Hunting Deer with a Muzzleloader

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Hunting deer with the muzzleloader is one of the primitive ways of rifle hunting. It brings the allure of a hunting challenge compared to using modern center rifles as hunters seek to hone their hunting skills using vintage rifles. 

Modern muzzleloader hunters have the choice of how difficult they want the shot to be. Hunters must tinker with their rifles, black powders, ignition, and bullets regularly to get repeat performances. It makes hunting a one-shot expedition, which intensifies the urge for accuracy. 

Hunting with a muzzleloader as the name suggests refers to the guns that hunters load through the barrel. They are somewhat tricky to use as you must get closer to within 100 yards to get accurate results. Muzzleloaders leave smoke and gunpowder residue after you fire it, and sometimes this can excite the hunters as they fill their freezer with deer meat. 

Muzzleloaders are also called black powder rifles as they use black powder that emits smoke compared to modern guns that use smokeless powder. Most models are more massive than modern rifles, which is a disadvantage to the modern hunter. In this article, you will understand everything about muzzleloader rifles and how it can make your hunting experience memorable. 

Reasons for Hunting Deer with a Muzzleloader Rifle

There are very few people who shoot with muzzleloaders and do not hunt with it. There is no greater reward for the muzzleloader enthusiast than bagging your trophy antler using a muzzleloader rifle. The reasons for this are as follows.

It is more Intimate

Muzzleloader rifles are old school guns that need more care and attention to keep firing without hitches. It makes the hunters become intimate with their rifles and understand what it takes to get the best shots from their guns.  

The specific loading mechanism also makes the hunters understand their rifles as they have to get it right each time if they want their firepower to be reliable.

Special Hunting Seasons

In most states, there are different hunting seasons for different firepower. As the hunting season gets to an end, some states restrict the kind of firepower you can use to hunt deer. Usually, the muzzleloader rifle hunters have the privilege of getting extensive hunting periods. For them, the hunting season starts earlier and ends late. 

Muzzleloader hunters get to hunt when the deer are getting in a rut, which is often less crowded with other hunters. It gives a better hunting experience as humans’ heavy presence does not yet spook the deer compared to the open center rifle season. 

One-shot Challenge

The challenge of using a muzzleloader rifle is that it is way primitive than modern center rifle firepower. Because of this, you compromise on many advantages modern hunters have. Shooting at a distance for the inexperienced hunter will lead to a miss. The challenge is getting close enough to your game and stalking it to within 50 yards. Take aim and fire only one shot, for one kill using a cold bore barrel rifle. 

One thing is clear, despite your reasons for choosing to hunt with a muzzleloader, it can be because the hunting zones are less crowded or for the challenge. But muzzleloaders hunters accept that they have one chance to get the perfect kill shot. 

Nothing is more rewarding than bagging your deer and filling your freezer like the traditional hunter you are. It gives the deer more fighting chance as it hones the skills of the hunter to become better. 

Modern Muzzleloaders vs. Traditional Muzzleloader Hunters

Some debate within muzzleloader hunters see inline muzzleloader rifles as advanced and argue for separate hunting seasons. In reality, inline muzzleloader rifles are also ancient but were less common because you could not fix them in the field.

The old-timer hunters who established the first primitive weapons hunt season feel that inline muzzleloaders are modern rifles. The feeling is that inline muzzleloader rifles are technically advanced and will take away the challenge from hunting. In turn, this will encourage novice hunters who will crowd the hunting space. 

Understanding the Different Types of Muzzleloader Rifles

There is an endless debate of the best muzzleloader rifles, but often it falls into three categories. Some people are lucky to own all three, while others prefer one over the other. The difference is thin as all muzzleloader rifles load the same way and fire using black gun powder. 

Flintlock Muzzleloader

Flintlocks are the earliest design of muzzleloader rifles and are also known as black powder guns. It is because they use both the black gunpowder and flintlock combo to propel patched metal balls. The flintlock rifle is for the expert hunter who has the patience to still the gun after taking the shot. Usually, flintlock rifles take more time to discharge a bullet because of the lengthy process involved. 

The process has so many variables, and sometimes flintlock guns are known to backfire. When you fire a flintlock muzzleloader at a deer, the flint strikes a piece of metal called a frizzen. The flints will then scrape tiny pieces of metal from the frizzen and get deposited onto a pan of primer powder that, in turn, ignites the gunpowder already in the barrel. 

Some hunters bear the misconception that flintlock muzzleloaders are not effective when hunting; however, with proper practice, flintlock can be very accurate. Expert hunters have trophies shot with the flintlock muzzleloader rifle. 

Caplock Muzzleloaders

Caplock Muzzleloaders are also called the percussion cap, and they are easy to use but can be faulty when they get wet. The process is relatively simple. You tamp down the powder charge down the barrel and place the cap. The cap is held in place with a nipple on the side of your gun’s barrel, and you will release it when you pull the trigger.  The hammer strikes the cap, and the flame will travel on the barrel of the rifle and ignite your charge, which will launch your projectile.  

