Muzzleloader Season Starts
Inside the Outdoors, December 23
, 2011

I have known many hunters that have taken to the woods in search of game either by bearing a rifle or a crossbow, but few actually have the patience to man themselves with flint muzzleloader weapons, according to what I’ve heard. And there is a reason for that.

The rifle marksman need only to point his gun at an animal, squeeze the trigger, and fire at a targeted whitetail deer or black bear, and in most cases, the animal’s life will be terminated. The noise level is kept to a minimum in comparison.

But instead of burying a cartridge in a barrel of the gun and then firing when ready, the hunter uses what is referred to as a side-hammer rifle of either flintlock or more likely percussion ignition gun with either black powder or a black powder substitute.

On top of that, sportsmen using muzzleloaders actually prefer rejecting modern equipment, such as scope sights or inline ignition, not something for the average hunter.

Quite a number of times, I have had the experience of watching youth fire these guns during youth days at area camps. Take it from me, the difference is between night and day as to the noise factor. The muzzleloader is operated via a caplock system. This can be best explained by knowing the parts of the gun.

With a caplock muzzleloader, a cap is held by a nipple on the side of the gun barrel. After a hammer strikes the cap, the resulting flame travels from the nipple to the barrel of the gun. One common problem is that the cap can easily get wet, making it more difficult to shoot.

With inline muzzleloaders, the cap is located directly behind the charge. Inline guns allow more of the original flame to access the barrel. Most inline muzzleloaders also feature added features like scopes that are beneficial for hunting. Inline muzzleloaders also often use powder that is palletized and bullets that look more like present-day ammunition.

There are a variety of ammunition sizes used depending on what gun that is preferred. The majority of muzzleloader hunters like .50-caliber ammo because it is good for hunting deer and other large game. There are other-sized calibers available on the market.

If I had my druthers, I would have to choose a gun that would wallop a punch, but with minimal noise. None of these guns seem to operate quietly. Maybe that is why I like fishing so much better. It’s easier on this old man’s ears.

Muzzleloader season begins Dec. 26 and goes to Jan. 16.

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Talk about fishing, I received a note the other day from one of the officers of the Forbes Trail Chapter Trout Unlimited who talked about the New Year and how his organization plans to deal with the future.

According to Monty Murty, president, “Now, as it was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, conservation can mistakenly seem at odds with jobs, economic growth and landowner freedoms. Forbes Trail Chapter practices TU’s brand of coldwater conservation. We don’t lobby, we don’t sue and we don’t play partisan politics. Our projects and education programs convincingly show how preserving trout streams and our heritage of trout angling can have positive economic benefits. They increase tourism, employment and property values in Westmoreland County, and prepare our youth to be its future stewards.

In 2012, we will complete a major new trout habitat restoration project that advances our Mill Creek Coldwater Conservation Plan. We will introduce new groups, college-age young people and women to TU. And we will again sponsor TU’s Coldwater Conservation Corps training of volunteer stream stewards to monitor trout streams near Marcelllus Shale drilling sites.”

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Finally, Wildlife Conservation Officer Brian Singer stopped by to pay me a visit last week just after scooping up a road kill, a white-tailed deer. After having a nice visit, he departed. It wasn’t long thereafter that I had to walk downtown to mail a letter. Upon stepping out of my residence onto the sidewalk, a gent seeing his vehicle parked in front of our house approached me and commented, “Say, you didn’t get caught poaching a deer did you?

If our local WCO is in the neighborhood next time and has previously scraped another deer off one of our major highways, I’ll suggest he park across the street at the funeral home. Won’t that get people talking!

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May each of you have a very blessed Christmas!


- Paul J. Volkmann
Contact me by email

To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-8850.