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Old June 4, 2014, 02:59 PM   #1
Unlicensed Dremel
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Who here has hunted elk with a muzzleloader?

Either with or without a harvest? I have not.

If so, what's your rig, and what state(s)? I have a friend who says if he can get drawn for a Colo. out of state ML tag, he is using a .54 cal round ball, neck shot only. Seems like a good plan to me. The ranges are always short, and that's the kind of plan that should produce a satisfying no-tracking thwack that does a heart good when the smoke clears (DRT).
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Old June 4, 2014, 03:09 PM   #2
Mike Weber
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I've taken elk in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho with a muzzle loader. I used both a .58 cal reproduction of an 1858 Enfield rifled musket and a reproduction of a .58 cal 1861 Enfield Artillery musketoon.
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Old June 4, 2014, 03:25 PM   #3
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If I recall, CO is one of the few states that still gets really picky about what ML equipment is allowed and what is not.
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Old June 4, 2014, 03:38 PM   #4
Unlicensed Dremel
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Yeah, Colo is "no scopes, no pelletized powder". But conical bullets and fiber optic irons are allowed, as are inlines.
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Old June 4, 2014, 03:54 PM   #5
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Do they still disallow sabots?
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Old June 4, 2014, 04:47 PM   #6
papaul
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ML roundballs just punch a hole. They do not deliver hydraulic shock like a high powered bullet, and they do not cut a wound channel like a broadhead. No way I would shoot an elk in the neck with a roundball. Unless you get the spine or jugular, I think its a huge mistake.

30 years or so ago I decided to take a whitetail doe in the neck with a .45 ML at about 20 yards. Hit smack in the middle of the neck. Doe dropped like a ton of bricks... then 10 seconds later jumped up and led me on a 1/2 mile tracking job before I lost the trail. Lesson learned - roundballs are very accurate and effective but they punch a small hole, the bigger the animal the longer the tracking job.

I have harvested dozens of deer with roundballs, 45 and 54 cal. Heart & lung shots are always very effective. EXCEPT for the first elk I got with a ML. I bugled, he came after me ... I admit, I actually was a little scared. Buck fever or nerves or whatever, I shot high and spined him. He continued to drag himself after me by his front legs while I put 6 or 8 roundballs into his lungs over about 15-20 minutes before he finally expired.
That is the day I switched to conicals for anything bigger than a whitetail.
The big heavy conicals have worked well for me on elk, moose, bear, and caribou. All heart/lung except 1 bear (right between the eyes).

thats my experience and opinion, take it for what its worth.
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Old June 4, 2014, 04:49 PM   #7
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sorry - the elk were all colorado, .54 cal flintlock.
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Old June 4, 2014, 05:23 PM   #8
Mike Weber
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Good advice on shot placement Papaul. I always try to go for a shot that drops the animal by breaking its shoulder and taking out the heart/lungs.
I use a 566 gr Parker Hale style minnie with my Civil War muskets and carbines.
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Old June 4, 2014, 07:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
If I recall, CO is one of the few states that still gets really picky about what ML equipment is allowed and what is not.
Idaho is pretty specific. no scopes, exposed caps only, at least 50 cal for deer, at least 54 for elk, no sabots, no jacketed projectiles.
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Old June 4, 2014, 10:59 PM   #10
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I have taken 2 elk with my Knight inline 50 cal. Both with conicals, both heart/lung shots. I have been present for 3 other elk taken with 50 cal ML. All were in Washington.

Keep in mind that elk are big, and the kill zone in the neck is very small. My first elk was still alive when I tracked it down after the first shot. I tried to finish it with a neck shot facing me. All I had to do was put it dead center...I was excited and I pulled it left 1 inch. He jumped up and ran another 30 yards. luckily the lung shot had him really weak and he expired without going farther. The bullet hit the spine and cracked the bone but did not break the spinal cord. Your target in the neck is only 2 inches wide. The lungs are a much better target.
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Old June 4, 2014, 11:16 PM   #11
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I have killed some elk, a lot of deer, quite a few antelope and 1 moose with traditional muzzleloaders. I earn about 90% of my living building them, and I have hunted with them since I was 12 years old. It’s hard for me to count the number of big game animals I have killed with muzzleloaders.

Use Wheel Weight metal, air cooled in my rifles of 58 cal and larger. It's about 2X harder then pure lead.

The idea that it doesn't do much damage is not true. In fact, within about 150 yards a 58 or 62 cal muzzleloader with semi-hard round balls kills as well and often better than most of my modern center fire rifles up to and including my 375H&H.

If you go as small as a 45 for deer you should use WW metal and water-drop it. Many experienced hunters will water-drop their 50 cal balls too.
Roll the balls on a file after you cast them to give a bit of texture for the patch to "grab". They shoot very accurately and will go through bone and organs on a deer and out the other side.

