Of course, no primitive blowgun is complete without giving attention to the ammunition used – the darts. Traditionally, blowgun darts didn’t have poison tips so they had to carry a little more heft to maximize shock and penetration.
Historically, the shafts were constructed from split pieces of hardwood 8 to 10 inches in length, up to 3/8 inch in diameter, shaved to a round cross-section and pointed on one end. Black locust is a preferred choice among modern Native Americans.
The fletching material must fill the inner cavity of the blowgun so as to catch the air and send the dart on its way. Yet, it must be of a material that is flexible enough to expand at the large mouthpiece end and contract at the small muzzle end of the blowgun. It must be fairly durable yet light enough so as not to slow the darts flight once it has left the blowgun.
The choice fletching then, is thistle. This plant, viewed by most today as a pest, can be found growing wild in Red Dirt Country and beyond. The flower heads should be gathered in the late summer and early fall. Once dry, the thistle down (soft inner fibers of the flower) are removed and used for the fletching.
To prevent the flowers from opening and sending the fibers airborne, wedge the heads between two strips of hardwood. Using thistle is not easy and requires much trial and error.
To fletch the dart shaft, a split is made in the blunt end of the dart and a length of fine thread or plant fiber is inserted. Twist the thread down a few turns so you don’t need to tie a knot. Holding the free end of the thread in your teeth, a bundle of prepared thistle down is held in one hand, fanned out into a row between the thumb and index finger. The other hand holds the shaft, and with its upper end lying on the index finger with the down, it is simultaneously rotated clockwise and moved up and in toward the base of the thumb.
By doing this, you are creating a continuous spiral of attached fibers. When completed, the fletching should appear to be uniform and the string hidden.
Once you have wrapped 2 to 4 inches, the end of the string is wrapped several times and finished with an overhand knot. The fibers on the end should be trimmed even with the blunt end of the shaft.
The completed dart should now be spun between the palms, fluffing out the fletching and releasing any unattached down.
It may be easier for you to just use some cotton balls in the same manner as the thistle. Congratulations! You now have a primitive hunting weapon.