Have you ever considered heading afield during muzzleloader hunting season?
“Muzzleloader” is the term given to early firearms because they are loaded from the muzzle — powder, wadding and projectiles — rather having a cartridge to insert into the chamber. Muzzleloaders were common firearms during the Revolutionary War, and while these arms are often seen as collector’s items, they can still be used today for sporting purposes.
If you are an experienced hunter, muzzleloader hunting is a great way to test your skills. But there are some safety issues you’ll have to be aware of when loading and unloading a muzzleloader. Watch the video below to better understand safe muzzleloader handling practices.
Modern In-Line Muzzleloading Safety
Muzzleloaders can be fun, but they take a different skill set to operate than modern firearms, and several rules must be followed to ensure safe operation. Give muzzleloaders a try, just make sure you do so safely.
Sometimes a muzzleloader will not fire immediately when the trigger is pulled. This is known as a “hang-fire” and correcting it requires caution because the gun might fire sometime after the cap or flint created the initial sparks. To correct a hang-fire:
- Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, preferably downrange.
- Don’t take it anywhere that it could injure someone or damage property if it fires.
- After waiting a minute or so, unload the muzzle using a ball discharger.
Powders for Muzzleloaders
True blackpowder and synthetic substitutes such as Pyrodex® are the only propellents you should use in a muzzleloader. Do not use modern-day smokeless powders in black powder firearms. Smokeless powders can cause serious injury if used in muzzleloaders.
Blackpowder is made of potassium nitrate (saltpeter), sulfur, and charcoal. When ignited, it causes a dense cloud of white smoke. It comes in four sizes or granulations.
Cleaning a Muzzleloader
Firing a muzzleloader leaves a corrosive residue inside the barrel that causes pitting and reduces accuracy if left there. The buildup of residue, called “fouling,” also makes loading difficult.
To avoid fouling, swab the barrel with a moist patch after each shot. The patches or cleaning rags used to wipe the barrel must be the correct size and should be made of cotton or approved synthetic materials. Follow the recommendations of retailers who sell muzzleloaders or those who regularly use muzzleloaders.
Thoroughly clean a muzzleloader after each shooting session. Black powder residue can damage the barrel if left overnight.
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National Wild Turkey FederationLocated in Edgefield, South Carolina, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Hunting Heritage Center is over 700 acres of R3 activity, with its Outdoor Education Center’s premier forestry and wildlife habitat used for deer, turkey and small game mentored hunts, as well as learn-to-hunt programs. The Palmetto Shooting Complex is also used to help create hunters via its sporting clays, trap, skeet and 3D archery courses. “The Palmetto Shooting Complex is an outlet to reach those who are shooting enthusiasts but who may not hunt,” said Travis Sumner, NWTF’s Hunting Heritage Center and habitat manager. “Our Winchester Museum is also used as an outlet. Through our tours there, we are able to reach those who are interested in hunting.” [caption id="attachment_3531" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Travis Sumner helps a new hunter during an NWTF dove hunt.[/caption] NWTF also partners with the U.S. Forest Service, South Carolina Forestry Commission, American Forest Management and other groups to conduct hunts. Last year, NWTF helped conduct 17 hunts reaching hundreds of participants, while the Winchester museum hosted thousands of guests and the Palmetto Shooting Complex entertained tens of thousands of shooters. NWTF also touts an established landowner program with 18 private properties used to conduct R3 hunts and events. “For those of us who are seasoned hunters, we need to be aware that what we have enjoyed for years is in danger,” said Sumner. “We all need to get involved, and we offer opportunities for hunters to become mentors, including a yearly mentor workshop for those individuals who would like to help with these hunt programs.”
Mule Deer FoundationLike other non-profits, the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) runs a series of R3 programs, but it really shines with the M.U.L.E.Y. (Mindful, Understanding, Legal, Ethical, Youth) Program. “The program was created to help reverse declining hunter trends by actively engaging youth in a variety of hunting and shooting sports activities, while also teaching conservation principles, safety and ethics through mentored, hands-on experiences,” says Jared Hinton, MDF’s Outreach Coordinator and Conservation Partner Liaison. [caption id="attachment_3533" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Volunteers help run one of the M.U.L.E.Y. trailers.[/caption] According to Hinton, the M.U.L.E.Y. program trailers serve an average of 20,000 youth per year. With these, coordinators and volunteers emphasize safe handling of bows and guns. Youth received reinforced lessons by practicing on an actual range. They also learn the basics of ethical, responsible hunting, with a focus on conservation. MDF encourages potential mentors to work with local chapters.
