The Bow and Arrow vs. The Zombie

If you haven’t tuned in to “The Walking Dead” on AMC, you are missing out on television’s adaptation of one of the greatest zombie tales ever told. The series, based on The Walking Dead comic books by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, is a gory masterpiece filled with drama, survival, and the rise of America’s favorite monster: the flesh-craving animated corpse.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series (or the books), the scenario isn’t much different than what you’ve already witnessed on the big screen: there is an outbreak in the form of an infection, it wipes out the majority of the population, the dead become flesh-craving undead, people panic, anarchy ensues, small pockets of survivors remain, law, order, and human decency is lost in the process.

The show has plenty of all of the above, but primarily focuses on the human reaction to the situation. This is what makes it different from your typical “zombie” movie, and far superior. The viewer eventually focuses on the characters and less on the zombies, which are merely the catalyst to the problem: human nature. Our individual drive to protect our own and survive.

Herein lies the beauty of the series. Every character has their own morals and beliefs, but they also have their own skills that now define who they are in the new world. We’ve seen this idea before in William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies”. When the concept of class and status crumbles, a person’s worth is often judged by their strengths and how they can be attributed to group.

In the AMC version of The Walking Dead Daryl Dixon” (played by Boondock Saint’s star Norman Reedus) is the perfect example of society flipped on its ear, and is my favorite character.

My best Daryl Dixon impression.

Daryl represents the “dregs of society” when compared to others in the group: a poor, middle-aged, hillbilly biker with a cranky disposition. Growing up the product of an alcoholic father and an abusive older brother in the mountains of rural Georgia had a hardening effect on Daryl, turning him into a resourceful hunter/tracker, and all around ass-kicking zombie machine. Did I mention he shoots a crossbow?

While not a crossbow fan per say, the archery geek in me was immediately drawn to him for this reason and peeked when he eventually ran out of bolts and resorted to sharpened wooden dowels with turkey feathers. I was happy to see it didn’t slow him down any.

The idea of flinging arrows at ravenous animated corpses intrigued me, especially since I’m an archer at heart and don’t own a firearm. I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do when suddenly faced with a walking dead scenario. Would my longbow and a few quivers full of arrows be enough to survive? To protect my family?

I’d like to think so, and here is why.

Peace and Quiet
I’m of the opinion that Daryl Dixon prefers his crossbow over a gun because it is a much quieter weapon. The primitive mind of a zombie is attracted to loud noises, so the survivors of The Walking Dead do their best to dispatch them, as quietly as possible, sans firearms. Longbows are whisper quiet, allowing users to get close enough to take out a zombie without detection and continue to do so for as long as it takes. Should you miss, you’ll have an opportunity for another shot without alerting the horde to your presence. That isn’t going to happen with a pistol, shotgun, or even a long range rifle. You are exposed as soon as you fire the weapon. I don’t care how far away you are, they are headed in your general direction and there may be some around you were unaware of.

Should the world collapse under a wave of decaying flesh, it would be a whole lot easier to get your hands on a bow than a gun. Why? Because guns will be the first thing people flock to obtain – like trying to get an iPad on Black Friday.

The U.S. is full of sporting goods stores, firearms realtors, and pawn shops that will be pillaged at the first sign of outbreak, so pump your breaks and wait for a bow. It will be a whole lot easier to get your hands on one in the wake of the hysteria and you won’t get yourself killed in a mad dash for a hunting rifle.

Then there are the lumberyards to consider. I’m confident that anyone with even the most basic of woodworking skills can make a bow and a set of arrows out of oak boards, cordage, 3/8 wood dowels, and some glass bottles. I’ve even seen people make bows out of PVC. It can be done. Odds are you made a bow when you were a kid, you can do it now.

Recoverable Ammunition
Arrows can be used over and over again. Bullets can’t. You’ll probably have to sterilize the shaft after punching it through a zombies eye, but I’m guessing that will be a whole lot easier than finding bullets, especially considering the average gun user at the time will be either a complete newbie, or a paranoid, trigger-happy moron.

Having shot a pistol for the first time last year, I’ll contest to the difficulty of it. I would have to be within ten feet of a zombie, and would waste at least four shells trying to take it down. Confronted with multiple brain-eating targets, and the stress attributed to the situation, I’d be out of ammo and a deadman.

Seasoned gun owners, I’d be willing to bet there are a whole lot more of me than there are of you.

Easy Maintenance
Guns require maintenance. They need to be oiled, cleaned, and cared for. Longbows don’t need to be. You’ve got a stick, a string, and the fletching of your arrows to worry about. You can repair a bow with items found in any hardware, department, or dollar store. If those aren’t an option, nature has everything you need.

You can’t fix a gun with pine pitch and a sharp rock.

A Hunter’s Weapon
Stickbows are stealthy, lightweight, easy to maneuver through the woods, and work well for all types of game. You can even recover your arrow should you miss. A bullet is gone once it is fired and the noise will have your favorite spot swarming with the undead. Good luck finding game once they start meandering around.

In Conclusion…
There is a downside to every upside, and this isn’t any different. I’ll admit there would be cons to fighting zombies with a stickbow, the obvious being shot placement. Zombies die from trauma to the brain. The eye socket, temple, and spine are ideal targets, and none of them are easy to hit while moving. Should you connect, there is no guarantee of termination. You would need constant practice, but that shouldn’t be a problem given the target rich environment you’ve now inherited.

You’ll also need to rethink your gear philosophy a bit. For starters, broadheads designed to cause hemmorhage aren’t optimal. Not against your undead targets anyway. You want penetration. You need to break bones. You need to at least disable the target. A two-blade head with a shovel point, or a blut-tipped small game point are now your two best options for zombie slaying. It is now the time for you single-bevel Ed Ashby subscribers to shine. Those of us who missed that bandwagon will have to find or forge the most durable 2-blade head, or the hardest, bone-crunching blunt possible. Shot placement will still be king regardless. If you can’t shoot, you won’t be killing zombies. Period.

Do you have zombie-related theories or opinions about the use of stickbows in a catastrohpic, end of the world-type situation? Feel free to share them below or leave comments on my Facebook page

5 thoughts on “The Bow and Arrow vs. The Zombie

  1. Reloading quickly would be a problem, plus the heavy ammo. I would recommend using the bow as a skirmish weapon to silently take out one or two zombies in your way.

  2. I wouldn’t be so “us vs. them” on the choice of weaponry. Different folks have their own preferences, and it’s not too difficult to set up, say, a 10/22 with a (legal) suppressor and subsonic heavy bullets. You can carry a bunch of ’em, and they’re about as silent as a bow. I’m not really comparing them in a “best for” capacity, just bringing up that there are many solutions for any problem. Personally, I’d prefer a longbow over Daryl’s crossbow… mostly due to my being able to reload and have it back ‘in battery’ more quickly. I’m all for it.
    If I’m on a rooftop and providing cover for a group of the Living, I’ll take a good rifle any day. While I may not be Ad Topperwein, I’m a decent enough shot.

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