Does Hunting With A Muzzleloader Have To Be So Primative?

I know this post is bound to ruffle a few feathers among my peers…but I tend to support the recently proposed change to Minnesota law that if enacted would allow the use of modern scopes mounted on muzzleloaders.   Why?   I think the time has finally come for each of us to accept the fact that for most hunters using a muzzleloader today it’s not about nostalgia and a passion for the history in the firearm…nope, it’s about increased opportunity by hunting with what amounts to a single shot firearm.

Frankly, most who oppose these views will likely take the stance that modern muzzleloading seasons have evolved far beyond the true spirit of how it was first permitted.   In Minnesota, for instance, the first modern day muzzleloading season began in 1977 and the participants in those days were hard-core enthusiasts who wanted to relive the experience down to the last detail.   A friend of mine, Mark, actually dressed the part in his old buckskins and fully enjoyed the flavor of the whole frontiersman experience.   Speaking for Mark, I would suspect that his opinion on using a modern in-line muzzleloader for hunting would be akin to fishing for trout out of a cattle tank.   Where’s the sport, he would ask?

Well, to each his own…I guess.   I can certainly sympathize with the folks who once enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of the late muzzleloading season without the throngs of people in the woods.   Does that mean, however, we need to be respectful and protect those privileges for a few without allowing the sport to naturally evolve as sportsmen would like to see it?   I guess some would argue yes…while the majority of sportsmen seem to be saying no.   Last year almost 70% of the hunters polled in Minnesota stated they would like the opportunity to use modern scopes on muzzleloading firearms.   Obviously these folks aren’t heading to the woods with flintlocks…rather, they’re intending to use something more modern in appearance and function.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m looking forward to muzzleloading hunting this fall mostly for increased hunting opportunity.   Yup, I’m being totally selfish…and I don’t see anything wrong with that.   The Minnesota DNR is so messed up with how they let us hunters use shotguns in Zone 4, that a single 2–day opening weekend for deer hunting is laughable.   Bad weather or the farmers not getting crops out in a timely manner means you might just wait another 363 days until the hunting opportunity with a firearm rolls around again.   Oh sure, you can buy one of the hybrid licenses allowing you to virtually hunt during any open season…but why should I have to spend three times as much money for that when the DNR could be more liberal with the number of days allowed for regular gun hunting?

Obviously, by turning to the muzzleloading season this accomplishes two objectives for me.   First, the extra three weeks before the muzzleloading season begins allows most of the farmers in my area to get the remaining crops out of the fields.   That’s a bonus as the deer have less cover.   But the ML season also extends for 16 days in Minnesota for the same cost as my 2–day license earlier in November permitting me to use a shotgun only.   This fall I want the extra days of hunting so I will be opting for the muzzleloading hunt during 2006.

But are scopes really necessary on a muzzleloader, you ask?   Of course, the answer to that one is no…but I think it also depends on the hunter.   If a hunter gets a certain satisfaction out of using a scoped firearm why should he not be allowed to use it?   It’s still a single-shot firearm which likely will not permit a follow-up shot at the same animal.   Furthermore, I know several hunters who aren’t worth a crap with open sights…but give them a scoped rifle and their accuracy improves measurably.   Personally, when a hunter decides to pull the trigger on an animal…no matter if it is with a muzzleloader or a high-powered rifle…I want that sportsman to be the most efficient as possible in making a clean kill.   Our sport is not served any better by a hunter who is forced only to use open sights because that is what tradition has long dictated with muzzleloaders.   It ought to be a personal decision what the hunter uses to sight-in his muzzleloader…and not a decision strictly governed by the DNR when there is no biological or safety reason for doing so.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not expecting nor will I use a scoped muzzleloader this fall even if the laws happen to change in the meantime.   Instead, I just don’t see why there should be any strong opposition for the proposal, except by those who always seem resistant to change.   And for those traditionalists who are yearning to keep the woods for themselves during this special time of the year…it’s time to embrace and accept change because it’s inevitable in our sport.

Sportsmen have many personal reasons why they choose to hunt the way they do…and if allowing more efficient sights on muzzleloading firearm spurs someone’s interest in the sport to try something new…I’m all for it.   Where do I sign the petition?

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.