Hunting with a Muzzleloader

Hunt like a frontiersman with black powder rifles.

| November/December 2017

Imagine looking down an octagon barrel as you line up the open sights onto the center of the target. You squeeze the trigger, and out of the corner of your eye you see a shower of sparks and hear a small pop as the hammer falls. After what feels like several seconds, you feel the rifle recoil into your shoulder as you hear a definitive, boom! Everything downrange is now completely obscured by a cloud of foul-smelling, white smoke. Until the breeze brushes the smoke aside, you are left wondering if your shot was true. In a nutshell, that’s the muzzleloader experience.

I started hunting deer with a traditional ball-and-cap muzzleloader in the early 1980s, because I wanted to know what it’s like to put venison on the table just like my great-great-great grandfather did and get a “mountain man” experience. After more than 30 years, a traditional muzzleloader is my main choice when harvesting venison. There are several reasons why I find it so rewarding to shoot a muzzleloader rifle.

1. Since every shot is loaded by hand, there is a degree of pride that comes with each successful shot. There are no manufactured off-the-shelf cartridges for muzzleloaders. This allows for experimentation with powder charges and projectiles until you find the combination that works best in your firearm.

2. There is no quick follow-up shot, so the shooter must make the first shot count. By hunting with a muzzleloader, I have learned to wait for a good first shot. That attitude has spilled over to all hunting. Even when hunting with a modern firearm, I load only one shot.

3. Refining the woodland skills necessary to get close to game. The effective range of a traditional muzzleloader is much less than a modern hunting rifle. To be successful, one must be able to get close to game. It is fun spending time outdoors developing these skills.

4. Longer hunting seasons. Most states offer special seasons or extended seasons for muzzleloader hunters.

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