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How To/Pro-Tips

Muzzle (Loader) Blasts

Black-powder hunting with muzzleloaders is a real blast and is rapidly growing in popularity. Primitive weapons hunting also allows many hunters more time afield due to special seasons, special areas and other "extra" hunting opportunities.

The prospective primitive-weapons hunter can choose between traditional side-hammer guns that look like they came right off the frontier or opt for the ultra-modern "in-line" muzzleloaders, complete with scopes, that look much like a modern bolt-action rifle. The side-hammer guns are more traditional and romantic but the in-lines are more efficient and a bit more reliable.

Either way, all muzzleloaders must be cleaned thoroughly after use because both black powder or its modern substitute, Pyrodex, are corrosive. Using progressive burning smokeless powder in a muzzleloader is very dangerous. Never use anything but true black powder or Pyrodex in a muzzleloader.

Also check local "primitive weapons" regulations for special season dates, minimum calibers allowed for deer hunting, plus projectile and sight restrictions. Some areas prohibit certain types of bullets and telescopic sights on "primitive weapons" hunts or special areas.

Successful Sighting In

The most important factor for a successful sighting-in session is a steady rest. No one can shoot well enough to really zero a rifle without a rest. A rolled up sleeping bag or a sofa cushion is better than nothing, but a solid table or benchrest is best. Always make sure your bedding screws and scope mounts or sights are tight before starting a sighting-in session. Always sight in with the same brand of ammo and bullet weight you plan to hunt with. Most rifles will not shoot a variety of ammunition into a true group. Always base sight adjustments on the center of a group of three or more shots. Adjusting after a single shot can lead your group badly astray. Always shoot a verifying group. Don't assume that the final adjustment gives you a "good" zero. Always wear hearing and eye protection when you shoot. All centerfire rifles powerful enough for deer hunting produce enough muzzle blast to damage your hearing.

The Hunting Vehicle

Many hunters have a special hunting vehicle. It usually is an old, high-mileage, beat-up, four-wheel drive that looks like a piece of junk to the rest of the world. However, to the proud owner of such a valuable hunting vehicle, it is a treasure. You have no fear of the roughest back roads and brush-choked logging trails. You will take it places you would never dream of driving the family's new sport/utility. But it must be reliable to get you there and back. A vehicle that is seldom used except for a short period of hard driving each year needs a special maintenance program. Start every hunting season with fresh oil, fresh gas in a "cleaned" tank (use a gas-cleaning additive), a tune-up and a general check-out by a competent mechanic. Check hoses, belts, brakes and electrical system. Nothing is more frustrating than to have a really hot hotspot and a vehicle that won't crank to get you there before daylight.

Is The Trail Hot?

It's really easy to find a deer trail. Just take a walk in the woods and odds are good that you will end up walking on one. There are natural "lines of drift," places that are simply easier to walk than others - both for deer and for people. However, those broad and easy to find deer trails are most often the avenues used by does and fawns. Bucks make their own trails in heavier cover. To find these lanes look where the brush is thick and/or the terrain is tough. Buck trails can be very subtle, just a trace here and there. Look for old rub lines. These are usually adjacent to buck travel areas. Buck trails frequently parallel and intersect with doe trails and during the peak of rut you might see a buck on a main deer trail chasing a doe. However, most of the time bucks want to walk their own "roads" and keep out of sight, even when traveling.

Driving Deer Well

Deer drives are an excellent way for a coordinated group of hunters to take deer during the midday and other low-movement periods. Driving also helps cope with "islands" of heavy cover where hunter-savvy bucks skulk during daylight hours. Safety and coordination are critical. Both drivers and standers should wear hunter orange. Drivers must push through the cover in a coordinated fashion and at a uniform speed. They shouldn't get too far apart or move too fast because wise old bucks are prone to simply hunker down in heavy cover and let the drivers pass on by. Drivers must also know when they are approaching a stander and signal him that they are nearby. Open land with cover strips and woodlots is ideal deer driving terrain because the deer escape paths are so well defined. Deer driving in the deep forest is more demanding. The standers should have a good knowledge of the deer trail system so that they can position themselves in the spots with the best potential.

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