Being stranded in the wild without a weapon can make survival incredibly difficult, but a bow is an easy-to-make weapon that can assist you with both hunting and protection. However, it’s important to know what you’re doing when crafting one. While constructing the actual bow may seem straightforward, the string can prove to be quite a challenge.
Here are 4 ways you can make a bowstring in the wild:
1. Use Animal Hide To Make a Bow String
Animal hide isn’t the best option for a bowstring, but it’ll do just fine in a pinch. Make sure any hide that you use isn’t tanned. It must be dried, but not in the sun, as the sun will harden it.
Start by collecting the hide from an animal of your choosing. Squirrel is one of the most popular choices, but deer are a close second.
Whichever animal you choose, you’ll want to make sure you have enough to create the string. The length of hide you’ll need is double the length of your bow, plus a few inches to add the loops at each end.
Pro Tip: Hide is much easier to work with when it’s wet, like sinew. So, consider soaking the hide before starting to work with it. This makes it more pliable.
Similar to the setup of the fishing line, you’ll need some way to twist and stretch the hide. This can be done by nails in wood or even by wrapping it around a tree branch and pulling it to it. Alternatively, you can attach it to two nearby trees and stretch the hide between them.
Once you’ve soaked the hide, and it’s easier to work with, create your knots on each end with holes sized appropriately for your bow. Loop the first knot over one nail, then twist the hide thoroughly to create one long twisted string, and attach the other knot to hold it securely.
When you’re twisting the hide, you’ll want to ensure that there are no kinks. The twisted string should create a uniform string that can still be used as a bowstring. Once the hide is twisted properly and held in place, leave it in this position to dry out for a few days.
Once it has dried, your hide bow string is ready for use. Many choose to use something to seal it, like wax, but this isn’t necessary. Just make sure the hide is completely dry before attempting to use it, as the wet hide is too pliable for use as a bow string.
Check out this video on how to make a squirrel rawhide bowstring:
2. Sinew Is Tough Enough To Use as a Makeshift Bow String
Sinew comes from the tendon of an animal, and it’s one of the most useful natural materials for making a bowstring. When an animal tendon is dried out and turned into thinner fibers, that’s when it becomes sinew. Because of its strength, this fibrous material is one of the best for making a bowstring in the wild.
Sinew can be found in many different parts of the animal’s body. It’s commonly found on the lower leg and the back. The back strap of sinew is the easiest to work with because it’s longer and plentiful.
- The first step of processing sinew is to remove it from the animal very carefully. You want to keep it intact as much as possible to prevent damage or breakage. But the most difficult part comes after you’ve removed it.
- To create sinew, the tendon must be pulled apart into smaller strands. Take your time during this step, as you don’t want to damage the tendon.
This material is much more pliable when it’s wet and hardens as it dries. Because of this, most people choose to shape it and create their bows while it’s wet, as it’s a lot easier to work with.
When sinew dries, there will also be some shrinkage. Normally, this isn’t enough to make it no longer useful after you’ve crafted your bow, but it’s worth mentioning that you may want to overestimate the amount you need just to be safe.
For a more detailed walkthrough of how to make a bowstring from sinew, check out this video below from Shawn Woods as he goes through the process step-by-step, giving visuals along the way.
3. Make a Bow String With a Fishing Line
Most fishing lines will work well as a bowstring as long as there isn’t a lot of give. Remember, the more stretch that the string has, the weaker your shot will be, given that the bow’s power is in the bending wood rather than the string.
A fishing line is much thinner than an ordinary string, so you’ll need to use multiple strands of fishing line to make a bowstring. In order to complete this process, you’ll need to loop the line multiple times while creating your bow string in order to get the correct amount of thickness.
When using a fishing line, you may need to try and fail a few times in order to determine how many strands you’ll need to get the desired thickness. To easily create your string, you’ll need something to help you build it.
You can use 2 nails on a wooden board as this is the easiest method. Set them up with the length you’d like the string to be, and create your initial strand.
Once the first strand has been created, add more strands as you see fit until you’ve reached the desired thickness of your bowstring.
When you reach your desired thickness, ensure that every part of your bow string is the same thickness, including knots. This will prevent your string from being weak in certain areas or prone to snapping.
Carrying braided fishing line in your tool kit is a great idea. This video shows you why:
4. Use the String in Your Survival Kit
Rope isn’t ideal for a bowstring—it’s far too thick and rigid. Instead, reach for your survival kit for a better option. Many survival kits contain strings of some sort. The most important thing about the string is that it should be strong and not bend too much or snap when force is applied. The wood is what will give when using the bow. So, ensure you have a strong string ready to go.
- First, you’ll need to cut grooves in the wood for your bowstring. Without these grooves, there’s a chance your string may slide off the bow. Do this about an inch (25.4 mm) from each tip of the bow. That gap will allow the string to control the bow without giving much room for the string to come off the end.
- Your bowstring also needs to be looped carefully at each end to ensure that it stays put and doesn’t come undone while shooting. It’s also important that the holes at the top and bottom of your string are wide enough to fit about 6 inches (152 mm) down the bow but not too wide that the string can come off if pulled too far.
The knot you choose for the string can vary based on what you’re comfortable with, but it’s important to ensure it’s secure and doesn’t wear out over time.
While not ideal, paracord can be used as a bowstring. Shown in this video:
Oftentimes our options are limited when it comes to resources. There is so much to do (and so little time) that being bogged down trying to create a bow and arrow in a survival situation is usually not the best use of your energy. However, if you are thriving and have taken care of the threes, then by all means, go after some game.
Now you know the best four ways to craft a bowstring in the wild. I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!
For more, check out How Far Can a Bow Shoot? | Ranges by Draw Weight (With Chart).
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!