Muzzleloader hunting comes loaded with numerous benefits and among them is enjoying an extended hunting season. When hunting with a muzzleloader, you are required to get close to your prey, and this gives hunters more satisfaction as they learn how to track and shoot big game animals without spooking them.
Experienced muzzleloader hunters know that there is rarely a chance for a second shot, which makes you become a skilled single shot hunter. It is why positioning, stealth, and accuracy contribute to make one a complete hunter.
Most hunters who engage in muzzle hunting take it because of the thrill of the single-shot challenge. Others prefer the muzzleloader because it has less recoil than centerfire rifles and shotguns. However, to understand how to use the muzzleloader rifle, you should also know the regulations surrounding the use of muzzleloaders.
Muzzleloader Hunting Seasons and Regulations
The obvious regulation is that you must be a licensed hunter for you to hunt every season. Muzzleloader rifles, shotguns, and revolvers are all permissible as long as it can be loaded from the muzzle front. (cylinder/barrel front). So when are you allowed to use the muzzleloader for hunting?
When Are You Allowed to Use the Muzzleloader for Hunting?
Different states have different muzzleloader hunting regulations and seasons. Some seasons are longer or shorter depending on the state you live in and the big game population in that area. However, muzzleloader hunters will enjoy a more extended period of hunting than center-rifle hunters.
Usually, the muzzleloader hunting season opens some two weeks prior to the general firearms season. Muzzleloader season often starts when the rut begins and since the muzzleloader season happens when there are fewer hunters in the woods, the chances of bagging a buck are also heightened. It means that muzzleloader hunters have the first opportunity of hunting, which is an advantage as they pursue deer that is yet to be pressured.
The advantage of muzzleloader hunting is that you will enjoy two seasons of deer hunting. You can hunt both during the muzzleloader season and firearm season.
Some years back, the muzzleloader season of hunting deer was at the end of the rut season. However, most states have adopted the new laws making it start before the firearm season. It is an excellent opportunity for muzzleloader hunters to shoot deer before the herd gets thinned by firearm hunters.
Why Are There Specific Muzzleloader Hunting Seasons?
The primary reason for the controlled hunting season is to protect deer from overhunting. Muzzleloader hunting seasons presents different challenges to the hunter but has many advantages compared to bowhunting and the firearm season.
Muzzleloader hunting falls between bowhunting and the firearm season. Therefore, you will get more days to your hunting season. Some states have only a single muzzleloader hunting season and usually is when the rut is already underway.
Muzzleloader hunting makes hunting an expertise affair and not something you pursue and score from 1000 yards because you have a powerful rifle. Controlled hunting ensures that hunted animals do not become extinct because of human hunting activities. Usually, these regulations are put in place to protect big game hunting.
Muzzleloader Hunting Tips
Here are some tips to employ for a successful hunt in the muzzleloader season.
The fourth quarter of hunting marks the late season, and whereas it is still open season, hunting slows down. Expert hunters understand that this is the time to become a little bit daring and aggressive. In the fourth quarter, mature bucks are most likely to stick to their bedding areas than forage in the open.
It is a behavior evident when there is thick snow on the ground, or the bucks have grown tired of human hunting activities and pressure through the hunting season. Muzzleloader hunters need to get close to deer feeding and bedding areas if they want to be successful. Setting up tree stands near these zones can be the difference between success and failure.
The downside towards aggressive hunting is that you risk chasing deer from that area. Late in the season comes when deer is intolerant to human activity. If you spook deer herd during this period, it may mark the end till the next season arrives.
Continuous Scouting Even When the Rut Is Over
Hunting with a muzzleloader means using more than one tactic. Scouting is a good measure before the hunting season begins. However, late into the season, scouting is still critical as the hunting dynamics have also changed.
You may feel that you already know the lay of the land, but a little more scouting swings the advantage your way. An example is that some areas may have a thick cover of snow over others after the rut. It means that there will be new bedding and travel lanes that you can discover, especially when the number of deer seems to have diminished.
Late season scouting is a way of identifying buck rubs that you did not know exists. Therefore, you must re-evaluate the land by scouting before heading out hunting with your muzzleloader during the muzzleloader season.
When hunting in public property, scouting is advantageous as you know the bucks that survived the rut. Glassing from a distance is the best way to zone in on potential hunting grounds, as it reveals opportunities that you didn’t know exist.
Hunting for Food Sources
Deer activity and movement become minimal during the muzzleloader hunting season. You may have to sit an entire day waiting for deer to come your way. The trick to successful muzzleloader hunting is identifying potential feeding zones of deer. Tracking deer through the bush can be tiresome and futile, especially if the deer feels the hunting pressure.
Cold weather and snow make food resources scarce, and as a tactic, you can set up stands near food sources and trails. Understanding what bucks feed on during this time of the year is also critical. Look out for high energy food sources like corn and carbs.
When hunting in areas with high visibility, blinds can be a good way of bagging that elusive buck. Using a blind during the late season is effective as it gives you openings that are not readily available. The obvious advantage is the warmth and protection from the weather as it limits the deer’s visibility from spotting you.
Deer is sensitive to the slightest ground movement. When using a hunting blind, you can get away with such actions, especially if you have set up your blind on a tree stand. Blinds are not expensive, and most of them are lightweight.
Keep Your Powder Dry
Muzzleloader hunting season is marred with cold weather and snow. Many factors can make your gunpowder wet, leading to a misfire when you badly need a hit. Even though there is no harm in keeping your charge inside the barrel when you are not using your muzzleloader, you should avoid it. You should either store your muzzleloader at the same temperature you will hunt in or unload your rifle as you wait for a new hunt.
Since muzzleloaders are not considered firearms in many states, they do not follow the laws governing the use of firearms. To own a muzzleloader, it is as simple as heading out to your retail store or online outlet choosing and paying for one. There is no paperwork, waiting period, or background checks.
Also, muzzleloader hunting is accepting the challenge of hunting under unfavorable conditions. Killing deer with a single-shot using a cold bore rifle needs lots of practice to perfect.