Hunting with a Muzzleloader

Hunt like a frontiersman with black powder rifles.

| November/December 2017

  • Hunting with muzzleloaders can be a fun outdoor activity.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Pouring powder from flask into powder measure.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Pour powder charge into bore.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Patched ball on muzzle.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Short tool on ball starter drives patched ball about 1⁄2 inch down the bore.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Longer tool on starter drives ball about 6 inches down.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Ball is firmly in place.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Ramrod finishes the job.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • When ball is seated on powder charge, the ramrod has roughly one hand width sticking out the end of barrel.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Preparing to seat the cap with in-line capper.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Capping with in-line capper.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • The cap is seated on the nipple, and this firearm is ready to fire.
    Photo by Richard W. Biswell
  • Cleaning the nipple with a prophy brush.
    Photo by Tammy Biswell
  • Cleaning the barrel vent.
    Photo by Tammy Biswell
  • The possibles bag includes (upper row, left to right) powder flask, powder measure, ball pouch and patched balls, tin of caps, in-line capper, (bottom row) candle and matches, ball starter, field cleaning material, and multi-tool.
    Photo by Dennis Biswell
  • Antique leather black powder flask with charge measurement.
    Photo by Getty Images/Bob Corson

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.

7/14/2020 12:09:04 AM

I really liked reading this. Not a lot of good reading on traditional muzzle loading. I use a .54 Hawkin and at this point have been successful on all three of the Cascade Black-tail Oregon hunts I've been lucky enough to draw. All were 3 point bucks or better. (That's three points per side for all you easterners) I drew my first muzzle load elk tag for the 2020 fall hunt this fall. That'll be a new challenge, wish me luck. I hunt with a Ruger No. 1 single shot when I rifle hunt. I do believe the 1st shot's the best.

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