„You gotta be kidding!” I answered my friend when he told me that muzzle loading hunting is in trouble in the US. “You mean United States? The country that that is so proud of its history and invented modern time black powder shooting and hunting? It cannot be.” It is hard to believe for sure. It is a good question why muzzle loading hunting is losing interest. I have been shooting modern and muzzle loading guns for more than two decades now, and I have been hunting with such weapons for ten years, and I can assure that both are beautiful hobbies if you do it the right way. I believe there are two important aspects of this question.
The first and most important is our changing lives. Everything speeds up nowdays. We dedicate much less time for reaching our goals. Our life is a high speed motorway with five minute stops. This is what the media tells us: live fast, cease the moment, buy more, buy happiness for money. There is no time left to immerse in your hobby, no time left to really enjoy every bits of your hunting passion. Most people seek instant success and for this purpose they need the most effective arm ever: magnum calibres, long range scopes, thermal vision, ballistic computers, digital gadgets that keeps you awake on the high stand, etc…. Go there, kill something, put it on Facebook, go home. Do it in half a day and your done. No need to learn, no need to practice. These instant achievements look good in social media but they fail to add real value to our lives. These “hunting memories” fade away just as fast as people gain them. These hunters are seeking the success only not the long path that leads to them. This is not the right way to hunt, and this is why black powder hunting is different. You need your time to know your gun, develop your load, practice. You have to learn how to become one with nature as your hunting will start within the sensing distance of the game. You will rely on your own skills rather than on your digital tools. You have to invest more to reach your desired success and this is why muzzle loading hunting will offer you much more joy than any of the instant hunting methods. Black powder hunting is more time consuming and therefore this is probably why it lost some interest in the past decades.
The second aspect of this question is communication. Today everything is related to marketing and muzzle loading hunting is not an exception. Probably this is the point where the industry can help the most to gain muzzle loading some power again. We love black powder hunting because it opens a huge window to our past. And this is important as we will never know where we are unless we understand where we come from. Needless to say this is why we emphasize heritage, history, traditions in our advertisements. But this is not the complete picture. Black powder hunting is not just fun, but a challenge and unmatched modern time hunting adventure. Not every true hunter is looking for the historical background but I am sure that each and every single true hunter is looking for an ethical but challenging way to hunt. Giving chance to the game by limiting the technical capabilities of the hunting gear and relying more on the hunter’s skills. This is why black powder hunting meets the strongest requirements of ethics and environmental sustainability. These are the points that the industry has to put emphasis on in advertising. And another important benefit: I have never seen any green activists raising voice against traditional hunting methods…
I do not say that hunters with modern rifles are worse than black powder hunters. This question is not about what we hunt with but more about how we hunt – and by the way how we live your life… It is our choice how you reach our goal: the easy and fast way with superficial memories or we can follow the way of the true hunter.
Quality against quantity. Simple as it is. Just like hunting geese with a 20ga muzzle loading flintlock double shotgun, just like the one Pedersoli started manufacturing lately. Hunting geese is a challenge with a modern magnum chamber semiauto shotgun as well, and the fun increases if you switch to a front loader. These birds are clever and vigilant and you have to find the right weather to hunt them here in Hungary. If it is cold, windy, foggy, snowy, rainy that is your day. Friendly isn’t it? In good weather they fly in the stratosphere well outside the reach of the long range shotgun cartridges. Bad weathers bring them down. Here in central Europe they spend the day on the agricultural fields and return to the water for the night. Hide close to the water or the field and if you are lucky to position yourself in their path you’ll have a chance to shoot a few. You can also call them in with whistles and that hunting method also offers an excellent fun. Geese have very good eyes so in both cases you will need a good camouflage or shelter and never move until they are within 20-30 meter distance. Geese are flying in large waves but in many cases there smaller groups flying in front of the main parties as reconnaissance. Control yourself, don’t shoot them, let them feel safe so the large groups will follow them in the same reachable height.
I load the Pedersoli 20 ga flintlock shotgun with 90 grains of 2Fg Swiss powder, a 0.5 cm over powder felt wad, 32 grams of 3.5 mm shot and a cardboard over shot wad. Many hunters choose 4-4.5 mm shot for geese but I find it unnecessary. The smaller your shot is the more projectiles and a denser group you will have. For me 3.5 mm is the optimum shot size therefore. My maximum shooting distance with this load is not more than 35-40 meters with the right side modified bore. In practice I shoot the geese only when I can see their legs.
The weather on my last geese hunting day was just excellent. The foggy, cold morning promised a lot and I did not have to wait for long to be successful. That morning I shot one goose and I had a cooperative bird with a friend of mine out of 3 shots. Not a bad ratio at all, and even if the number of shots was low, I cannot express how much fun we had trying to call in the high flying birds. In the afternoon the clouds vanished leaving us the high flying birds but we were not unsatisfied at all. That morning was a special memory.
So you want to go down to the bottom? You want get more involved in adventure and history? You want to get involved in some extreme hunting? Grab a muzzle loader, you will not regret it.
Balázs Németh, 2018.