Joined: December 13 2006
Online Status: Online
Kansas has a good muzzle loader season. Takes place the last half or so of September and it's been my favorite season to deer hunt. Got started with it almost 20 years ago, because the muzzle loader meshed with my work schedule better, but it's also nice to not have to freeze your ass off while you're deer hunting though some years it is still too hot and buggy.
|Posted: August 27 2017 at 6:49pm | IP Logged
Kansas has lifted a lot of restrictions in the 20 years or so I've hunted here. Now, scoped inlines are legal and they start the archery season on the same day. They also stated a week long youth season prior to muzzle loader. All of these had the potential to screw up a good thing, but so far, everything seems good.
I started with an Investarms Hawken, now marketed by Cabela's, and the Lyman Plains bullet I cast. I upgraded the sights with a set of the XS Ghost ring sights, which made a good difference in how well I could shoot it, especially in low light. Good rifle, though not 100% traditional with the sights, recoil pad, matte finish and chrome bore, but at least it's not an inline. The learning curve was steep the first few years, and I had to learn a lot about how to weatherproof one because the season always starts out rainy. I'm not really a rack hunter, but the three biggest buck I ever killed were with that combo until last year when the one I killed with the crossbow arguably edged out #3. Between Kansas and Oklahoma, in all kinds of weather, I've done alright with black powder and pure lead.
Circumstances made for me not having killed a deer with a muzzle loader in several years and the three prior to me missing out were with a cheap inline (yeah, I know) and saboted .44 SWCs. This year I really got the itch again and want to do it right.
We cleared my folks out of their home and into assisted living and though all four of Dad's sons are gun enthusiasts, only two of us are even close to being the eclectic gun nut he was and I'm the only die hard reloading geek among us. I, therefore, inherited a lot of neat stuff, including a very pretty, Spanish made muzzle loader rifle which may have been a kit. No real markings on it and doesn't seem to be real high end, but it has a barrel about 16 feet long (a slight exaggeration) is .50 caliber and has a lot of nice brass inlays and is generally a very traditional rifle, with pretty decent open sights. Unfortunately, Dad had set it aside without it being cleaned and lubed properly, for all I know, he got it that way in one of his gun show trade deals, a lot of stuff showed up that way. Anyway, it had some surface rust on the outside that'll clean up OK, but the bore was looking pretty bad. I really had to push hard to get a bore brush down it due to the rust, I was fearful it would never shoot decently. So I plugged the nipple with a tooth pick, set it upright and poured Evaporust in the barrel all the way to the top and left it for a few days, dumped it, scrubbed it and repeated the process. Dumped it again today and scrubbed it and it looked 100% better, but it was still rough running a jag down it and there was a detectable crud or rust ring down at the bottom that I could feel ramming a bullet the last half inch or so.
I set up a little table to use as a half ass bench about 50-60 yards from the target and decided to spend the afternoon getting this rifle ready. Gonna do it right and use some patched round balls I cast up a few years ago for something else. First group was abysmal. I started with 80 grains of Pyrodex RS, but because of that crud ring I mentioned, I decided to go to 100 so I didn't have to ram the ball over it, possibly tearing patches. That seemed to help. I also found the patches I initially tried were too thick it seems and appeared to be bunching up and tearing while I rammed them , so I switched to some others that were thinner and also cut in a flower shape, they have petals that are supposed to prevent that bunching and apparently, they do.
To condense a long story, I put 35 rounds or so through her, burned up a half pound of Pyrodex, which I have a lot of since it can be had dirt cheap at Wal-Mart after muzzle loader season every year, and had a real good time, but more importantly, I learned a lot from it. I thought I was a fairly knowledgeable muzzle loader, but the fact is, most of it was with one rifle, bullet, powder charge combo, and I had never done much with patched round balls. A few lessons;
Patch thickness and type make a difference.
Some rifles are more finicky than others. My Investarms Hawken doesn't much care how clean it is, this one did better if I swabbed the bore between shots and dried it out using some Birchwood Casey black powder solvent.
Taking your time and paying close attention to consistency in your loading process makes a difference. I knew this, but I guess I had to relearn. One problem has always been I had to drive to a range and that meant carrying all the stuff to make a muzzle loader work and being in a rush to get done. Now that I have my own place to shoot where I live, this whole process became a lot better. I had to drift sights over to get it zeroed and it's nice to be able to walk from the shooting bench to the work bench where you have a good vice and punches to do that.
The more you load and shoot an old fouled barrel, the easier it seems to get. I have heard people talk about "seasoning" the bore with lube kind of like a cast iron frying pan. I always dismissed this as BS, but there may be some truth to it. Even that rust/crud ring I could feel got noticeably less over the afternoon until it was almost nonexistent.
I used a PAST recoil pad like skeet shooters use. Made a good difference, I don't do recoil as well as I used to.
All told, it took a while, but after taking the wife to breakfast this morning, I made up my mind that this was what I had to do today. The results were worth it, went from 15" groups at 55 yards or so that were way high and right to centered 3.5-4" groups, which I know is nothing to right home about, but for me with open sights shooting from something with no rear rest, I'll take it. I usually hunt from a tree stand or on the ground with shooting sticks, so this is a good replication. For the conditions I hunt, this should be easily good enough.
I plan to shoot a group with this rifle every evening until the season starts on the 11th (a little earlier than usual), I figure the practice can't hurt. I went out to scout the other night and spotted two good buck on almost the exact spot I killed the second biggest one I ever killed back in 2007. The place is planted in soybeans which will facilitate me setting up on the ground, it's a good evening ambush point where the terrain channels them into a feeding area.
I'm probably gonna have a bruised shoulder tomorrow, that curved brass butt plate isn't designed for comfort, but it was well worth it. I'm pumped about the muzzle loader season this year like I haven't been in a long time. It's been unseasonably cool here for late August and we've had a lot of rain. I have a good feeling about this season.
"The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage."