I pulled the back trigger of the double set until it audibly clicked setting the front to a hair trigger. Taking aim with the iron sights down the long barrel, I moved my finger to the front trigger of the rifle. The iron sights settled on the head of the fox squirrel hiding on top of a pecan limb forty feet up in the tree. I barely touched the front trigger and heard the crack of the rifle. A cloud of white smoke shot out the barrel hiding the squirrel from view and then drifted downwind as the squirrel made a few last kicks in the leaves where he had dropped down from the limb at the shot. I poured powder from a horn worn on my shoulder, centered a round ball on the patch at the muzzle and pushed it part way into the barrel. Drawing the long ramrod from its place under the rifle barrel I rammed the ball down on top of the powder charge. Setting the hammer to half cock I placed a percussion cap on the nipple of the rifle lock. It took me a couple of minutes to reload, but now the rifle was ready to continue on my hunt. It could have been a scene from the early 1800s as the rifle I was using was a copy of a black powder Southern Mountain Long Rifle used by early settlers of the southern mountain ranges of the new frontier. In a morning of hunting I took three squirrels with four shots and had a great time. What a change in the method and speed in which my morning hunt took place from my usual style of hunting. Using the old style gun had slowed the pace and made every shot more challenging. I made a real effort to make each shot good, as reloading would take a couple of minutes with the muzzleloader and second shots on the same squirrel would be few and far between. Normally I would hunt squirrels with a modern .22 caliber rifle with a high power scope and take a larger bag limit in a lot less time. I believe I now enjoy the old ways better and will spend more time in the woods with a black powder firearm. I even think the game taken in this way tastes better or maybe I am just more proud of the game I take with the old style guns.
If you would like to try shooting one of the old type guns there are many companies out there making replicas of the old guns and quite a few gun builders building custom rifles in the old styles. They are available in flintlock or percussion ignition. Many of these are not only accurate firearms but also works of art. Check out Track of the Wolf at the following link to take a look at some of these works of art.
Cabelas and Bass Pro have some of the replicas advertised in the pages of their catalogs that they will send you upon request.
Here is a link to a forum with a bunch of people that can help you learn more about muzzleloading and all that goes with it. Feel free to drop in an look around.
Shooting and hunting with the old black powder guns is truly a step back in time. You can become Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett or The Long Carbine of Last of the Mohicans. No matter your age no one but you will know who you are when you step back in time.
Enjoy the trip, Wild Ed