurves or longbows might come to mind.
But last week a hunter in the Show-Me State took even more steps backward in time – practically to the stone age – by harvesting the buck-of-a-lifetime with a device few seasoned hunters have even heard about, much less know how to pronounce.
When Paul Gragg first decided to go hunting deer with an atlatl (at-lat-al) this season, he said his hunting buddies gave him a hard time.
“I heard all the jokes,” said the Defiance, Mo., deer hunter. “My friends were all laughing and teasing me about it.”
But after downing a 15-point buck (pictured above courtesy of the Missouri Dept. of Conservation) with his primitive hunting tool the afternoon of October 24 in St. Charles County, well, let’s just say his friends aren’t making fun of his choice for a hunting method any longer.
With its name derived from an Aztec word for “throwing board,” atlatl hunters hook arrow-like hunting darts into the end of the weapon, which is generally a wooden piece about 2 feet in length. The leverage of the atlatl allows them to throw the projectiles much faster and at a much greater distance than one could throw a spear without it.
Currently, only Missouri, Alabama and Pennsylvania allow the atlatl for deer hunting, while a handful of other states list the device as legal for rough fish, some gamebirds and non-game mammals.
Gragg’s hard-fought trophy scored 169 Boone and Crockett gross points. The hunter said he would have it mounted and find a special place for it on his living room wall, but he’s not about to stop seeking the next hunting challenge.
“My goal was not to harvest the trophy that I did, but I just wanted to get a buck under my belt with the atlatl,” said Gragg. “I was in complete shock right off the bat.”
What do you think? Is hunting with the atlatl something you’d like to try if it were legal in your state?