Hunter uses atlatl to take 15-point buck in St. Charles County

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.


DEFIANCE, MO (KTVI) – A Missouri hunter took down a 15-point buck only four months after taking up one of hunting’s most challenging methods. Paul Gragg, 49, of Defiance used an atlatl, a weapon that predates the bow and arrow.

The method is legal throughout all portions of Missouri’s deer season, from Sept. 15 through Jan. 25. The Missouri Department of Conservation says the the atlatl is used to throw a 4-6 foot long dart. They go on to describe the weapon in great detail in an article on their website:

The atlatl is a wooden shaft approximately a foot-and-a-half long with a socket or knock at the rear to engage the dart.

The dart is placed along the shaft with its back end resting in the socket or knock. The hunter grips the atlatl near its front end and performs a forward throw using the upper arm and wrist. The flipping motion of the atlatl creates angular momentum that propels the dart with greater speed and power than can be achieved with the arm alone. Darts thrown from the weapon can achieve velocities of nearly 100 miles per hour.

This method of hunting can be difficult to learn but very effective. Gragg tells the Missouri Department of Conservation that:

“When I first started doing it, I thought there was no way this was going to work,” admitted Gragg. “But after I practiced it for a little bit I was getting fairly good at it. Once you get the feel for it you can throw them pretty well. You can feel that sweet spot in your motion as soon as you let it go. You know right away whether you had a good throw or not. It’s a lot like throwing a baseball.”

Gragg scouted a friend’s land in St. Charles County to hunt with the atlatl. He spotted a steep hill that deer were using as a bedding area. The atlatl provides some unique challenges to hunting. You have to get much closer than in bow hunting. With a bow and arrow Gragg would keep his shots at about 30 yards.

“But with an atlatl, I didn’t want him over 15 yards,” he said.

The scouting expedition gave Paul the information he needed for his October 24th hunt. The buck came off the ridge, crossed the creek, jumped the ledge and stopped right under his deer stand. He waited patiently for the buck to move. The deer finally walked about 8 yards from the tree.

“But I know if you can see their eyeball whatsoever, even from behind, they can see you. They’ve probably got 270-degree vision,” Gragg said.

The Missouri Department of Conservation describes the hunt:

He feared the buck would be gone before he could complete the throwing motion. Gragg waited for the buck to walk behind a tree, and just as the animal’s head was obscured by it, it would give Gragg the chance he needed to make his move with the atlatl. Frustratingly, the buck just milled around a bit. Finally, the animal dropped his head down just enough for Gragg to spring to action. “It looked like he was going to lick his side, but that’s when I had the chance to pull back and throw it,” said Gragg. The dart hit home right at the animal’s shoulder from a distance of 8-10 yards, penetrating 11 inches. The deer stumbled a short distance away and then went down.

As the initial excitement dissipated, Gragg realized he had bagged another fine trophy. The 15-point buck he saw lying on the ground would go on to attain an unofficial Boone & Crockett score of 169 gross and net of 151.

“My goal was not to harvest the trophy that I did, but I just wanted to get a buck under my belt with the atlatl,” said Gragg. “I was in complete shock right off the bat.”

Gragg will have the buck mounted and placed on his living room wall. His friends initially teased him for using the odd weapon. He says they’ve backed off a little bit after he got the 15 point buck.

For more on deer hunting, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.


Latest News

More News