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Muzzleloader Hunting for Whitetail Deer

Muzzleloader Hunting for Whitetail Deer

I will never forget hunting whitetail deer in Iowa in 2009 in extreme weather conditions with a shotgun. You see during the Iowa firearms season a hunter may choose between using a shotgun or muzzleloader. Since my father died when I was a kid I never really was able to enhance my mechanical abilities thus I always select the easy loading, trigger pulling of the 12 gauge shotgun over the muzzleloader despite the fact I have 2 very nice Thompson Center muzzleloaders I have never fired. I always wonder if I use a muzzleloader will something go wrong causing me to miss the deer of a lifetime.

In 2009 just the opposite happened. After waiting for 4 ½ long cold winter days in Iowa a Boone and Crocket buck appeared giving me a 112 yard shot broadside. It was a shot I knew I could make easy as I know my slug shotgun like the back of my hand. As I pulled the trigger it didn’t fire. I “shucked out” a shell and tried firing another. Again the shotgun would not fire. During the 2009 Iowa firearms season our hunters in Iowa had 28 misfires with shotguns on whitetail bucks while our muzzleloader hunters had none at all. I have now vowed never to take a shotgun to Iowa again and am immersing myself in the inter workings of the modern muzzleloader. Especially since I have discovered Kansas offers an early season muzzleloader hunt in late September that is awesome. Also Missouri has a fabulous late muzzleloader season that hunters often overlook. It will be the focal point of this article to describe in detail exactly how to shoot, site in, clean, store, load, and equipment needed for successful muzzleloader hunting of whitetail deer.

Again I hate to suggest to the reader what product to buy however after much research I will be suggesting what muzzleloader to purchase as well as powders etc, and NOT BECAUSE I’M TRYING TO “PLUG” OR HELP ANY COMPANIES SELL PRODUCTS. I am going to share with you not only how one should properly handle, load, and care for a muzzleloader however it will be necessary to speak about product over the course of the article because of the added complexities of muzzleloader hunting. This article has been constructed after visiting with some of the most famous sources regarding muzzleloader hunting for whitetail deer. So sit back relax and see if we can visit the modern day world of muzzleloader hunting for whitetail deer. IF WE WERE SPEAKING ABOUT ARCHERY OR RIFLE WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO TAKE SUCH A CLOSE LOOK AT WHAT PRODUCTS ARE THE BEST FOR MUZZLELOADERS BUT UNFORTUNATELY WE MUST DO SO IN ORDER TO PROPERLY PREPARE YOU FOR THE HUNT.


I will simply say to you that my belief after much research is that the Thompson Center Pro Hunter Muzzleloader is probably the best muzzleloader in the world unless you want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a muzzleloader that is custom made. Without talking too much about the Thompson Center Pro Hunter Muzzleloader here is a brief overview of the weapon.

The Pro Hunter integrates virtually all of the features you could ever want in an ideal gun. Ask any hunter in the know and many either want one or are contemplating buying one. It's that simple. Recognizing the incredible versatility of this gun I ordered one myself. The reason is because while I recommend the .50 caliber muzzleloader, this gun converts to almost any rifle caliber. Meaning TC produces interchangeable barrels so this may be the last gun you ever have to purchase. I've since been able to test it both at the range and in the field in 7 mm Rem Mag on black bear and both 7mm Rem Mag and .50 cal. muzzleloader on whitetails. Even though it is a moderately heavier gun, I have to say that I'm awestruck by the accuracy of each.

An obvious anomaly in the world of long guns, it looks and feels very different than the more common bolt action rifle. So, why is the single-shot Pro Hunter so desirable? From what I've learned the most prominent reason is versatility; because it can be transformed into four different firearms, it's an economical option for those of us needing multiple guns. Previously designed in a manner that accommodates the switching of barrels, in recent years shooters could purchase three barrels; a centerfire, muzzleloader, and a rifled shotgun barrel. As of this last year, TC has made a fourth available in a rimfire. I ordered mine with three different barrels: one chambered in 7 mm Rem. Mag., another in .50 cal. muzzleloader, and the third in a rifled 12 gauge slug barrel. Although I chose to go with stainless fluted barrels, blued barrels of variable sizes are also available. The fourth option and newest addition to this model, is the rimfire barrel available in .22 LR and .17 HMR. With a unique mono block design, the frame assembly requires no modification. In other words with this firearm and variable barrels a person can hunt every gun season, namely both the general and primitive weapons seasons where hunting is restricted to the use of shotgun and muzzleloader.

