Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eleven States Continue To Discriminate Against Muzzleloading Hunters

My wife Christy poses with a plump doe for the freezer, taken at 125 yards with a charge of Blackhorn 209 and a deadly accurate saboted bullet...thanks to state muzzleloader hunting regulations that permit the use of a riflescope for precise shot placement.

Following is an e-mail that went out yesterday (12-28-11) to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Attached to that e-mail was a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, filing a discrimination complaint against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, for the manner in which that state wildlife agency forces the aged hunter with weakened eyesight, and those hunters with a natural sight impairment, to jump through hoops in order to "qualify" to use a riflescope during the muzzleloader season. Eleven states still enforce such discriminating regulations.

The battle to win fair and equal muzzleloader hunting opportunities for ALL muzzleloading hunters is far from being over.

The letter to Secretary Salazar can be read at the link in the following e-mail message.

Toby Bridges

December 28, 2011

Dear Idaho Department of Fish and Game;

It's time to get this ball rolling along again. Muzzleloader hunting has stalled some over the past couple of years, and that's partially due to backward muzzleloader hunting regulations, such as those enforced by IDFG, that tend to hold back interest.

The attached letter to Secretary Ken Salazar addresses one of the biggest problems plaguing the muzzleloader seasons.

Your agency is one of 11 state wildlife agencies that continue to discriminate against muzzleloader hunters who cannot see open sights well enough to use them. Since 2006, the DOI/USFWS forced IDFG and ten other state wildlife agencies to make special provisions for those hunters with aged or impaired sight to undergo medical examination, complete an application, sent with a letter from the physician/optometrist, and apply for a permit exemption from the restriction that prohibits muzzleloading hunters from using a riflescope.

The Department of the Interior's anti-discrimination policy specifically says that the agency cannot provide funding or financial assistance to any organization or agency which requires ANY U.S. CITIZEN to "qualify in a different manner" in order to participate in any opportunity.

The requirement you now have in place for those with older or impaired sight most definitely discriminates against these hunters. IDFG is in violation of that policy...and so is the DOI/USFWS when it continues to provide federal tax dollars to IDFG.

More on this issue published at:

Toby Bridges

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cold Weather Ignition

One of my favorite deer hunting spots on the face of this ol' Earth is along the Niobrara River of north-central Nebraska. And the shining "Deer Hunting Gem" of the region is the Arrowsmith Ranch of southern Keya Paha County, just north of Bassett, NE.

Ranch owner Brad Arrowsmith has taken his whitetail addiction a step or two above most avid deer hunters. While at about any given time there are possibly 600 to 700 deer on his 18,000 acre spread, he controls the deer harvest very tightly. During the November modern gun season (which I have hunted with a muzzleloader), Brad normally provides fully outfitted hunts for 5 to 7 hunters, and allows a couple of very close friends to fill their tags as well. In all, generally less than 10 bucks are harvested during this season, many topping 160 B&C...with an occasional honest "Booner". And while he does often sneak in a day or two of deer hunting during the November season, Brad tends to favor the month long December muzzleloader season in his state. And it is generally reserved for just he and I.

The one thing that is "normal" of this area just before Christmas is the weather - and normal generally means snow and teperatures that often dip well below zero. Back about 2001 or 2002, he and I sat out all afternoon, covering separate river-bottom hayfields, when the actual temperature was near -30 degrees. And we both filled our tags with fine 4x4 bucks - within about 30 minutes of each other. If I remember correctly, the windchill that day was right at -60 degrees!

When it gets that cold, many hunters begin to wonder about the action of their in-line rifle being able to deliver the firing pin with enough force to detonate the primer or percussion cap. Few rarely think about the amount of fire and heat needed to ignite some of today's black powder subsitutes.

Yesterday morning (12-5-11), in preparation of a hunt on this ranch next week, I decided to get in a morning of cold weather shooting here in western Montana, just to insure that the rifle and load continue to produce the degree of accuracy I've been gettng all fall. The temperature here in Missoula was right at 6 degrees above zero. All summer and during early fall, I had been using the Federal-Fusion "Muzzleloading" primers for ignition with Blackhorn 209. Before installation of a redesigned breech plug for my Knight .50 DISC Extreme (Long Range Hunter) and .50 Mountaineer, I came to realize that the only way to get positive ignition was to shoot a MAGNUM No. 209 primer - such as the CCI 209M or the Federal 209A.

One of the first things the new owners at Knight Rifles did when tooling up to produce the great Knight Rifles again was to revamp the breech plug, to make it 100% compatible with Blackhorn 209. And the new plugs they sent me sure seemed to be just that. I shot with a wide range of primers, and only had trouble with the Winchester No. 209 "Triple Seven" primers that had been desgined specifically for igniting Triple Seven powder charges. With all standard power shotshell primers, with the new breech plugs installed, ignition with Blackhorn 209 was exceptionally spontaneous. I tested with standard Winchester No. 209 primers and standard CCI 209 primers - without a single hesitation or hangfire. I was so impressed, I even went to the Federal-Fusion No. 209 "Muzzleloading" primers - mostly since I had a healthy supply. Ignition seemed every bit as spontaneous and sure-fire.

I hunted with those primers through early fall, even taking a fair 5x5 whitetail here in Montana on Thanksgiving morning - with the temperature right at 30-degrees. But with temperatures yesterday morning at just 6 degrees, each of the first three shots taken tended to have a slight hesitation. My group was easily 2 1/2 inches across.

Fortunately, I had also brought along a new box of CCI 209M (Magnum) shotshell primers. Switching to them, the next three shots out of the .50 Knight Mountaineer I will be hunting with next week punched the group you see above - which measures right at .520" across center-to-center. (The load consisted of the Harvester Muzzleloading 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold ahead of 110-grains of Blackhorn 209.)

Guess which primer I'll be hunting with during my Nebraska hunt.

This morning I shared a round of Facebook messages with Brad before he headed out to feed cattle. He informed me that is was a "paltry" -6 degrees there this morning.

Watch for my report on the hunt over on the North American Muzzleloader Hunting website on or before December 24th...go to There's a Hunt Preview there now...but the hunt report will replace it before Christmas.

If you've experienced any hesitation with the ignition of Blackhorn 209, my recommendation is to switch to the CCI 209M primers. These have given me the absolute best ignition with this powder...even with a few breech plugs that are less than optimal in desgn for the powder. - Toby Bridges