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Guest blog: How to (safely) add tomahawk throwing to your next Scouting event

Throwing tomahawks can spice up any Boy Scout, Varsity, or Venturing outing.

Step one: Put a sharp object in the hands of your Scouts.

Step two: Ask the Scouts to throw that object.

Sounds crazy, right? But if done properly, tomahawk throwing can be a fun, memorable, and safe activity for your next troop, team, or crew camp-out.

GUEST BLOGGER Chris Watkins is an Eagle Scout

Here’s how to get started.

On Friday night around the campfire, tell stories of Native American tomahawk-throwing competitions or about mountain men who survived because of their ability to accurately throw one of these weapons. Then, tell them that tomorrow, after breakfast and camp clean-up, they will learn how to be just as accurate.

The word “tomahawk” was derived from the Algonquian word otomahuk, meaning “to knock down.” Throwing the hawk is a unique sport that requires discipline, control, and accuracy and can be one of the most memorable activities for leaders and Scouts.

But ensure that you carefully set up a throwing station, provide safety training, and properly teach Scouts how to throw.

Throwing station safety and set-up

Worried about the concept of tomahawks flying through the air?

Just consider how many others have safely provided this activity because they were aware of a few simple safety instructions. As it says in the new Guide to Safe Scouting, every leader must first “identify and recognize [the] minimum skill level and be sure that none are put at risk by attempting activity beyond their ability.”

Remember that throwing a hawk is safe if you follow these rules:

  1. Secure a perimeter around the throwing area of at least 45 feet. Consider putting plastic flags up to prevent unauthorized entrance.
  2. Ensure that targets are at least 10 feet apart from each other.
  3. Store hawks in a secure location when not in use.
  4. Use only one set of hawks per target.
  5. Make sure adult supervision is provided at all times.
  6. Create a throwing line with rope or on the ground in some other way and adhere to the rule of never crossing the line when others are throwing.
  7. Create a safety line at least 10 feet behind the throwing line for anyone without a tomahawk.
  8. Be prepared. Have a fully functional first aid kit at the station at all times.
  9. Hold the tomahawk safely when not throwing. That is, hold the tomahawk by the head with your fingers wrapped around the metal arm (not the blade) with the handle closest to your thumb.
  10. And remember, no Cub Scouts are permitted to try this activity. Only Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers.

How to throw a tomahawk

It’s fairly simple. After familiarizing yourself with the safety rules above, follow these basics steps:

  1. Measure about five to six paces from your target, depending on height and handle length.
  2. Face your target with your feet positioned similar to a baseball pitcher with the foot opposite your throwing hand in front.
  3. Hold the hawk at the bottom of the handle (make sure the blade is facing forward toward the target).
  4. When throwing bring the hawk straight back and straight forward aiming towards your target.
  5. If you aren’t sticking the hawk, adjust the distance from you to the target. The longer the distance the more the tomahawk will rotate. In other words, if the hawk is over-rotating then you need to get closer to the target.

The same principle of hawk throwing can be used in knife throwing as well. Enjoy the great outdoors and teaching Scouts about discipline, control and accuracy. This will be a memorable experience for all.

Have any tips about throwing tomahawks at a Scouting event? Leave a comment below.

- Chris Watkins

NOTE FROM BRYAN: This guest blog post was written by Eagle Scout Chris Watkins, who owns a site that sells tomahawks and hatchets. Tomahawk-throwing is an approved Scouting activity for Boy Scouts and older. Cub Scouts should not participate. 

17 Comments on Guest blog: How to (safely) add tomahawk throwing to your next Scouting event

  1. I love it! Thanks Bryan and Chris!

  2. Many Point Scout Camp has tomahawk walls at the archery range in each of the subcamps. Always lots of fun to go down there.

  3. Scott Bernier // June 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm // Reply

    A very popular activity up here in Maine.

  4. great article. I remember in Boy Scouts them teaching us about ax throwing and we had a scoutmaster who was all about the old American Trackers and he would show us all kinds of stuff.

    • That’s great, Herb! I think if you can give Scouts the story behind the activity, it’ll be even more memorable. You’re proof of that!

  5. Must the “rangemaster” be BSA certified like with shooting sports? I had read somewhere that they must be certified. If so, who has a training coming up?

  6. J.D. Urbach // June 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm // Reply

    The BSA Camporee Guide (#33571) provides more detail for anyone interested.

  7. Jackie Dannemiller // June 3, 2011 at 5:50 pm // Reply

    How can we provided training when our council training event (scouting university) is held at a high school on a saturday, any ideas?

  8. keith westergaard // June 8, 2011 at 4:00 am // Reply

    Sorry, I do not feel that the throwing of a tomahawk is something we should be teaching our Scouts to participate in…whether a target range is set for this or not.
    Throwing of tomahawks can lead to hatchets, axes, knives.
    I have seen and have taken toten chit cards away from Scouts that have thrown hatchets into live trees in their campsite.
    Fortunately, these Scouts were not a part of my unit.
    Naturally, their leaders should have been in the camp to supervise what is going on but, they cannot be everywhere.
    Next thing you know will be the reinvention of Scouts playing mumbly peg or “chicken” with their pocket knives.
    I was brought up with knives, axes, hatchets or tomahawks are tools to be used -not played with.
    Do we now introduce Paintballing merit badge to promote shooting projectiles at Scouts?
    I think not.

    • Thank you Keith for your input. It is a concern to have tomahawks in the hands of scouts when they are unsupervised. I definitely understand your point of view and of course the same can be said about archery and shooting that occurs at scout camps around the globe. There is an important element of safety that must accompany any of these activities.

      The guide to safe scouting (quoted in the post) is definitely a “must read” for all leaders and as it says, every leader must “identify and recognize [the] minimum skill level and be sure that none are put at risk by attempting activity beyond their ability.” I would add that a leader must recognize activities that put their units at risk due to a lack of maturity within the group as well. And as was mentioned, this is not an approved activity for cub scouts.

    • Just as anything it has to be controlled. I find your statement to be a too much of a generalization. Its like saying “You shouldn’t let then walk because soon they could try to run” Anything can escalate to something else, its all on how you handle it, lay out some rules, explain the importance, and work with scouts with a high maturity level (no cross-overs)

    • We should let our Scouts shoot paint balls. Some of these rules are out dated and too strict.

    • I do feel some valid points were made. Safety rules must always be emphasized, and the “do not try this at home” may apply. Case in point: A mom recently came into our Scout Store looking for an axe for her son, because he had seen a throwing demonstration. She was about to buy a camp hatchet for her cub den to throw.

  9. Good Idea. Where do I get a Tomahawk?

    • Great question Jody, I wrote the tomahawk safety guest post and I own the company HatchetsandAxes.com. You can buy tomahawks and tomahawk packages for scouts online at http://www.HatchetsandAxes.com.

  10. Alan Cross // July 31, 2011 at 11:30 am // Reply

    Our Troop does this activitiy yearly along with our Shotgun and Rifle weekend. Great for the rotation. Our Council Venturing activity (that I am the Director) has a “converted” archery range we use for tomahawk and throwing knives. Always a fun time and never an incident. All around respect and qualified supervision.

  11. What adult training is required to host an axe throwing event for BSA?

3 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. New York OA Trader | Shared Items From Around The Web – June 3, 2011
  2. Tomahawk Throwing for Scouts - Scoutmastercg.com
  3. How to Throw a Tomahawk | Throwing Tomahawks and Axe Essentials

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