The Secret to Blackpowder: 8 Muzzleloader Hunting Tips to Help You Bag the Big One

A Muzzle Loader Rifle emits smoke and fire as it is fired from a shooting bench wiht fall colors in the background.

Muzzleloader hunting season is just around the corner. Are you ready?

Hunting with a muzzleloader is an incredibly satisfying way to hunt. You’re usually closer to the game. And because it takes longer to reload, and you’re challenged to get an accurate, ethical shot off on the first try.

Muzzleloading can also be tedious and frustrating. Especially if you don’t take the time to learn the art. In this article, I’ll give you eight muzzleloader hunting tips to help you bag the big one. 

1. Practice Makes Perfect

It’s important to find a process that works and practice it regularly. When you’ve done the proper work off the hunting ground, you’re more likely to hit your mark when that big buck makes his appearance. And you’re also less likely to have an accident.

Make a trip out to your stand or hunting ground so you can properly gauge how far away your shots are likely to be. Step out of your stand and do the measurements. Trim shooting lanes if necessary. 

The further you’ll need to shoot, the more propellant you’ll need. And the more aerodynamic you’ll want your bullet.

Then practice with different combinations of propellant and bullets. Always consider safety. Read the manual that comes with your gun so you know what products to use and what products to avoid.

2. Consistency is Key

Shooting target for close-up shooting
Image by rlat from Getty

Your loading routine depends on your gun and on the type of propellant and bullet you decide to use. But no matter what it involves, it should be the same every time. And you should practice this many times on the shooting range. 

The more you practice it, the faster you’ll get, and the easier it will be to load while you’re out on a hunt. You never know, you may even get the opportunity for a second shot if you’re quick enough.

3. Know Your Propellant

Traditional blackpowder is more volatile than its modern-day equivalent, and it’s also more difficult to find and store. 

Instead, it’s best to use a blackpowder substitute like Pyrodex Powder Propellant. These newer powders burn cleaner and ignite faster. They come in pellet form as well. 

Pellets vs powders are a personal preference. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages for use in the field. You can talk to an experienced rep at your local Gander Outdoors store to find the best products and equipment. However, it will probably take time to find what you really like. 

4. Prep, Then Load

Prepare the gun for loading before you put anything into the muzzle. Always start by making sure that the gun isn’t already loaded. To do this, you should have your ramrod pre-marked showing the loaded and unloaded levels of the muzzle. 

Insert the rod into the muzzle and see that it goes all the way to the unloaded mark. If it stops short, there’s something in the barrel that needs to be removed before you load the gun. Double-loading is very dangerous, so never skip this step. 

Once you’ve checked your barrel, fire off one primer without the gun loaded. Make sure the barrel is pointed down into the ground when you do this. Firing this primer ensures that the barrel is clear. And it also clears moisture or oil that might have settled into the breach plug.

5. Fully Seat

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After you load the propellant into the muzzle, make sure that the bullet is fully seated before going any further. Do this by pushing firmly on the ramrod, yet not too hard so you don’t break up your pellets. This is another reason that practice makes perfect.

An air gap between the bullet and the propellant can act as a blockage in the barrel. This can ruin a gun. Or worse, it can result in serious injury to the shooter. 

Even if the charge does go off properly, gaps can cause the bullet to waver, affecting accuracy. And that’s something you can’t afford if you only get one shot. 

6. Water is Your Enemy

They say it’s important to “keep your powder dry.” Moisture in your powder will kill your hunting experience. 

Cover the end of your barrel with something that won’t fall into the muzzle but will keep rain and snow out. I suggest using these Traditions Muzzle Mitts from Gander over the end of the barrel. They are light enough that you can shoot right through them without worrying about them affecting your accuracy.

Also, be aware of the weather. Cold temperatures can cause condensation to form on the inside of the gun. It’s best to have your gun outside in the air temperature for several minutes before you load it. Run a dry cleaning patch through the barrel before you load if you suspect there’s moisture inside.

7. Unload at the End of the Day

This is another tip to keep moisture out of your gun. If your gun has been loaded all day, it’s more likely to pick up moisture. Especially if you’re bringing it inside after it’s been out in the cold. So it’s always best to unload at the end of the day and start the next day with a fresh load.

There are two ways to unload most muzzleloaders. You can remove the breach plug and the propellant. Then use the ramrod to push the bullet out the end of the muzzle.

Or you can fire the gun. Only fire if you have a safe place to do it, like on a firing range or into the ground. Keep your neighbors in mind. You never want to fire if the noise will disturb others or if it’s illegal to fire at night.

8. Get the Right Gear

Muzzleloading Tools

Ultimately, you won’t have a successful hunt if you don’t have the right gear. You’ll want all the essential gear, of course. This includes your ramrod, a powder flask and measure, a bullet starter, and a quality scope. Depending on your gun, you may need some additional equipment as well. 

Another great accessory is a pair of fingerless. They’ll make reloading much faster and easier than traditional gloves.

Use a speed clip attached to your belt or vest for easier reloading. These clips are made to hold up to three pellets and a bullet in one cartridge so it’s easy to dump them into the muzzle. And they have slots to hold primers too. If you’re using powder, have your powder charges pre-measured in rapid loader tubes.

If you’re using a ballistic tip bullet, it’s important to remember that the bullet is fragile. They have a sharp plastic tip that increases aerodynamics and improves accuracy. Invest in a special tip that screws into the end of the ramrod. These tips allow you to properly seat the bullet without damaging the fragile tip.

Did we miss anything? Leave us a comment below if you have any tips to share!

The secret to blackpowder - 8 muzzleloader hunting tips to help you bag the big one


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