Shooting black powder is addictive. While there are many kinds of shooting to be enjoyed in America, shooting black powder, especially in a good flintlock, is my favorite. To many like me, hunting with a black powder gun, whether it be a rifle, shotgun or pistol, adds immensely to the sport.
No matter what type of hunting we do, we all enjoy the chance to be out opening day. I like getting to my stand quite a while before the legal hour. I enjoy having to wait until my eyes are used to the dark. Having walked this path before, I know what the path is supposed to look like. When I get to the stand I know my gun isn’t primed; I can’t see my sights yet. Even after getting settled in my stand I don’t prime my flintlock. It will be 30 minutes before I can see my front sight. I listen for the woods to wake up. It seems that the woods wakes up in small steps. Maybe it’s a couple of small birds. Maybe it’s an opossum wandering under my tree. I hear him a long way off and wonder if he’s a deer. As time passes I can finally see the front sight on the flintlock. I prime my lock with 4fg black powder and continue to wait for the shooting time to arrive.
Part of the satisfaction in hunting with black powder firearms comes from the extra challenges. Is my priming powder dry? Will my flintlock or set trigger make a click the deer can hear? Will the deer detect the flash in the pan and “jump the flash”? (We still argue about that one.) Am I in tune enough with my rifle to take my deer without a second shot, without telescopic sights, or with the poor ballistics which a round lead ball affords? Because of all this, game taken with a flintlock has always been a memorable time. I probably can’t tell you about my first deer; but I can write a story about my first deer with a flintlock rifle.
Hunting deer with black powder is just getting your feet wet though. Think of hunting rabbits with a good beagle and a double barrel black powder shotgun. Mine used percussion caps instead of flint. No matter. After shooting at the rabbit you learn to step to one side to look around the smoke to see if you connected. Hunting with a black powder shotgun is a bit more leisurely; your friends need to wait a bit longer while you reload. My black powder shotgun was just the thing for quail and pheasant too.
Hunting with black powder sooner or later leads to target shooting. Almost anywhere you might live, there is a black powder club near by. Our club range has provisions for target shooting at 25, 50, and 100 yards. Monthly shooting competitions may include targets for flint and percussion rifles, pistols, and chunk or bench guns. After a match is over someone might pull out his portable trap, and the muzzleloading shotguns begin to speak. We may even have a flint smoothbore in the group.
If any of this grabs your attention, contact your local black powder club. You will find members that want to help you with the challenges that traditional black powder shooting can bring. You might get so involved that you want to acquire the woods skills of a Simon Kenton, Daniel Boone, or John Colter. Someone in your local club can show you how to manage your new flintlock, make a flint/steel fire, and cast lead balls.
There, maybe you haven’t realized it yet, but you have just been reeled in. Maybe it was deer hunting with a flinter, maybe it was the black powder shotgunning, or maybe it was shooting X’s on a paper target. But you have been caught just the same. When you have been hooked, set the bait for your friends. Better yet, troll the black powder “bait” in front of kids. Teach your son or daughter to shoot a black powder gun. Whether you call it muzzle loading or black powder, it’s a great family sport.
Larry Pletcher has been actively involved in black powder shooting sports for almost 30 years and has written articles for MuzzleBlasts, the NMLRA’s monthly magazine. While he enjoys all shooting sports, his passion is the flintlock.