First Whitetail with a Muzzleloader
I've been hunting for many years, but just this last year got hooked on black powder. I've been shooting cap and ball revolvers and flintlocks for several months, and also bought a 209x50 barrel for my T/C Encore rifle. I'm still breaking in the flintlocks and have yet to determine optimal loads for them. But the Encore seems to really like a saboted .44 caliber 240 grain XTP over 100 grains of GOEX FFg.
PA's early antlerless muzzleloader season started Saturday. I was out on a friend's farm but didn't see anything all day. It was windy, and not even the squirrels were very active. I saw some sign, including a couple of fresh rubs (noted for the regular season), but nary a deer. Saw a couple of hunters on the adjacent property late in the day, but I gave up before the end of shooting hours and packed it in.
I took today (Monday) off from work to get out again. I was on stand by 6:45 a.m., a good 45 minutes before legal shooting hours. Weather was calm and dry with temps in the upper 40s, predicted to get up into the low 60s. After about 10 minutes, I heard something working it's way through the woods in front of me, coming down a ridge line from left to right. About 7:10, a solitary deer emerged from the thick woods into the more open woods around my stand. Still too dark to tell if doe or buck, but it worked its way to within about 10 yards of my stand, at which point I could tell it had no antlers.
Still 20 minutes until legal shooting hours. During that time I watched that critter wander all over my field of fire, browsing, nosing about, and doing what deer do when they are oblivious to human presence. About 7:25, close to legal hours but not quite, I took advantage of the deer having moved about 40 yards away and standing behind a tree to cock my Encore. Her head came up immediately as she tried to identify the source of that unnatural sound. She didn't, and continued to browse around.
I checked my watch several minutes later and good to go. By then she was about 50 yards out, quartered toward me. The crosshairs rested on her right front shoulder, and the 240 grain XTP went through the shoulder and both lungs. Never experienced the cloud of black powder smoke blocking my vision before; as it cleared, I saw that the doe was already down, about five yards from where she had been standing.
Not the largest doe I've ever shot--in fact, she was pretty small. But first ever with a muzzle loader, and one for the freezer in mid October ... I'm more than satisfied. Still have my PA buck tag and multiple tags for NY, so hoping this one is the first of several this year. And since I still have time today, I'm headed to the range to keep working on one of my flintlocks. Gotta be ready for primitive muzzleloader season in December!
Cogito, ergo armatus sum.