Ergonomically designed for comfort, the Encore Pro Hunter is equipped with several brilliant features for muzzleloader hunting. As a single-shot it's safe, accurate, and reliable. It features a rotating hammer design called the "Swing Hammer" allowing easy access to the hammer spur. The rotating design allows the hammer position to be adjusted to the left, center or right, depending on preference and clearance under the scope.

Another outstanding feature on the Encore Pro Hunter is TC's new Flex Tech stock system. With today's magnum and ultra magnum loading charges, TC engineers have addressed the issue of manageability by partnering with Limbsaver, a company well-known for their recoil reduction technology. Now with the new patent pending Flex Tech stock, the Encore Pro Hunter incorporates four synthetic recoil absorbing arches, Research has shown that the Flex Tech stock dampens shock and vibration by up to 43 per cent. This translates to far less wear and tear on the shooter and scopes. From my own perspective, this innovative shock absorption technology is significantly more effective than installing a muzzle brake. Excellent for muzzleloader hunting.


Several years ago I spent over $1200 on a scope for a gun I owned. Boy did I feel atop the world until once mounted the scope pulled out of the barrel of the gun. The screw mounts were backing out because it had an aluminum receiver. Be sure if you go with a heavy high dollar scope that you aren’t trying to mount it on an aluminum receiver. The muzzleloader will not meet or shoot the distances a rifle will, thus on most muzzleloader scopes you need not exceed the 8 to 10 power range. However I try to equip with the highest power that draws the most light into the scope on any gun. I prefer Nikon or Swarvorski. Remember the recoil of a muzzleloader can be a tough thing to receive if you load a lot of powder then you may want a shorter scope to prevent the scope from giving you a black eye or a broken nose. You need to be able to trust you gun while muzzleloader hunting.


The fine tune sighting in of a muzzleloader is nothing short of an art. Because of a variety of bullet weights, powder loads, barrel lengths, and much more YOU MUST KNOW YOUR MUZZELOADER AS IF IT WERE THE BACK OF YOUR HAND.

Of course the place to start is at the local gunshop where you have the scope mounted, and have the gun bore sighted.

From the bore sight at the gun shop its time to move to the rifle range after the selection of primers, bullets, and powder.


