Smoke Poles for Thunder Chickens

Watching the smoke drift away and peering into the early-morning light for a dead bird with it, one may reflect on the advancements of muzzleloading. Hunting with muzzleloaders has become very popular. Once limited to a “nostalgic” event, even early practitioners were seeking what it was like to shoot the historic piece.

Today, outdoors enthusiasts looking to take advantage of the special muzzleloading hunting seasons are taking up the smoke-pole sport. They want a weapon that is effective and efficient and one with the assurance that when that trigger is pulled a bird will go down.

To this end, someone invented the inline rifle. Modern muzzleloaders incorporate safety features not available on the more traditional piece. And, still, there are those who continue to use either a caplock or flintlock weapon.

Muzzleloaders weigh more than the centerfire rifle with one-third of the extra weight in the barrel. The additional weight tends to make the rifle more stable. Most modern muzzleloaders are 6 1/2 to 7 pounds, while the historic Hawken-style rifle is up to 9 or 10 pounds.

The muzzleloading hunter has a choice of three types of projectiles: patch and ball, maxi-style or lead conical bullet or modern sabot with bullet. Many turkey hunters have moved to the muzzleloading shotguns with 20, 12 and 10 gauge. The sabot/bullet combination allows a hunter to shoot a modern projectile that will expand when it hits a bird and do what it is supposed to do, with the expansion of energy transferring well.

In shooting a patch and ball, one needs a gun with a slow rate of twist. This keeps the patch from getting in front of the ball and affecting the spin of the ball and adversely affecting accuracy. The rate of twist recommended for patch and ball is l revolution per 60 or 70 inches of twist. The rate of spin for the sabot/bullet is much faster, something like a 1 in 24 or 1 in 30 inches. The more spin is required to stabilize the bullet in flight.

Shotgunners use a smooth bore, which is loaded with powder, shot and wads that separate. It is a shotgun shell put together in the barrel of the gun, and most shotguns with this come in a variety of choke tubes just like their counterparts in the smokeless models.

Modern muzzleloading has gotten a lot easier with more efficient rifles and bullet or shot packages. Also, no longer does one have to carry a possibles bag with all sorts of equipment. Hunters carry a few speed-loading tubes that have powder in one end and a bullet or shot in the other. They can throw them in one pocket and a capper with percussion caps in another. Add a cleaning jag and a few patches, and they’re ready for the field.

More experienced turkey hunters prefer to make use of a vest that not only holds the above accessories, but also calls of a variety of styles. In recent years, some hunters make use of shooting sticks for a solid rest for their weapon regardless of terrain type.