Successful Muzzleloader Hunt

As the Minnesota deer season comes to a close, I’d like to share some successes of our hunt.

Our group of five camps in and hunts the awesome 3A zone of the state (southeast) which is currently under a three year APR (antler point restriction) that has produced some huge bucks in that area in the past couple years. APR as implemented in Minnesota means you cannot shoot a buck with fewer than 4 points on one side. On the flip side, your license allows you to shoot any antlerless deer. The APR does not apply to those under 17. So of course our expectations of seeing big bucks were high.

We hunt the regular firearms season, which means in this area you have two options A) shotgun using slugs or B) muzzleloader. 4 out of 5 of us are using muzzleloaders. Still working on converting the fifth man.

Day 1: Opening Day

As daylight was breaking on opening morning I heard a noise coming from my left. I look over my shoulder and I see a nice buck coming up the hill about 25 yards behind and to the left of me. I could see 3 tall points, but I could not see if he had brow tines. Being a lefty, a shot to my left is a bit challenging from a seated position so I intended to have him continue on his path until he was more in front of me. As he came up the hill I grunted at him to see if I could get his head to turn and identify the fourth point. He looked up, but not at me. He continued on his way. I grunted again, this time he stopped with his head behind a tree. He continued, this time he was 15 yards away, at about a 10 o’clock position from my stand, I grunted. He looked up and I confirmed, four points on one side. I quickly take the safety off, put the crosshairs on the vitals and BANG!!!! Only it wasn’t me that shot. The deer ran about 75 yards and toppled. This is the problem with hunting public land. Apparently a 15 year old kid had positioned himself 30 yards to my left behind a fallen tree and shot the deer. Since he didn’t have to count points, if it’s brown it’s down in his mind. Ugh…so nothing for me opening weekend.

This was the first year my wife took up hunting, and on top of it, hunting with a muzzleloader. She had never killed anything larger than a fly so there was some concern (on my part) that there would be some hesitation in pulling the trigger on a deer. 5 hours into opening day I heard the report of a CVA Accura V1 go off propelling a 200 grain TC Shockwave with 110 grains of 777 FFG powder. Being 100 yards away I look being me and see a cloud of smoke. My heart started pounding knowing my wife pulled the trigger on her first whitetail. Her ecstatic “I GOT ONE!” confirmed it. The results: a nice doe for the freezer.  I could not have been happier and it totally wiped away the sore feeling of having my deer shot from under me.

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The other half of our group hunts private land. Numbers of deer were not a problem. One guy, nicknamed ‘Vanilla Gorilla’ had a number of does prancing around his stand opening morning. He was sticking to a “bucks only” mentality for the first day so he didn’t pull the trigger on any.

‘Papa Smokepole’ saw nothing.

My cousin ‘Double Buck’ failed to connect on a 12 pointer blaming deflection as the reason his .40 caliber 200 grain TC Shockwave did not hit its target. I would say impatience and lack of range time are the culprits but that’s between him and the Lord.

Day 2: 

My wife, ever the team player, slept in on Sunday because she had already gotten her deer so the concept of party hunting is still foreign to her. But good for her, she got some sleep and then left to pick up the kids. It’s just the men from here on out.

Papa Smokepole finally got to drop the hammer of his .54 when a doe presented herself 15 yards away from his ladder stand. A well-placed shot to the neck dropped her on the spot.

Nothing else was had on day 2.

Weekend 2, Day 3: 

Nothing was seen in the big public woods (where my stands are) the second weekend – aside from some does running like a pack of zombie honey badgers was after them.

The private land was another story. Vanilla Gorilla was sleeping soundly in his stand when he heard a crash from behind him. He turned around and to his surprise – an 11 point buck was making his way 10 yards behind him. He raised his 870 slug gun and fired. As the deer ran off he fired 3 more like a typical slug gunner. Luckily the first one hit its mark and the deer dropped.

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Interesting note: That buck stunk from the minute he hit the ground. When we went to cut him up we found out why.. gangrene. He was apparently injured by an antler to the neck which started the infection. You haven’t smelled stink like a buck infected with gangrene.

Firearms Deer Season Total: 3

Muzzleloader Season: 

Minnesota muzzleloader season starts on 11/24/12 and runs through 12/9/12. The only difference when using a muzzleloader for muzzy season versus firearms season is you cannot use a scope. So the scope came off the Accura and iron sights went on and off to Papa Smokepole’s house we went to sight in iron sight muzzys. I used a different load this time – 240 grain Harvester PT Scorpion Gold bullets in a black ribbed sabot and 110 grains of 777 FFG.  At 50 yards I can get them touching on paper. We’re ready to rock some whitetails.

Since I wanted to stay close to home I headed to the Minnesota Valley Recreational Area.

Just driving through the state park  I saw a big fat doe on the side of the road. A good sign for sure.

I parked the truck and proceeded to slowly walk into the woods. About 50 yards I kick up a deer – sex unknown as I only saw tail. I saw nothing after that. And it was 8 degrees so needless to say my motivation for staying out in the cold was nil.

On the way home I stopped at a farmer’s house and asked permission to hunt his land. He graciously said yes and the next morning I headed out to my new-found hunting grounds.

It’s a beautiful area of oaks and ravines that carve out the agricultural landscape. The Rush River forms the northern border of the property and there are two hay fields nestled in the river valley, separated by a strip of trees and access via a trail that cuts through the trees of the ravine.

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I walked out to the hay fields Sunday morning and as I came into the opening I thought ‘wow, whitetail mecca’. As I was standing in the grass land looking for a potential spot to post a deer made its way down the ravine and into the grass land about 100 yards in front of me. The deer looked up at me and I froze. We played this game for a good 30 minutes as I made my way closer to identify whether it was a buck or a doe. I got to the point where I was convinced it was a doe so I slowly inched my way to the woods on the edge of the field to sit and watch (in this zone it’s bucks only unless you have an antlerless tag). A minute later the deer followed and entered the woods in front of me.

The deer was munching on acorns and strolling by behind me. I looked at the deer broadside and saw the she was actually a HE – a young spike buck. I took all of 1/2 a second to decide to pull the trigger and the Accura let loose a 240 grain Harvester PT Scorpion Gold. The deer dropped 10 yards later.

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I got the deer home and skinned and de-boned that day and vacuum-sealed the tenderloins and backstraps. I then brought them to the landowner and thanked him for his generosity. It isn’t every day a landowner lets a perfect stranger hunt his land and for that I am very grateful.

This weekend Double Buck and I are headed out to the same location in attempt to go 5 for 5 for the 2012 deer season.

It’s been a great year so far and I look forward to munching on delicious deer sticks, ring bologna, and summer sausage all year long!


Another Case Against Pellets

I recently heard a story about a man who had his muzzleloader go off as he loaded a second shot. No primer, just went off as he was pushing the bullet down. How in the world would this happen? One word…embers.

Since pellets aren’t in powder form chunks break off in the seating process. the ignition of pellets is so inconsistent that not all of the pellet gets burned which may lead to glowing embers in your barrel after the shot. Put another load down and you may very well be pouring gas on a hot charcoal grill.

Not to say this same thing can’t happen with powder but you drastically reduce your chances of sending a ramrod through your hand or worse yet, death.

This is why it is important to run a wet and dry patch down the barrel after every shot at the range and to use powder instead of pellets.

Shoot straight. Stay safe. Shoot powder.