Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Muzzle-loading season a pleasant fizzle

With little wind to rustle the air and a cloudless sky to reinforce the warmth the deer-hunting blind was more than adequately comfortable.

So pleasant were the conditions that I managed to remove my gloves and thickly padded blaze orange hunting vest.

All pretty unusual stuff for what’s been a pretty unusual hunting year.

I mean, after all, there it was January 10, no snow on the ground to speak of, an air temperature in mid-40s and it was the last day of Ohio’s statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season.

Which was a far cry from the conditions I encountered during the same season one year ago. That was when bitterly cold temperatures and deep snows made deer hunting a miserable affair.

Not that Ohio’s primitive weapons season is a big deal. While the general firearms season may attract upwards of 400,000 participants the Ohio Division of Wildlife says the muzzle-loading season draws might attract about one-half that number. Maybe more, but I’m guessing much less.

The thing is, the season runs just four days. And either you start the season on a weekday or you watch it end on a weekday. In the case this year, that date fell on a Tuesday.

A Tuesday? Tuesday is kind of the step child of the work week, something of a stretch to the weekend and thus not very memorable.

But the season is what it is, and if a person is prepared to drop a few hundred bucks on a front-loading rifle and all of the associated truck that goes with owning such a deer slaying device then you have to make do with whatever the Ohio Division of Wildlife gives you.

Yes, a hunter can employ a muzzle-loader during the state’s general and bonus weekend firearms deer-hunting season. However, a lot of deer gun hunters shy away from using a single-shot muzzle-loader when they can stuff a slug shotgun with three rounds and then force feed it with additional ammunition as needed.

Muzzle-loaders are typically slow and deliberate to charge, and while some owners are pretty quick about it, most of use take our good old time.

Still, I rather enjoy the muzzle-loading hunt, even with all of the pre-work that goes into building plastic tube containers of pelletized powder and bullet, loading the assembly and then the clean up of the rifle’s guts whether I actually shoot it or not.

Which is one reason why my oldest brother, Terry, has walked away from muzzle-loading hunting and is trying to hock his rifle to the first customer he sees.

I’ll pay the price, and enjoy it just the same. Especially given the season’s unseasonably mild weather.

But I kept my expectations low; and I wasn’t disappointed.

A long morning and a short evening of hunting on opening day didn’t so much as yield even the sighting of a deer, though I was surprised at the intensity of the shooting I could hear that were being fired elsewhere.  Meanwhile, the evening hunt didn’t even feature that, the two hours passing with grave silence.

The same went for Tuesday’s season closure, not that I was anticipating a rollicking good time of deer prancing across the pasture and to my game feeder. It didn’t go that way.

By the close of the season at 5:20 p.m. I packed it in and stashed the gear, mentally taking note of the pieces I’d need to keep in the gear bag.

Ohio’s archery season goes on a while longer, to Feb. 5, in fact. That will give me another three weeks of deer hunting.

I’ll enjoy it though in all honesty I’m looking forward to the fishing season. That’s why you’ll now find my chest waders and steelhead-fishing tackle anchored in my vehicle.

And it’s why I’ve been examining in detail the arrival of the “spring” fishing tackle catalogs from Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops.

The seasons come and go and I do my best to participate in as many of them as possible. Even those that enjoy only a four-day run.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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