The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 5, 2013

Ken Maurer's Inside Line column: Of fire and steel

Daily Item

---- — Welcome to the late seasons. There are various small game species back in the hunt, all great challenges in the cold and snow. The last deer season is underway, the flintlock season.

If you are heading out for deer with the flintlock, you are after a very different animal now. They've been chased around quite a bit, and even though they've not been bothered for a while, they are still very eager to keep distance between predator and prey.

I like to dabble a bit in black powder hunting. I'm not into it as some are, but it is fun to carry a flintlock rifle in the woods. It is a much different feeling than carrying a regular rifle or even a bow. If you have your flintlock tuned right, it will go off, but lots of things can go wrong. Just ask old Craig Pretzel. If I have it right, I believe his clicked about four times before the deer ran off. Your pan powder can leak out and disappear. The pan powder can collect moisture. The flash hole can clog. The flint can break. Then if everything is right, you still have to hold the gun still and follow through on the hold when you pull the trigger.

All that said, there are some very deadly flintlock shots out there. There are also a lot of guys who can't hit the broad side of a barn door. It comes down to practice. Cleaning the gun is a bit of a pain, but it's part of the routine. The guy that is good and quick at cleaning his gun is probably the guy that is a good shot with it.

I have to admit I missed my share with the muzzleloader. I'm not sure why, but I've gotten better with it lately. Part of it is patience and part of that is waiting for a good shot.

One of the things I like to stress about flintlock hunting is to follow up your shot. Track the deer 150 yards or more. We have found deer dead that far away from the shot that showed no sign of a hit. Finding no hair or blood at the spot where the deer was shot at does not mean you didn't hit it. If there is no snow, search the area where you last saw the deer heading into.

Patched roundballs are deadly, but they don't do near the damage a rifle bullet does. I have heard of some hunters having good luck with maxi-balls and sabots. I've never used them, but I have had good success with powerbelt bullets. I tried them for the simple fact of having a larger projectile. My .54 Renegade shoots the 348 grain copper bullet quite accurately, though I have heard that different bullets shoot differently in various guns. The patched round ball is the traditional choice and for many years it was the only legal projectile in flintlock season. I've burned up my last pack of powerbelts and this year I'm going to go back to the roundball. Getting any deer with a flintlock is an accomplishment, and there are still some nice bucks running around out there.

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