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Making A Survival Bow From A Sapling

In this article we show you the step by step process of making a simple but effective survival bow out of a sapling or a small branch, and a little cordage.

A DIY survival bow is a weapon that is incredibly effective and easy to make. You can make one with only found materials in just a few hours.

In addition, bows are silent and can be accurate up to about 50 yards. With a little practice, your hunting and self-defense needs are covered.

In a perfect world you would want your wood to dry out and season for about a year before making your bow. However, you can still make a good bow without this step. It may not be quite as powerful or durable, but it will get the job done.

In this article we will walk you through how to make a survival bow and get you shooting as quickly as possible.

Choosing Your Wood

making a survival bow from a sappling wood

The wood you choose when building a bow is very important. It has to be strong enough to endure the constant abuse that bows take, but it also has to flex without breaking.

The best wood for a bow is osage orange, but black locust, yew, ash, or hickory all will work well.

If none of these are available, you can get by with more common woods like oak, maple, or beech.

The wood you choose should be a sapling or branch that is fairly straight. It should have no knots, branches, or twists in the wood.

The ideal size is about five feet long and about two inches in diameter.

Cut your branch carefully being sure not to cause any splits or damage to this section of wood.

Finding the Curve and Handhold

making a survival bow from a sappling bending

To determine where to carve on your bow, you have to figure out the natural curve of the wood.

This should be a straight piece of wood, but it will still have a natural curve when pressure is applied.

Stand the branch up straight and push down from the top.

You should start to see a slight curve to the branch.

From this point forward, no carving should be done on the outside of this curve.

This is the section of wood that is under the most stress, so its strength cannot be compromised.

From here you can mark the center point of your bow and measure three inches above and three inches below.

This will be your handhold area, and little carving will be done on this section.


making a survival bow from a sappling carved

Next, put the bottom end of the bow on your foot and bend the bow a few inches.

Observe where the bow bends and where it stays straight.

Once the bow is finished, you should get some flexing out of every section of the bow except the tips and the handhold.

Mark any other sections that do not flex and then gradually shave a little wood off the inside of the curve.

Remember, do not carve on the outside of the curve for any reason.

Frequently check the bow to see if your adjustments are helping.

Of course, any sections that already flex on their own should not be carved any thinner than they already are.

Continue this process until both arms of the bow evenly flex in all sections.

Stringing and Adjusting

making a survival bow from a sappling notch

You can now carve notches on the left and right sides of the bow about an inch from the end.

They should only be deep enough to hold your string in place, and should not extend to the outside of the curve.

Cut a section of cordage to use for your bowstring. This could be paracord, sinew, or cordage made from plant material.

Tie a loop on each end large enough to fit over the end of your bow and sit in the notches.

Once the bow is strung, you should have about a six inch gap between the string and the handhold.

Do not pull back on the string yet as additional adjustments need to be made.

Next, place the handhold over a branch and gently pull down on the string. Observe which arm flexes less. Trim additional wood from the inside of the curve on that branch to give you an even amount of flex on each arm.

Once the limbs are flexing evenly, gently draw the bow back like you are preparing to fire it and feel the draw weight when the string is pulled to your jaw.

You will need a stronger draw weight for big game and longer shots, or a weaker draw weight for small game at short distances. If you wish to reduce the draw weight, you can trim more wood from the inside of the curve.

Final Thoughts

At this point you can start using your bow, but there are things you can do to make it last longer, such as never dry firing your bow (firing it without an arrow), and you can also sand the carved area of your bow and oil it with animal fat or linseed oil. Use it often and oil it on a regular basis.

For further information to help with your bow hunting process, you can read more bow hunting tips here.

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Sergeant Survival

I spread the news of disaster preparedness and homesteading skills to the masses. My mission is to teach the keyboard commandos out there some real life skills.

1 Comment

  1. This was a great article and well explained. Id like to learn more about deer hunting and life in the woods more.

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