By Mark Fike
Much of the content on our website is set up for active hunters and anglers. However, given how the meat supply chain had some serious hiccups due to the COVID pandemic and the fact that many non-hunters are now more interested in obtaining their own meat, people starting realizing that getting meat the store was not always a given occurrence. As your editor, I felt it prudent to do a primer on getting set up for deer hunting with a muzzleloader.
Venison is a very lean meat that is available pretty much coast to coast to include areas near the city. Josh Boyd did a good article on choosing a bow this week already. Archery hunting can be done within some cities as part of their urban archery hunting seasons. However, if you are not accomplished enough to use a bow yet, the muzzleloader is probably the next best bet.
Muzzleloaders have come a long way from the frontier days. Today’s modern muzzleloaders are easy to load and are very accurate. One well-placed shot will take down even an elk, let alone an antelope and deer. If you are new to hunting or perhaps even new to muzzleloaders, here is a quick primer on how to set yourself up for this season.
I would recommend starting with an inline muzzleloader that is easy to clean and easy on the bank account. There are many rifles out there that you can choose from and everyone has their favorite. Strictly from a meat eater’s perspective, I could list a handful that will reliably do the job every time you go out and not cost you a ton of money.
At the top of that list would likely be the CVA WOLF. This rifle can be purchased at your local gunshop, local big box store or you can order it and have it delivered right to your door . I don’t have a local gunshop to support my business, so I order from them all the time.
The CVA WOLF comes in a few varieties. I would recommend the one with a scope. Getting a WOLF with open sights will set you back $200 plus bullets and powder. With a scope, you add another $70 or so. Additional variations in camo etc… are available. I have purchased 7 of these for myself, family and for a youth outdoor club, I run.
The one suggestion I would make regarding purchasing a WOLF is to try to spend the money and get one with a stainless steel barrel. The blued models rust quickly. I have put my stainless one up wet a few times due to the butchering job I was working on late into the night and early the next day and it is still not rusting. This suggestion would go for any brand rifle you buy.
The WOLF has a quick release breech plug (at the rear of the barrel and screws out to allow you to push a cleaning rod and cotton patch through to remove fouling) which makes cleaning a breeze. Other features include a reversible hammer spur to cock the rifle, Durasight scope mount that is rock solid, break action for ease of use, bullet guiding muzzle, and deadly accuracy.
I have lost track of how many deer I have shot or butchered that were taken with the CVA rifles. They are reliable with reasonable care and long-lasting. We still have one of the original old ones from 20+ years ago that functions and takes deer by guests that we loan it out to.
Once you get a rifle, you need to find a bullet as well as a powder that will be easy to use, particularly if you are new to muzzleloader shooting and hunting. Make sure you purchase bullets that fit your rifle. Most hunters purchase a .50 caliber rifle. Bullets for these rifles are easy to find pretty much anywhere you go that sells hunting equipment. Count on purchasing at least 20 bullets to start, if not 40 to get used to shooting the rifle.
There are so many bullets out there that will work fine in your muzzleloader. Again, everyone has an opinion on which bullet is the best one for the job. I prefer a bullet that goes through the deer to leave a good blood trail if the deer does not fall dead in its tracks. I also want something easy to load and accurate. For years I used the Powerbelt bullets because they were easy to load and very accurate.
However, I was having some issues with getting a good blood trail and I lost a few deer that were hit with these bullets. I have friends that have used the Traditions Smackdown and Shockwave bullets with great success. Last year I switched over to a non-saboted bullet made by Thor. My initial impression is very good.
I like the Thor bullets because there is no sabot (plastic shroud that encases the bullet) to fool with when loading in the field. The bullets fit snuggly in the barrel but not so snuggly that loading is a pain. I plan on doing a full workup and review on these bullets in the next few months.
When shopping for bullets and powder it is perhaps best to talk to the person you are purchasing from to get a feel for what load combination works well in your rifle. That is what I liked about Muzzle-loaders.com. They know these rifles and loads well and make good recommendations.
Personally I like to use pellets vs loose powder. It is much easier to drop 2 or 3 50 grain pellets of powder down my barrel than to measure out the powder, particularly in the field when it could raining, damp, foggy or snowing.
There are several brands of pellets that you can choose from. I prefer the White Hots because they burn clean in my rifles and are consistent. Some prefer Hodgdon 777 or Pyrodex pellets. Any will work fine. Just be sure you test your loads and never ever load more than your rifle is rated for which is usually 150 grains or 3 pellets. I prefer to use 2 pellets or 100 gains. That amount of powder has taken all of my deer and I have never had to use more than that. The recoil is manageable and even youth can shoot loads with 100 grains of powder.
You will need a box of 209 primers for your set up to start the chain reaction of the rifle going off. Whatever brand you purchase, do not mix primers without testing them for accuracy and scope zero. Sometimes different brands of primers will burn differently and cause your point of impact to change downrange.
I would recommend getting what we call a speedloader. The speedloader is simply a plastic case that holds powder and bullet in one preloaded spot for quick reloading in the field.
When getting ready to actually learn to use your muzzleloader, go online to the manufacture’s website to watch how to load and shoot your rifle safely. There are thousands of good videos on muzzleloader use. I would caution you to watch several and remember that anyone can make a video and post it online!
Get a mentor to help you on the range until you feel comfortable with your muzzleloader and using it. Observe ALL firearms safety rules when shooting. If your rifle fails to fire, keep it pointed in a safe direction. Sometimes hang fires or delayed firing happens!
If getting meat is your goal, muzzleloader seasons often coincide with the rut which is when deer breed. Deer are very active during this time period. Using a muzzleloader is an easy and productive way to get some meat put up in your freezer this season.