Killing Devices, FM 21-76


8-50. There are several killing devices that you can construct to help you obtain small game to help you survive. The rabbit stick, the spear, the bow and arrow, and the sling are such devices.


8-51. One of the simplest and most effective killing devices is a stout stick as long as your arm, from fingertip to shoulder, called a “rabbit stick.” You can throw it either overhand or sidearm and with considerable force. It is best thrown so that it flies sideways, increasing the chance of hitting the target. It is very effective against small game that stops and freezes as a defense.


8-52. You can make a spear to kill small game and to fish. Jab with the spear—do not throw it. Paragraph 8-67 explains spearfishing.


8-53. A good bow is the result of many hours of work. You can construct a suitable short-term bow fairly easily. When it loses its spring or breaks, you can replace it. Select a hardwood stick about 1 meter (3 feet) long that is free of knots or limbs. Carefully scrape the large end down until it has the same pull as the small end. Careful examination will show the natural curve of the stick. Always scrape from the side that faces you, or the bow will break the first time you pull it. Dead, dry wood is preferable to green wood. To increase the pull, lash a second bow to the first, front to front, forming an “X” when viewed from the side. Attach the tips of the bows with cordage and only use a bowstring on one bow.

8-54. Select arrows from the straightest dry sticks available. The arrows should be about half as long as the bow. Scrape each shaft smooth all around. You will probably have to straighten the shaft. You can bend an arrow straight by heating the shaft over hot coals. Do not allow the shaft to scorch or burn. Hold the shaft straight until it cools.

8-55. You can make arrowheads from bone, glass, metal, or pieces of rock. You can also sharpen and fire-harden the end of the shaft. Fire hardening is actually a misnomer. To fire-harden wood, hold it over hot coals or plunge it deep under the coals in the ashes, being careful not to burn or scorch the wood. The purpose of fire hardening is to harden the wood by drying the moisture out of it.

8-56. You must notch the ends of the arrows for the bowstring. Cut or file the notch; do not split it. Fletching (adding feathers to the notched end of an arrow) improves the arrow’s flight characteristics. Fletching is recommended but not necessary on a field-expedient arrow.


8-57. You can make a sling by tying two pieces of cordage, each about 60 centimeters (24 inches) long, at opposite ends of a palm-sized piece of leather or cloth. Place a rock in the cloth and wrap one cord around your middle finger and hold in your palm. Hold the other cord between your forefinger and thumb. To throw the rock, spin the sling several times in a circle and release the cord between your thumb and forefinger. Practice to gain proficiency. The sling is very effective against small game.


8-58. You can make your own fishhooks, nets, and traps. The paragraphs below discuss several methods to obtain fish.


8-59. You can make field-expedient fishhooks from pins, needles, wire, small nails, or any piece of metal. You can also use wood, bone, coconut shell, thorns, flint, seashell, or tortoise shell. You can also make fishhooks from any combination of these items (Figure 8-18).

Figure 8-18. Improvised Fishhooks

Figure 8-18. Improvised Fishhooks

8-60. To make a wooden hook, cut a piece of hardwood about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long and about 6 millimeters (1/4 inch) in diameter to form the shank. Cut a notch in one end in which to place the point. Place the point (piece of bone, wire, nail) in the notch. Hold the point in the notch and tie securely so that it does not move out of position. This is a fairly large hook. To make smaller hooks, use smaller material.

8-61. A gorge or skewer is a small shaft of wood, bone, metal, or other material. It is sharp on both ends and notched in the middle where you tie cordage. Bait the gorge by placing a piece of bait on it lengthwise. When the fish swallows the bait, it also swallows the gorge. If you are tending the fishing line when the fish bites, do not attempt to pull on the line to set the hook as you would with a conventional hook. Allow the fish to swallow the bait to get the gorge as far down its throat before the gorge sets itself.


8-62. A stakeout is a fishing device you can use in a hostile environment (Figure 8-19). To construct a stakeout, drive two supple saplings into the bottom of the lake, pond, or stream with their tops just below the water surface. Tie a cord between them just slightly below the surface. Tie two short cords with hooks or gorges to this cord, ensuring that they cannot wrap around the poles or each other. They should also not slip along the long cord. Bait the hooks or gorges.

Figure 8-19. Stakeout

Figure 8-19. Stakeout


8-63. If a gill net is not available, you can make one using parachute suspension line or similar material (Figure 8-20). Remove the core lines from the suspension line and tie the casing between two trees. Attach several core lines to the casing by doubling them over and tying them with prusik knots or girth hitches. These lines should be six times the desired depth of the net (for example, a 6-foot [180-centimeter] piece of string girth-hitched over the casing will give you two 3-foot [90-centimeter] pieces, which after completing the net, will provide a 1-foot [30-centimeter] deep net). The length of the desired net and the size of the mesh determine the number of core lines used and the space between them. The recommended size of the spaces in the net mesh is about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) square. Starting at one end of the casing, tie the second and the third core lines together using an overhand knot. Then tie the fourth and fifth, sixth and seventh, and so on, until you reach the last core line. You should now have all core lines tied in pairs with a single core line hanging at each end. Start the second row with the first core line, tie it to the second, the third to the fourth, and so on.