When Triple Se7en loose powder came on the scene around 2002 promising (and delivering) better than black powder velocities, T7 pellets soon followed. (Although I prefer Blackhorn powder.) With the rise in popularity of Triple Se7en in general, and Triple Se7en pellets in particular, (Although I prefer Blackhorn powder.)209 shotshell primer use became close to mandatory. Triple Se7en pellets (Although I prefer Blackhorn powder.) have always been recommended for use with 209 primers only, though musket caps usually light them off with little problem. Musket caps in inline rifles unfortunately light off scopes with equal ability for muzzleloader hunting .
Triple Se7en powder from Hodgdon is here, (Although I prefer Blackhorn powder.)and it is here to stay. The beef against T7 has been the nasty, hard, slag-like fouling crud (the 'crud ring') that forms in front of some, but not all 209-fired breechplugs. The longer, cooler nippled breechplugs (Knight Rifles' bolt actions) have given markedly less hard taffy-apple crud formation for me than some of the others. The T/C Contender G2 in .45 caliber has been the worst of them all for me.
To attempt to address this fouling crud issue, a variety of attempts have been made, most of them fairly clumsy in practice, or less than satisfying. I used Remington .410 shotshell primers which helped with T7 loose powder, but were not reliable with T7 pellets. Winchester marketed 209 "muzzleloading primers," but all they were was standard W209 primers in more expensive packaging. Remington tried to make a quick buck with their "Kleenbore Muzzleloading primers," but that failed just as quickly. It was apparent, at least to me, that Remington did inadequate testing. The "Kleenbore primers" were far worse than the Rem. 209-4 shotshell primers that at least partially helped the crud situation, if only with loose T7 powder. Remington's dedicated "Kleenbore" muzzleloading primers just plain did not work.
Finally, progress has been made. It didn't happen in a good weekend; it happened over a period of two years with a huge amount of development by Olin-Winchester. Though the 209 battery cup anvil primer external dimensions were not changed, the primer compound was developed from scratch. "Everything on the inside is a brand new mixture," say my friends at Olin Corporation. That certainly seems to be the case.
There were multiple goals in the development of the Triple Se7en primer: eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the crud ring from Triple Se7en (as well as Pyrodex) in the majority of 209 primed muzzleloaders. While they were at it, they sought to maintain complete reliability when used with Triple Se7en pellets. (Although I prefer Blackhorn powder.) Shotshell primers have been a known quantity for a long time (in shotshells), but Olin-Winchester wanted to go farther than the previous generations of 209 primers.
They took inline muzzleloaders, loaded them with Triple Se7en pellets, (Although I prefer Blackhorn powder.) projectiles, and their experimental primers and froze the entire unit to minus 50 degrees F. Then, it had to fire T7 pellets without fail. The also experimented with flame temperature, gas generation, and other variables controllable by the primer energetic to get the clean ignition yet reliable extreme performance they wanted.
Accuracy was also important for muzzleloader hunting. As a matter of fact, sources report that H. P. Gregory set records just this year at the NMLRA Spring Shoot using these new Triple Se7en primers and Triple Se7en loose powder.
How do they rate in "strength" for muzzleloader hunting? As this is a new chemical formulation, it don't believe it is possible to directly compare these primers to older generation primer mixtures. Based on noise and flame output, they seem a bit softer than W209 shotshell primers, yet clearly stronger than the .410 shotshell primers I compared them against. I found no issue with these primers setting off pellets.
Are they cleaner? Without a doubt, they are radically cleaner than standard 209 primers. To give myself something visual to easily compare, I fired a number of standard 209 shotshell primers in Knight red Full Plastic Jackets. Inside the spent jackets, without exception, was greasy, black, scummy material that eventually forms hard carbon crud inside your breechplug, or perhaps in your action.
I then fired the new Triple Se7en primers the same way. Visual inspection of the inside of the red plastic jackets showed them bright red and clean, looking as through a primer had never been fired through them at all. Obviously, these new primers are not laying down anywhere near the scummy residue that standard 209 shotshell primers do.
With the initial testing I've done so far, I can say that the Winchester T7 primers do significantly reduce fouling build-up in muzzleloaders that have that issue, and further reduce carbon build-up inside breech plugs. It reduced the small, but manageable T7 "stuff" in a Knight rifle to practically nothing, and significantly reduces internal carbon build up in the Savage 10ML-II as well. Individual results will vary by make of rifle, breechplug design, and specific powder charge. Try them yourself, and you'll soon be a believer in improving your muzzleloader hunting.
The Triple Se7en 209 muzzleloading primer is the most significant advance in inline muzzleloading ignition since the 209 primer itself first gained prominence. It is easily distinguishable from regular 209's with its black primer face so there can be no confusion. It is, to my knowledge, the first new priming compound designed specifically for muzzleloading and it is a winner. The outside dimensions are virtually identical to standard W209 primers, so it can be used in place of a standard Winchester 209 in any muzzleloader designed for 209 primers.


