For four seasons, fans of AMC's The Walking Dead have watched Rick, Daryl, Carol, and their not-so-merry band of survivors fight for their lives in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. While the show's first season was about finding a safe haven, and ideally a cure for the infection that has transformed so many of the group's loved ones into flesh-eating beings, the current season sees them settling into the Kübler-Ross model's final stage of grief: acceptance. Take away all the zombies and what you've got with The Walking Dead is a story of survival. If you stop to analyze some of the key tactics the group has employed over the past 45 episodes, you might just learn a thing or two on the off chance you need to survive in the woods (or the even further off chance you come face-to-face with a reanimated corpse). Which is why we asked the Boulder Outdoor Survival School's program director Steve Dessinger and director of program development Laurel Holding to weigh in on the lessons we've learned – and the likelihood of enduring – on The Walking Dead.
A crossbow may be the perfect weapon
Resident badass Daryl (Norman Reedus) is rarely seen without his crossbow. Which is understandable, given the fact that it's quiet (so as not to alert any other nearby walkers), reusable (just pull that arrow out and off you go again), accurate (point, shoot, boom), and really effective.
"In many states' hunting regulations, [a crossbow] is classified with firearms, which tells you something about its effectiveness as a weapon," says Holding. "Until recently here in Utah, crossbows were only legal for hunting if you could demonstrate that you had a disability that prevented you from using other archery equipment. Its main advantages over a bow are that it requires less strength, skill, and practice to become proficient. As a traditional bowhunter myself, I lose or break a significant number of arrows, so I do question Daryl's seemingly endless supply of arrows, especially in the midst of insane zombie dust-ups.
Modern crossbows like Daryl's require aluminum or carbon fiber arrow shafts, so forget about making your own replacements with natural materials. However, in theory you could alter a crossbow to fire round projectiles – even rocks – and for a long-term survival situation that could be a distinct advantage. It has more moving parts and is therefore more prone to malfunction than a traditional bow, and yet has more potential for repair or modification than a firearm.
Bottom line: "In a true, long-term survival situation you'd be stoked to have a crossbow."
Credit: Gene Page / AMC