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Muzzleloading season is here

With firearm deer season in the recent past, many regional hunters are grabbing their trusty .50 calibers and heading back into the woods

December 3, 2010
By ANDY NELSON-ZALESKI Journal Staff Writer

ISHPEMING - For many hunters, deer hunting season ended Nov. 30. Yet, for some, today marks a new challenge - the muzzleloading season.

Ishpeming muzzleloader Dan Patrick has been black powder hunting for over 30 years. He said he became interesed in muzzleloading when he went out with his dad and uncle to sight in their deer rifles for that upcoming deer season.

"At that time, my uncle brought his black powder muzzleloader out to sight it," he recalled. "He let me load it and shoot it and after the second load and shot, I was hooked."

Article Photos

Dan Patrick uses a speed shot device to load his .50 caliber muzzleloader recently in Ishpeming. (Journal photos by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

Since then, Patrick said he tries to get out every season.

Muzzleloaders is an older type of firearm. It require powder and bullet or shot to be loaded from the muzzle end and packed into place. It also uses an external (outside of the barrel) source to ignite the powder.

In the 13th century, black powder was a rough hand grind of about 50 percent saltpeter and about 25 percent-each charcoal and sulfur. The shooter had to mix the right about of water and make a batch before the gun could be loaded.

In the 1970's, Dan Powlac developed Pyrodex, a black power with flame retardants, scrubbers and additional oxidizers. In 1990's, came a product called Clearshot was developed marketed. It is inexpensive and leaves little residue in the barrel.

Now, in the year 2010, there are a number of products and different gun powers available to use.

Patrick uses the more traditional Pyrodex. He prefers it because it's cleaner and easier to use and not quite as corrosive has other powders.

For Patrick, the muzzleloading season brings new adventures and allows him the chance to spend a few more days in the woods. He has seen all types of animals, from wolves to the common owl, which among his favorite animals to watch.

"To me, muzzleloading season is a quiet time of the hunting season," he said. "This is because there aren't as many hunters in the woods due to the cold and snowy weather conditions."

The season for him is not just about getting a deer; he also enjoys the challenges that comes with using a black powder muzzleloader.

"You only get one shot. Patience and timing are everything when using a black powder guns," he observed.

Patrick is a very conscientious hunter, refusing to take a shot unless "I know it is a kill shot. The worst thing a new muzzleloading hunter can do is rush and wound the animal," he said.

Patrick is currently hunting with two older versions of a .50 caliber with round ball and power rifles.

In the past, muzzleloading wasn't a highly popular form of hunting because the older types of guns were more susceptible to misfire. Misfires were typically caused by lost caps or wet powder.

The modern muzzleloading rifles, such as the Inlines, have made the sport more popular.

"I think this is because the Inlines are more reliable, more accurate and easy to use," he said.

Modern muzzleloading guns still load from the front of the barrel. They take gunpowder, pellets and bullets in a sabot and a ramrod is used to "ram" it down into the breech or barrel. Some muzzleloaders are accurate up to 150 yards.

"I enjoy muzzleloading, but I especially enjoy just being out in the woods," he said.

Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is



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