The Old-Fashioned Tomahawk

Why you should add it to your pack.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

A thousand years ago, the Vikings brandished a weapon known as a battle-ax. Centuries later, native Americans fashioned a shorter, lighter ax called the tomahawk. Today, sportsmen rarely think of the tomahawk as an essential gear item. Aside from traditional muzzleloader hunters, few sportsmen carry 'hawks afield. Yet the tomahawk is more practical than a standard hatchet. Consider these facts:

Early tomahawks consisted of a head made from animal bone or a round stone mounted on a wood handle. Later, Native Americans traded with settlers and obtained iron heads for their tomahawks-an exchange that more than one pioneer would regret.

A tomahawk can be used to finish off a big-game animal. Lynn Thompson of Cold Steel says he has done so with several wild boars. (www.coldsteel.com)

A tomahawk is great for removing animals' heads and hides, because it can cut through bone and gristle easily. The narrow blade is more precise than that of a wide hatchet head.

A tomahawk performs with less stress on the user because of the long handle and thin blade.

In camp, a sportsman can use a tomahawk to make and hammer stakes; dig a latrine, trench or fire ring; chop roots in the tent area; mash nuts for a snack; and defend himself.

The long handle is helpful for bowhunters cutting hard-to-reach limbs for shooting lanes.