Legal calibers for hunting big game with a muzzleloader in California

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kervinlee

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I would like to do a few things before I die: among these are a) build a flintlock longrifle and b) harvest a blacktail or mule deer with same rifle in California. I know California does not allow lead ammunition but, does anyone know what calibers are legal? I'm considering a Kibler Southern Mountain rifle kit with a .36 caliber bore. Would I need to go with a larger bore, like .45? Thanks.
 

Some_Mook

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No problem. I have found legal advice, advice on regulations, and advice on women from the internet/forums to all be equally reliable. 🤪
If you find advice on Women, in any delivery format, one should be very suspicious of any bullet point or sentence that does not begin with the word 'Don't'
 

Nuthatch

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I would like to do a few things before I die: among these are a) build a flintlock longrifle and b) harvest a blacktail or mule deer with same rifle in California. I know California does not allow lead ammunition but, does anyone know what calibers are legal? I'm considering a Kibler Southern Mountain rifle kit with a .36 caliber bore. Would I need to go with a larger bore, like .45? Thanks.
Sarcasm aside, .40 minimum to be legal. And since it has to be non-lead ammo, I'd say .45 should be a real-world minimum. You won't get a shred of expansion if you're shooting a patched ball. I don't know how a conical would fare in a slow-twist rifle like a Kibler.

Before you get too far into the Kibler project, know the area you're looking to hunt. Some areas are fine with 5-foot rifles. Others, you're just going to be hung up on brush all day. If you're in the Sierras, those deer are bigger than coastal deer. Best to up-size there. I took a mature 4x4 that was about 130 lb on the coast one year. But I've had 1x2 and 2x2 bucks easily in the 160-180 lb range on the Western Sierras.

I was looking hard at the Kibler Colonial but dropped it once I saw the weight. For all the hiking around I do getting in/out & still-hunting, I'll take my 7-lb guns any day over something in the 8-10 lb range.

Finally, unless you're on a draw tag, you're going to be hunting the general season only -- no ML seasons here. That puts you squarely in the prime fire season for most areas. So figure out your patch lube to make sure you're not sending a smoldering patch into the woods. Personally, I use heavy denim soaked in beeswax/bear grease lube & feel comfortable hunting with that most of the time. But I balk during the driest parts of the year. Experiment & find out what works.
 
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I stopped hunting CA when the no lead ammo rule went into affect so I am not current.

Sound advice on fire, especially during rifle season on the coastal range.

In my youth, while hunting pigs on the ranch in July with a ML with PRB, I, with my brothers, started a fire with a patch. We wore out three sets of legs each stomping that one out. Thankfully the wind wasn't blowing and cattle had been feeding the area, so it didn't go out of control quickly.

I thereafter restricted my ML hunting to the wet winters and spring time.

Plenty doable. I killed a nice coastal 3x3 and numerous hogs with a PRB 50 cal Hawken that I built from kit.

coastal.jpg
 
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Nuthatch

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I stopped hunting CA when the no lead ammo rule went into affect so I am not current.

Sound advice on fire, especially during rifle season on the coastal range.

In my youth, while hunting pigs on the ranch in July with a ML with PRB, I, with my brothers, started a fire with a patch. We wore out three sets of legs each stomping that one out. Thankfully the wind wasn't blowing and cattle had been feeding the area, so it didn't go out of control quickly.

I thereafter restricted my ML hunting to the wet winters and spring time.

Plenty doable. I killed a nice coastal 3x3 and numerous hogs with a PRB 50 cal Hawken that I built from kit.

View attachment 188922
With our deer, I think you can count the brow tines if they're over 1". So that's a 4x4 :)
 
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With our deer, I think you can count the brow tines if they're over 1". So that's a 4x4 :)
Not when I grew up there in the 60/70s and still hunted there in the 80s when I could. I have a big 4x4 with tines and an even bigger 2x2 without that I took with my trusty old unmentionable from -06 The 2x2 is the biggest deer I have ever killed to include a couple of nice 4x4 from the Idaho deserts.

They were late August deer and had all just shed velvet back when season used to start the second Saturday of August and last until 30 Sep. 2 bucks per season limit.
 

Nuthatch

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Not when I grew up there in the 60/70s and still hunted there in the 80s when I could. I have a big 4x4 with tines and an even bigger 2x2 without that I took with my trusty old unmentionable from -06 The 2x2 is the biggest deer I have ever killed to include a couple of nice 4x4 from the Idaho deserts.

They were late August deer and had all just shed velvet back when season used to start the second Saturday of August and last until 30 Sep. 2 bucks per season limit.
Funny how that works. My biggest-bodied deer thus far was a 1x2. One tall spike and one medium fork. I could barely drag him anywhere on flat ground so I had to quarter him out. On my property, there are a few big bucks that pass through most nights & get caught on camera. The spread & height of their antlers was impressive. But the most points were only 2x3. I'd be happy with any of them. I'm more of a "Spoon & Crockpot Club" kind of guy as it is.
 
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Mine was big of body and of antler. 32" wide and 27" tall. He was a big one. Made the small antler 4x4 standing next to him look small. I got them both with 4 shots. Thankfully I had a buddy and we were able to get them both down to where I could get a horse to them and get them out to the ranch HQ before they spoiled. 102 degree day the third week of August on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. But we were young and tough and used to the hot weather and hard work as were the horses. Shot at 0800, in the ranch walk-in by 1900, drinking beer by 1905!

