Travel Magazine

How to Blow a Dart Gun

By Aswesawit @aswesawit

If you have ever wondered how to actually use a blow dart gun, we can tell you. We got the opportunity to try it when we took our Amazon tour because it included a visit to a Kichwa village. Also known as a blow gun, it’s the traditional method of hunting for many Amazon tribes.

The Kichwa use dart guns when they hunt small animals, like monkeys.  And yes, they do eat monkeys.

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The gun we were given was only two meters long.  Our guide told us that it is the medium size. Their largest blow gun is 4 meters long and if the user has enough lung capacity it can reach as far as 50 meters!

How to make darts, Kichwa style

  1. Peel a long splinter off the hard part of a palm frond.
  2. Sharpen the tip.
  3. Cut a narrow channel a few centimeters from the tip.
  4. Wrap fibers from a kapok tree down near the other end. (This is super important. The dart is really thin, much smaller than the blow gun channel, and it needs to fit the gun snugly or it won’t go anywhere.)
  5. Put a little curare in the channel near the tip. (The curare, not the dart, is what kills their target. Curare, which they make from plants, is a muscle paralyzing poison that paralyzes voluntary muscles. Once an animal is paralyzed it is easy to kill.)

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How to make a blowgun

Depending on their length, Kichwa make their guns from a number of things. Ours was made of palm branches that had been hollowed out, glued, then tied together.

The thing is surprisingly lightweight, which I guess is important if you’re going to be carrying it through the forest on a hunting expedition.  Even at two meters it was easy to hold and aim; I didn’t have to use much muscle to hold it steady.

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How to use the blow dart gun

(I would have said “how to blow a blowgun,” but that sounds kinda funny.)

Our tour guide had set up a target: a great big, green, fake parrot atop a tree stump.  The fact that their chickens were walking around the target area gave me a little concern, but it didn’t seem to bother the Kichwa any.  I guess if there’d been a casualty they would have just had it for dinner.

Here’s dart blowing in 5 steps:

  1. Load the gun with a dart
  2. Raise it to your mouth
  3. Aim the other end at the target
  4. Get a big lungful of air
  5. Blow hard.

There’s a precaution here: Never rest the gun on the ground, because otherwise when you go to blow your dart you may end up with a mouthful of dirt.

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So how well did we do?

As expected, my Eagle Scout husband outdid me.  I hit the stump (see below) but he nailed the parrot full in the chest. I caught it on video.  Might put it online one of these days.

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If you’d like to read more about our Amazon tour, just enter Amazon or Kichwa into the search box at the right.

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