| Black Powder
With today's modern weapons, a hunter can take a deer easily at 200 yards. Then why will anyone want to reduce his effective killing range by shooting black powder?
Randy Havel, a black-powder shooter from Monticello, Minnesota, explains, "To take a deer with a black-powder weapon, you must get much closer than you do with a high- powered rifle. You must know the game better, and you have to be more conscious of the wind. When you pick up the black-powder rifle, you have made the decision to hunt the whitetail the way our forefathers did with all the handicaps they faced. For me bagging a buck using a primitive weapon is much more satisfying. Also I feel a greater sense of accomplishment than I do when using a modern weapon."
Know Your Equipment
According to Havel, "When you decide to hunt deer with a black-powder rifle, you have to carry more accessories in your possible pouch than you do when you are hunting with a modern rifle for deer. The black-powder shooter has to have patch lube, solvent, powder, balls, patches, a ramrod, cleaning jags and a ball pulling worm in case he gets a patch stuck. Even though all these items can fit neatly into a possible bag, the black-powder shooter still must be more organized about his gear than a rifle hunter is. Also with this extra gear you are carrying additional smells of lubes, powders and solvents into the woods besides your body odor. You have to be much more conscious of the wind and the wind's ability to carry all of these strange smells to the deer."
Understand The Limitations Of Your Gun
"Although I have a Remington custom rifle that will shoot the eyes out of a frog, my .50-caliber Hawken will do the same at a given range," Havel mentions. "The reason your effective range changes when you use black powder instead of conventional weapons is because your ability to sight through an open sight is much less accurate than your ability to sight through a telescopic sight. My 7 MM rifle has a 3-9X variable scope, which allows me a much more magnified sight picture than the open sights on my black-powder rifle do. With my black-powder rifle, I am only accurate to 75 yards because that is the distance at which I can aim properly with open sights."
Therefore the effective range of the black-powder rifle generally is determined more by the hunter's ability to see and sight rather than the rifle's ability to perform at greater distances. But today some hunters are opting to put riflescopes on their black-powder rifles, although some hunters feel this addition keeps them from hunting in a purely traditional way.
In our society today, hunters have learned to think that "If I don't get the buck with one shot, I'll be able to get him with the next two or three." We are primarily an autoloading or bolt-action generation.
But as Havel explains, "Making the mental conversion from a five-shot hunt to a one-shot hunt often is difficult for many hunters. Because of the multiple-shot concept, a hunter will take whatever shot is presented to him as soon as it is offered feeling that if he doesn't bag the deer with the first bullet, he still has a chance to down his buck. However, when using a muzzleloader, the black-powder enthusiast has to wait for that one shot. Even though he can see the deer, if the deer doesn't present a good killing shot, then the black-powder shooter can't shoot and must watch his trophy walk off."
Scout During The Pre-Season
Pre-season scouting is much more critical to the black- powder hunter than it is to the conventional-weapon hunter. Not only does the primitive-weapon hunter have to find an area where there is a deer, he usually must have that deer within 50 yards to take the animal.
As Havel mentions, "You must know where the deer should step out and where you need to take a stand to be close enough to bag him. If you can't get within 50 yards of where you expect to see the deer, then the chances of taking him with a black-powder gun are slim. With a conventional weapon, if you can spot the deer at 100 or 200 yards, you have a good chance of taking him with a high-powered rifle and scope. The black-powder shooter, much like the bowhunter, must not only find his deer but also locate the place to take his deer within the effective range of his weapon."
One of the worst smells is that of burned black powder. When a hunter cleans his rifle and reloads, no matter how clean he is and how much scent disguise he has on, his clothing and body still will absorb some of that black-powder smell. He also has another problem -- what to do with the patch he cleans his rifle with that also carries the odor. Black-powder shooters don't want to litter up the forest with patches.
To minimize this problem, Havel recommends that black- powder hunters, "Use as little cleaning solvent and patch lube as possible. Most hunters overclean and overlubricate. Once I have cleaned my rifle, I take off my boot and sock, place the patch inside my sock and then put the sock and the boot back on my foot. I usually wear some kind of scent pad on the sole of my boot to keep the odor in the cleaning patch from moving into the air for the deer to smell it. Or, you can carry a Zip-Loc bag in your hunting coat and place the patch in it.
"By using these techniques, you don't leave your patches in the woods, and you don't smell up your hunting area. Then when you get home, you throw the patches away."