Catapults are an age old device modernized in this day and age with latex rubber giving us a much more compact device capable of launching a projectile at impressive speeds. Within the subject of Bushcraft catapults can give us an ability to take small game at reasonable distances, provided the user is skilled enough and the catapult itself along with the projectile, is suitable.
How are catapults seen socially and what are the laws regarding purchasing and carrying of one?
Catapults have no legal limit on power, can take almost any form and can be legally bought from any retailer including online stores by persons over 18 years of age. There is no law stating that you cannot carry a catapult on your person whether you’re walking through the woods or through a town centre. Legally you are only committing an offensive if your intent is to use the catapult as an offensive weapon. This does not mean that you should carry one without a good reason through a city centre and I would strongly advise that you don’t unless transporting it. Regardless of your good intentions and the law, if you get caught for any reason it will be down to the police officers decision on what happens next and its more than likely to be confiscated or treated as an offensive weapon under the Prevention of Crime Act 1953, especially if you are seen to be misusing it.
The quote below is taken from a publication on www.parliament.uk.
Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations she has received on the use of catapults as offensive weapons; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Alan Campbell [holding answer 10 February 2009]: The Home Office has received both public and ministerial correspondence on the use of catapults as offensive weapons. The law is clear that if someone is carrying a catapult with intent to cause injury he may be liable to prosecution under section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 which makes it an offence to carry an offensive weapon in public without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
The above means that Catapults were not added to the offensive weapons list and it falls down to the intent of the individual and scenario to determine if the catapult in question is an offensive weapon, although this doesn’t mean that police officers will not default to the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.
So you’ve got a good idea now of the legality of catapults, you’ve bought one but now you want to step up a gear and practice or acquire some food.
So for starters hunting with a catapult is not seen as a realistic form of taking game. Many in the hunting/fishing circle will not respond positively or chuckle if you tell them you hunt with one. This doesn’t mean that catapults are not geared up for the job, it’s just something that’s not well recognized and personally I think this is a good thing and the reason behind the laws today. Legally you must be a proficient shot with your catapult to hunt with it and your catapult must have adequate bands of a sufficient power and appropriate ammunition (no arrows or darts) to dispatch game. There is no law stating that you cannot take your catapult out onto common or private land (provided you have permission on private land) and use it to shoot targets or take small game for food. Personally I would strongly advise against using your catapult on common land that’s populated regularly with people simply because accidents can happen and there are many people out there that may not take to the idea if they see you. If you do regardless of this advice then avoid aiming up unless your confident of the drop, safe shots are key because you don’t want to land a ball bearing across a footpath with people on. Be safe and use your better judgment or you may be the one who changes the laws for everyone.
More details come into play when hunting is involved like the ‘The Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996‘
The implementation of the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 has made it easier for the police to act to protect wild animals in the countryside from cruelty than ever before.
The Act gives officers more power to prosecute those causing unnecessary and unlawful suffering to wild animals such as hedgehogs, squirrels and foxes (this can also include Squirrels, Rabbits and Hares).
Under the Act, any person who mutilates, kicks, beats, nails or otherwise impales, stabs, burns, stones, crushes, drowns, drags or asphyxiates a wild mammal with intent to inflict unnecessary suffering is guilty of an offence.
The maximum penalty is a £5,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment for each offence. The Act gives the courts power to confiscate any vehicle or equipment used in the commission of the offence, and can order their disposal or destruction.
The Act does allow for certain exceptions. An offence is not committed by someone who:
- kills a wild mammal as an act of mercy if it has been so seriously disabled – other than by an unlawful act – that there is no reasonable chance of its recovery
- kills, in a swift and humane way, a mammal injured in the course of any lawful activity, such as shooting, hunting, coursing or pest control using snares, traps, dogs, birds or poisons.
So looking at the above law it’s safe to say that none of the above is anyone’s intent when hunting for food. But, you have to prove this. Let’s say you shoot a rabbit with your catapult and make a poor shot, its begins screaming and kicking, you run over to dispatch it and swiftly snap its neck only then to turn around to someone who had seen the whole thing, they decide to report you to the RSPCA. could you prove that it wasn’t your intent to cause suffering to the animal by stoning it with your shot and beating or mutilating it? If you are going to hunt I would advise you go after Wood Pigeons as they are not covered under this act.
The moral side of hunting with a catapult.
There is a moral side of hunting that must always be addressed. You should ask yourself why you want to hunt? To some killing animals is not a big deal and a right of passage as a human being. In my eyes all creatures are equal and despite their size or intelligence they all deserve respect much like we have a habit of demanding it. If you are going to go out and kill animals then think about why you’re doing it. Catapults are brutal and rarely kill anything instantly unless the shot placement is perfect and this requires impeccable accuracy that takes dedication to perfect. Almost all shots require a follow-up shot or swift dispatch. Hunting can be an intoxicating experience like a dream but once the shot is made and the animal drops you suddenly realize what you have done and you wake up to the reality of it. Sometimes the only way to learn to hunt is to hunt.
Lets summarize all of this to a clearer picture.
- Catapult Laws – you can legally buy one, own one, carry one and use one to hunt or shoot targets over common or private land (must have permission on private land). If you are to be seen misusing or endangering anyone you will be charged under the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.
- My advice on using one – make sure you are well out the way of people, houses, cars, pathways and roads in remote woodland or open countryside, or get permission on private land. Check behind your targets at reachable ranges always.
- Hunting – do not use stones as ammunition given the statements in The Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996. You must be a proficient shot with your catapult to hunt with it and your catapult must have adequate bands of a sufficient power and appropriate ammunition to dispatch game (no arrows or darts). To avoid falling under the The Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996 hunt Wood Pigeons.
- Morally – catapult hunting is brutal and if you can use a firearm or air rifle I would strongly advise you use these more adequate methods.
we found this great page at http://www.mcqbushcraft.co.uk/
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