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How to Make a Survival Bow

photo of children practicing shooting bows in forest

Fewer survival tasks can be as enjoyable anhttps://gofastandlight.com/how-to-make-a-survival-bow/d fulfilling as crafting your own homemade survival bow. Whether you are a hunter trying to take down small game or you just want to carry one with you for self defense when traipsing through the wilderness, a bow is a handy tool. But how exactly do you make one and what are the best natural materials to use?

Below you will find all the information you need to begin your bow making venture. From finding the ideal bow string materials to how to effectively carve wood from the belly we have covered all the survival bow making skills you will need. You will also find answers to all your questions at the bottom of the article to give you the information you need to make the best out of a tricky survival situation.

Be sure to read on if you are curious how best to make a bow whether you are a first-time crafter or an experienced carver, we are sure to have a bunch of new tips for you!

Why Do I Need a Survival Bow?

Before we go into the best steps to take when it comes to survival bow making, you may be wondering why you actually need a survival bow in the first place. One of the most common uses of a survival bow is to take down small prey and game for food when you find yourself in a dangerous survival situation.

They also offer an incredible method of defense when attacked by predators in the wilderness. Before you begin to use your new bow in a real-life scenario however it is a good idea to get in some target practice to ensure your arrows are hitting the mark!

An Easy 10-Step Guide to Making a Survival Bow

Find Your Wood

The first step before you start bow making is to find the right wood for your survival bow. Without decent wood, crafting a bow will be almost impossible, but what type of woods should you use and how do you find the right material source?

What’s the best type of wood?

There are a whole host of different woods you can use to craft the best bow yourself, from yew to maple most wood will work. However, you should always ensure that the wood you are using feels comfortable to hold and can be bent enough that you can draw back an arrow with only a little effort.

The wood you choose will require decent flexibility whilst still maintaining a high modulus of rupture (that’s how easy the wood will break to me and you). Trying to find a piece of wood that features both of these can be fairly difficult, so make sure you are testing that the wood you find will bend evenly without snapping.

Overall however the best two kinds of wood for crafting a bow tend to be either yew or rosewood due to their extreme durability whilst still featuring levels of elasticity. Although these woods can be rare to find especially in European countries, they are without a doubt the best choice when it comes to crafting your own survival bow and arrows.

How to find the best wood:

Finding the right piece of wood can be tedious but it is as simple as looking around the woodland area to find exactly what you need. Avoid using wood that has been cut from a sapling or a tree branch (living wood) as this will rarely produce a bow of good quality. Root around the ground for any hard, dry scrap wood as this will usually be sufficient for a homemade bow.

If you can tell the difference between different wood types and the type of tree they are from then you will have a massive advantage in finding the right wood for your bow making experience. Be sure to check how to distinguish between different wood types before setting off as this will be extremely useful.

How to pick the best piece:

Certain qualities found in different pieces of wood can help you craft a bow far easier than usual. Ideally, you want to find a long piece of wood that is preferably dry without being decayed. A wet piece of wood will be far less durable. The piece of wood should ideally have a length similar to your height but if not then anything between 5 1/2 to 6 feet should be more than fine.

Pieces of wood should be free of knots and twists in their structure as this will lessen the strength of your bow. The same goes for green wood with moss and foliage on as it is far harder to craft a good bow out of wet wood than dry wood but if you are desperate it may still be used in your hunting bow.

Identify the Elements

Once you have found the ideal bit of wood you now want to identify the specific elements of your bow and how best to craft these. From the lower limb to the belly of the bow each section is vitally important to creating a decent bow so be sure to familiarise yourself with each element before you start crafting your bow.


The belly of the bow is simply the part of the bow that will be closest to the archer when you begin to pull back on your arrow. Compression builds up in this section as you begin to pull back so this section of the bow needs to be strong enough to endure a decent amount of force.


The back of the bow is the part of it that is furthest away from you when drawing an arrow, it is essentially the opposite of the belly. Tension is built up in this part of the bow just before you fire your arrow so again, like the belly, you will need a decent piece of hardwood to compensate for this.


This is simply the section of your bow where your hand will be when aiming at your prey. You will usually reinforce this part using twine or soft fabric to help prevent your hands from growing callused while using your bow. Try to use the smoothest part of your stick for the handhold area as you will be constantly holding onto this when using your bow and arrow.


Perhaps the most known section of a survival bow, the limbs comprise of the belly and the back combined. As your bow consists of one singular section that has been curved to accommodate a string, your limb is essentially the entirety of the bow itself. Therefore this will need to be both extremely sturdy to withstand constant use whilst still being flexible enough to bend and apply enough pressure to an arrow.

