I pulled the back trigger of the double set until it audibly clicked in the still morning air setting the front to a hair trigger. Taking aim with the iron sights down the long browned barrel, I did not even realize that I had quit breathing as I moved my finger to the front trigger of the rifle. The iron sights settled on the reddish colored head of the fox squirrel hiding on limb of a scraggly old live oak forty feet up in the tree. I barely squeezed the front trigger and heard the crack of the longrifle. 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. I took a breath, reached for the powder horn hanging at my side and poured thirty grains of powder from the spout into my measure and down the barrel. I then took a round ball from my hunting bag and centered it on a cotton strip of sheeting at the muzzle and pushed it part way into the barrel, with one sweep of my razor sharp patch knife the sheeting was cut flush with the muzzle of the rifle. Drawing the long ramrod from its place under the rifle barrel I firmly shoved 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 and replaced the ramrod under the barrel. It had taken 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 1800s as the rifle I was using was a copy of a style of blackpowder Ohio Squirrel Rifles built originally by the Vincent’s. These and similar Southern Longrifles were used by early settlers of the southern mountain ranges of the new frontiers. Such a rifle could have been carried by one of the settlers coming to Texas for the first time.
In a morning of hunting I had taken three squirrels with four shots and had slipped away from all worries of what we call the real world. 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 .17 or .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 the slower paced black powder firearms. 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. For those of you that prefer shotguns those are available also. Many of these are not only accurate firearms but also works of art. Check out rifles, smoothbores and supplies at the following links to take a look at some of these works of art.
Here are some links to forums with knowledgeable people that can guide you along the way to learning more about muzzleloading and all that goes with it. I can’t give you a favorite as I like them all. Some will have a more freelance feel, while others live the old time lifestyle. You will find some of the same people in many of them and new folks in others. All are welcome from expert to pilgrim. Feel free to drop in and look around, just tell em Wild Ed sent you.
Shooting and hunting with the old black powder guns is truly a step back in time. You can become Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Jeremiah Johnson or The Long Carbine from”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
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