Rocky Mountain Elk FoundationLocated in Missoula, Montana, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) uses its Visitor Center and museum next to the administrative office building as an opportunity to educate both existing and new hunters. “Our Elk Country Visitor Center receives over 44,000 visitors per year,” says RMEF Hunting Heritage Program Manager Bruce Rich. “Nearly 5,000 of those are in hosted monthly Hunting Heritage and Conservation Outreach programs or in formal tours for schools, daycares, summer camps and other groups.” These programs are focused on not only creating new hunters but also communities of hunters who can help serve one another once recruited. [caption id="attachment_3532" align="aligncenter" width="650"] A look at the RMEF facility helping to create new hunters.[/caption] RMEF also partners with other organizations and facilities and contributes about $1.3 million per year to promote the shooting sports, hunter education, hunter advocacy and outreach, mentored hunts, outdoor skills instruction and natural resource education in sponsoring approximately 400 Hunting Heritage and Conservation Outreach programs per year. This program reaches more than 220,000 people annually at facilities across the country. “Connect with a local RMEF chapter to learn more about what they have going on and opportunities to help out with a volunteer project,” Rich says. “Ensuring the future of our hunting heritage is a crucial part of RMEF’s work.”
Ducks UnlimitedDucks Unlimited (DU) is well-known for hosting youth hunts, Green Wing Days and other programs to introduce kids to the outdoors. Interestingly, it’s now focusing significant efforts at the high school and collegiate levels. It has 54 collegiate DU Varsity chapters across the country. Those members are helping to spread the hunting heritage message to their peers — all in the name of recruitment, retention and reactivation. [caption id="attachment_3534" align="aligncenter" width="650"] More than 200 students from 54 chapters attended the 2019 Third Term summit.[/caption] Part of this program includes Third Term, a college leadership summit that focuses on collegiate DU chapters. Gathering students from across the country, Third Term was started in 1984. “We use our headquarters to bring in hundreds of students from across the country,” says Mark Horobetz, DU Manager of Youth and Education Programs. “This symposium includes an R3 breakout. It’s a social event, but they bring in all walks of life — people who’ve hunted and people who haven’t.” These breakouts share insight on ways attendees can reach potential hunters, how to approach them, and methods for retaining them one recruited. “These students collaborate together to introduce new hunters to the outdoors,” Horobetz says. “ We have volunteers who come and help.” Once back at their respective colleges, these young adults work to share hunting with other students on campus.
PowderhookWhile the above use their physical facilities to critical effect in their R3 efforts, Powderhook went online. Co-Founder and CEO Eric Dinger says it’s a purpose-built app that helps new hunters get started by making local experts available to answer their questions. “Powderhook makes available thousands of local groups and events,” Dinger says. “Our local experts program capitalizes on local, current information only someone in an individual's region might know. It's easy to read about ‘where to place the shot’ on the internet, but much more difficult to figure out when to take that day off of work to time the rut or which person at the local [hunting store] knows their stuff.” Thousands of people use the app to jumpstart their journey as hunters. It’s free, and there are experts in every state ready to help those in need. According to Dinger, it’s one of the only apps on the market that’s solely dedicated to helping create more outdoor participants. “Existing hunters can become local experts on Powderhook and offer their wisdom and experience to the people seeking it in the app,” Dinger says. For existing hunters, serving as mentors goes a long way towards reversing the decline in hunter numbers. Teach new hunters until they are ready to embark on this journey alone. Then, they’ll be prepared to serve as a mentor, too, and pass hunting on down the line.
Main Ingredients2 pounds of venison roast, thinly sliced across the grain 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon black pepper ½ teaspoon garlic powder 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 cups sauerkraut 6 large hamburger buns Sauce Ingredients 2 tablespoons butter 4-6 green onions, diced ½-cup cider vinegar ¼-can lemon lime soda ¼-cup apple juice ¼-cup Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons sorghum molasses 2 tablespoons honey 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper [caption id="attachment_3503" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Slice the venison roast thinly, quarter-inch or less in thickness, across the grain of the muscle for tenderness.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3504" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Season the sliced venison evenly with salt, pepper and garlic powder.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3502" align="aligncenter" width="650"] In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and add the diced green onions. Sauté the green onions for three to four minutes or until soft.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3508" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the green onions. Stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Allow the sauce to simmer while you cook the venison.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3507" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned venison, a few slices at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the skillet. Sear the steaks for one to two minutes per side, just until well browned. Remove the browned venison from the skillet and repeat the process with the remaining slices.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3506" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Once the venison has been browned, return all of it to the skillet. Pour over the sauce and simmer for five to 10 minutes.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3505" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Pile the sauced venison on a bun, top with sauerkraut, and serve with chips or fries.[/caption]
Try Out More Recipes with NSSF’s Game Meat Cooking Series
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF4EE32869227CCE5Where hunter and classically trained chef Georgia Pellegrini shares recipes from her book, "Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time."