Now the bad news. In our town there were upwards of 350 deer killed in any given year and some big ones during the 60/70 and even into the 80. And it was sustainable. There were guzzlers and springs developed by ranchers, lower area grain fields and predators were kept to a minimum. It was rare to have a lion kill a sheep, let alone a calf. Now most of the ranchers, especially in the spring, lose 3-5 calves per 100 to lions. Because of mountain lions have killed so many deer, last year less than 20 were killed and it has been running maybe 15 most years. You used to see deer, primarily does upwards of 20 per day. People get excited if they see a doe now and it is not uncommon to see more lions than deer on a trip out.

But there are plenty of pigs...they have done a great job of containing FERAL hogs...NOT

All that great game management by CA F&G
 
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Nuthatch

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Mine was big of body and of antler. 32" wide and 27" tall. He was a big one. Made the small antler 4x4 standing next to him look small. I got them both with 4 shots. Thankfully I had a buddy and we were able to get them both down to where I could get a horse to them and get them out to the ranch HQ before they spoiled. 102 degree day the third week of August on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. But we were young and tough and used to the hot weather and hard work as were the horses. Shot at 0800, in the ranch walk-in by 1900, drinking beer by 1905!

Now the bad news. In our town there were upwards of 350 deer killed in any given year and some big ones during the 60/70 and even into the 80. And it was sustainable. There were guzzlers and springs developed by ranchers, lower area grain fields and predators were kept to a minimum. It was rare to have a lion kill a sheep, let alone a calf. Now most of the ranchers, especially in the spring, lose 3-5 calves per 100 to lions. Because of mountain lions have killed so many deer, last year less than 20 were killed and it has been running maybe 15 most years. You used to see deer, primarily does upwards of 20 per day. People get excited if they see a doe now and it is not uncommon to see more lions than deer on a trip out.

But there are plenty of pigs...they have done a great job of containing FERAL hogs...NOT

All that great game management by CA F&G
The folks I know at CDFW would probably align closer to your view of things. They're handcuffed by politicians, extreme (no compromise) groups & the proposition system that lets the voters decide on things they clearly don't understand. Bobcat hunting was banned by proposition a couple of years ago. Their numbers were plentiful; it was just political & the lie sold well. HSUS has been going hard against bear hunting recently. Both CDFW and the FGC were polite in their responses but gave them an education, to be sure. It was a joy to watch & listen. But I fear what might happen if it goes to a voter proposition. HSUS says all kinds of BS about how bear numbers are down, wildfires, etc. But the bear numbers are up & growing by any reasonable measure. Fellow beekeepers aren't able to get depredation permits to take out problem bears. And they're determined critters. It's nice for me to get calls to help out with that during the open season but there's only so many days I can hunt, I only have one tag to fill & I have to be mindful of the occasional bear that walks into my own yard. CA BHA is in-process of getting some funding together to help fund better bear research. We're all confident that bear numbers are fine but we need to go on the offense & help show it. More to come on that later, I hope.

I've never hunted the east side of the coastal range or the west side of the valley, other than Mendota for ducks. I know there are plenty of deer around along the coast -- enough that there are some good either-sex tags & late season muzzleloader tags. The Western Sierras are down in numbers but it has more to do with habitat loss since a lot of the major dams went in along the migratory corridors decades ago. Funny things, those deer. They thought that the deer would go around the reservoirs or find alternate paths to winter range. 70 years later, they mostly migrate along the shoreline of those reservoirs, right through the campgrounds & neighborhoods. But every year, a few drown while swimming across -- apparently following the same paths as their ancestors did before those dams went in.

On my own property, in the Western Sierras, deer numbers are great. It's just that the season stinks. It's over just as the young bucks start getting interested in the girls. By prime rut, the season has been over for a month. It's a tough hunt... But it's a hunt.
 
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I am glad things are better in most of the State. My info is current for the west side of the coastal range from Parkfield to Hollister, between Bitterwater & San Benito to Coalinga & Los Banos. Habitat is intact there...in fact several big fires over the last 10 years have helped in some recovery. My info is from several retiring ranchers that I grew up with and took over their family's operations.

As for the dams....start getting rid of them and soon you will be washing with bottled water or sea water, paying $5 for a head of lettuce and $3 per tomato.
 
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Nuthatch

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I am glad things are better in most of the State. My info is current for the west side of the coastal range from Parkfield to Hollister, between Bitterwater & San Benito to Coalinga & Los Banos. Habitat is intact there...in fact several big fires over the last 10 years have helped in some recovery. My info is from several retiring ranchers that I grew up with and took over their family's operations.

As for the dams....start getting rid of them and soon you will be washing with bottled water or sea water, paying $5 for a head of lettuce and $3 per tomato.
Agreed. Finding one issue that adversely affects deer populations is easy. Finding the solution is far more complicated and likely to cause more problems than we'd be solving.
 

Loyalist Dave

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I would like to do a few things before I die: among these are a) build a flintlock longrifle and b) harvest a blacktail or mule deer with same rifle in California. I know California does not allow lead ammunition but, does anyone know what calibers are legal? I'm considering a Kibler Southern Mountain rifle kit with a .36 caliber bore. Would I need to go with a larger bore, like .45? Thanks.

Well being in KALIFOƦИIA, as the lads have written, you will need something non-lead.
Rotometals makes a lead free, bismuth based, bullet casting alloy. I'd suggest that you try this stuff. Bullet Casting Alloy . IF you go with a .50 caliber, you will get enough mass to do the job, since it's not all lead, and nearly 38 balls to the pound of alloy or so, making the cost per ball around 50 cents. You will need to experiment with patching, as the ball will likely be a few thousandths of an inch larger than .490 when cast from a .490 round ball mold for pure-lead.

LD
 
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