Backyard deer hunting

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Hunting Spears. Types, Safety and Utility

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Two of the author's spears thrown into deer carcass. Both penetrated the animal.

Two of the author's spears thrown into deer carcass. Both penetrated the animal.

  Spears are no more than knives with longer handles. Although now infrequently used for hunting, they are still employed for both surface (frogs, ice fishing and gigging) and underwater fishing. In general they kill faster than arrows because of the larger cutting surface, deeper penetration and the weight of the shaft twisting the point in the animal.

The Condor, Sportsman's Guide and Cold Steel spears. Only the Cold Steel speer is commonly available.

The Condor, Sportsman's Guide and Cold Steel spears. Only the Cold Steel speer is commonly available.

  Only a couple of states that I know of, Hawaii and Alabama, have specific seasons for spearing big game animals, some permit any hunting tool to be used for taking wild hogs while others do not permit spear hunting in their regulations, making the practice illegal.

  Two general categories of spears are used. One is a hand-thrown spear  which depending on the speed of the projectile to add penetrative power and the other is a drop spear which relies on the weight of the spear to drive it deep into the animal. A third, the atlatl, gains velocity and penetration by the use of a stick that is used to provide increased leverage when the spear is thrown.

  For most of us the range of a hand-thrown spear is about eight

Morris drop spear shown suspended over corn.

Morris drop spear shown suspended over corn.

 yards. As with any instrument, it is necessary to practice with it to obtain reasonable accuracy and to increase arm strength. A weakly thrown spear will bounce off the hides of  large animals like buffalo. Spears used on heavy animals like bison are  best thrust home relying on the weight of the hunter and the momentum of a horse to drive a lance point through fur and hide as was done by the American Indians.  

  In modern times Eugene Morris stands alone as having taken hundreds of game animals with spears including African lion and Cape buffalo as well as deer, bison, hogs (up to four with a single throw with both arms) and alligators. Morris uses both his drop spear and hand-thrown spears such as those made by Cold Steel.  He has a book, Hunting with Spears, a museum in Elberta, Alabama, and a website

Point and water pipe sections of Morris spear. The point has four 14-inch cutting surfaces and two barbs.

Point and water pipe sections of Morris spear. The point has four 14-inch cutting surfaces and two barbs.

  For those who are interested in the spear as a hunting tool, the keys are to use a heavy spear with a wide cutting blade, be close to your game, practice, practice, practice and hit the animal in the right place. As a hunting tool, the spear is among the quickest killing instruments because if its ability to penetrate deeply into the animal and cause large amounts of tissue disruption.

 Walking or hunting with spears has the danger of someone or something inadvertently being stabbed with the blade. These blades should be razor sharp and should be sheathed until they are in the stand or immediately before they are thrown. Many spears do not come with sheaths, but a simple sheath may be made by using fishing line and sewing a wide nylon strap to fit the blade.

 For a complete treatment of spears, refer to my article on spears in the March, 2008, issue of Knife World.  Back issues may be ordered from

Written by hoveysmith

October 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. I enjoyed what you have on your site. I am interested in making several different types of spears. some for hunting and some for self defense. I would love to make a spear much like (I think it was the Zulu} I am also looking to make lance type spears. I have a 42″ lathe and a bench mill I can use to make these spears if I can ever find the stats I need. so I will keep searching the web.

    I am also considering a throwing spear (but have not chosen a style) along with an atlatal.

    I am curios, have you looked at the spears for sale that are reperductions of the spear used in the movie 300 as well as the spear/staff used in the PREDATOR movies? Of course there are some sites that sell unsharpened edges and some that sell them the way they should be.

    looking forward toward your thoughts!
    Thanks; Adios
    Kurt Williams

    Kurt Williams

    July 14, 2010 at 6:38 am

    • Dear Kurt,

      I do not know of anyone who has machining drawings of a variety of spear heads. However, it should not be very difficult to draw out some and go to it. The most recent heads that I have seen are from Dixie Gun Works in Union City, TN, who offers a boar-spear head, as well as two smaller types. These are for between $50-70. The trick is not only making the heads but, like the knives they really are, tempering them so that they will hold an edge and not be dead soft.

      Good luck on your project.


      Wm. Hovey Smith


      July 14, 2010 at 8:32 am

  2. Dear Kurt,

    Is there a spear manufacturer online i that i could purchase from that is not cold steel? I have looked at both the Assegai and Boar spears, and they have not recieved very positive reviews. Is there a spear that you woud recomend over the cold steel ones?

    thank you,

    Luther Redman

    luther Redman

    November 14, 2012 at 2:14 am

    • This is a tiny market, and I see a few other spears offered from time to time. Most of these are put up for a season and then are seen no more. Atlanta Cutlery has some points that you can fix to your own shafts that replicate historic Roman spears. I have not personally tried these, but others of their Indian-made blades are good. These might well work and be more robust that the Cold Steel boar spear. The premium boar spear is made in Europe by Puma. They have offered this more than a decade. Most of these are hung up and never used, however, some are and they work.


      November 14, 2012 at 10:53 am

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