Figure 8-20. Making a Gill Net

Figure 8-20. Making a Gill Net

8-64. To keep the rows even and to regulate the size of the mesh, tie a guideline to the trees. Position the guideline on the opposite side of the net you are working on. Move the guideline down after completing each row. The lines will always hang in pairs and you always tie a cord from one pair to a cord from an adjoining pair. Continue tying rows until the net is the desired width. Thread a suspension line casing along the bottom of the net to strengthen it. Use the gill net as shown in Figure 8-21. Angling the gill net will help to reduce the amount of debris that may accumulate in the net. Be sure to check it frequently.

Figure 8-21. Setting a Gill Net in the Stream

Figure 8-21. Setting a Gill Net in the Stream


8-65. You may trap fish using several methods (Figure 8-22). Fish baskets are one method. You construct them by lashing several sticks together with vines into a funnel shape. You close the top, leaving a hole large enough for the fish to swim through.

Figure 8-22. Various Types of Fish Traps

Figure 8-22. Various Types of Fish Traps

8-66. You can also use traps to catch saltwater fish, as schools regularly approach the shore with the incoming tide and often move parallel to the shore. Pick a location at high tide and build the trap at low tide. On rocky shores, use natural rock pools. On coral islands, use natural pools on the surface of reefs by blocking the openings as the tide recedes. On sandy shores, use sandbars and the ditches they enclose. Build the trap as a low stone wall extending outward into the water and forming an angle with the shore.


8-67. If you are near shallow water (about waist deep) where the fish are large and plentiful, you can spear them. To make a spear, cut a long, straight sapling (Figure 8-23). Sharpen the end to a point or attach a knife, jagged piece of bone, or sharpened metal. You can also make a spear by splitting the shaft a few inches down from the end and inserting a piece of wood to act as a spreader. You then sharpen the two separated halves to points. To spear fish, find an area where fish either gather or where there is a fish run. Place the spear point into the water and slowly move it toward the fish. Then, with a sudden push, impale the fish on the stream bottom. Do not try to lift the fish with the spear, as it with probably slip off and you will lose it; hold the spear with one hand and grab and hold the fish with the other. Do not throw the spear, especially if the point is a knife. You cannot afford to lose a knife in a survival situation. Be alert to the problems caused by light refraction when looking at objects in the water. You must aim lower than the object, usually at the bottom of the fish, to hit your mark.

Figure 8-23. Types of Spear Points

Figure 8-23. Types of Spear Points


8-68. At night, in an area with high fish density, you can use a light to attract fish. Then, armed with a machete or similar weapon, you can gather fish using the back side of the blade to strike them. Do not use the sharp side as you will cut them in two pieces and end up losing some of the fish.


8-69. Another way to catch fish is by using poison. Poison works quickly. It allows you to remain concealed while it takes effect. It also enables you to catch several fish at one time. When using fish poison, be sure to gather all of the affected fish, because many dead fish floating downstream could arouse suspicion. Some plants that grow in warm regions of the world contain rotenone, a substance that stuns or kills cold-blooded animals but does not harm persons who eat the animals. The best place to use rotenone, or rotenone-producing plants, is in ponds or the headwaters of small streams containing fish. Rotenone works quickly on fish in water 21 degrees C (70 degrees F) or above. The fish rise helplessly to the surface. It works slowly in water 10 to 21 degrees C (50 to 70 degrees F) and is ineffective in water below 10 degrees C (50 degrees F). The following plants, used as indicated, will stun or kill fish:

  • Anamirta cocculus (Figure 8-24). This woody vine grows in southern Asia and on islands of the South Pacific. Crush the bean-shaped seeds and throw them in the water.
  • Croton tiglium (Figure 8-24). This shrub or small tree grows in waste areas on islands of the South Pacific. It bears seeds in three angled capsules. Crush the seeds and throw them into the water.
  • Barringtonia (Figure 8-24). These large trees grow near the sea in Malaya and parts of Polynesia. They bear a fleshy one-seeded fruit. Crush the seeds and bark and throw into the water.
  • Derris eliptica (Figure 8-24). This large genus of tropical shrubs and woody vines is the main source of commercially produced rotenone. Grind the roots into a powder and mix with water. Throw a large quantity of the mixture into the water.
  • Duboisia (Figure 8-24). This shrub grows in Australia and bears white clusters of flowers and berrylike fruit. Crush the plants and throw them into the water.
  • Tephrosia (Figure 8-24). This species of small shrubs, which bears beanlike pods, grows throughout the tropics. Crush or bruise bundles of leaves and stems and throw them into the water.

Figure 8-24. Fish-Poisoning Plants

Figure 8-24. Fish-Poisoning Plants

  • Lime. You can get lime from commercial sources and in agricultural areas that use large quantities of it. You may produce your own by burning coral or seashells. Throw the lime into the water.
  • Nut husks. Crush green husks from butternuts or black walnuts. Throw the husks into the water.

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