Hunting with a Muzzleloading Shotgun

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

this field!" Larry yelled.

While I quickly poured powder and shot, and stuffed felt wads and overcards down the barrels, doves continued to wing past within easy range. Finally, I connected. Encouraged by cheers from Larry, I retrieved my bird.

By the end of the hunt, our hands were smudged black with burnt powder, and our game bags bulged with doves. The muzzleloading shotguns had proven effective. By holding shots to within 25 yards, we cleanly dropped doves, and we didn't suffer a single misfire. A muzzleloading shotgun, I decided, was something I needed.

I was interested in purchasing a double-barrel shotgun of typical, mid-19th century design, which meant 10-gauge and cylinder bore. Before smokeless powder was developed in the late 1880s, the "10" was the most popular gauge, and before the mid 1870s, all shotguns were cylinder bore. Choke boring-constricting the width of the muzzle opening-was successfully designed about 1875.

After thumbing through a number of catalogs, I finally ordered an Italian-made, 10-gauge double-barrel. I was pleased when it arrived. The finish and wood-to-metal fit were good. The shotgun fit well in my hands and was well balanced. At the shooting range, it delivered dense patterns out to 25 yards. In fact, with size 7 1/2 shot and the maximum recommended by the manufacturer-110 grains of 2F blackpowder and 1.5 ounces of shot-the muzzleloader threw out patterns at 25 yards that would roll a turkey.

Larry Neal had killed several turkeys with his muzzleloading shotguns.

"The secret to killing a turkey with a cylinder-bore, muzzleloading shotgun is being patient and picking your shot," Larry said. "You've got to let a gobbler work in close."

The following spring, with a two-bird limit and a three-week season, I decided to try to take my first bird with a modern shotgun, and then try to get the second bird with my muzzleloader.

Attempting to bag a turkey can often be both humbling and brutal, what with all the sleep deprivation, bad weather and bad luck, but that wasn't the case during my inaugural muzzleloader season for turkeys. The weather held clear and warm. The woods echoed with gobbles, and I enjoyed good luck. On Wednesday of the first week, a gobbler eagerly answered my calls. After a little enticement, the tom stepped into view 35 yards away. I aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger. Bird One wore a tag.

Sunday evening before the second week of the season, I organized my

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