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Making Smoke Pole Memories
The final deer season for firearms will be December 26th through January 5th is known as the Alternative Method Season. For those still bow hunting, they will have until January 15th. I am old enough to remember when the Alternative Method Season was known as the black powder season, but that is a whole other story. More traditional muzzle loading hunters enjoy stepping back in time to use a rifle similar to what their great great-granddad used. And then there are those who use modern inline muzzleloaders. I pitch my tent in both camps, since I have taken deer with a traditional Hawkin, as well as a CVA Wolf inline muzzleloader. I have some very good memories from both guns and that is why I don’t draw some imaginary hard fast line in the sand.
Years ago I belonged to a muzzle loading club that was 100% traditional, rifles only. Thanks to a friend my Thompson Center Hawkin was converted to take on a more traditional look. This included buckhorn sites, the blue barrel was browned, and the stock was adorned with trade tacks. It changed the look of the gun drastically and it still looks cool. If you do all that work the next step is to make meat. The Hawkin came in .45 caliber which was completely my idea as I wanted a caliber that would not blow up a squirrel yet still be adequate for whitetail deer. I was wrong. It still overpowered small game and although I have taken four deer with it I had to do a little tracking on three of the deer. But they were all good memories. Since we are talking about memories let me share the story.
I worked through lunch and left work two hours early to have time to hunt in the evening. After changing my clothes prior to entering the timber I either looked like a woodsman or someone at Woodstock. I had a brown pair of drop front pants with a large shirt, and a pair of moccasins. The moccasins were not the traditional low cut heavy leather footwear instead they were laced up to my knee with fringe around the top. They looked like something that meathead would wear on “All in the Family” so Archie could complain about them, but that is what I had. In my belt, I had a tomahawk, as well as a handmade small knife. Of course with regret, but with safety in mind I put on my orange vest and hat.
Walking along a ridge top, I came out upon an opening and could see a small valley below me. Along the dry creek bed perhaps forty to fifty yards below me I could see some rubs, as well as at least one scrape. A tree provided the perfect back rest, so that is where I spent the remainder of the afternoon. My wait would not be a long one as perhaps 45 minutes into the hunt and looking to the north I saw a nice 8 pointer walking along the dry creek bed. It was perhaps 70 yards from me, but closing fast. The seconds flew as I cocked the hammer and slowly raised the rifle. When the buck was almost directly below me I pulled the set trigger and let the sights settle on the buck. I had told myself that rather than risk a tracking job I would have my Thompson Center Maxi ball hit the edge of his shoulder to hopefully put him right down. Either I didn’t account for his walking or for my nerves. I pulled the trigger and the buck disappeared behind a veil of smoke. Just as soon as he disappeared he came out from behind the smoke and was running. The buck made a small circle and the farther he ran the lower he got. When he finally crashed he was within feet of where he had been when I shot. While the bullet did not take out the shoulder as it was a little too far back, it did take out his lungs. It remains to this day one of my top whitetail memories.
Remember me telling you that I also hunt with a modern inline? I also have memories of using that CVA Wolf inline. Winter had set in for that final season for the Alternative Method Season and once again I had skipped out early to attempt to take a whitetail. When I arrived at the stand it was 4 degrees with the snow on the ground a good 4-5 inches. Certainly not a night for moccasins and fumbling with small percussion caps and powder horns. When I got out of my truck, I dropped two 50 grain powder pellets and then placed a Hornady 45 caliber bullet and a 50 caliber plastic sabot down the barrel. I climbed into the stand and lit the propane heater. I then opened the action of my Wolf and placed a 209 primer in the breach and closed it up. Looking out onto the field, I could see where the ground had been pawed by the deer feeding. I had two hopes, the first would be that the deer would return to feed. The second hope was that it would not be long as my legs were warm from the propane heater, but my back was freezing – as were my ears.
Not all hopes came to pass. Perhaps twenty minutes left to go in the hunt, a small deer parade developed as I went from an empty field to having five deer enter it. The first two were small non legal bucks. Then two smaller deer came out, perhaps yearlings, followed by a very large doe. If I were guessing she might have been 70 yards from me and while the deer fed she remained nervous as if she could smell the Fox slowly roasting on a propane grill. I raised the Wolf to one of the shooting windows and waited for her to turn broadside. When she did, I cocked the hammer and let the sights settle in tight behind her shoulder. Once again the doe disappeared behind a wall of smoke and I never saw her again, although I did hear the bullet strike home. As I watched the deer disappear, there were only four of them. I turned the heater off (which would be my only mistake of the evening) and climbed down out of the stand. I found where the doe had been standing from the snow and dirt that had been kicked out and followed the path into the heavier cover. She may have run 30 yards before piling up. I walked to the truck with hands that were numb. Starting the truck, I thawed out enough to use my cell phone and get help loading the deer. This too has a special place in my whitetail memories. Not because of a rack, not because of some shooting ability, but simply demanding and harsh conditions when a wiser man might have stayed home.
So regardless of what you are carrying there are memories to be made.