How to Build a Survival Bow & Arrows – Beginner’s Guide

How to Build a Survival Bow & Arrows – Beginner’s GuideNo matter what happens, it is always important to be ready. Being stranded in the woods is not the best scenario, and at that point, you need to act. The first step is knowing how to get food, and this is why when your energy is up, you need to know how to craft a survival bow and arrows. Doing so may save your life.

Check the Wood

The first step when making a survival bow and arrow is making the bow. At this point, if you’re lost in the woods and don’t have a way out, the key is ensuring that you have the tools to survive. If you know the different types of trees in the area, then you have a distinct advantage over someone who doesn’t.

Selecting the right piece of wood is critical. The wood should be something that has great strength but also can snap back to its shape quickly. This is the hallmark of any bow. Because there are no ideal materials, there are no ideal accouterments like fiberglass arrow or a bow sight. Everything must be made out of this piece of wood.

The key is to find a sapling. In order to check the sapling’s suitability, bend the sapling into a “C”. Once it is bent, then release it. It should snap back into its shape quickly. If it takes too long to get into the C or too long to snap back into shape, this isn’t the right piece of wood.

Once you have found the ideal piece of wood, the next step is to fashion your survival bow. This is easier said than done.

Strip the Wood

The good news is you found the wood, but the bad news is you only have one shot at making the survival bow correctly with this piece. If you mess up, then you have to start at square one again. There’s no guarantee you’ll find something as suitable as what you found, so be careful.

If you have a knife on you, start to cut off the extra branches and roots. They will do nothing except get in the way. As your cutting, be careful. If any cracks get into the sapling, then your survival bow is ruined. Remove what you can and if there seems to be some branches that are a bit stubborn at the ends of the sapling, leave them be.

Once you have the wood ready, the next step is to identify where the different parts of the survival bow will be. This is important because you will begin to fashion your bow afterward.

Identify Parts of Survival Bow

The parts of the bow you need to identify are the belly, back, handhold, and limbs. Here is a rundown of what they do:

  • Back: this is the strong point of the bow. This is the outside part o the bow curve. Leave this area as untouched as possible
  • Belly: This is the inside bend of the curve. It is opposite of the back
  • Handhold: This is where your hand will go. Make marks for the handhold by marking out 3 inches from the center in both directions
  • Limbs: This is the outer edge of the bow running from each handhold to the end of the bow.

Now that these areas have been identified, the next step is to shape the bow. Critical to bow shaping is knowing what you can and can’t do with the different parts of the bow.

Shaping the Survival Bow

At this point, make sure you have a sharp knife with you because this knife will be put through the paces big time. You will begin to start cutting off different parts of the wood. The key is to go slow because if you go too fast then you could end up cracking the wood and that would make the bow useless.

Here are some places you can’t cut – the back. This is the part of the bow that must be strong. It will bear the tension as the rest of the bow bends.

The way to start shaping a bow is by standing it up and seeing where the bow bends and where it doesn’t. Start removing wood from the belly where there is no bend but keep wood where there is much bend. This will allow you to begin shaping the bow, so it is able to shoot with some degree of accuracy.

Related article: Survival Archery 101

Once you finish one side, work on the other side. Stop to check and see if your survival bow bends evenly. A proper bow bends like a parabola. The curve will be even, and there will not be any type of distortion. If the curve is distorted, the bow will fire incorrectly. The shape you are looking for is similar to a satellite dish. If the bow bends in this way, then the shaping has been properly achieved.

There are a couple of things to watch out for. First, the handhold needs to be somewhat thicker. This should be about 5.5 inches in diameter. Wood should not be removed from there, and this area should be pretty stiff.

The survival bow should be frequently checked to see if the areas of no bend are removed while the bent areas are left intact. The bow should be even. At the end of this process, you are ready to do the notched for the string.

