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Deer Hunting the Modern Muzzleloader Way-Tom Lounsbury

Tom Lounsbury

Sun, 05 Jan 2014 15:48:12 EST


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                                      Deer Hunting the Modern Muzzleloader Way
By Tom Lounsbury

I took the plunge into shooting muzzleloaders 40 years ago. History and nostalgia certainly played a role here, but my primary motive was to have a firearm that would achieve consistently accurate groups out to 100 yards for hunting local whitetails in my home Thumb area. Being in the “shotgun zone” of Michigan, I wasn’t very pleased with the groups I achieved with the shotgun slugs back in those days, and I often hunted more open farm country. A passion of mine has always been spot and stalk, and there is an amazing amount of deer activity along fencerows and ditch banks that many folks would assume isn’t typical deer country.
For a fact I discovered right away that a muzzleloading rifle allowed that extra reach when needed with superb accuracy (when I did my part). My preferred load in my .54 caliber T/C Renegade was, and still is, a .530 (220 grain) patched round ball backed by 100 grains of (2F) black powder. When properly placed, it does a marvelous job on tenacious whitetails. My longest kill to date on a Thumb whitetail is 150 yards in a corn stubble field using this rifle and load with the large 8-pointer never knowing what hit him. The buck ran in a circle for about 30 yards and dropped dead with a ball through both lungs.
I was real pleased when Michigan held its first special muzzleloader deer season in December of 1975. I was an active participant and appreciated being able to extend my annual local deer hunting employing the same firearm I used during the regular firearms deer season. Actually this is a blessing for many deer hunters by allowing the muzzleloader to cover the spectrum of both seasons without having to switch horses in the middle of the stream, so to speak.
Today’s shotgun slugs actually offer wonderful accuracy with the Foster-type slugs allowing decent groups from smoothbores out to 100 yards and slightly beyond, and the rifled barreled shotguns using sabot-type slugs reaching efficiently out to 150 yards (a friend of my dropped a nice whitetail at 193 yards using a rifled barreled shotgun and sabot ammunition). Even so, I have found nothing beats a muzzleloading rifle in this particular (shotgun zone) arena for allowing consistent accuracy and a bit more reach. Certainly it is a one shot option, but therein lies the spice and I have found that in most deer hunting situations, the first shot is usually the one that counts most. I have never felt under-gunned in any fashion carrying a muzzleloader in the deer woods.
Tony Knight of Knight Rifles certainly deserves credit for developing the modern muzzleloading concept that began about 30 years ago. Like the modern compound bow is to archery the modern muzzleloader drew in a stronger following due to its handling characteristics that are identical to regular modern firearms. Truthfully, nostalgia gets blown right out of the window here, but having a weather-tight, reliable and a hotter in-line ignition platform for deer hunting, often during some challenging weather extremes wasn’t a bitter pill for me to swallow at all. As I said at the beginning, my primary reason is having an efficient deer gun and the variable weather of the December season especially can literally dampen the function of a muzzleloader. I’ve been through some nasty weather extremes that I’m sure would have challenged the reliability of my traditional caplocks, yet my modern in-lines have always functioned reliably every time thus far, something I’ve grown to count on.
Modern muzzleloaders like many things have gone through an evolution to what is in popular demand today. Originally they more resembled bolt-action rifles and today the break-open design ranks high due to allowing easier access to priming as well as more convenience in cleaning (I can remember having to get the book out to be able to put all the parts back correctly after cleaning my bolt-action version the first time). My favorite modern muzzleloader for deer hunting has been a .45 caliber T/C G2 Contender rifle that has never let me down. Topped with a 3-9 X scope, it puts my shots dependably right where I want them with my pet load of 100 grains (3F) Triple Seven (loose) powder behind a 200 grain T/C Shock Wave (sabot) bullet, and I love the efficient ignition of a 209 primer.
On my shooting range (using a bench), I’ve discovered my best consistent groups (one inch) at 100 yards using loose powder. When I use the powder pellets, my groups open up to two inches, which in reality isn’t bad hunting accuracy at all. I’ve been known to carry the pellets for follow up shots during December deer drives because they can speed up the reloading process, especially on a windy day. The key towards accuracy in using powder pellets is not to break them up by compressing down too hard on the load with a ramrod (however I do compress loads when using loose powder). I always mark my ramrod to assure each and every load is seated properly.
Needless to say I’m always intrigued with something new and different to try in the shooting field. I always try to convince my wife Ginny that such matters are a “business expense”. I know for a fact she wouldn’t buy into my purchasing another gun because it is like eating donuts and you can’t stop at just one.
The most recent “investment” on my shooting range right now is Traditions new .50 caliber Vortek “StrikerFire” that is a break-open hammerless design. The internal striking system is cocked by pushing what resembles a tang safety all the way forward. It can be easily de-cocked by pressing down on a recessed button. There is also a second safety near the trigger guard that can be employed on and off while the rifle is cocked, and is actually quite quiet in performance. The gun automatically de-cocks when it is broken open and its tapered, fluted 28 inch barrel is designed to fully utilize (reasonable) powder charges. It is light, well-balanced and with a CeraKote finish, it is quite weatherproof. I opted for the fully camouflaged model topped with a 3-9X scope (the lack of an external hammer allows a lower scope profile). With a mirror image rollover cheek-piece, this is one ambidextrous firearm to say the least.
I also enjoy checking out different muzzleloading propellants and my StrikerFire apparently has a preferred taste for 100 grains of BLackhorn “209” (loose) powder ignited by a CCI Magnum 209 primer. The bullet I selected is the 250 grain Traditions (by Hornady) “Smackdown” and with the tack driving accuracy I’m getting from the bench, I believe I’m standing pat on the load. The key here is to duplicate the compression of each load and use a proper loading jag on the ramrod that won’t damage the bullet’s aerodynamic tip. I’m also impressed with the lack of fouling provided by Blackhorn 209 powder, and I have maintained consistent groups without having to swab the bore between shots.
I’m looking forward to using this system during both the regular November firearms deer season and the December special muzzleloader deer season which doubles my hunting enjoyment afield with the same rifle. Such an intimate relationship goes a long ways in putting venison on the dinner table, something modern muzzleloaders can do quite dependably.

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Tom Lounsbury and a plump Thumb doe taken in adverse winter conditions
using a dependable modern muzzleloader (a .45 caliber T/C G2 Contender

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Getting to know a new rifle like this .50 caliber Traditions StrikerFire
muzzleloader is a genuine pleasure for the author.



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