With so many people starting to hunt for the first time in the last couple of years, it’s safe to assume that the vast majority of American hunters today employ the latest weaponry and archery technology.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with packing a bow or centerfire rifle for a hunting trip, but muzzleloaders offer a unique chance for hunters who wish to set themselves apart.
When you hear hunters talk about muzzleloaders, someone will probably mention either Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone.
Several movies and TV shows have adapted their life stories into entertaining formats, and pictures of them standing proudly with their rifles on their shoulders sparks a strong, proud feeling.
Most people don’t realize how many benefits there are to hunting with a muzzleloader. Modern inline muzzleloaders are available to hunters in addition to conventional flintlock and percussion cap ones, which are still popular choices.
However, people have an inaccurate and outdated conception of what modern muzzleloaders can do. Their effective range is likewise far greater than that of their more conventional equivalents.
Muzzleloaders are Both Entertaining and Bold
While bow and arrow is still a very popular hunter’s choice, using an old-school rifle is also an entertaining challenge. With so many different muzzleloader supplies, you will be able to have a versatile experience in the woods.
Most muzzleloaders fire heavy 250-350 grain bullets of .45 or .50 caliber at a velocity of up to 2,000 feet per second.
This kind of load has a great impact on game like black bears, deer, or even elk. Yet, this heavy ammo isn’t that fast or aerodynamic, creating a bigger drop in energy and trajectory at ranges over 150-200 yards.
As with any other rifle, muzzleloaders have pros and cons; further, we’ll explain the most important ones.
Due to developments in powder, bullet, and rifle production, modern muzzleloaders outperform their inline predecessors and the more traditional flintlock and percussion cap muzzleloaders by a wide margin.
Contemporary inline smoke poles provide numerous benefits to hunters over their forebears, including:
- improved reliability in starting
- enhanced accuracy
- greater external ballistics
- exceptional terminal performance
- a greater effective range
But keep in mind that “extended range” is relative. When compared to a centerfire rifle chambered in a high-velocity cartridge, the blast radius of a modern inline muzzleloader with a scope, a competent black powder alternative, and a well-designed conical bullet is still significantly shorter.
A hunter equipped with a flintlock musket with iron sights, a patched round ball, and real black powder is less likely to consistently strike a target at a greater distance than one using a modern inline muzzleloader set-up.
Although there are always outliers, the effective range of a standard inline muzzleloader is probably no more than 150–200 yards when used for hunting.
Spending More Time in the Woods
Muzzleloading season typically occurs in most states during the secondary rut. It is possible to take advantage of bucks that have been rutting for weeks but are now resting. Many states’ muzzleloader seasons begin on prime hunting days, providing excellent opportunities to take down a mature buck.
It is during this time when southern states like Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Oklahoma throw open their doors to tourists. Strong states in the Midwest such as Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri can capitalize on late-season openings in the months of December and January.
In Georgia, the muzzleloader deer season traditionally begins a week before the rifle season. For a full week before switching your rifle, you are able to head into the woods and hunt earlier than most other people do.
Hunting with a muzzleloader makes it possible to spend more time in the woods, which is especially appealing to individuals who don’t have access to a bow.
The specifics of these extra chances to go hunting will vary depending on the area you’re in, but they may include higher bag limits, looser regulations on what counts as a legal animal, and the chance to hunt in places where modern firearms are prohibited.
Accessing New Territories
While most hunters use modern firearms, you will have additional access to areas where their firearms are not permitted. In areas where archery equipment and shotguns are permitted, muzzleloaders also find their special spot on the “approved” list.
In a similar vein, muzzleloader hunting season attendance is typically quite low in comparison to archery and general firearm hunting season attendance. That means fewer opportunities to catch up with other hunters while you’re out there.
If you’re hunting with a muzzleloader, it’s worth your time to explore for the hidden jewels that are out there.
Though specifics will vary by state and hunt, many units offer the chance to draw a nice muzzleloader tag 2-3 years before a rifle tag in the same unit becomes available.
Hunting In Peace
If you plan on hunting on public land, it is generally to your advantage to have as few interactions with other hunters as possible while you are out there.
Muzzleloader hunters are a minority compared to bow and rifle hunters, which is good news. When hunting during a muzzleloader season, you’ll probably certainly encounter fewer other hunters.
That leaves you with more concentration, less disturbance, and more focus on your prey.
While there are a lot of advantages, muzzles have their cons. The first, and the most stressful one, is definitely the amount of smoke it produces.
Although it can be quickly dispersed by a stiff breeze, on quiet days, it might linger for extended periods. In extreme smoke conditions, it could be extremely challenging to see where your shot landed or in which direction the animal fled.
Be aware that reloading a muzzleloader is far more time-consuming than refilling a modern breech-loading rifle, so plan accordingly for follow-up shots.
You’ll want to aim well and hit the target if you use it. And if you miss the first shot, you might never get a second chance!
It’s conceivable though to reload quickly enough to get another shot off at an animal, but opportunities for it are exceedingly uncommon.
Muzzleloader hunters don’t have to get quite as close to wildlife as bow hunters, but they still typically need to approach considerably closer than the ordinary rifle hunter.
It’s not simple, but the challenge is part of the excitement. And when everything falls into place, it’s quite rewarding.
It takes a lot of effort and focus on detail to get started hunting with a muzzleloader. Nevertheless, the advantages of doing so are well worth the effort, and effectively taking wildlife with it is quite rewarding.
However, these are the difficulties that come with learning any new tool, or technology equipment.
There’s a certain mystique around the successful lone-shot hunter who manages to bag their quarry year after year with minimal effort.
Knowing how to track an animal and maintain sight alignment after the shot is essential when using a muzzleloader because of the brief “hang time” the bullet experiences before leaving the end of the barrel.
If you want to improve as a hunter, picking up a muzzleloader is a great way to do it because of the strategic skills you will pick up along the way.
The experience you gain while hunting with a smoke pole will serve you well when you return to using your modern weapon.