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Muzzleloader Deer in the Rockies

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Walkingeagle

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Oct 21/20

Managed to get a couple days away from work so the better half and I decided to head out for whitetail buck and ruffle grouse with our muzzleloaders. I would hunt the deer with my Lyman .50 GPH and 370gr Maxiballs while she would take advantage of any seen grouse with her .50 Traditions percussion and #7.5 shot. A square load of only 50gr by volume. Will see how it works, especially from a rifled barrel!

Accompanying us will be her thirteen year old son, whom also has a whitetail buck tag, but will be using a modern unmentionable. Accommodations will be our holiday trailer, without the use of either the water nor sewer systems. This is due to ambient temps being far below freezing. Day highs are calling for -8c with night at around -19c. Yes, welcome to late October in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Arrived at 6:30pm to our pre-chosen camp location to many inches of snow. Guessing around 8” or so, and -10c temperature. Quickly got unhooked, leveled and furnace fired up to start the warming process so we can begin supper preparations. Mmmm, elk steak with fried potatoes and Caesar salad. Warm on the inside as well. Bed comes early after our late supper, and welcome.
 

Walkingeagle

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October 22/20

Woke 10 minutes before the alarm clock to a chilly trailer. Appears the battery doesn’t have enough juice to keep the furnace going all night in these temps, so I guess the generator will have to keep running tonight. Anyhow, got things all going again and we had a great breakfast, then started layering up to face the cold. A little of a late start but off we go, the beginning of yet another adventure!

One positive thing about snow, you can sure see the deer activity, and this area is revealing a bunch of tracks. Hopes are high, and a quick look shows grins abound. We start off on the edge of a decent size clearing to do some rattling and grunting. Our young fellow will get the first crack on any bucks which show, and he is excited. Alas, our setup failed and off we move through the bush in search of our next opportunity. After several attempts and more rattling, absolutely zero deer showed themselves. We have discovered however that the snow is knee deep in many places, making some tough walking for these old legs. On our slow, tired walk back to camp the first grouse appears. A nice little ruffie hiding below a spruce which flushed and set on a limb. One shot at about 15 paces quickly dispatched it, and my lady had her first ever muzzleloader kill. I was proud, but even more so when she said she wanted to clean it herself. A little guidance and pointers, and it was done. She then placed it in a bread bag and tied it to her hunting pouch strap, without being instructed on what to do. I do love her!

Camp brought a hearty soup and sandwich lunch followed by a good nap. Boy were we all tired! Afterwards we reorganized some gear and headed back out for the evening. This time we set up on an old line where we could see about 100 yards in two directions. More rattling and grunting, and more “no deer sightings”. Not sure the rattling is working, nor why?? I’ve never had success rattling in the rut, but usually do well pre-rut. Maybe the early cold and snow has affected things? Finally we get too cold and have to walk to warm up. About 15 minutes later we flush another grouse, and the young’un asks if he can try with the muzzleloader. Of course he can, and another bird hits the ground. That little load seems to be performing well. A quick reload and the wife is off looking for its mate while I snap a photo of our successful hunter. Nothing more on the evening so its back to camp we go. Another wonderful supper, fried elk sausage with hashbrowns, then a little relax time, and bed. Lots of sore muscles in this camp!
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renegadehunter

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I love your hunting stories Walk, glad to see the grouse success. I really enjoy eating them as "grouse noodle soup" from a Dutch oven, awfully tasty.

I've never had rattling work, ever, except for two times I had coyotes come in. I think the buck to doe ratio has to be pretty favorable? I've had much better luck using a doe estrous call than rattling in my area. I just think there are way more does than bucks in some areas, so competition isn't that high for bucks to find a receptive doe. If they are without a doe though they seem to come to an estrous call.

I too have struggled in the past to get a pair of 12v deep cycle batteries to hold up all night when running those juice drinking fan forced furnaces. The best option is to have a radiant heat type unit installed, but you'll give a $1000+ bucks for that if you have it installed for you.
Several years ago I decided to give the two 6v battery set up a try, and am sold on how much better they hold up. I've been able to run the heat all night in cold weather since switching and usually still have 2/3 battery in the morning. The 6v setup seems to drop from 100% charge fairly quickly but then will hold at 2/3 for a long time. Two 6v golf cart type batteries have the same capacity of 3 12v deep cycle batteries. If you try them you just wire them in series rather than parallel. Basically you make a jumper (#6 AWG stranded) to run from the positive on one battery to the negative on the other, and then hook the positive from your trailer to the left over positive on one of the batteries and the negative from the trailer to the other left over negative on the other battery. I'll never go back to using 12v batteries.
Good luck on finding a nice whitetail!
 

old ugly

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good going M + B !!
Walk, you finally found a good use for those pescky percuson guns.
Now the next photo opt needs to be Brax beside his deer.
 

