Survival Survival Skills

How to Throw a Tomahawk

Illustration by Pete Sucheski

Grip the handle well to the rear, thumb extended alongside. Point the ‘hawk at the target, cutting-edge down. Raise it over your shoulder, arm slightly bent. Swing your arm forward, releasing the ‘hawk when it’s almost horizontal. A snap of the wrist helps clean up the release, but power comes from the arm and shoulder. Too much snap imparts excessive spin and can prevent the ‘hawk from sticking.

If the flight looks good but the toe of the blade hits too early or too late, back up until you get a consistent bite. A standard throw–11 ½ feet for short ‘hawks, 13 for longer ones– involves one rotation. Back up another 12 feet to achieve two spins.

If the head hits the target on its cheek, or the handle tips to the side on contact, make sure your wrist is not “breaking” horizontally at release. It must stay in line with your forearm and the tomahawk’s arc.

To make a tomahawk target, cut an 18-inch section from a big conifer log. Set it on a stump, growth rings facing you like a series of scoring rings. A pair of supporting poles angled from behind and tacked in place will secure the slab. Don’t throw ‘hawks at live trees. The cuts cause heavy sap loss and give insects access. Also, provide plenty of “safe space” around the target to allow for errant throws and glancing strikes. Remove any rocks from around and behind the target, too.