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Modern Muzzleloading for Big Whitetails
Muzzleloading has come a LONG way in the past 20 years. I can remember my very first muzzleloader - an old 45-caliber with a rabbit-ear hammer and iron sights that shot round balls and #11 percussion caps. During those early days you were lucky if your muzzleloader fired let alone hit a target. Therefore, I had little success at harvesting mature bucks with my muzzleloader when I first started muzzleloader hunting. Thanks to recent technology and some very innovative gun manufacturers, like Traditions Firearms, today’s muzzleloaders are serious big buck killing machines.
Due to the inherent unreliability and limitations of muzzleloaders 20 years ago, many hunters did a lot of deer scouting rather than deer killing during those early days of muzzleloader hunting. Today, many hunters, including myself, prefer to hunt with a muzzleloader over a modern rifle for a variety of reasons. First of all, today’s muzzleloaders are far more accurate and reliable than muzzleloaders of the past. In fact, misfires are now the rare exception rather than the rule. In the past, the effective range for muzzleloading whitetail deer was less than 75 yards.
Nowadays, hunters that are equipped with the right combination of muzzleloader, powder, bullets, and optics can effectively kill whitetail deer out to 200 yards with consistency. In fact, I shot a big 10-point buck in Nebraska last December with my new Traditions Vortek 50-caliber muzzleloader at an amazing 240 yards! This was my longest shot to date with a muzzleloader. (This hunt will be featured on Tecomate’s New TV Show “Tecomate Whitetail Nation” on the Outdoor Channel next year.)
I have also killed several record-class (300-pound plus) whitetails in Saskatchewan at distances over 200 yards. One of the largest bucks (weighed 335-pound) that I have killed to date was taken with a muzzleloader. I dropped this buck in a huge alfalfa field with one shot from my muzzleloader at 225 yards.
Another reason I prefer muzzleloader hunting over modern rifle hunting is that it allows me to hunt relatively unpressured deer prior to the regular gun season in many parts of the U.S. This also applies to many parts of Canada. I have been whitetail hunting in Saskatchewan every year for the past 10 years. The first five years I hunted with a modern rifle during the rut (Mid to Late November). During this time, I was able to harvest some respectable bucks (mostly 130-150 class bucks). Even though I saw lots of deer and had success during these hunts, sitting in those open blinds with sub-zero temperatures all day (for sometimes six days at a time) was mentally and physically challenging. After several years of hunting the rut this way, I had experienced enough “fun” for one lifetime, so I decided to try the early muzzleloader season during the month of October. During this time of year in Saskatchewan the weather is much more hunter-friendly. The temperatures are very mild (relative to the weather in November) with average highs in the 40s-60s and lows in the 20s-40s with an occasional light snow. This is perfect hunting weather for me!
Much to my surprise, I saw more and bigger bucks during this early muzzleloader season. As a result, I was able to harvest four bucks grossing over 160 inches (including my largest typical buck to date – a huge 10-point buck scoring 173 B&C) during the first four years that I hunted in Saskatchewan with my muzzleloader. During this early season, the bucks are normally still in their bachelor groups and are still feeding in the oat/alfalfa fields on a regular basis, making them much easier to pattern. In my experience, it was much harder to pattern big bucks during the rut. As a result of this revelation, I have been hooked on early-season muzzleloader hunting for big whitetails in Saskatchewan ever since.
In recent years, I have also hunted some of the late muzzleloader seasons in the Midwest and have experienced great success. For the same reasons as mentioned above, the deer are relatively unpressured and are easier to pattern during this time of year. The bucks are hungry and feeding heavily in order to build up their body weights in preparation for the upcoming winter months. Therefore, during this time of year, I concentrate my hunting on or near cornfields, soybeans fields, and/or food plots.
If you have not tried one of today’s modern muzzleloaders and/or special muzzleloader seasons, you are missing out on some great whitetail hunting opportunities. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to consistently harvest trophy-class whitetails.
on 07/26 at 08:00 AM