Thursday, August 6, 2009

Traditional Or Modern..And Who Decides?

There are two very distinct sides to the sport of muzzleloading, or more appropriately these days, muzzleloader hunting. On one side, you have the traditional extremists who scowl at the thought of anything that deviates, even if just a little bit, from what "they" deem a traditional pre 1860s muzzleloader, load or sight. On the other side, you have the modern day muzzleloading hunter who has simply gotten into muzzleloading to enjoy the extra hunting time provided by the special muzzleloader big game seasons. And the rifles preferred by this side of the sport can be extremely modern in-line ignition designs, incorporating hot No. 209 primer ignition, shooting hotter modern black powder substitutes and better performing aerodynamic saboted bullets that can easily shoot inside of 1 1/2 inches at a hundred yards...thanks largely to a magnifying scope sight (preferred by most).

And there's not a lot of gray in between. Today's muzzleloading hunters are pretty much either extremely traditional...or extremely modern in their way of thinking, and what they use when going after big game during a "Muzzleloader" season.

So which side should have the most say so when it comes to regulations that define what can or cannot be used during these seasons?

There are somewhere between 3 1/2 to 4 million muzzleloading hunters in the U.S. today - and the only state that does not have a muzzleloader big game season is Montana. The sales of ALL muzzleloading rifles indicate that more than 90-percent of those who hunt these seasons swing in favor of the modern in-line rifles...modern muzzleloading powders...saboted bullets...and telescopic sights (scopes). Less than 10-percent of ALL muzzleloader sales are for traditionally styled muzzle-loaded guns.

The rifle in the photo at the top of the page is as traditional as any other muzzleloader of pre 1860s styling. This particular rifle, a fast-twist Pedersoli percussion half-stock, rifled to shoot elongated conical bullets, is fitted with a period correct 6x 1850s style riflescope...and can shoot with great accuracy and big game knockdown power out to and slightly past 200 yards. Still, it's not legal to use in 11 states - because of the very traditional, very period correct scope. And even though the rifle is fully capable of shooting modern saboted bullets, which definitely perform better on big game (for cleaner, quicker kills), it is illegal to use them in several states. Likewise, conical bullets dating from about 1840 on into and through the mid 1860s were commonly 2 1/2 to 3 times their diameter in length (weighing upwards of 500 grains)...this rifle loaded with such a projectile would make it illegal to use during the Colorado muzzleloader seasons...even without the scope...because of the bullet length???

A dozen or so state wildlife agencies continue to enforce such regulations, favoring restrictions that they claim "discourage" (or greatly reduce) hunters from taking shots at long range (greater than 100 yards). But, do they? Or do such regulations simply increase the amount of wound loss, due to hunters (especially those over age 50) who cannot see open sights well enough to precisely place their shots...or do mandated ineffectual hunting projectiles, like the patched round ball that cannot retain enough energy to insure a clean kill much past 50 or 60 yards, also result in the loss of game?

Such regulations side in favor of the minority traditional side of the sport. Should the modern-minded muzzleloading hunter have more voice in what is allowed, or not allowed, during the muzzleloader seasons? After all, they out number traditional muzzleloader hunters 9 to 1.

Toby Bridges