Top 3 Reasons to Shoot and Hunt with a Muzzleloader

The first time I shot my Thompson Center Muzzleloader, I instantly fell in love with it. I like seeing the smoke, I like the deep booming sound and I like the challenge of trying to shoot accurately with individual loads.

shooting tce muzzleloader black powder smoke

Getting in some practice shooting with my TC Muzzleloader. Love the smell of black powder smoke in the morning!

I also like shooting my centerfire hunting rifles, but shooting a tight group with any of those rifles is not as challenging, so for me, it’s not as much fun or as satisfying as shooting a nice group with my muzzleloader, especially since I can’t use a magnified scope.

Top 3 Reasons Why Owners Love To Shoot and Hunt with a Muzzleloader

Since I started shooting a muzzleloader, I have been interested in why other people shoot them as well. I know they are out there, but I have yet to meet a person that shoots a muzzleloader but doesn’t hunt with it. There seem to be three main reasons why we shoot and hunt with muzzleloaders:

  1. Challenge of accurate shooting from individually hand loaded shots
  2. Special hunt seasons- earlier hunt seasons when animals are in rut- or less crowded hunt seasons
  3. Challenge of getting close for one shot, one clean kill from a cold bore

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Here are some recommended accessories for Shooting, Hunting & Cleaning your muzzleloader:

Until recently, there has been a downward trend in the total number people that hunt, but it seems like more and more people are getting into shooting and hunting with muzzleloaders, especially the modern in-line rifles. But compared with centerfire rifles, the numbers of muzzleloader hunters is just a drop in the bucket.

Traditional Old School vs Modern Inline Muzzleloaders

I have not experienced it personally, but there are some flint-lock and cap-lock muzzleloader hunters that have quite a bit of animosity for their modern inline shooting brethren. Somehow, they feel that only flint locks or cap locks are worthy of special hunting seasons. I guess they don’t know that inline models were also available back in the day. The design just didn’t catch on because the owners couldn’t fix them in the field like they could with side lock guns. Scopes were even developed before 1860 and that meant they were being mounted on muzzleloaders.

It’s true, us new-comers to shooting muzzleloaders don’t understand or appreciate the effort some of the old-timers went through to establish the first primitive weapon hunting seasons and yes, in some states, we get to hunt the same season they do with our modern inline rifles. We might be uneducated and we might be inexperienced in the ways of true primitive weapons, but we are not breaking any laws and we aren’t trying to ruin anyone’s hunting season. Not sure how I could ruin someone’s season when I’ve never see anybody in the woods. I guess in a way it’s like the love-hate relationship between people that ride Harleys and those that ride crotch rockets, they all love motorcycles and they have bug stains on their teeth.

Muzzleloader Season – More Room to Hunt

Like most places, I live in an area where the coveted Limited Entry tags are hard to draw. It currently takes about 12 years to draw the Limited Entry Bull Elk tag in my area. But in the meantime, I can always count on getting spike elk and cow tags. I have also had good luck and drew tags for the muzzleloader mule deer season four years in a row. I like the fact that I have seen only two other hunters during the past three and a half muzzleloader hunting seasons (mule deer and elk combined), and both of the hunters I did see were on the road and at the trail head. I can’t say the same for the centerfire seasons.

The year before I wrote this, my hunting unit had 2,453 hunters in the field for the mule deer rifle season and they totaled 7,359 total hunter days.  The same unit had only 745 muzzleloader hunters that totaled 2,304 hunter days in the field. Both the rifle and muzzleloader seasons were 9 days long, so there were 818 rifle hunters per day and 256 muzzleloader hunters per day in the hunt unit.

Table 1. Comparison of Hunting Pressure from
Rifle and Muzzleloader Hunters in My Hunting Unit.

Mule Deer Rifle Season Muzzleloader
Hunters         2,453            745
Total Hunter Days         7,359         2,304
Hunters Per Day            818            256
Acres Per Hunter         2,009         6,421
Spike Elk Rifle Season Muzzleloader
Hunters         2,861           184
Total Hunter Days       13,447           865
Hunters Per Day         1,034             96
Acres Per Hunter         1,590       17,122

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The spike elk general season had 2,861 rifle hunters that totaled 13,447 hunter days. Contrast that with the 184 muzzleloader hunters that spent a total of 865 hunter days in the field. The elk rifle season was 13 days, so that averages 354 hunters in the field everyday. The muzzleloader season was 9 days, so an average of 32 hunters were in the woods every day.