My friend Randy has killed 6 elk with a 50 cal TC Hawken with water-dropped WW Balls. Not one ball was recovered. All went completely through. He told me he used 90 grains of 3F. His longest shot on an elk so far with a muzzleloader is about 100 yards.

I used to have a 40 cal that I used for small game hunting and competition. I used WW metal balls in it with 40 grains of 3F powder and I have taken a lot of trophies and ribbons shooting that gun. Don’t believe that “only pure lead” should be used. Again, it’s an old wives tale and simply not true. I get excellent accuracy with harder balls.
If you read the writings of the old timers in Africa, India and here in America you will see many if not most of them used alloys to harden their balls for hunting whenever possible.

I have killed 4 moose in my life. Two with my 375H&H. One with an M-71 lever action in 348 Winchester. And one with my 62 cal flintlock. All 3 of the ones I killed with center fire rifles stayed on their feet and even walked a bit before they fell. All 3 kills were perfect chest shots. The ONLY one of the four that dropped instantly was killed with my flintlock. It was about an 80 yard shot and the ball went though the moose and hit the trees on the other side.

I used LEE R.E.A.L. bullets in a 58 cal Hawken when I was a younger man, and I also used various bullets instead of balls in a 50 cal, and two 58 cal rifles. They all killed ok, but to be honest none were as effective as a hard round ball.
The balls shoot flatter to about 150 yards, and penetrate in a straighter line in the bodies of the game. I was shocked when I found that out, but I later read "The Sporting Rifle and it's Projectiles" by James Forsyth (printed in 1863) and some of the writings of Southerland. They both said the same thing. These men both killed game by the thousands if not the ten-thousands, so they probably knew something about the subject.

For big game at normal ranges, (150 yards and less) and ball is a better hunting projectile than the bullet.

That will not endear me to the people today trying to sell bullets as the "new and improved" way to hunt with a front-stuffer, but the truth is still true.
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Old June 5, 2014, 02:02 PM   #12
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25 yrs. applying for a CA Tule Elk tag and received ML tag in 2005 for Bishop CA.
One the best hunts I have ever had.
I used a T/C Renegade with a 45 cal 1:18 barrel made to drop in the Hawken and Renegade rifles by Green Mountain. Used 540gr Paul Jones Creedmoor 1:20 cast bullet that had been flattened and 80 grs. Swiss B/P 1.5, lubed felt wads and T/C peep sight,very accurate and devastating on Elk.
Took sixteen hrs. of hunting to get my bull,hardest part was getting the right bull separated from the herd and not killing more than one.
There were 5 tags issued for the area M/L hunt I was the only hunter in the area on opening day.I have never experienced more bugling bulls with no less than 4 different herds that I could go after. Local rancher gave me permission to hunt his hayfields adjacent to the Owens river,his question to me was "how many of those Elk can you kill with that tag ?"
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Old June 5, 2014, 03:37 PM   #13
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I'm putting my faith in Wyosmith - that makes sense to me. Can't wait to hunt them. I'm moving to a western state in a year to year and a half, so I will get my chance - however, this state doesn't really even have a ML season (except limited controlled hunts). I should think a round ball would do WAY more damage than a conical bullet on a *neck* shot - massive splat/expansion - particularly if using a nearly pure / soft lead. Thank you Wyosmith - very glad to have your experience on here! And yeah, a .58 round ball beats a .54 round ball.
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Old June 5, 2014, 03:51 PM   #14
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A little tip for you Unlicensed.
I don't hunt with my flintlock in muzzleloader season. I just hunt in regular rifle season. I find it's easier to get tags in the area I want to hunt that way, and the law doesn't say you can't hunt with a flintlock in the regular season.
The elk don't know the difference either.
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Old June 5, 2014, 05:54 PM   #15
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It might not appear this way, but I actually agree with a fair amount of what Wyosmith posted, some good advice in there. What I think he didnt clarify though is context - Forsyth, Sutherland, et al (yes Ive read them & have copies on my bookshelf) were using 200 year old technology. If you are interested in using an old-style ML, casting your own balls/bullets, making your own powder, etc - then yes Id agree, I'd use a hardened roundball. (In fact thats what I've been doing the majority of the time since the 70s.)

However, bullet design, propellants, understanding of terminal ballistics etc have improved spectacularly since then. I had the impression from your original post that you are not looking for historical realism... If I am correct and you will be using a modern muzzleloader with modern propellants and modern projectiles, imo you would be much better served with a modern conical to the heart/lungs. Much. talk to the guys at speer and hornady about matching bullet design to velocity, use & purpose and you'll see what I mean. When I travel for big game I take a slightly different view of terminal ballistics: I want to maximize the statistical odds of a successful recovery. Hence the choice I recommended.

