How to Make a Bola for Small Game Hunting

Craft this ancient hunting weapon to bring down your next survival meal

Making a Bola
Although primitive, the bola is a very well-designed and capable survival tool in the right hands.Tim MacWelch

The bola is a weapon with an extensive global reach and a long history of use. It has been used on almost every continent, from the tallest mountains to the lowest swamps. Primarily used as an impact weapon, the bola offers a secondary feature – entanglement. A lucky strike with this weapon will stun (or even kill) the quarry, and if that doesn’t work, the cords may ensnare them long enough for you to rush in with a blunt object and finish the job. A bola with three, four or five weights is most commonly associated with large bird hunting, such as geese, since their hollow bones are particularly vulnerable to strikes and their wings are susceptible to entanglement. Here are the steps to make your own hard-hitting bola.

1. Use an overhand knot or a figure-eight knot to join three to five cords together. Each section of cord should be between two and three feet long.

2. Collect stones for your weights. They should be about 6-8 ounces each. Round stones are best, as they are less likely to cut through their covering.

3. Wrap the stones in leather or wet rawhide (fur still on, or better yet - removed). Pierce a few holes in the edges of the rawhide and fasten each cord to the weight.

4. If using rawhide, allow it dry completely. It will shrink and harden, holding your weights securely.

5. Use the weapon. Hold the knot that joins the cords with your dominant hand, spin the weights over your head, and hurl toward your target.

Some of the Native American nations of the southeast have a long history of bola use in swampy country. But who would want to use their finely crafted stone-weight bola to hunt birds in a black water swamp? One missed shot, and your prized weapon is swallowed by the dark and hungry swamp mud. So a solution was created. Hunters working around the water switched over to hardwood bola weights. These still packed a punch, but the weights floated for easy retrieval on top of the water. Wooden weights aren’t as effective as stone, but they are easier to make and the perfect choice for bird hunting around the water. Skip the rawhide wrap, and simply drill a hole into each piece of hardwood to attach your cord.

Ever made or used a bola? Please share your story by leaving a comment.