Hunting With a Muzzleloader | Darren Choate
Hunting With a Muzzleloader
By Darren Choate
When my son drew a muzzleloader antelope hunt, I was excited to be able to tag along on his hunt.
Today’s muzzleloaders are far more capable than those of past decades. It’s not just the guns. Advances in bullets, powders, optics, and accessories, the rangefinder, for example, and others have pushed the limits of hunting with a muzzleloader to new limits. Still, add a little water, moisture, or spike in humidity, and you’ll see muzzle-loading is not cut and dry — pun intended.
In my home state, Arizona, hunting with a muzzleloader doesn’t present many opportunities; hunts are limited and difficult to draw. When my son drew a muzzleloader antelope hunt, I was excited to be able to tag along on his hunt.
Hunting with a muzzleloader — shooting one too — was new to him. I helped him acquire all of the necessary muzzle-loading equipment. In turn, he put in the time to master the sport. He also took every advantage of his free time to scout every inch of his hunt unit. By the time the hunt rolled around, Colton was comfortable making shots out to 500 yards with his CVA Paramount muzzleloader. Additionally, the week before the hunt, he found several trophy bucks, including one pushing the 80-inch mark.
Hunting with a muzzleloader is NOT unlike any other western hunt — it begins by sitting behind quality glass, diligently scouring the countryside for quarry. On opening morning, Colton and I, and a few other helpers, did just that. It was early in the morning when a group member found the 80-inch buck Colton had spotted while scouting earlier in the week. Quickly, he and I put together a plan and prepared for a stalk.
Finally, the buck stopped, and I ranged it at 405 yards.
Successfully pulling off a spot-and-stalk on any game animal is a challenge, and antelope are no different. The fact that antelope inhabit open country makes it even more difficult. Luckily, antelope curiosity works to even the playing field to some degree. As we worked into a comfortable shooting distance, the buck — already knowing we were there — stood from his bed and trotted off.
Colton and I pursued the buck in what turned out to be a semi-circle. Finally, the buck stopped, and I ranged it at 405 yards. Colton prepared for a shot. Boom! Once the smoke cleared, through our binos, we could see the buck was hit but not down. Unfortunately, the hit was a little too low, and it took another stalk and shot to finish off the hunt.
At a mere 15-yards, Colton ended his hunt on opening morning, harvesting his first antelope. His many hours in the field over the summer had paid dividends. We celebrated and waited for the rest of the group to join us in the celebration. After a few high-fives and hugs, we field-dressed the buck and made our way back to our trucks, and finally, home. Our celebration continued throughout the day.
Best Practice, Best Products, Be Prepared
I may have left a few mishaps out of the story above. First, one day while target practicing, Colton neglected to dry off a few firing components, causing a day filled with misfires and frustration. Once we discovered the mistake, we corrected the cleaning process, and all was well.
Below are the products that Colton relied on to take his trophy antelope buck.
Additionally, I skipped the time between Colton’s first and second shots on the hunt. On the evening before the hunt, I told Colton not to worry about taking his ramrod and that I would carry it. After his first shot, he asked for the ramrod, which I had left in the truck. When I asked if he had brought the field ramrod, his response was an unenthusiastic, “NO.” Before Colton could make his finishing shot, we had to borrow a ramrod from another group of hunters. Then I had to return to the truck to get our ramrod. It’s safe to say that we will not be asked to be on the CVA pro staff anytime soon.
The above mishaps are not-so-subtle reminders that hunting with a muzzleloader is a primitive-weapon hunt. Best practice is best accomplished by using the best products, following their intended guidelines. The products below are the combination of reliable gear that Colton relied on to take his trophy antelope buck.
“The Paramount produces velocities over 2200 FPS. Paired with PowerBelt’s ELR bullets specially designed for the Paramount, this barrel can produce incredibly tight groups at ranges previously thought unreachable for a muzzleloader. The Paramount was developed and designed to handle “super-magnum” propellant charges; and thus, provides the higher velocities necessary for killing shots at 300 yards and beyond.”
- .45 Caliber
- Free Floating Barrel
- Nitride treated Stainless Steel
- 8 lbs. Total Weight
- PowerBelt® ELR bullets
- VariFlame Breech Plug
- Fully adjustable stock
- Internal aluminum chassis
- Self-Deploying Compact Ramrod
- One-Piece Range Rod
- Quake CLAW®Sling
- Lifetime Warranty
“Blackhorn 209 is a low residue, high-performance propellant made for muzzleloaders and black powder cartridges. It is engineered to consistently shoot at higher velocities and greater accuracy than any other muzzleloader powder available today. In fact, if you compare the advantages of Blackhorn 209, you will quickly see there are nine areas where Blackhorn 209 simply smokes the competition.”
- Superior Ballistics and Unbeatable Accuracy
- Extremely Low Residue
- No Swabbing Between Shots
- Easy Breech Plug Removal
- No Special Primers Required
- Not Affected by Temperature or Humidity
- Uniform Size – “Good to the last shot.”
- Cleans with Regular Solvents
- Extended Shelf Life
PowerBelt AEROTIP ELR 280 Grain
“PowerBelt ELR Bullets were specially designed for CVA’s PARAMOUNT rifle, but can provide superior long-range performance in any .45 caliber muzzleloader with a twist rate of 1:24 or faster. In testing with the PARAMOUNT, using the recommended “super-magnum” charge of 140 grains by-volume of Blackhorn propellant, ELR bullets achieved muzzle velocities over 2200 fps.”
Designed for Maximum Long-Range Performance on Medium to Heavy Game (Deer, Antelope, Elk).
- Polycarbonate tip preserves aerodynamic integrity and prevents premature expansion
- Smooth plated finish reduces standard deviation between shots for superior accuracy
- Larger diameter gas check for tight seal
- Larger hollow point cavity reduces weight and maximizes internal expansion
- Longer Length combined with aggressively tapered shape
- Flutes in gas check make it easier to load
- Scores inside gas check allow positive release when the bullet exits the barrel
Burris Optics XTR III 3.3-18x50mm
“Designed, machined, and assembled in Greeley Colorado, the new XTR III line of riflescopes featuring new reticle designs and enhanced field-of-view. Inspired by tactical and competition shooting, precision and reliability are at the core of the XTR III line of optics. Available in a 3.3-18x50mm and 5.5-30x56mm, both models are built with a 34mm body tube for increased strength and extended adjustment range. Elevation adjustments up to 120 MOA on the 3.3-18X50mm will take the 6.5 Creedmoor past one mile. Expanded side parallax adjustment on both models allows fine-tuning focus at shorter distances.
Premium glass and optical improvements, including a smaller eyepiece signature and larger eye box, provide best-in-class field-of-view, deeper depth of focus, and outstanding light transmission. The new Special Competition Reticle (SCR) 2 MIL reticle features a gridded “Christmas tree” design, allowing extremely fast and accurate windage and elevation compensation and clear communication with spotters. SCR Mil and SCR MOA reticles are also available.”
Darren is the Founder of Western&Whitetail. Prior to his career in the outdoors, Darren served as an Airman in the US Air Force. As a freelancer, his articles have been published online and featured in magazines such as Western Whitetail, Western Hunter, Quality Whitetails, Cabela’s Outfitter Journal, Fur-Fish-Game, and Rocky Mountain Game & Fish Magazine. Additionally, Darren spent time as the Editor In Chief of Whitetail Journal, Bowhunting World, Predator Xtreme, Archery Business and Hunting Retailer magazines with Grand View Outdoors. He is a voting member and supporter of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA). Although he lives in elk and Coues country, Darren enjoys hunting across the country and writing about his experiences.