In August 2015, Paul Gragg attended the Missouri Deer Classic and Outdoor Expo where he visited with the folks from the Missouri Atlatl Association. After a few throws, he was hooked. Paul said he ordered one from Thunderbird Atlatls when he got home and began practicing every day.
Wanting to be the first to kill a buck with atlatl, he began laying plans for archery season. He knew he’d have to be close, somewhere within 15 yards was his effective lethal distance and he’d have to rethink some of his bowhunting techniques…like getting as high up into a tree as possible.
A 12 foot ladder stand perched just over a trail was his position the evening of October 24th. At 3:30 this buck crossed a creek and walked directly under his stand, then walked out to eight yards. The motion required to launch an atlatl dart is significant, so he waited until the deer turned his head to groom himself to throw.
The dart tipped with a two bladed broadhead struck just behind the shoulder with almost no effort and buried itself 11 inches deep. The buck ran off, snapping the exposed section of the dart off. At forty yards he began to stumble, then fell dead.
“I’ve killed lots of big bucks before, so I didn’t get too worked up when he was in front of me. It wasn’t until I’d actually hit him and he went down that I got the shakes and got excited.”
Paul started texting all of his friends who thought he was crazy for ditching his bow for the atlatl. It doesn’t seem so crazy now.
I asked Paul if he planned to continue hunting this way.
“Yeah, I have to know if it was luck.”
Luck or no, that’s one heck of an experiment. After checking with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Paul’s buck was not the first to be taken in the Show Me State. A smaller buck had been killed in 2011 during Missouri’s first primitive methods season.
If I had to choose between first or biggest, I think I’d go biggest. Congratulations to Paul on a great buck and an even better story behind it!