8 Pt Buck killed with Black Powder Rifle
Hunting with black powder was a lot of fun but a bit frustrating.  My first black powder deer hunt was in the early 80’s with a friend from work.  We both ordered muzzleloader gun kits.  I choose a Thompson Center Hawken 50 caliber percussion rifle.  He went with a CVA 50 caliber Hawken flintlock which could be used in states that don’t allow percussion rifles.  Assembling the guns wasn’t that difficult but it took some time finishing the stock and sanding the various components.   Sighting my gun in was a little challenging with all that black powder smoke and the brass butt plate.  I couldn’t see if I hit the target until the smoke cleared and after a few shots my shoulder was sore.  I started out using open sights and found the gun to be very accurate shooting maxi balls with 90 grams of powder.
I was anxious for black powder season to arrive.  My gun was ready and I had scheduled vacation time off from work.  Our plan was to camp in Wayne National Forest and hunt all week if necessary to kill a deer.  We drove down to Morgan County in southeastern Ohio and pitched a tent along side the road where HY 555 crosses a small strip of the national forest.
The terrain was hilly and rugged.  Early the first morning, we walked into the woods and discovered that we were actually camping on top of a hill.  There were plenty of deer sign and trails leading down into the valley below.  There were a lot of small hills and valleys covered with hardwood trees.  After walking up and down several hills, I approached a section of pines with several fresh deer trails.  I was getting tired and sat down with my back against a tree and waited for a deer to come along.  I didn’t wait long until I saw a deer.  It was an eight point buck and well within shooting range.  My heart was pounding.  I fired and all I could see was smoke.  Once it cleared, the deer was nowhere to be seen.  I walked down to the trail it was on and saw blood.  I felt good about the shot and was confident it didn’t go far.  I didn’t have to follow the blood trail very far until I saw the deer lying on the ground against a small sapling.  I tagged and field dressed the deer.

 It was mid-morning and I had all day to drag my deer back to camp.  I had wandered around some but I thought I knew more or less the direction to the camp.  After all I had only gone over two or three hills.  I thought to myself it can’t be that hard to find if I go in the general direction of camp.  I started dragging, feeling good about getting my first deer with a gun that I had made.  The deer was rather large and I had to rest every few yards.  I proceeded over one hill after another, each time thinking it has to be just over the next hill.  I finally lay down and rested for a while until I got enough energy to start again.  I dragged and dragged until I couldn’t go any farther.  I remember thinking to myself a deer is not worth my life.  At that point, it was the middle of the afternoon.  I left the deer and started walking in who knows what direction.  At last I saw a trail that I recognized having walked down coming into the woods.  It was all I could do to walk up the hill to the camp.  I drank, ate and lay down.  I was exhausted.  Eventually, I began to think about going back after my deer.  I wrote a note with a sketched out map for my friend and I headed back down the hill.  I found the deer and started dragging it out knowing which direction to go this time.  It wasn’t long until my friend met me and helped drag it the rest of the way out.  It was almost dark when we finally got the deer back to camp.  A patch of hair was missing on the one side of the deer from dragging it all day.

Since the Ohio black powder season back then was for bucks only, my hunting was over and I became the cook.  My friend continued to hunt with his flintlock rifle.  It began to snow which was good for seeing deer.  However, flintlock rifles and snow aren’t a good combination as he soon learned.  While it was snowing, he saw several deer in a patch of pines.  Some were almost close enough to hit with his gun which he was tempted to do since the powder in the flash pan would not ignite.  He wasn’t fortunate enough to harvest a deer on that hunt.  Needless to say, it wasn’t long after that when he purchased another gun and this time it was a percussion rifle.  

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