Shape the Bow

Now that you have familiarised yourself with the different types of wood best used in bow making and each section of a bow, it is now time to carve out the shape. One of the first steps you want to take is before making your initial carve is to figure out the bit of wood’s natural curve that you are using. Every hunk of wood will feature some form of a curve, even if it is extremely slight, so using this to help you shape your survival bow is a great idea.

Finding the curve when it is your first attempt can be fairly tricky but there is a common method you can also fall back on if needed. Place your found bit of wood on the ground and keep it held down using one hand anywhere but the middle of your wood. Once the wood is rested down, using your other hand find the middle and press slightly down on and it should pivot slightly. The part of it that is closest to you will be the belly of the bow and the section furthest away will make up the back of the bow.

The next step will be determining where the handhold should be and separating the upper limb and the lower limb. This is an extremely vital step so ensuring you have nailed this down is one of the best ways you can ensure that your bow making skill is up to scratch.

Once again find the middle of your stave and mark two notches, one 3 inches below the center the other 3 inches above. This will help you determine a 6-inch zone where the handhold area of your bow will be and can be used to figure out the lower and upper limb.

Now resting the bow limb against your foot, you can begin to carve out the shape of one end of your makeshift bow. Keep one hand at the top of the bow to keep it secure and use your other hand to push on your bow, once again determining exactly where the belly of your bow will be. You can now begin to carve the belly using a carving tool such as a bow saw, knife or similar carving utensil.

Begin by gently scraping away underlying bits underneath the belly of the bow until both the lower and upper limbs bend equally. Keep checking between carves to see if the limbs bend equally and how much carving space your branch has left. Once you think you have reached a decent curve you can progress onto the next step!

Make the String Notches

Now, this is the point where your bow will begin to take shape. You now want to begin to carve two notches in your bow to hold the string and allow you to notch arrows. You want to make sure that these notches are equidistance apart as this will ensure that your bow will work well and the string will be tight.

Start by carving a small notch around 1 1/2 inches from the very top of the bow and another the same distance from the very bottom of the lower limb. These notches need to be deep enough to hold your bow string in place but not so deep that the compromise the bows sturdiness. Also, make sure that you are making notches in the same side of the bow as the string will only be used on the belly side.

Create the Cord

Deciding on what material is best to use on your bow can be a tricky process, especially once the bow has been carved and you are looking forward to using it. But deducing the right cord material is extremely important if you want to get the most out of your custom bow. The best bow string will typically use natural materials or artificially refined ones, but what should you use when crafting your own bow?

The best cord material:

The first consideration you should make a note of when it comes to the string type is how sturdy the string material is. A bow string doesn’t need to be too flexible as a majority of the force behind an arrow will come from the bow itself. The beauty of making your own bow, however, is that you are able to test a bow string out to see if it is suitable with ease.

When it comes to deciding on the best cord materials you want to take into consideration items that are close to hand. Although nylon is an exceptional material to use for your bow string, you more than likely won’t find it outdoors anytime soon. Ideally, you want to use a plant fiber string or even sinew if you know how as these provide accessible cordage in outdoor areas.

Learning to adapt to materials at hand is an extremely handy ability to have when it comes to survival bow making. Just make sure that when you are stringing your bow not to pull back on it too much as this could potentially damage the lower and upper limb. Before you know it you will be an expert bowyer as long as you keep these tips in mind!

Test the Poundage and Tillering

Once you have carved your bow stave and your bow is strung you will need to make a few adjustments before you can begin to shoot arrows. Before you starting hunting game you will need to test the poundage of your bow and ensure your bow stave is correctly tillered.


More commonly referred to as the draw eight, a bows draw weight is essentially how much force you need to apply to a bow to pull the string back to its full draw length. A bow intended for a kid will have much lower draw weight than an adult-sized bow and vice versa.

It will be difficult to get an exact measurement of your custom made bows draw weight without the correct measurement tools. You can, however, get a rough estimate by testing the bow out by pulling the string back, see if the bow feels powerful enough for you before securing the bow string in place.


This step is essentially the final step before you have transformed a stave into a fully crafted bundle bow. Ideally, you want to get your bow adjusted properly so that its limbs bend evenly and equal force is applied to the arrow from both limbs. If your limbs don’t bend equally then the arrow won’t be as fast as it can be and your bow may even be at risk of breaking. But how exactly do you tiller a bow?

A good method of tillering your bow is to grab the handhold of your bow as if you are going to fire it but ensure that you are doing this without an arrow notched. Hold the bow as if to aim and gently pull back on the string but don’t let go of the bows’ cordage just yet. With each application of force, you want to check the side branches of your bow to ensure that they have an even bend.

Keep doing this exercise until your bow has reached its full draw length and you have checked that the limbs are bending back evenly as they should be. Spend some time on this step as this can be the crux of any bow making venture.

