Hunt Like Your Ancestors: Primitive Hunting Techniques That Work

By LandCentral

Stick figure drawing hunting large horned animal


Primitive hunting techniques are trending. Remember your ancestors? Those early humans responsible for literally every human alive today. Well it turns out they knew a thing or two about surviving. From their creative hunting techniques to their straight forward fishing methods, our ancestors had mad skills. Thankfully, these skills didn’t die off with early man. So drop your fishing rods, ditch your fancy rifle, and set down that ice cold beverage. Today you’re going to find out how to Hunt Like Your Ancestors: Primitive Hunting Techniques That Work:

HUNTING: The Atlatl w/ Darts

These throwing spears date back to prehistoric times when your ancestors were hunting woolly mammoths. So we’re pretty sure they can handle our measly prey today.


  • Branch 2 – 2.5” in diameter, 18” – 24” long
  • Sharp Knife
  • Sticks or branches (best if river cane or bamboo) 4-5 feet long, 1/2” diameter

Level of difficulty: Easy to make

Skill level needed:  Intermediate/Advanced (but not impossible)

Ideal conditions:  Open field, prairie or clearing

Type of prey:   Anything with a pulse

Making the Atlatl

  1. Chop your branch from the base of a tree. Make sure it has a smaller branch protruding from it at a 45 degree angle. Chop off the smaller branch until it is about half the length of your hand. This will become the “peg”. Then chop the larger part of the branch to about the length of your arm.

NOTE: You are looking for the Goldilocks of branches. Too light and it will be unstable to throw, too heavy and it will be hard to aim.

   2. Use your knife to sharpen the “peg” to a point.

3. To make your atlatl easier to control, add a finger loop. Just attach a 10” strip of soft leather 7” from the narrow end, looping it around the opposite side of the branch stub.

Making the Atlatl Darts

  1. Sharpen one end of the sticks or branches that you’ve selected to be your darts.
  2. Drill a hole into the other end. This will be the “nock” that the peg fits into.

NOTE: If you want your darts to look fancy, you can hot glue some feather at the end where the “nock” is.

Make at least 5 darts so you don’t have to chase the same one each time you launch.


Stand straight with one foot slightly in front of the other, facing your target. Load the dart into the atlatl and hold the handle horizontally, slightly above and behind your ear. Cock your arm by bringing it back as far as you can. Step forward and shift your weight to the front. Slide your arm forward and keep the dart pointed at your target. Snap or flick your wrist and follow through with the throw. The dart will release on its own.

NOTE: If you’ve ever thrown a ball for a dog from a ChuckIt, then you will be able to handle an atlatl with ease. For those who need a visual aid, we’ve got you covered.


Make your own Fishing Spear because nothing makes you look like a boss more than a good old fashioned spear.


  • Long stick
  • Big, sharp knife
  • Cordage or tough string (at least 4 feet long)
  • 2 small twigs

Level of difficulty: Easy to make

Skill level needed: Advanced (practice, practice, practice)

Ideal conditions: Clear or shallow water with heavy cover on the bank.

Type of prey: Carp, catfish, or other shallow dwellers

  1. Using a straight long stick (2” in diameter) create a pressure cut around the perimeter of the stick. To do this, simply apply heavy pressure while rotating your knife around it.
  2. Carve away on the short side of your pressure cut. The short side should begin to become pointed while the long end should remain flat.
  3. Discard the short end of the stick by tapping it off.
  4. Using a sturdy surface, place the uncut end of the stick on the surface, with the pressure cut end facing up towards you. Place your knife at the center of the pressure cut as you prepare to cut. Take a larger piece of wood and gently tap the back of your knife so the sharp end slides down the stick, splitting it in the center.

NOTE: Make sure you don’t split too far down, only about 4″ – 5”.

   5. Repeat Step 4 perpendicular to the first split so the split is divided into four even sections

6. Using your 4 foot long cordage, wrap it around the stick 18″ from the top of the split. Split the stick more until it reaches the wrapped cordage.

7. Take your 2 small twigs and slide one up the split to the cordage tie, then slide the other twig up the other split so they make an ‘x’ in the split. Lash the twigs tightly in place.

8. By now you should have four prongs at the end of your stick. Shave the inside and outside of each prong. Then sharpen the ends.


Now to the fun part. Stand on land near shallow water. To avoid casting a shadow, don’t stand in the water. It’s best to take a kneeling position on land if the sun is casting a long shadow into the water. When a fish comes within range take a shot by throwing your spear “below and forward of the fish.” This will counter the forward movement of the fish when the spear hits the water. Aiming below the fish will compensate for the refraction of the water. Then it’s just trial and error until you catch one.

TRAPPING: Figure 4 Deadfall


  • 3 carved wood sticks
  • Large stone or log with a flat bottom (and heavy weight)

Level of difficulty: Easy to make

Skill level needed: Beginner/intermediate

Ideal conditions: Forests

Type of prey: squirrel, chipmunk, mice and rabbit

  1. Carve each of the 3 sticks.
  • Stick 1 – (the upright stick) should be carved on one end with an angle, resembling a knife. Carve a square notch at the opposite end about one inch down from the tip.
  • Stick 2 – (the release stick) should be carved with the same angled end and then a small pointed notch at the opposite end.
  • Stick 3 – (the bait stick) should be carved with the same angled tip, then have both the square notch (near the angled end) and the pointed notch near the other end.

2. Set the sticks up to look like the number 4, resting the large stone or log on top. The finished product should resemble a make shift shelter.

NOTE: To see this set up in action, check out this easy to follow video.


This is sort of a patience game. Once you set the trap, it’s best to stay out of sight. This basic trap is meant to crush its victims where they stand, so there’s no risk of them getting loose or another predator picking them off before you return. This is what hunters call an easy meal, so long as you have a taste for rodent.

So there you have it, primitive hunting techniques that work. While these will help you in a survival situation, remember that most states have laws forbidding certain primitive hunting practices. It’s worth checking your state’s regulations before heading into the great outdoors. But because we trust you, check out these other primitive fishing techniques.

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