Many hunters begin harvesting animals with rifles. When they get a couple of seasons under their belts and begin to have more experiences stack up, many yearn for more of a challenge. This desire for the challenge is what shows our love for hunting. The constant need to make our hunts longer and more difficult, the drive to close the gap from 300 yards to less than 100.
In search of a challenge, some may pursue archery. But it took me on a path to a traditional muzzleloader. I remember the first time the muzzleloader was placed in my hands. I was in awe of the artistry and simplicity of it. After that, I was fascinated by the lifestyle of the mountain man. To be in the mountains for a living. Having to be quick to load the muzzleloader and accurate enough, since it takes so much time to reload. Powder, patch, ball, ramrod.
On the Hunt with a Traditional Muzzleloader
My first muzzleloader kill was a Montana mountain lion. I spent a lot of time chasing cats with hounds, only to be let down by the cat outsmarting or outrunning the hounds. I watched the hounds work with so much heart, but I never let my hopes get too high.
A day finally came together as planned. We had a cat tree’d. I hiked anxiously to get to the tree with my muzzleloader in hand, waiting for something to go wrong and the cat to get away. Once I got within sight, the excitement kicked in. But the cat was so bunched up in branches, that I didn’t have a clear shot to the lungs and heart. We tried to get it to reposition itself in the tree but that forced it to jump out and run again. Thankfully, we retree’d it right away, which provided me a clear shot.
I placed my iron sights on the shoulder as the cat stared down at me. I pulled the trigger. My hammer struck the cap, which ignited the black powder, to send a lead ball into the vitals of the cat. A good shot but we reloaded for a second (always better to be sure that an animal will have a quick death). Before I could get a second shot the cat dropped from the tree. I had just completed my first muzzleloader kill. Jeremiah Johnson came to mind and I smiled.
That day was incredibly memorable for me. It included family and friends help to make it happen. It was special to watch how hearty and focused the hounds were when doing their job.
It was also an important part of predator control in an area dense with mountain lions, bears, and wolves. A connection to the past is important, as well as continuing the art and lifestyle so it is not lost.