Muzzleloaders are used by area hunters to carry on historic firearms tradition

A Harper's Ferry 1795 Musket, after serving in at least one western battle, is on display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Bill Mackin, museum volunteer and founder of the Cowboy and Gun Fighter Collection, stands below the gun.

A Harper's Ferry 1795 Musket, after serving in at least one western battle, is on display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Bill Mackin, museum volunteer and founder of the Cowboy and Gun Fighter Collection, stands below the gun.

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Hunters were out last week using muzzleloading firearms, technology developed in the 17th century that played a significant role in winning the American Revolution that is still being used in the annual chase for big game.

Muzzleloaders are firearms that require the projectile or bullet and propellant charge, often black powder, to be loaded from the front open end of the gun called the muzzle.

“It’s the same technology that they were using in the revolutionary war. It’s 400 years old,” said Dave James, retired doctor and avid outdoorsman. “It’s considered a primitive weapon like the bow. The range is not significantly different from bow hunting.”

The oldest muzzleloader on display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado was used in at least one western conflict between Mormon settlers and native people. The 1975 Harper’s Ferry flintlock conversion musket was used by Thomas Corless, “in the Mormon’s battle of Ft. Lemhi in 1895, near present day Salman, Idaho,” said Bill Mackin, museum volunteer and the founder of the Cowboy and Gunfighter Collection.

There are five types of muzzleloaded firearms, the flint lock, the gun that was used to win the revolutionary war; the cap lock, that uses a precision cap ignition system; the inline, developed about 15 years ago to reduce chances of a misfire; the bolt action inline with a striker that is easier to clean; and the break action, that provides easy access for cleaning, according to CVA, the top seller of muzzlerloaders in the U.S.

Other modern rifles are load from the back of the gun using a breech in the barrel, but the muzzleloader’s front loading means that the “second shot is much harder as it takes time to get the gun ready for a second shot. There isn’t a fast reload for a muzzleloader,” James said.

The hunting strategies and tactics required for hunters using muzzleloaders are similar to those adopted by archers.

“They (muzzleloaders) are inherently less accurate,” James said. “In both muzzleloading and archery, as a hunter, you are artificially limiting yourself. It may be a more advanced way of hunting.”

For hunters that are ready for the challenge of using primitive weapons, the advantages are the ability to hunt in better weather and when many species are gathering to breed during a process that for deer and elk is called the rut.

“The season is during the rut to provide for the same advantage as bow hunting — the ability to call in the game. It’s a 10-day season, but more like bow hunting than in comparison to center fire rifle hunters,” James said.

In Colorado muzzleloading licenses are available through the big game draw process that is initiated each spring, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife the agency in charge of regulating hunting in Colorado.

The muzzleloading season for deer, elk and moose ended on Sunday. A four point bull elk that James got this season no fills his freezer.

Plains deer will be hunted east of Interstate 25 from Oct. 8 to Oct. 16. And pronghorn muzzleloading season will run from Sept. 21 until Sept. 29.

Area hunters who are interested in muzzleloading don’t have to look far for supplies and advice as many area retailers offer a limited supply and special orders.

Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply in Craig carries a limited supply of muzzleloading guns and equipment,” according to Sarah Polly, sporting goods manager for the store.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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