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JP's First Muzzleloader Deer
January 03, 2010

Act One

I went out one morning [Dec. 20 or so] because I like the idea of hunting around here in fresh snow. It feels more wildernessy than usual -- the snow transforms this exurban area. There's open land near here where I used to play as a kid so it means a lot to me to keep in touch with it before it gets built up.

It's the last day of muzzleloader season and I especially like going out with a long-barreled, oldstyle .45 smokepole in falling snow. It's a Jeremiah Johnson feeling. I haven't gotten a deer with it yet. My gun is a cheap, cheesy CVA kit "second", but I like it. I might even dress it up someday with rivets and carving. I mean, it's my gun, right? I *really* like shooting our flintlock .45 pistol. So I'm even considering converting the rifle to flint as well -- it looks like I can do it for about $50-100 in spare parts from an online catalog. I just love the delay and the deeper poof-boom of a flintlock.

So I went strolling out in the early gloom to a good place to sit but I made sure to walk quietly on the way in. I followed fresh coyote tracks on the trail until I came to a small clearing and stopped and looked around. Lo and behold, a slight movement in a solid mass of brush and pines caught my eye: brown legs. (I still am astounded that the eye can detect such things.) I waited a minute and, hokey pete, a doe edged into view, quartering away, 30 yards off. I put the bead behind her leg and let fly. "Pop" -- the cap went off but not the gun. There ya have it: the smokepole's lament. She turned, looked, stamped and ran.

Man, ya gotta have your act together with the smokepole. I bet that I didn't dry it well enough after cleaning it after Henry and I shot it at the range a few times this fall to check its point of aim. I noticed a touch of rust on the nipple before placing the cap the morning. I'm just not familiar enough with it to remember all the quirks, even though there's really not that much to remember.

Well, now I'm ready. I recall that folks say to snap off a cap before heading out to hunt -- to clear the nipple good.

Anyway, I felt like I got lucky with walking up on that doe, but actually it also seems like the still-hunting method just plain worked. Luck is partially MADE via relaxed diligence. So I was happy about that. ...If a little surprised. Now to be equally diligent with the gun.

I didn't see any roadkill on the drive home. That would've been an easy way to make the dud-shot a moot point.

The Late Doe Season starts in a day or so, so maybe I can get out again if I have time.

I sure do like being able to put in a quick hour a minute from home!


A Couple Days Later...

One morning I was skiing around our yard when something caught my eye.

It was a dead doe deer that wasn't there when I went skiing the previous evening. She had a snapped leg. She wasn't stiff. Musta been only a few hours old.

So I put her on a sled and dragged her back to our yard and in 20 minutes took off the best 20 pounds via the Poacher's Cut. One haunch was bad, but the whole rear leg and upper was dandy as were both backstraps. Perfecto!

(The Poacher's Cut is to just take the bulk of the meat off of a deer without field-dressing -- gutting -- it. You cut the skin along the back, pull it back a ways, and take the backstraps and rear legs. It's easy enough to add in the shoulders, too, if you like. This majority of meat is also the best meat. The practice seems suitable when you're short on time and long on deer, especially if it's a deer you've accidentally encountered and which would otherwise go to waste.)

We had been wondering what we were going to eat for Christmas Dinner. Now we know!

Thanks be!

Martha's gramma loves my found-venison backstraps. She's the one who won the whole family over to seeing such meat with cheery eyes.

[Update: We had a dandy dinner. I served the backstraps with Bearnaise sauce -- it's just Hollandaise with Tarragon added. I also made my favorite dinner jello, made with apricot nectar, sour cream, and white wine. Oh yeah! Then Brussells Sprouts, etc., etc.]

But I still want to go out again with my smokepole... A twilight hour with fresh-falling snow is just too nice to pass up.

Tonight we're going to Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village. What a treat! We'll stroll around and have some figgy pudding and spiked eggnog and roast-beast and enjoy the lights and the no-crowds and the ice-skating and the roasted chestnuts and the carolers. It's great!

As our kids grow away from some of their Santa fever I like the idea of helping them find new ways to appreciate the time of year.


First Muzzle Deer

It was a busy holiday season even though we don't plan much. A couple out of town families were in town so there ya go.

One late afternoon the pieces fell in place to go out for a final deer stroll again. We were having a snack with some friends when I remembered that Chris has been wanting to go deer hunting for a few years now. The snow was lightly falling so I said, Let's do it!

A half hour later we quietly strolled into the same clearing where I had the mis-fire a week or so ago. The wind was in our faces. Nuttin. We pressed forward into more of this choice terrain. Suddenly a hefty doe stood up 50 yards away in the long field-grass. A split-second later I heard my gun go off. It's interesting how fast it happens. It wasn't too loud and the muzzleloader had the most pleasant mild kick. That there still-hunting (stalking and walking) isn't such a bad way to go when the weather and terrain is right. We backed off a ways and I reloaded then we leaned against a pine tree for pipes of Full English, to give her time to lay down, then we went and found her where she'd dropped just 70 yards away.

I used a ball for a bullet, and it hit where I aimed, but I think I'll get some mini-balls -- cast bullets -- to see if they give more accuracy. We had the flintlock pistol along for backup. Maybe I'll even get a bullet mold, oneathesedays. This kind of thing is easy and fun with the blackpowder, and you end up with a good gun that doesn't take much to always keep in action. You can even make your own blackpowder from common ingredients. Caps are probably tricky to homebrew, but with a flintlock all you need is a stone along with some heavy, castable metal. A nifty primitive skillset.

Back home Chris got to see some butchering, too. After you do it a few times, it's as easy as pie. Done! The freezer is totally full.

(I should've had Chris in the photo, too, as his quiet walking contributed greatly to our success.)

First muzzleloader deer.

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