Carving String Notches

This might seem easy, but the truth is carving string notches is anything but. The key is the notches must be deep enough to keep the string in place but shallow enough not to break the survival bow. Carve the notches at the tip of the bow, but make sure the notches are on the side, not on the back.

These notches will be where the string is placed.

Stringing the Survival Bow

Now your bow is starting to better resemble a traditional bow and arrow. As you string the bow, it will bend. The goal with the string is simple, make sure from the end of the string to the handhold is just between 5-6 inches. This distance should be measured on the string.

At this point, many bow creators get in trouble because they want to shoot the bow. Resist this urge because the next step allows you to ensure your string is right while keeping the bow intact.

Tiller the Survival Bow

At this point, you now have to tiller the bow. The way to do this is setting up the survival bow so that the string is level and horizontal. At this point, pull down on the string, and you will most likely notice the bow does not bend evenly. The way to correct this is to slowly take out the wood that prevents the bow from bending evenly. This will take some time, so be patient. The key when tillering is taking the time to make sure the bow bends right.

Now, the next step is figuring out the draw weight. Basically, the farther the survival bow can be pulled back, the heavier the draw. For a deer, a draw should be about 40-60 pounds. If by some strange circumstance, you have a bathroom scale with you, checking the draw is easy.

All you need to do is find a piece of wood and place it on the scale. As you pull the string back, the scale will begin to register a weight. Remember, the key to a heavier draw is a flexible survival bow. If your bow is too stiff, there won’t be enough weight on the draw. Plan accordingly. Remember the minimum for a deer.

Smaller game requires a lighter draw just like heavier game requires a heavy draw. When you are done with the tiller, remember the one rule of proper bow making – never dry fire a bow. This could crack the wood, and all that hard work you did will be for naught.

Now that you have a proper survival bow, the next step is to make arrows. There’s little sense in having a bow without the arrows to make it useful.

Creating Arrows

Arrows are a bit easier to make than a bow. The key is making sure to find a straight branch or twig. Once it is found, then strip the bark off of the branch. Once the bark is stripped, the next thing to do is check the arrow for how straight it is.

These shoots can be a bit crooked, so it is important to make sure that your new arrows are all going in the same direction. If there are deformities, the fire method is the best way to straighten the arrow. All you do is hold the aspiring arrow near a fire and bend it the opposite way. As long as it doesn’t scorch, that’s a job well done.

The next step to creating this survival bow and arrow is finding the right arrowhead.

Creating Arrowheads

Arrowheads can come from rocks or other objects. The key is making sure they fit some certain measurements. An arrowhead should be 1.5 inches long and an eighth of an inch thick. The shank – what is inserted into the arrow shaft should be 5/8 inches long. The shank is the same width as the arrow itself and this is basically the measurements of the arrow.

Now shaping arrows isn’t the easiest. You will need something that can grind them into a point. The goal is to get the arrowheads sharp enough to pierce the skin from a shot. Once they are sharp and the arrowheads have been inserted, it’s time for the final part of creating arrows – fletching.

Fletching the Arrows

Without fletching the arrows, they would not fly straight. The easiest way to do this is finding the feature of a bird and remove the feather material from the quill in three separate sections. Once this is done, you are ready to put the feathers on the arrow. This is critical to the arrows flying correctly when shot.

Now, if you were at home, this part is easy – just use glue to attach the feature to the back of the arrow and make sure the sections are equidistant from each other. In the wild, use the sap from a tree as resin. This will allow you to affix the arrows in a very easy way. Of course, using sap from a tree is not ideal but, in a pinch, it’s a great way to make sure your arrows will work.


After making your own survival bow with your own arrows, you are now ready to hunt. Be sure to take care of your bow. Make sure to keep it properly oiled and don’t let it get in the water or other compromising positions.

This bow could be the key to survival, so show it the love it deserves.

Useful resources to check out:

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

Find Out What’s the Closest Nuclear Bunker to Your Home

Survival Lessons from the 1880s Everyone Should Know

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