John's Journal...

Decrease the Range to Take More Blackpowder Bucks

Step Back to Old Times and Hunt Closer with Your Blackpowder Gun

Click to enlarge“Get the clothes out of your pack, and pile ‘em up on that rock,” Chris Denham of Chandler, Arizona, instructed. “For what?” I asked with a look of total bewilderment as we hunted a Coues buck 357-yards away, based on the reading from Denham’s Swarovski rangefinder. “I’m not gonna shoot that buck,” I said. “I’m a better hunter than that.” Denham became frustrated and asked, “What do you mean you’re a better hunter?” “Down home in Alabama, if we see a buck that far away, we take our time, sneak up on him and get within 100 yards or less so we can make the shot,” I explained. “I’ve never shot a buck that far in my life.” “Can you follow instructions?” Denham asked with a scowl on his face. “Oh, yes, I’m very coachable,” I answered.

Following Denham’s instructions, I made the shot and took the buck. I’d never shot at a buck that far before and never intend to take a shot that far again, unless there’s no other option. My daddy raised me to believe that a good hunter could get really close to an animal before he took it. I’ve leaClick to enlargerned over the years that better hunters depend more on their hunting skills and less on their shooting skills to consistently take more deer each season. Too, I know that to take nice bucks every season on the property you hunt, you need to hunt during archery season, blackpowder season and rifle season. Then slightly extend your range with each season. The blackpowder hunter who can get within 50 yards or less of a buck, at least in the South, has a better chance of taking him than the blackpowder hunter trying to shoot bucks at 200 yards or more.

Increasing the effective range of a blackpowder rifle and using more-sophisticated bullets doesn’t ensure increased hunting success. Often hunters find the opposite true.  Actually the closer you can get to a buck with your blackpowder gun, the greater your odds for deer-hunting success. To take more and bigger bucks this year, instead of trying to increase the range and the accuracy of your blackpowder rifle, take a step back into the past when hunters shot blackpowder rifles with open sights, used black powder and round balls and had an effective range often of less than Click to enlarge100 yards.

My First Step Back:
When my daddy introduced me to deer hunting, he outfitted me with a 12-gauge, 2-3/4-inch shotgun that shot .00 buckshot. With an effective range of less than 50 yards, to bag a buck, I had to learn how, where and when deer moved and get in close enough to pick my shot. Then I only could take a shot when I knew I could bag the deer. In those days, the limitations of my shotgun made me more of a hunter and a woodsman than a shooter. Then when I graduated from college, I purchased a .30-06 with a 3-9X Simmons scope and used premium Winchester ammunition.
 Click to enlarge
"If I can see those deer, I can take them," I’d tell myself. Since I then could shoot accurately at 200 to 300 yards, naturally I hunted places where I could see at that distance. I quickly discovered that I saw fewer bucks then than when I hunted areas with a view of 50 yards or less. I also noticed that my accuracy diminished. I missed the next six bucks I attempted to take.            I believed the power of the .30-06 would make up for improper bullet placement, but my misses proved my assumption wrong. After becoming totally frustrated with rifle hunting, I decided to take a step back to the past to have a better hunting future. I pretended that my .30-06 was now my 12 gauge shooting 2-3/4-inch buckshot. I went back to the old hunting tactics that had proved successful when I could shoot accurately at only about 50 yards. When I revisited the old way of hunting that always had produced bucks for me, I realized that a weapon's range didn't count nearly as much toward success as my ability to locate bucks at close range in thick cover.     
Although the new blackpowder rifles can shoot accurately out to 200 yards and more, you'll still have more success bagging big bucks at distances of 100 yards and less, regardless of how far your rifle shoots and particularly if you’re hunting east of the Mississippi River. To take more and better bucks this season, listen to the experts, and step back into the past to insure your success in the future.

You can learn more about blackpowder hunting tips from John E. Phillips’ book, “Blackpowder Hunting Secrets,” which sells for $15.50 per copy (including shipping and handling). To learn more, go to You can send a check or money order to: Night Hawk Publications, 4112 Camp Horner Rd., Birmingham, AL 35243 or send the money to PayPal at to order.

Tomorrow: The Master of Shooting Short

Check back each day this week for more about "Decrease the Range to Take More Blackpowder Bucks"

Day 1: Step Back to Old Times and Hunt Closer with Your Blackpowder Gun
Day 2: The Master of Shooting Short
Day 3: Research the Deer
Day 4: The Hunt for a Trophy Blackpowder Buck
Day 5: The No-Place Places


Entry 486, Day 1