Hornady's new Low Drag Sabot turns the ultra-accurate SST-ML™ into the easiest-loading, hardest-hitting and most-accurate muzzleloader bullet on the planet. New polymer technology in combination with cutting-edge CNC design has given Hornady engineers the ability to do something that no other bullet company has done; deliver an easy-loading muzzleloader bullet that is accurate. In the past, easy-load muzzleloader bullets have delivered questionable accuracy. This is due to the fact that they must be manufactured smaller than the bore to allow for easy loading. Being too small for the bore means that the rifling doesn't always get the bullet spinning properly, and accuracy suffers. Hornady's new Low Drag sabot changes all that. The new sabot reduces loading effort by a whopping 50% and does not sacrifice any of the accuracy that has made the SST-ML bullet famous. This is the only easy-load muzzleloader bullet on the market that delivers true 200-yard-and-beyond performance. I strongly recommend the 250 grain for muzzleloader hunting.


You can stay with your easy to load pellets however without a doubt Blackhorn 209 High Performance Muzzleloading Powder is the best in the World. Blackhorn 209 is a revolutionary propellant that is redefining the term “accuracy” in the muzzleloading industry. When used as directed, this high performance powder consistently shoots at higher velocities and with greater precision than any competing propellant. As the ONLY noncorrosive muzzleloading powder, Blackhorn 209 is engineered to eliminate swabbing and cleaning between shots. Precise accuracy, higher velocities and ease of use ensure Blackhorn 209 will bring out the best in your muzzleloading rifle.

While some will say that pellets are easy to load I disagree. Also with a muzzleloader you normally don’t get more than one shot anyway at the animal while muzzleloader hunting. THUS HEAR THIS AS I SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS. ALL THE EQUIPMENT I SUGGESTED FROM THE GUN, TO THE PRIMER, TO THE BULLET, TO THE POWDER WILL EITHER IMPROVE YOUR MUZZLELOADING HUNTING OR IF YOU’RE A BEGINNER WILL SET YOU UP IN THE FINEST MOST ACCURATE MANNER POSSIBLE.

Did I fail to mention you will want to buy some speedloaders? While I’m sure you know what a speedloader is briefly I will touch on it. A speedloader holds your next shot should you need one by having the powder and bullet encased in a small plastic container. This way you don’t have to take the time to measure the powder while muzzleloader hunting.


While I know your tired about talking about product it is vital as preparation for muzzleloader hunting is the key to your success. You will need dry cleaning patches, No. 13 Thompson Center Bore Cleaner, Thompson Center Bore Butter, and CVA Barrel Blaster Wonder Gel to sight in the gun for muzzleloader hunting. The reason is because you will need to clean the barrel of the muzzleloader after every shot, or if using the Blackhorn powder every 3 shots to ensure your are sighting in accurately for muzzleloader hunting. Also I recommend a ballstarter to make loading bullets easier into the weapon. Now that we have everything we need let’s head to the range.

As you may know it is virtually impossible to sight in any rifle without having a proper steady rest and targets. I prefer a led sled but sandbags will work just fine on a picnic table or any type of shooting rest. Normally after the bore sight at the gun shop I will take my first shot at 70 yards just to see where the muzzleloader is hitting. Normally it will be somewhere on the board or target. If not you will need to move closer to see if the muzzleloader is shooting low or high.

When you sight in any gun or muzzleloader know that after several shots any gun may get hot and begin to “walk”. This simply means the barrel heats up and the gun begins to perform inaccurately, thus you will need to take several minutes between shots to allow the barrel to cool down. Remember when your hunting and a deer comes in or whatever game you seek your shooting a cool barrel. Thus never sight a gun in that has a heated barrel and expect it to perform the same in the woods. Often times this mistake of sighting in when the gun is hot will cause you to waste ammo, time, and cost you the trophy of a lifetime during your hunt outing.

Loading or charging a muzzleloading firearm presents some special concerns because it requires the muzzle to be pointed upward.

For rifles, position the butt on the ground between your feet. You should be facing the underside of the barrel. The muzzle should be pointed upward and away from your body. Never work directly over the muzzle.

Determine if the gun is already loaded by checking the barrel with a marked ramrod, which has an “unloaded” or empty marking. If you aren’t sure, consult an experienced muzzleloader user or gunsmith.

Measure out the proper amount and type of powder using the calibrated powder measure. Replace the powder horn’s cap, and swing the horn to the other side of your body. Pour the powder into the barrel from the measure. Tap the barrel to make sure all powder falls to the breech end.

