Ohio’s history with muzzleloaders

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Although some states continue to allow only the most basic of muzzleloaders to be used in their appointed special “primitive” weapons deer seasons, Ohio hunters have been unrestricted on styles, sight, stocks, and other add-ons that have brought muzzleloaders and those who shoot them to the leading edge of modern shooting performance.

Ohio, a state that is truly a come lately when it comes to deer hunting and more importantly deer management, first introduced Buckeye hunters to primitive weapons hunting in 1968, with the first special season scheduled to offer an additional way hunters could go afield.

Primitive hunting

Considering that modern-day deer hunting in Ohio was only a couple decades old, it must have seemed to wildlife officials that it was a good idea at the time and they restricted the harvest to antlerless deer.

They were right on spot as evidenced by the continued popularity of stuffing loose black powder and a somewhat round chunk of lead wrapped in cloth down the barrel of a “mountain man” rifle, which, if the stars were aligned and it wasn’t raining, actually fired when the trigger was pulled.

Indeed, muzzleloaders seemed primitive enough at the time, something that hardly seemed much more effective than good archery equipment.

But for those of us who like to pull triggers and hear loud booms, muzzleloaders met our expectations and then some.

Ohio’s muzzleloader history has experienced an interesting journey, both in its constant movement around the calendar and its modern look.

History

Let me explain. Ohio’s primitive hunting evolved into muzzleloader season long ago with few or no restrictions on weapons except that they must be fed from the muzzle down.

As for as the seasons, special muzzleloader seasons have been under constant changes and it has become obvious that muzzleloading season is an important piece of the state’s deer management strategies.

It seems now, that for the most part, black powder hunting is relegated to a short span held in January.

According to wildlife officials, the January hunt is working well following tryouts between the holidays, early fall, and a couple other minor moves.

Rifle kit

The modernization of muzzleloading rifles is nothing short of amazing. In the mid-1970s, I purchased a kit DYI rifle that sold at the time for about $100.

I filed, buffed, fitted, and finished a pretty good looking percussion, mountain-style rifle with acid browned octagon barrel, iron sights, and oiled wood stock.

At the time, .45 caliber seemed a good choice, and it was. My first Ohio deer fell to that smoke pole — a buck that temporarily disappeared in a lingering cloud of smoke.

Others followed as I found hunting joy in “primitive” hunts. But come on, who can resist moving along to new, better, and faster?

Modern

Today’s muzzleloaders resemble the older styles in one way only, a ramrod, and the rest is high tech, twice as powerful, and much, much more reliable.

Modern muzzleloader, many of which are considered magnum, when fitted with a decent scope, and considerably more powder, can accurately smack targets hundreds of yards down range.

The newbies clean easier by breaking open and featuring removable breach plugs, and they fire every time igniting the charge with the same primers shot shell reloaders use.

Good stuff all around

So good that a large percentage of shotgun-slug hunters have given to using their muzzleloaders during the regular gun season.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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