Muzzleloader Hunting A Hunt To Remember

Rick Bramwell

muzzleloader hunting remembering the hunt

Remembering Muzzleloader Hunting Adventures

Sitting here on a cold winter night trying to decide if I want to drive 100 miles south to hunt for a couple of days It has been years since I have had to muzzleloader hunt. It is usually cold. My second-largest buck I ever took was with a smoke pole. This late deer season brings back some memories good and bad. Here’s to muzzleloader hunting and a hunt to remember.

Cold Weather Muzzleloader Hunting

Last light Larry Lawson pops up in a couple of cold weather situations. On the last day of the season, we hunted a Madison County woods even though the wind chill was about minus 30. At last light, I heard Lawson’s gun discharge. A nice buck had appeared giving my friend a good shot. He pulled the trigger and nothing happened for about four seconds. He had a delayed fire.

I tried to fire my gun and it never did anything. It was snowing and this was back when we used caps instead of primers. Moisture was a big problem.

What Are Muzzleloader Hunting Friends For

Another, last day adventure, took us to the Big Creek bottoms of Jefferson County, Indiana. I had forgotten my knee-high boots. Larry said, “I will carry you across the creek on my shoulders.” What could go wrong?

He carried the guns to the far shore then came after me. Lawson got us through the swift current and dry to the other side.

Things went in reverse on the way back. It was dark as Lawson carefully took each step. The underwater rocks were coated with slimy dark green algae. About mid-stream, I could feel him begin to lose his footing. 

In an instant, Lawson body slammed me into the cold water. When I came up for air, my friend was laughing. He told me, “There was no sense in both of us getting wet.” I never forgot my boots again.

Watch Where You Cross A Creek When Muzzleloader Hunting

A few years later, the same creek, I decided to drive my truck across. My cousin Dave told me to never try to cross if I could not see a certain rock. I had made the crossing a week earlier and did not think it had rained or the creek had risen.

Half-way across my fan blades began hitting the water. My truck stalled. I knew my cousin was not home so I disrobed and waded across. Even my toes were cramping by the time I reach the shore.

“Yep, I crossed back, at dark, and walked a mile for help.”

Up the same creek a few miles and where I didn’t need to cross, the day began on a pleasant note. Then, about 9 am a light rain moved in. Should I take the chance that it would not intensify or play it safe and give up the hunt?

I positioned myself under a large cedar tree and found it protected well from the rain. That is until the boughs gave way to the weight of the rain. I dress in layers with the outside often being overhauls.  I was soon wet down to my long-sleeved t-shirt. It felt like I had gained 20 pounds.

The Lord Provides When You Least Expect It 

On yet another late in the muzzleloader season hunt, I left for home on a Saturday evening. It was cold and I would have given anything for something hot. All I had was a pear. As I approached a small speed zone in the road, I saw a church all lit up. Out front was a sign that read “Free Will Dinner.” Those folks had ham, turkey, giblet gravy, and about any type of dessert you could imagine. 

Writing the story has caused me to think of many more experiences, but enough said. It is not always just the harvest that we remember.

Muzzleloader Hunting Season A Great Time To Enjoy The Outdoors

The first snowfall of the season had me and my muzzleloader cocked and primed. I hunted the evening before in Owen County then retired to the comfort of an old cabin. The snow began to fall about 3 am. I was on stand at daylight, but did not stay long.

I found tracks and followed them until I jumped the deer that made them. Both bedding sites were on narrow hilltops where the deer could look down either side for danger. The deer beds were also just off of cover and near a browsing area. If they got a little hungry at midday, their food source was only 20-yards away.

I imagined. If I were being hunted what would I do? For certain, I would play the wind and bed where I could see danger coming from a distance. A nearby food source might well keep me from being seen and limit my movement.

From past experience, I’ve observed deer feed most on during a falling barometer and move little the first morning with snow on the ground.

The gray squirrels were busy and so were the pileated woodpeckers. Mankind’s loss of the ash tree has created new habitat for woodpeckers. I’m seeing more than ever.

It was strange that I did not see a wild turkey track. I do know of a neighbor who feeds them. However, they will be where I usually find them next spring.

I’m like the Energizer Bunny when I take to the woods. The fresh air, wildlife, and beauty of the landscape are exhilarating. I did not take the time to cover all 222-acres; deciding to take stand the last hour of dark. Where I had seen 13-deer the week before. I saw nothing, not even a track.

What often happens is during late muzzleloader season the deer begin to yard. If you’re lucky it will be where you’re hunting, if not they could congregate a mile away.

After leaving the cabin as clean as I found it, I pulled into the drive. Immediately, my headlights caught the reflection of eyes. Three deer were grazing on the mowed lawn. It was 6:19 pm, about a half-hour after legal shooting time. This is how deer react to hunting pressure. They become totally nocturnal. If you set up just outside a known bedding area you might see movement 15 minutes before legal shooting time which is a half-hour after sunset.

I’ve closed the book on this deer season except for the opportunity to do more scouting for deer. If we can get snow to cover the ground for a week or so.

It is not too early to find shed antlers. Once, I found a matching pair with blood at their basses. This was the first weekend of muzzleloader season. I’ve found a few the first week in January. Most of the shed antlers I find are found the last week in January and all of February.

Different critters gnaw on the antlers for the calcium. One early firearms season, I found a huge shed with little damage. It was a dark rainy day at the Crane Naval Depot. The matching sheds were three feet apart.

Admittedly, I’m not the hard-charging deer hunter I used to be. I don’t kill as many deer as I used to but I notice and appreciate my surroundings more than ever.

Hunting becomes a way to get in the woods and enjoy all of the great things in nature. Just walking through the woods listening and looking has become a great way to spend a few hours or an entire day. Get outside and enjoy.

Check out more Rick Bramwell

About Rick Bramwell 30 Articles
Grew up in rural Indiana fishing farm ponds and hunting woodlands. Bramwell has been writing outdoors for 48 years. He harvested the record typical whitetail for his county and hunts rabbits with his beagle Tramp. He fished bass tournaments, including Red Man, until 1989. Bramwell has put together an ultra-ultra light system for catching panfish that mostly involves tight-lining a small jig. He attended college at Indiana State and Anderson University. Bramwell has two sons in their 50s, Brian and Gregory. A daughter Jourdan age 27. His greatest memory: fishing trout, salmon and halibut in Alaska. Bramwell's passion, apart from the outdoors, has been coaching high school age fastpitch softball.

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