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.
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
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 www.huntingwithspears.com.
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 www.knifeworld.com.