Black powder hunting enthusiasts got into the field last weekend. There are plenty of deer in the area, so weather permitting, we should see a successful season. Last weekend’s winter storm kept a lot of hunters out of the field. Nebraska’s muzzleloading season runs the entire month of December, so there is plenty of time left to plan and implement your hunt.
Muzzleloading rifles come in a wide variety of models and styles. You can hunt in a very traditional fashion with a flintlock or a caplock design rifle. You may be more comfortable with a modern styled in-line rifle topped with a telescopic scope. It is really a matter of personal choice. Regardless of what style of rifle you prefer, the fun and excitement of the hunt is still the same.
I have hunted with all types and kinds of muzzleloading rifles. My first black powder hunting experience was with a caplock Kentucky style long rifle that I built almost 30 years ago from a kit. The rifle shot a patched .45 caliber round ball. It shot well and I was pretty proud to take a deer with a rifle I built.
My next black powder rifle was a Thompson-Center half-stock Hawkins flintlock. I loved this rifle and wish I would have never traded it off, but that how it goes. I used this rifle for hunting and competition shooting. I retired the TC from competitive shooting when I acquired a special target model Hopkins and Allen under-hammer rifle.
Many years back I decided I wanted to hunt black bear with a muzzleloader. Hunting bear is quite different than hunting deer. Deer generally don’t charge you when you shoot them. Bear can have a nasty habit of doing that, so I wanted a big bore rifle. I ended up building a .58 caliber half-stock Hawkins caplock. Big bullets and lots of energy is what I wanted for bear.
These days, if I don’t have a new rifle from a manufacturer to field test and write about, the rifle I most often grab is my flintlock Tennessee long rifle. The rifle is almost as tall as I am. My hunting partners joke that when I have this rifle leveled out and aimed, I’m half way to the target. Being a flintlock just adds to the fun or makes a more colorful story. Here’s an example….
I had just acquired this particular rifle. It printed well on paper targets and thought I was ready to hunt deer. I secured permission from a local landowner and did my scouting.
I found a good spot along the edge of a meadow to set up my ground blind, one of those dome-tent looking rigs, roughly a six-foot cube that almost encapsulates you. In retrospect, I didn’t think this scenario all the way through. You’ll see why in a minute…
A couple of evenings later I watched a group of does come out of the timber and begin feeding through the meadow. I picked out a big doe and watched as it got closer and closer. I was sitting on a short stool and I slowly lifted my flintlock and got it positioned in one of the blind’s shooting ports. I was worried that the deer would see the nearly four feet of barrel and stock sticking out of my blind so I set back further in the blind than I normally would. I was actually sitting in the back of the blind! I cocked the hammer back and primed the pan with powder. All I needed to do now was wait.
The deer ultimately walked within 20 feet of my blind. I picked out a spot of hair in the vitals. I set my trigger, took careful aim and squeezed. That’s when things got interesting!
Anyone who has ever seen a flintlock go off knows that a lot of things happen. Smoke and fire goes in all directions. The powder in the pan ignites there is a large bright white flash and it creates a big puff of smoke. Then the main charge ignites and a belch of flame and smoke shoots out sideways from the pan about two feet. Keep in mind that all of this is taking place in a small enclosed area.
In the darkened confines of the blind, the initial flash temporarily blinded me. I thought someone was arc welding next to me. It took a couple of seconds to regain my vision. I saw the deer down and on its side out in front of me.
I instinctively jumped to my feet. That’s when I realized that the upper half of the blind was now filled with dense acrid smoke. I was gagging, choking and stumbling out of the blind when the landowner and his brother drove up. They had heard the shot and came to see if I was successful. They told me later that they thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment I provided while smoke rolled out of every opening in my blind!
Good luck to everyone hunting in this muzzleloading season. Be safe, have fun, but never, never, never touch off a flintlock in a small enclosed space! That is your outdoor tip of the day.