About 94% of the hunt unit has been classified by biologists as year-long, summer or winter habitat for mule deer, and the unit totals 1,643,732 acres of those classified mule deer habitats. If I assume that all hunters were hunting within those acres, that leaves 2,009 acres per hunter for the Mule Deer Rifle Season and 6,421 acres per hunters with muzzleloaders, which is only about 1/3 the number of rifle hunters and about 3 times the hunting space.

The difference is even greater between the spike elk rifle and muzzleloader seasons, with 1,590 acres per rifle hunter and 17,122 acres per muzzleloader hunter. In case you don’t know what that means, 17,000 acres would make a square over 5.2 miles on each side. No wonder I don’t see anyone during the muzzleloader hunt.

It doesn’t matter if you are considering hunting with a muzzleloader simply for the challenge or because the woods are less crowded during the hunting season. But by choosing to hunt with a muzzleloader, you are accepting the challenge to make a clean kill on an animal with a single, cold bore shot. If you do your homework, learn all you can and practice, practice, practice, you can do this.

modern muzzleloader guide


  1. Dale Fleshman says

    I am looking for a old school type scope for my cap style muzzle loader. I am looking for the longer type that is still modern but still captures the look it is supposed to have. I hope you can be of help.

  2. joseph hoyt says

    What are the rules for using black powder in S.C. on feral hogs?

    • Joseph: Not exactly on topic, but in S.C., a hunting license is required to hunt hogs. There are no closed seasons or weapon restrictions for hunting hogs on private lands during daylight hours. At night, you can only use bow and arrow or pistol with iron sight with barrel lengths 9 inches or less.

      There is a special case for hunting hogs at night with other weapons, but you must notify SCDNR first. Between Feb. to July 1, if you notify SCDNR at least 48 hours in advance, hogs may be hunted at night with artificial lights and night vision devices using any legal firearm, bow, or crossbow. Also… anyone using centerfire rifles during these night hunts must be at an elevated position at least 10 feet from the ground.

      There is no legal night hunting on public land in S.C.

      There doesn’t seem to be any restrictions on the types of powder, primers or sabot bullets that can be used to hunt with muzzleloaders in S.C. See all S.C. Hunting Regs here.

  3. I was reading one of the articles on your website. Why would anyone clean their breach plug after every single shot? No need for that. Another problem with muzzleloader shooters is that they try everything they read. The most common problem I’ve seen is the powder. I switched from pellets to 209 Buckhorn loose powder and my groups size shrank. Now I can put two shots into the size of a quarter.

    • Hi Leonard: I agree that cleaning the breach plug after each shot is probably overkill. But a dirty breech plug is an unknown variable. Since I have to pull the breech plug to clean the barrel, I drop it in a small contain of soapy water while I’m cleaning and lubricating the barrel. So, I quickly clean and dry it before shooting again.

      I do recommend shooting twice before cleaning. One clean barrel (& cold barrel) shot at one target and a 2nd (dirty barrel & warm barrel) shot at a 2nd target. It is instructive and it is exactly how you will shoot when you are hunting.

      I also found I get better results from powder over pellets and part of the process is to find which bullet/powder combination works best in each rifle. I found mine and it looks like you found yours. What bullet do you use?

  4. Hi, I was browsing the Internet doing some research on gun safety tips, when I came across this article “Top 3 Reasons to Shoot and Hunt with a Muzzleloader”.

    Just wanted to say I thought it is a pretty good article!

    Looking at the topics you like to write about, I have an infographic that I think you (and your readers) might be interested in. It is about how shooting could affect your hearing health and what to do about it. – Joe

    • Yes Joe; very good information about protecting your hearing at the shooting range.

      My fishing buddy has suffered hearing loss due to years of managing a shooting range without hearing protection. Sounds crazy, but nobody used to use hearing protection and now they are paying the price.

      Here is the infographic:

      How Shooting Affects Your Hearing
      Source: The Smoking Barrel USA

      Shooting a shot or two while hunting without hearing protections is probably not a big deal, but everyone that regularly shoots should be wearing hearing protection. Hearing protection is not that expensive.

      Check out a few types of hearing protection here.

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