At the worst moment, you will take a powder

At the worst moment, you will take a powder


Black powder hunting in Connecticut has come along way since its inception back in the 70s. Using some of those black powder long guns for the hunting of whitetailed deer was an adventure in itself. One never knew if the charge of back powder was going to go off or not when a deer arrived on the hunting scene.

Probably no one could attest to that more than your old outdoor writer.

My first black powder rifle was what is referred to as a “Kit Gun” that I received one Christmas from my darlin’ Edna. Admittedly, it was a thing of beauty when it was finished thanks to my old friend Paul Cichowski, but back then everything else, especially the primer caps used to set off the charge of black powder, was as unreliable as the New England weather.

The loading procedure of a black powder rifle also left a lot to be desired. The first thing you did was to put a percussion cap on the primer nipple and fire the cap to make sure that the hole in the nipple was clear. You then loaded the rifle, and it was not considered to be loaded unless it had a percussion cap on it, so many hunters loaded them at home before they hit the woods.

The amazing thing about this procedure is that when setting off the cap on an empty rifle, it always ignited on the first try. For me, “Murphy’s Law” (anything that can go wrong will at the wrong time) always popped up its ugly head when it came time to shoot a deer.

I had my first run-in with this particular quirk of black powder hunting back in the 70s while hunting Housatonic State Forest up in the Cornwall area of Connecticut. I had picked a spot that overlooked a couple of intersecting deer runs and figured I would simply sit and let the deer come to me. Back then, muzzleloaders had the first crack at deer and the state forest had enough hunters in it to keep some of the herd moving.

It wasn’t too long before a small four-point buck came ambling up the trail towards me. I had been practicing how to thumb the hammer back on the rifle without allowing it to making a distinctive “CLACK” that accompanied cocking the hammer on a black powder rifle, so I was ready when that buck came into shooting range.

It stopped to munch on some acorns down in front of me and I set my sights on the critters and squeezed the trigger. I was rewarded with a resounding “CLICK” as the hammer hit the %@*@*^ percussion cap, which did not ignite.

The young buck’s head popped up and he looked squarely at me before disappearing into the surrounding forest!

This was only a preview of some of the frustration I was about to experience in the early days of black powder hunting. Don’t go away, I have a bunch of them.

Like I said, the main villain was the percussion cap back then, and I and a lot of other black powder hunters were experimenting with all kinds of makes and brands of the #11 percussion caps back then, looking for one that was virtually foolproof. But it wasn’t always the percussion cap. Murphy’s Law seemed to have its hold on my entire rifle and everything that made it dysfunctional.

Another time I had a permit to hunt Skiff Mountain on a piece of property owned by Northeast Utilities, but managed by the DEEP. I had scouted the area for both turkey and deer and really liked the area. That muzzleloader season I was ready to harvest my first deer.

I had gotten up early to make the one-hour trip to my hunting area, and had loaded my muzzleloader at home before departing for Skiff Mountain. An old friend of mine, Jack Seitlinger, had made me a nifty brass ramrod for loading my muzzleloader to replace a wooden one that came with the muzzleloader. I entered the Skiff Mountain woods ready for action that morning just knowing I was going to get my first black powder deer.

That’s when Murphy’s Law popped up his ugly head again.

I had scouted the area quite thoroughly and knew just where I wanted to hunt, so I made my way to the spot in the early morning darkness. As it began to get lighter I glanced at my shooting iron to give it a last check and then I saw it: My ramrod was missing form its holding slot on my rifle!

I knew I had put it back after I had loaded the gun at home, so what could have happened to it? I figured that I had not seated the ramrod properly into the holding slot on the rifle and it had slipped out during my dark trek to where I wanted to hunt.

Now I was in a quandary. I had one shot in the rifle, but what if the deer I shot required another round?

For me, the solution was simple. I decided not to hunt that morning and headed dejectedly out of the woods, kicking myself for making such a dumb mistake.

And no, I never found the ramrod.

Had enough yet? I’ve got more.

Once again while hunting Skiff Mountain, I was hunting the side of a mountain, slowly making my way back to where I had parked my truck. I had paused next to an old stonewall that cut through the old farm property I was on. The area had returned to forest over the years yet there were many of these old stonewalls crisscrossing the woods and I liked to use them to hunt along.

A touch of movement up ahead of me caught my eye. It was a small six-point buck. My heart started to race a bit as I settled down to watch the buck as it slowly fed my way. This was going to be too easy, I thought.

The buck was about 35 yards out when it gave me a broadside shot at its vitals. I settled the sights on the buck, squeezed the trigger and the cap exploded with a resounding “POP”!

But that was it. The powder did not ignite!

The buck snapped its head up looking for the source of the cap igniting as I fumbled into my pocket for another cap. Having found one, I again put it on the nipple of the muzzleloader and again took aim at the buck as it stood riveted, looking for the source of the exploding cap.

Once again I touched off the round and was again rewarded with the cap and not the powder charge going off. This time the buck had nailed me and was headed off in another direction as I stood there wondering what the heck had just happened? Two caps and no powder ignition!

After the buck had vacated the area, I decided to try it one more time and I kid you not, the powder charge went off. I know for a fact that this has happened to many muzzleloader hunters in the early years of the sport. Just ask them.

As the years progressed, so did the quality and reliability of the black powder rifles that were used for hunting. In fact, today they are state of the art and as reliable as any regular rifle being used for hunting large game.

I finally relented and gave up my first muzzleloader, but I did get to take one deer with it in the Housatonic Forest before retiring it.

My next black powder rifle was a Lyman Tradesman that I purchased from Blue Trail Range and I found it to be quite a bit better for my hunting forays. I took four more deer with that rifle before I purchased the one I use today.

Today, muzzleloader hunting in Connecticut and surrounding states is no longer a trip into frustration. The guns are lot easier to use and their dependability is unbelievable.

Starting this Wednesday, Dec. 11, Connecticut deer hunters will be using muzzleloaders to harvest some deer for the winter months ahead. Private land black powder hunters will be able to hunt from Dec. 11-31. They must have the proper private land permits and they will be able to take two deer, one antlerless and one either sex, or they may fill both tags with antlerless deer.

State land hunters will be able to hunt state lands from Dec. 11-24 a one-tag limit on a deer of either sex. One of the best things about the state land muzzleloader hunting is that as long as you have a state land muzzleloader permit you can hunt just about any piece of state land that allows black powder hunting (page 38 to 35 of your 2013 CT Hunting & Trapping Guide).


USA Shooting has selected two Connecticut sites to host qualifying matches for the Junior Olympic Rifle Championships.

The first qualifier will be held Dec. 13-15 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London. The Bridgeport Rifle Club will host the other Jan. 4-5. For further information, call Deb Lyman at (203) 494-1266.

That’s it gang, good hunting! See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving.

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