Let the sparks fly in Pennsylvania
The first year the Pennsylvania Game Commission established a flintlock muzzleloader season for deer on select game lands, I hunted with a flintlock.
I knew little of the modus operandi of a muzzleloader, a replica of long-ago style gun, that with a trigger pull, utilized sparks created by a flint striking a metal frizzen to ignite black gun powder (black powder) held in a small pan, that would then ignite more black powder held behind a lead ball and greased cotton patch to propel that ball which had been shoved down a steel barrel.
But being attentive to the fact that this special time of year was beginning after Christmas of that first season, I had purchased a Thompson/ Center Hawken .54 caliber rifle shortly after the rifle season for deer ended, giving me plenty of time to learn all the in and outs of shooting a primitive style hunting tool.
I did not shoot a deer that first season, and never even fired a shot. But I was hooked on that style of hunting, enjoying the time of year, the absence of competition and the overall challenge of taking a whitetail by means of such a antiquated piece of equipment.
Since that first hunt I’ve spent countless hours chasing whitetails with this type of gun. Many friends have been my companions, with “deer drives” our usual form of hunting style. And throughout all those years of pushing over and through woods often covered with snow, successes have been numerous. I can even include a legal buck among my many flintlock feats.
And although companions have aged, as well as I, we still partake of occasional “flintlock hunts,” attempting to fill a tag or two.
As I mentioned above, hunting with a flintlock takes practice, in both familiarizing oneself with how to load and operate the gun, plus becoming accustomed to actually shooting the gun because of the delay in ignition of the shot compared to bullets, shotgun shells and even percussion caps used by inline muzzleloaders.
But also as I’ve stated, there are advantages to hunting deer in flintlock season. Weather-wise, it can be tough. Unquestionably it is winter, and that often means hunting with snow. But with the white stuff comes easier sighting of deer, plus the ease at spotting deer action and location by means of their tracks left behind.
I mentioned the competition factor, and there are certainly a whole lot less hunters in the woods at this time of year than any other season. Plus another benefit to consider for a reason to be hunting the flintlock season is the fact that deer have not been pursued for a couple of weeks. They are more at ease once again, returning to familiar feeding habits and bedding areas they utilized before all the hunting season began.
But above all, taking a deer with a flintlock is exceptionally rewarding because of the difficulty involved, misfires included, and any hunter doing so should feel a real sense of accomplishment.
Throw in the basic reality that it gives one the chance to spend a few extra days chasing the elusive whitetail — no matter what the hunting tool and conditions — and you have reason enough to be a flintlock hunter.