Select Sticks for Your Arrows

Now that your bow is strung and you have spent a while tillering it thoroughly you can get onto fletching your own arrows, it is known as a bow and arrow after all. Using your bow without an arrow is practically pointless so want to ensure that you are using the finest materials to craft your arrows. Below you will find a few tips to help you craft the best arrows you can.

What’s the best type of wood?

Unlike the materials chosen for your bow, you can happily use sticks or even cut off sections of a sapling or branch. As long as your chosen material is fairly sturdy and dry then you can typically craft a decent arrow from any material you find out in the wilderness. Again, much like a bow, hardwoods will tend to make a better arrow shaft, but the main power behind an arrow will come from its tip. Dry fire wood is also a decent source for arrow crafting, if you are skilled enough at arrow making almost anything will do.

How to find the best wood:

You don’t need to spend too much time searching the forest floor for the perfect branch to craft your arrow from. If you see a decent looking sapling or branch then pull out your knife and whittle away as it will definitely do the job well. If you are struggling to find anything but greenwood, you should be ok using it as long as you dry it out over a fire before you begin carving with your knife.

How to pick the best piece:

The best arrow shafts are perfectly straight so if you can find a naturally straight branch then you will be able to craft an arrow fit for even the worst wilderness survival situations. Try not to stress too much about this however for as long as your knife is sharp you will be able to easily carve the perfect arrow shaft.

If you are struggling to find a branch or sapling to get a decent stick from then you can resort to using thick plants and fibers. Bamboo and goldenrod are ideal choices and are used by many people around the world for a reason.

Shape the Arrows

Shaping your arrows will take far less effort than carving your bow did. Chipping wood from the belly of a stave can take a while, whereas fletching an arrow will take little effort at all. Whittle away any loose bits of the branch and try to remove any knobs as you want your arrows to be as smooth as possible. You can also slightly heat the branch above a fire to help the shaping process as you long as you take care not to burn the arrow. Your arrow should ideally be the same length as your bows’ maximum draw length.

Once you are happy with the shape of your arrow be sure to carve a slight notch at the back of the arrow on one end, deep enough to hold the plant fiber string. This is so you can rest your arrow on your bows’ cordage offering an accurate way of aiming before you let go of the string.

Sharpen the Arrow Points

After carving your arrows’ shaft, you will now be wondering how best to make a point so your arrow can pierce its prey. This point can be carved directly into the arrow itself saving you time and effort when you are in a hurry. Whittle away one end into a sharp point and gently heat this over a fire if possible to harden it. Although this isn’t as strong as crafting your own individual arrow head, it is a fast option that you can always rely on when you are in a rush.

Make an Arrowhead if Possible

If time isn’t too much of an issue then we would fully recommend making an arrowhead if possible after all you have just put a lot of effort into learning how to make a survival bow. Practically any thing can be used as an arrow head if needed as long as it can be sharpened, or naturally has a sharp point. From glass to bone, if it can be carved it can be used.

Once you are happy with your new carved arrowhead, you will need to secure it to the end of your arrow. Using twine, duct tape or even some leftover plant fiber from your bow string, tie the arrowhead to the end of your arrow securely and it will be ready for you to fire. Try not to go too overboard and make a really long arrowhead, ideally, it shouldn’t be any larger than 2 inches it just needs to be long enough to take down small game.

You can also add feathers to your arrow to help improve its course through the air and ensure it gains the speeds needed to pierce a variety of different surfaces. This process is fairly straightforward and doesn’t require much additional work. Simply forage around for some loose bird feathers and tie or glue them to the rear end of your arrows to make a bow bundle that even the most experienced archers will appreciate.


What is a survival bow?

A survival bow is typically a bow that is portable and can be taken with you in case you find yourself in a survival scenario. They are perfect for taking out small game and can save your life in a pinch. They tend to be less tech-based as competitive bows are and will commonly just be made out of a piece of dry wood and cord. Learning how to make a primitive bow can be an extraordinary skill to have if you find yourself venturing into the wilderness.

Is a bow good for home defense?

As useful as bows are and as powerful as they can be at taking down game and hunting prey, they are perhaps not the best choice when it comes to home defense. There have been occasions where a bow has saved someone from a serious robbery attempt but these cases are extremely rare. Whilst it may be handy to have one nearby just in case it isn’t a wise decision to put too much faith in using a bow for defending your home.

Is a bow a good survival weapon?

In large outdoor areas or forested zones, a bow can be an extremely hand tool to have with you. They can ward off potential predators and are more than powerful enough to take down most game when you need food. Bows have been used by a host of different people around the world and even in films (think Katniss Everdeen in the hunger games). If you can train enough and ensure you know how to wield one correctly a bow can be an extraordinary survival weapon!

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