Regardless of what you believe & what you choose to do though, best of luck with the hunt.
And unless you are as good as a guy I know who only takes head shots on whitetails, I'd encourage you to reconsider taking a neck shot.

btw no I dont sell bullets or muzzleloaders, I dont have a horse in this race.
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Old June 5, 2014, 06:05 PM   #16
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Colorado has a 50 caliber minimum size limit for muzzleloaders used for big game hunting.
no sabots, no pellet powder
no scopes
no electronic ignition systems.
There may or might not be more limits. I haven't hunted with my ML in a few years and haven't read the fine print lately:
http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages...Brochures.aspx

I used a TC omegaZ5 in line. worked fine: did in a 5x5. I used blackhorn 209 and powerbelt 250-295 grain ammo.

Good luck. It's fun.
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Old June 5, 2014, 11:02 PM   #17
6.5swedeforelk
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Dremel, I think that you're missing one of the
main points of Wyosmith's excellent post...
the Wheel weight antimony blend lead adds greatly
to the performance of a ML ball.

No, you do not want flattening & distortion.
After all, a .58 ball is a near 100% expanded 30 cal!

A few other posters have me confused.

-A shoulder shot takes out the heart/lungs?

I respectfully suggest a closer look at the elk anatomy,
noting location of the scapula (shoulder).
You've shot way above the heart and ahead of the lungs.

Anyone that tries to discourage a hunter from
becoming a proficient neck shot is doing him a dis-service,
in my opinion.
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Old June 5, 2014, 11:32 PM   #18
Unlicensed Dremel
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No, you do not want flattening & distortion.
After all, a .58 ball is a near 100% expanded 30 cal!
Well, yeah, but what I meant was, for a neck shot. Totally different from a vitals shot. Certainly, you'd want the harder lead for a vitals shot, but the softer for a neck shot, seems to me. So I guess it all depends on your strategy.
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Old June 6, 2014, 12:30 AM   #19
big al hunter
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So I guess it all depends on your strategy.
Indeed it does !! What is your strategy in regards to a neck shot? What are you planning to aim for?
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Old June 6, 2014, 09:04 AM   #20
6.5swedeforelk
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Big al hunter, your neck target from the side is 2/3 up.

We're talking close shots, after you've done your hunting.

And NO moving shots. That's what the cow call is for.
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Old June 7, 2014, 02:22 PM   #21
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Actually, I really don't know WHERE on the neck to aim - can you tell me? I think I do on whitetails, and it's worked for me several times, but dunno about elk.
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Old June 8, 2014, 07:55 AM   #22
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Just my opinion BUT, basing your hunt on the intent to shoot an elk in the neck with a muzzleloader is reaching pretty high on the HOPE pole.
Getting ANY ethical shot may be the best case scenario.
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Old June 8, 2014, 08:03 AM   #23
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No, I don't think so, but maybe. I think the entire point here is what is THE most ethical shot. ML bullets - even conical ones from a powerful inline - often don't make an exit hole that bleeds - elk are notorious for sealing up the offside wound and never being found, in my understanding - THAT is unethical - not using enough gun and wounding an animal, or killing but not recovering. So if you're "hampered" with technology that doesn't have the same chance of a GOOD exit hole, it makes sense to hit CNS, carotid, jugular, and trachea in one explosive devastating shot instead. But I dunno for sure; that's why I'm asking. Just my guess.

Now if the answer is "use a .54 or .58 with a 400+ bullet, instead of a .50, and you will get a good exit hole nearly every time", then maybe that's the answer to the perceived problem rather than neck shots. But Mobuck, I will take your opinion under advisement under the "no" column, if you've hunted them.

Last edited by Unlicensed Dremel; June 8, 2014 at 08:10 AM.
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Old June 8, 2014, 09:20 AM   #24
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A .50 caliber and up ML is capable of more than just neck shots on elk. Use the right bullets and you can even punch through a shoulder. The biggest hang up for most ML hunters will be closing the gap to a range they are comfortable with.

Aperture sights will he your friend on most ML rifles in CO since optics aren't an option, and will extend your range you'll be comfortable shooting at. I'd look towards full bore bullets like Colorado Conical bullets. I'd avoid Powerbelt bullets as in my experience they are a little to fast to expand for elk sized game.
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Old June 8, 2014, 09:36 AM   #25
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Just my opinion BUT, basing your hunt on the intent to shoot an elk in the neck with a muzzleloader is reaching pretty high on the HOPE pole.Getting ANY ethical shot may be the best case scenario.
I would think ESPECIALLY in the case of ML hunting that one would select the most anchor-on-the-spot target location.

Unlike single shot cartridge rifles, reloading a ML demands your full attention, a shoulder hit may only give you another lost elk story.

Each to his own, I've never even hunted elk with my .58 cal.
I find no "sport" in the actual killing of an animal, actually a touch of sadness after the elation of success.
That's why I have zero use for bowhunting.
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