Inline Muzzleloaders 

Think of the inline muzzleloaders as the modern version of Muzzleloaders rifle for hunting deer. The difference between the inline muzzleloaders and the Caplock muzzleloaders is that the cap is behind the charge. 

With inline guns, more of the original flame will access the barrel and ignite a spark to launch your projectile. Inline muzzleloader rifles are more reliable because the cap is always protected against water and wet conditions. 

Most inline muzzleloader designs are suited for the modern hunter. The rifles come with trendy accessories like scopes that can prove more beneficial to the hunter who wants to be accurate. Inline muzzleloaders also use modern pelletized gunpowder and bullets. 

Muzzleloader enthusiasts feel that inline muzzleloaders with scopes go against the principles of primitive hunting season. In some parts of the states where primitive hunting season is practiced, they do not allow the use of muzzleloaders with scopes. Before going hunting with your newly acquired muzzleloader rifle, you must know the state laws of where you plan to go deer hunting. 

Best Muzzleloader Caliber for Hunting Deer

The muzzleloader’s rifle caliber is standard despite the rifle you will use. Whether it is a Caplock, Flintlock, or Inline muzzleloader rifle, you will always have a wide variety of the caliber to use. Most hunters prefer to use the.50 Cal ammo as it is widely available and can easily take down big game like deer, elk, moose, and bears. 

The good thing about muzzleloaders rifles when hunting deer is that the configuration of the caliber to use is the hunter’s preference. Some limit themselves to .50 Cal, while others prefer the heavy .54 Cal. But when you are going hunting as compared to target practice where you can use the .36 Cal- .40 Cal, you should always use heavier ammo. 

Modern hunters may feel that using the muzzleloader rifles is more for show than for hunting. Because of the smoke they emit and the massive and longer barrels, they do not appear functional and might pass as trophy rifles. But if paired with sights and scopes, the muzzleloader rifles are a deer’s nightmare in an expert hunter’s hands. It can perform better just like high powered modern-day rifles. 

Muzzleloader rifles are sufficient at distances inside 150 yards. However, to get the most power from your gun, you should close the gap between you and your prey. While reloading is the greatest challenge when using a muzzleloader rifle when hunting, you get only a single shot to make your kill. 

How to Load Your Muzzleloader Rifle 

Modern guns are easy to load, unlike the muzzleloader rifles that need you to be thorough if you do not want to risk it backfiring when you need it. The process involves more than just shoving in gunpowder down the barrel and ramming in a bullet. The following is a guide to help you load and care for your rifle. 

Wipe the Bore

Using a dry patch, clean the bore to get rid of any residual oil from the previous cleaning as it can foul the channel from the pan or the cap to the base of the barrel. Failing to clean the oil may leave you with a charge that fails to fire. 

Snap the Cap

Snapping the cap is a way of confirming that the barrel is clear. When you face the barrel downwards as you snap, the puff of air is evidence that it is clear. You should repeat the process of wiping the bore again for thoroughness. 

Pouring the Powder

Measure the powder you want to use and pour it in. Then gently turn your rifle on its but and gently tap it down to make the powder settle at the end of the barrel. Using a greased patch over your muzzle, push down the ball inside the bore. 

You can use a starter or a ramrod to get the ball to settle deep into the bore. A marked ramrod will assure you that the ball is tightly seated at the charge and ready for firing. Also, ensure that there is no space between the ball and the charge as this can cause a huge problem. 


Never prime or cap the lock until you are ready to take the shot. Half-cock is the safety on the muzzleloader rifles, and until you see a deer, never place your finger on the trigger or scope when there is no deer. 

Cleaning your Muzzleloader Rifle

Regardless of the type of muzzleloader rifle, when using the black powder, you should wipe the bore of your gun after every shot you take. But when using the traditional gunpowder, you can clean the barrel after taking 2-3 shots.

 If you take shots without cleaning the muzzle, it will become a challenge to seat the bullet into the charge, and this may lead to jamming of the ball when you fire. The purpose of cleaning between shooting rounds is to give you accuracy. You should clean using a ramrod and a wet cleaning patch. Ensure that you clean the breech plug as well. 

Cleaning the inline muzzleloader rifles is slightly different. You should only clean from the breech plug and not the muzzle. When the muzzle wears and tears, the accuracy diminishes. For the Caplock and Flintlock Muzzleloader rifles, the cleaning process involves removing the barrel. Then place it in a bucket of warm and soapy water with the nipple end facing down. Hot water heats the barrel and releases any moisture in the barrel. Wait for the barrel to dry then lubricate with bore butter. Check that you clean the breech and never use any petroleum product when cleaning any of your muzzleloader rifles.

Modern Muzzleloader Rifle Features

Different muzzleloader rifles differ slightly because they have different barrel tolerances, bullet, breech plug, and sabot. No rule limits the measurement of your .50 Cal to the barrel as it is with the center rifles. A company can have a .50 Cal with a 500 0r 502-inch barrel size. 