Center a lubricated precut patch over the muzzle. You can lubricate the patch using a manufactured lubricant or using saliva by placing it in your mouth. Lay the ball on the patch with the sprue or flat side up, if the ball comes with this feature. Then seat the ball and start it down the barrel using the short starter.

Use the longer ramrod to push the ball the rest of the way, making sure it’s seated well on the powder charge. Push the ramrod in short strokes, gripping it just a few inches above the muzzle. If you use longer strokes, you might accidentally snap the rod and injure your hands or arm. Your ramrod should be marked to show when the ball is properly seated over a specific load, such as 70 grains of FFFg powder, however I suggest using 110 grains of Blackhorn Powder for muzzleloaders.

Steps for Loading an In-Line Muzzleloader
1. Check for load and swab bore dry.
2. Open breechblock to install cap/primer.
3. Point in safe direction and close block.
4. Clear channel by firing cap.
5. Drop in powder or pellets.
6. Place bullet in muzzle.
7. Use starter to push bullet into muzzle.
8. Use ramrod to seat bullet completely.
9. Open breechblock.
10. Install cap or primer.
11. Close block and put on safe or fire.

Once you determine where the bullet is landing on the target at a closer range than 100 yards you can adjust your scope accordingly and begin to fine tune at 100 yards. It is always a good idea to have a good pair of binoculars to determine where your bullets are hitting so you don’t have to walk to the target each time to figure out how to adjust your scope’s elevation or horizontal impact.


Black powder firearms are particularly susceptible to rust and corrosion. It takes a bit more time and effort to clean a Muzzleloader/black powder gun, but for me the extra effort is well worth the reward.

First and most importantly!!!! MAKE SURE your gun is UNLOADED!! Do not ever work on a loaded weapon! I had one friend that shot himself in the toe, and another who SHOT HIS EAR OFF, while working on loaded muzzleloaders. Begin disassembly. Tear it down as far as you can. You may need a manual or diagram. Don't do anything that you can't undo! 1)Remove the barrel…

Clean Nipple and/or Breechplug
With the breechplug and/or nipple removed, clean it. Use a "nipple pick" or a needle to make sure there is no fouling in the tiny orifice. If it is fouled/plugged, you will have poor ignition or a total misfire. I soak a piece of thread in oil, and run it back and forth through the orifice to prevent future fouling.

Cleaning and Protecting Your Barrel
This is the important part! It can be done with the weapon assembles or disassembled. Just make sure it's not loaded! It is most easily accomplished with the breechplug removed, if that's possible. 1) Apply a powder solvent to the barrel and allow to sit. Read (and follow!)instructions to your particular type of solvent. 2) Run patches through your barrel repe…

Reassembly and Final Touches
Reassemble your weapon (In reverse order of disassembly). Lightly coat all exposed metal with gun or sewing machine oil. Now you are ready to hunt or target practice. Be careful. Follow all steps to safe gun handling. Firearm safety is of utmost importance.



The State of Iowa limits firearm hunters to shotgun or muzzleloader only. No rifles are allowed. While this may discourage the booking of gun hunts by some sportsmen, it is common knowledge that these same limitations may be the chief reason for the existence of trophy bucks in this state. Simply put, when you limit hunters to shotgun or muzzleloader you limit the distances they are able to shoot. In turn by doing so, deer live longer as they are more difficult to harvest. All this equals longer life spans and larger racks. The firearms tags are obtained through a lenient lottery process in May which IMB Outfitters will assist you with. The Iowa Firearm Lottery has yielded an estimated 85% tag obtainment success rate. Although tags are NOT a guarantee they are relatively easy to obtain. The 1st Gun Season in 2010 is December 4th through December 7th. The 2nd Gun Season is December 11th through December 14th.

Iowa late muzzleloader season. Iowa offers a muzzleloader only hunt. In 2010, Muzzleloader only hunters may hunt from the dates of December 28 to January 10 for hunting with muzzleloader only. The tag is obtained in a lenient lottery process occurring in May. These hunts are very successful but can prove to be brutally cold with temps hovering around 10 degrees at certain times.


