Outside magazine, March 1996
"I'm the first person in a couple thousand years to bring home the bacon using this weapon," says William "Atlatl Bob" Perkins. "And if you want to be the first on your block, I'm now taking credit cards."
Perkins, a short, hippyish engineer from Manhattan, Montana, is at the forefront of a growing, if amusingly retro, sporting trend: hurling spears using an atlatl, a prehistoric power-throwing device. Perkins manufactures and sells atlatls and the spears that go with them for a tribe of anthropologists, weapons collectors, and yes, Robert Bly groupies, all of whom, it seems, want to get in touch with their inner Cro-Magnon. "We do get the occasional stockbroker," Perkins says.
Invented 30,000 years ago for hunting big game, the atlatl-and-spear combo is a "marvel of engineering," according to Perkins, who notes that spears can strike an object with the impact of a .38-caliber bullet. "Hear that plunk of spear hitting target, and you're hooked."
The woolly mammoth, of course, has been extinct for thousands of years, but there are alternatives. The World Atlatl Association holds accuracy and distance contests and sometimes "atlatl golf."
Should you fear for your life if an opponent misses an easy "putt"on the 18th green? "No," says Perkins. "We just don't have that much pent-up anger."
Open a World of Adventure
Our Dispatch email delivers the stories you can’t afford to miss.