1. Why a Muzzleloader?
Muzzleloader hunting has been around for centuries, but many hunters have given up the sport...until recently, that is. As inline muzzleloaders have become more popular, states have opened special muzzleloader seasons—often at the best time of the year.
For example, in Virginia, where I hunt, muzzleloader season opens a full two weeks before general firearms season. It also usually falls in line with the rut. What does that mean? Muzzleloader hunters get to pursue deer that haven’t been pressured and are rutting. Another advantage is that there are usually fewer hunters in the woods during this season. This greatly increases your odds of tagging a deer.
A muzzleloader can also be used during two seasons. A rifle is restricted to its own specific season, while muzzleloaders can be used during both muzzleloader and rifle seasons.
2. Every Shot a Handload
Reloading allows the shooter to customize the load to his or her gun—every shot is a handload. The shooter uses a powder measure to meter the correct volume of powder, then dumps/drops it in the barrel, seats the bullet and adds an ignition source. Just like handloading rifle cartridges, muzzleloading allows the user to select the perfect weight and type of bullet for the hunt.
3. Getting Started
Muzzleloader hunting requires more equipment than hunting with a centerfire rifle, but it’s only as expensive as you make it. Much like centerfire rifles, muzzleloaders are available in different price classes. There are numerous models on the market for under $200.
Another option is a muzzleloader value pack, which often include a cleaning jag and extension, combo tool, cleaning patches, speed shells, capper, powder measure, breechplug grease and more.
Muzzleloaders are available in several action types: bolt, break-open and lever/pivoting. When looking for a muzzleloader—or any gun for that matter—find one that fits. This means stock length, barrel length, weight, recoil pad and overall feel. A wide array of barrel lengths are available, but remember, muzzleloaders are not long-range rifles so a super-long barrel isn’t necessary. Muzzleloaders are also available in a variety of calibers. For deer-size game a .45 caliber works great. But, for a muzzleloader with more energy and versatility, I prefer the .50 caliber.
Once you get your muzzleloader, you’re going to need some other equipment. Powder, ignition source, bullets, a powder measure, capper, speed loaders, bullet starter and cleaning and maintenance supplies can all be found at most all gun stores or hunting catalogs. A good place to start is www.cabelas.com.