This portion of the firearms season allows hunters additional time to hunt using muzzleloaders.
Season dates
• Dec. 18–28 statewide
• a muzzleloading or cap-and-ball firearm .40 caliber or larger and capable of firing only a single projectile at one discharge; in-lines and scopes are allowed
• multiple-barreled muzzleloading or cap-and-ball firearms and/or muzzleloading or cap-and-ball handguns, including revolvers, .40 caliber or larger are allowed and may be carried in addition to a muzzleloading or cap-and-ball rifle


FIREARM DEER PERMITS (Shotgun, Muzzleloader, Late-Winter and CWD)
2010 Season Dates:
November 19, 20, 21 (first season)
December 2, 3, 4, 5 (second season)
Application Dates:
1st lottery deadline - April 30: Residents only
2nd lottery deadline - August 16: First time applicants, Non-Residents & rejected applicants
Random daily drawings - Sept 14 - Oct 4: multiple permits
Notice: October 19 - Remaining Random Daily Drawing County Permits will be sold over the counter on a first come, first serve basis. Permits will be sold until quotas are exhausted or until the close of the firearm season.
Non-Resident (Firearm & Muzzleloader) Applications available July (download & print)
The cost of a Non-Resident Either-Sex Firearm and Antlerless Only, Special Hunt Area deer permit: $300
The cost of a Non-Resident Antlerless-Only Firearm deer permit: $25
The cost of a Non-Resident Combination Firearm deer permit (either-sex and antlerless-only): $325
Season Dates:
Dec 10, 11, 12 and Dec 2, 3, 4, 5 (second firearm season)
Application Dates:
1st lottery deadline - April 30: Residents only
2nd lottery deadline - August 16: First time applicants, non-residents & rejected applicants
Random daily drawings - Sept 14 - Oct 4: multiple permits
Notice: October 19 - Remaining Random Daily Drawing County Permits will be sold over the counter on a first come, first serve basis. Permits will be sold until quotas are exhausted or until the close of the muzzleloader season.
Non-Resident Applications available July (download & print)
2010 Non-Resident Archery Deer online lottery application - will go live June 1.
You can apply for your lottery permit via the internet. DNR Direct Online License Sales or by phone at 1-888-6PERMIT 1-888-6PERMIT (1-888-673-7648 1-888-673-7648 )
Remaining permits will be sold over-the-counter beginning mid August. Antlerless only permits for $25.50 will be available throughout the season over the counter at local license agents, by phone or by internet. If ordering by phone or internet, your permit will be mailed to you within 7 to 10 business days.
The cost of a Non-Resident Archery Combination Deer permit (one either-sex/one antlerless) will be $410. The quota will be 25,000 for Non-Resident combination tags.
In addition to a valid deer hunting permit hunters are required to purchase either a 5-Day (35.75) OR Annual (57.75) Hunting License AND a Habitat Stamp (5.50).
All Hunters:
Only one annual license and habitat stamp is required to hunt for the entire 2010 deer season regardless of the number or type of permits held by a hunter. 2010 Licenses are good until March 31, 2011.


Muzzleloader: Sept. 20 - Oct. 3, 2010 (The following permits may be used during this season in units specified on permit, using muzzleloader or archery equipment: resident or nonresident Muzzleloader Either-species/Either-sex Permit, resident Any-Season White-tailed Deer Permit, nonresident Muzzleloader White-tailed Deer Permit, Hunt-Own-Land Permit, Special Hunt-Own-Land Permit, Antlerless White-tailed Deer Permit, and Antlerless Either-Species Deer Permit. Hunter orange clothing is required. IF THE HUNTER DOES NOT HARVEST A BUCK DURING THE EARLY MUZZLELOADER SEASON HE OR SHE MAY USE THIS TAG DURING THE REGULAR FIREARMS SEASON AS LONG AS THEY USE A MUZZLELOADER. Inline muzzleloaders are allowed with scopes in Kansas.

Darrin Bradley

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