Muzzleloader rifles will take a toll on your scopes. Scopes that are from weak material will not survive long, and therefore you must find ones with durability. Regardless of the price, scopes can easily get damaged when using it on a muzzleloader. Look beyond stock scopes when choosing a scope for your muzzleloader rifle. 


The rate of twist for the bullet determines if it will maintain a stable trajectory upon firing. Long bullets should spin faster as the twist rate becomes slow if they are longer than 55 grains. For most muzzleloader rifle barrels, the rate of twist is usually 1.28 and is also between 22-26-inches long. 

With this rate of twist, muzzleloader rifles can give a stabilized shot for bullets between 250-300 grains when fired at 1600-2100 frames per second. On a calm day, any shot will kill a deer at 50 yards, but the challenge is when the distance gets to 200 yards with a 10mph crosswinds. 

When using a smoke pole in such situations, you should choose the bullet that performs in the worst-case scenario. Such bullets expand on a full velocity and hold tight when they come in contact with a bone. The best is the monolithic bullets, which have both the 250-300 grains option and can yield lots of energy for 200 yards shot at 1000fps. 


When using your muzzleloader rifle, black powder is the most accurate as it gives consistent velocities at low ignition temperatures. It means they can go boom at the slightest contact with heat. Despite this advantage, not many hunters will use the black powder in their muzzle rifles. It is because the government has special shipping and storage rules. Most people, therefore, prefer to use other black powder substitutes. 

Using black powder substitutes is better for hunters as they are easy to clean and give higher velocities than black powder. The downside is that they can have higher ignition temperatures. Today, manufacturers address the ignition issue by making the 209 shotgun primer as the standard ignition for all muzzleloader rifles.

Blackpowder substitutes are the loose powder and pellets, which are both easy to use. For the pellets, take two or three and push them down the barrel then fix your ball or bullet. For the loose powder, take between 100-150 grains and push and add the ball as well. Try multiple bullets to find out which method is more accurate. When using the loose powder grains, you have more freedom in customization, and the grains flame more consistently. 

Cleaning Between Shots 

Even though some powders burn cleaner than others, they all leave behind a residue. When the barrel has these residues, they can fill up the grooves, and the next shot will not be accurate. The bullet will also not grip well, and it can lead to a misfire. To determine if your rifle fires well, you must clean the bore with a damp but clean cloth. 

Ultimate Buyers Guide to Muzzleloader Rifles

If you are looking to get yourself a new muzzleloader rifle for the next primitive deer hunting season, all you need is to understand the types available. All will perform well if you have more practice with it. However, the rifle you select is solely based on your preference and not performance. 


You are also in control of the price when buying your muzzleloader rifle. You can determine how low you can go or match your rifle’s performance with its price. Level entry rifles are cheaper, but it will be like buying the same gun twice. It is not a bargain if you have to purchase other critical accessories separately to fire your weapon. 

Modern guns like the center rifles are quite costly, and perhaps it is the reason muzzleloader rifles do not gain much respect. But when you are buying a muzzleloader rifle, you should not tempt fate with prices. The lower you get, the less reliable it gets. 

Inline or Sidelock 

Whereas inline rifles are the best for modern hunters, the sidelock rifles can still give you the hunting experience you seek. But before settling on one check that the area you plan to hunt allows inline muzzleloader rifles for deer hunting. 


The caliber you will use when shooting paper during target practice does not matter. But when it comes to deer hunting with your muzzleloader rifle, the .50 Cal is the preferred choice. Hunters can settle on the .40 Cal as well. Again, ensure you check with the relevant authorities before heading out. Some people prefer .54-.58 Cal since there is no law against using them. 

When On target practice for economic passes, you can use the patch and balls to shoot. But depending on how you want to use your rifle, the caliber you choose determines the power it has on impact. 


The material of the barrel determines the ease of use. Most people prefer stainless steel, as it is easy to clean. New modern barrels are covered in Teflon and aftermarket coating for camouflage. It prevents the barrel from glimmering in the sun and giving away your position when deer hunting with your muzzleloader rifle. 


It addresses the issue of whether the hunter is left-handed or right-handed. For a better action, left-handed hunters prefer the hammer gun to the plunger style rifles. Some manufacturers have designs that are suitable for ambidextrous people. 


Different brands offer different experiences when firing your muzzleloader rifle. When it comes to brands, hunters have different preferences for various reasons. Some brands maintain the traditional design while others explore other conventional ways of making rifles superior while hunting. 

Most popular Deer Hunting Accessories

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When you are out hunting deer with your muzzleloader rifle, you must always ensure that you maintain high safety standards.  Because you only have one shot, the type of prey you hunt should not be once that can charge at you if hit and fail to kill it instantly. Distance is also vital as distances over 15 yards can be tricky and challenging when hunting without a scope. Choose a heavy caliber and understand how range and rate of twist affect your shots projectile.  

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