Hunting with a muzzleloader is one of the fastest growing segments of the hunting world. If you've been thinking about it for a while, here's why you need to make this the year you embrace this wonderful and challenging sport.
After years of procrastinating about it, I finally decided to get into muzzleloading because I couldn't afford not to. The rifle deer season where I live is quite short, and I simply couldn't continue to ignore the increased opportunities that hunting with a smokepole provides. Many of us are "weekend warriors" and if deer season in your area is only a few weekdays long, you're out of luck unless you hunt with a hunting bow, shotgun or muzzleloader. Many jurisdictions now offer special seasons and areas, especially near large urban centers, just for muzzleloader deer hunting, many of which are much more liberal in terms of length than the normal firearms seasons. And these extra opportunities aren't limited to just deer. Here in Ontario we have a special muzzleloader-only moose season in certain areas, while some States have special seasons and zones for elk, mule deer, pronghorn and other species.
You can increase your hunting season if you take up muzzleloading.
- Some of the top deer hunting states in America don't allow rifle hunting for deer, including monster buck hotspots like Iowa, Illinois and Ohio. There's no question that much of the reason these jurisdictions continue to churn out trophy bucks year after year is precisely because they don't allow hunting with centerfire rifles. Simply put, when you limit hunters to shotguns or muzzleloaders, you limit the distances they are able to shoot. By doing so, deer live longer as they are more difficult to harvest. If you want to hunt one of these whitetail meccas and you are strictly a gun hunter, your only options are shotguns or muzzleloaders.
- Even in areas where rifles are legal, some landowners won't allow it, for fear of their buildings and livestock. But these same landowners may be more willing to allow access to a safe and conscientious hunter armed with a primitive, short-range weapon such as a muzzleloader.
- The reasons outlined above all factored into my decision to take up the sport, and I'm sure the same is true for many other hunters. But for some people, the nostalgia of hunting with a muzzleloader is the big attraction. They love the idea of connecting with the roots of hunting and experiencing hunting the way our forefathers did, and some even make it ultra authentic by dressing in full buckskin. Or perhaps they are simply looking for the added challenge that hunting with a primitive weapon provides. Either way, there is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when these challenges are overcome and a wary big game animal such as a whitetail is harvested with a smokepole.
- Although they are considered to be primitive weapons, the modern muzzleloader is nothing like what Daniel Boone carried in his day. Advancements in technology of everything including the guns themselves, bullets and particularly black powders, which are usually some sort of blackpowder substitute rather than the real thing, mean that hunting with a muzzleloader is no longer as much of a handicap as it used to be. However, make sure you check the regulations in your area as many jurisdictions have restrictions on bullets, powders, the use of scopes, etc.
When you're ready to join the ranks, check out my Muzzleloader Buyer's Guide to what you need to know to make a wise purchase.