Throughout the years, I’ve had very negative views of the muzzleloader. I’ve grown up with bowhunting and seen the muzzleloader as a means for hunters to go out and rifle deer—which isn’t much of a hunt at all. With this point of view, I have stayed away from the world of muzzleloading. Recently, however, my dad began exploring muzzleloaders. Once a die-hard bowhunter, my father has experienced severe back injuries which might keep him out of a treestand this Fall. A muzzleloader might put him back in the game and allow him to continue hunting even with injuries. A couple months ago, he purchased a Thompson Center "Triumph" Muzzleloader. We finally found time yesterday to take it out and see what it could do.
Neither of us had any experience with this type of firearm, so we carefully watched the “instruction and maintenance” CD beforehand. With our fingers crossed hoping we did everything correctly, my dad took the gun to the bench and fired the first shot at 50 yards. When the puff of smoke cleared, we found the shot had sailed a foot high and a foot right. After adjusting the rear sight, I decided to take my first muzzleloader shot ever. I was personally expecting quite a bit of kick from the gun. I was pleasantly surprised when the gun hardly moved when I took the shot. The amount of smoke that came from the gun was also surprising. I expected a huge cloud of smoke that would envelop the immediate area and hang there, obscuring our view of the target. With a slight breeze, what little smoke came from the barrel quickly dispersed.
After getting the iron sights adjusted at 50 yards, we wanted to see how well the gun shot at 100 yards. Again, we were surprised that the impact on the target was high. We assumed the trajectory of the projectile would drop significantly at that distance with only 100 grains of powder. The shots at 100 yards were difficult to make because the iron sights are quite large, but that is the trade off with fiber optic sights. To increase visibility, you lose on size. We only took a few shots at 100 yards, but my final shot was the closest—landing just above the target.
After the experience, I am still unsure of how I feel about muzzleloading. Shooting the gun for the first time was a great success. It seems to be an accurate firearm that can be depended on in the field. At the same time, the accuracy it delivers downrange might turn hunting into a game of target practice on unsuspecting deer. On the other hand, if it can keep my dad out in the field doing something he loves, I will support it. Iowa has two muzzleloader seasons (one in October and one in January), and a muzzleloader can be used during the shotgun season in December. While I’m still not a fan of shooting a big buck with a rifle, I may be tempted to take this gun to a remote part of the timber during shotgun season and cleanly harvest a doe. We’ll have to see later in the year…I still have quite a while to decide.