Belated Friday Post – Lead Free Muzzleloading And Newcomers On The Game Cam
November 15, 2014
I slept in a little this morning, so it was full daylight when I got up and started my day. As usual, I went to take a look out the back door. Sure enough, three or four deer were milling around up at the feeder. I couldn’t put horns on any of them, but that’s OK. It got the heart pumping better than my morning cup of coffee.
I killed a doe last weekend with the bow, but I’ve got a new challenge. A friend of mine sent me some .50 caliber round balls, cast from bismuth, and I’ve been itching to load up the Hawken and see what they’d do. Getting the Hawken up and running again after all these years has been a bit of a challenge, since apparently nobody in this part of the Hill Country still hunts with traditional muzzleloaders. Among other things, I couldn’t find powder anywhere. I finally sucked up the “hazardous material” charge to have a pound of Pyrodex RS shipped from Cabelas. The shipping cost more than the powder… but that’s how eager I was to shoot the smokepole again.
I got out on the bench, and charged up the rifle with 80 grains of Pyrodex. I had to double patch the ball to get the fit I wanted, and rammed it home. I set up my targets at 50 yards, which is a reasonable shot with this rifle. It’s definitely not one of the modern tack drivers (and I don’t feel like I need to shoot 200 yards with a muzzleloader anyway… I’ve got modern rifles that do that more effectively). The spot I’ll be hunting is set up for archery anyway, so 50 yards will be the longest poke I’ll have.
The first shot was way off to the right. I vaguely remember that problem from the last time I used the rifle, so I tapped the front sight over a bit. The next shot was right where I wanted it. I pulled the one after that, but then settled down and managed to eke out a 2″ group. That’s not bad for a cheap Hawken. I decided to compare the results to what I’d get with a regular, lead round ball. The point of impact was almost identical. Not too shabby!
I only had 10 of the bismuth balls, so I saved the last three for hunting. I felt like I should run through a few more of the lead projectiles, though. Shooting a cap and ball rifle is a bit different from a centerfire due to the slight delay between the cap and powder ignition. You really have to be conscious of your form and follow through, or you’ll pull the shots… not to mention that the trigger on my rifle is not the finest example of precision machining. I needed to build up a little bit of muscle memory before I was comfortable hunting with this rifle.
I wrapped up the shooting, satisfied that I could probably hit what I wanted to hit… at least at 50 yards or so. I ran a brush down the bore to clear the worst of the fouling, but decided that a thorough cleaning could wait. I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt me, but the Pyrodex shoots pretty clean. I stowed the rifle, and then took Iggy and the tablet up the hill to check the cameras. When I pulled in last night, a mid-sized eight pointer was in my front yard with a group of does. They appeared to be eating acorns, not chasing, but it’s a hopeful sign that maybe some pre-rut activity might be cranking up. This was the first time since mid-summer that I’d seen one of the bigger bucks hanging out with the does.
I keep one camera running at the feeder, and that’s the easiest one to access. I knew, of course, that I’d been getting pretty good activity at the feeder recently. Tracks and scat were all over the place, coming and going. Maybe they’ve just about finished off the acorns already. Or maybe they’re just eating corn for dessert. I don’t know. They’re wild deer. They do wild deer stuff. The minute you think you’ve got them figured out, they’ll change the whole game. But whatever the reason, they’ve started coming to the feeder again… in droves.
At any rate, the card was loaded with pictures. The bulk of them were the same deer I’ve been watching all along. I was happy to see that Funkhorn and the big eight point are still around, as is that young six pointer that’s looking so good. Whatever my neighbors were shooting the other morning, they didn’t kill any of “my” bucks. There were also several newcomers, like this really tall, spindly eight pointer. I don’t think I’ve seen him before, but he’s been showing up every night for the last week or so. He’s not particularly old, but I’d probably shoot him, given the opportunity.
I had set my other camera up the hill a ways, in a spot where I’m thinking of setting up a stand. There are some trails there that are really torn up. When I first saw the amount of traffic, I was certain that there were hogs up there, but I couldn’t find any solid evidence (scat, good tracks, rubs, etc.). I decided it must just be a really busy highway for the deer.
Anyway, it’s kind of a hump to get up there due to the steepness of the hill and the fact that the ground is all loose limestone. I decided this would be a good day to break a sweat and check the pictures. The camera didn’t show much, but on closer inspection, I realized it was aimed sort of high. Still, as we see here, it wasn’t entirely fruitless.
Now I just have to figure out how to hunt those suckers in the daylight.