Walkingeagle

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Oct 23/20

Up before the alarm once again. Nice and warm this morning in the trailer. Kept the generator running all night, and fueled it up at 2am while out for a pee. Better half enjoyed rising from a warm bed into warm air. Started the coffee pot before waking her so it was good and ready when she rose. Smelled nice in the little home away from home.

Cold this morning for sure and legs, hips and feet quite sore, so not much walking will be happening first thing. We will sit on the small clearing again, but this time no rattling. Nothing shows, so after an hour we relocate and sit again. About 30 minutes into our sit a grouse is spotted nearby under a spruce (I suspect with the deep snow, they are getting at what remains of fall berries where there is no snow yet), he is feeding contently and my lady is up/gone. A short few moments pass and the morning stillness is broken by her shot. We await her return, hoping for a third bird and then we can all enjoy a great meal tonight. But no... a miss. This makes a total of three missed so far and she is disappointed, so we decide at lunch to do some patterning. The morning continues with no further sightings.

Back at our camp we set up a box over fresh snow. 20 paces back and she fires her 50gr volume square load. Very nice pattern density actually, quite surprised from a .50 rifled barrel, but it is a foot or more low. Everything increased to 70gr, pattern blows apart. Back down to 60gr and things improve nicely. Still low but only a couple inches. A decision is made to aim for the tuft of feathers atop the birds head, and stay within the 20 pace range. Into the trailer where she performs a field clean on her gun, then greased with bear grease and lastly a final wiping patch. Ready for the next bird.

Lunch time then back at it. Time to check out a new area. Perhaps our luck will change. We go hard through the evening, with still no deer sightings, however we do spy four ruffies feeding away. Off she goes again on an exciting quest for a final supper bird. A pop, no bang, another pop, no bang, a third pop..BANG. Slight hesitation and a fire. This results in a very low hit and a grouse flushing, with a single dropped leg, for parts unknown. My beautiful better half is quite low now, feeling very bad for the poor shot, and understandably so. Those of us who hunt have all felt the remorse of a poor hit and lost game. The guilt of knowing the undue pain and suffering our actions have created. This guilt is what reminds us of our love for those game animals, all animals, in a way that only true conservationists can. I explain that it will not be wasted, just not enjoyed by us. Some lucky weasel/fox/coyote/martin or fisher will think heaven just sent him a gift, and will be very grateful. Lesson learned? Snap a cap after field cleaning prior to loading, and she vows to get even closer than the 20 paces, no matter if the bird flushes. Have I mentioned I love this woman?

No more action this evening and back to camp we go. She decides that we will eat the other two grouse for supper and perhaps the curse will be broken. Fueled up the generator again and checked propane levels in preparation for the coming -20c forecast tonight.
 

Walkingeagle

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Oct 24/20

Snowed all evening and night, until about 4am (don’t ask but the older amongst us know how I know that), then cleared. By 6am the stars filled the sky and it was cold. Our coldest morning yet. Hot coffee and tea with scrambled eggs and toast, and we’re off. The 3-4” of fresh snow blanketing everything and coating the trees, coupled with the rising sun, sure does make a pretty sight! While in transition to our chosen morning spot we see a deer, a small doe, followed shortly by another, but larger. A doe and fawn, well within range but not yet in season. A week too early. Oh well, at least we finally seen some deer! After waiting to confirm no others step out we continue to our destination, where we set up and wait in -17c temps. And wait. And wait. And wait. No more waiting! We either move or die! We slowly work back towards camp, checking areas as we go when suddenly I catch a flash in my peripheral vision. A deer, whitetail at that, I grab my binos and as I raise them it’s gone, a few quick flag waves goodbye, and gone. No idea if buck or doe, but another deer seen. A good omen for sure. The remainder of the morning is uneventful. Back to camp for lunch.

After lunch we play around some more with charge weights for the wife’s “rifled shotgun”. She wants more power behind the shot, so we increase things. At 80gr volume of each powder and shot she is satisfied. Off we go for the afternoon/evening hunt.

Our plan is to slowly cover ground, watching intently for both deer and grouse. And it works. After about an hour we stumble upon two Spruce Grouse, a careful shot collects one, and I have a very happy lady again. Reloaded we move along and several minutes later a Ruffed Grouse makes an appearance. The young lad asks a turn, and with a great shot at 20 paces we have a second bird. The two of them make a deal to take turns, alternating upon success. I am not included as I did not get an upland license. Oh well. I’m just the unpaid guide. Continuing onward they do manage to collect a second Spruce grouse and two more Ruffies, totalling five birds between them, all without a single loss. Me? Well, I did manage to see one more big doe with just a few more minutes of shooting light remaining, but that was all. No matter, we are a happy crew, beaming with success. Only a half day left, hopefully we can close out on a deer tomorrow morning.
 

Walkingeagle

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Oct 25/20

Forgot to mention within yesterdays journal that we stumbled upon a couple rarities. First was a Swan, yes that is correct, a Swan. Resting in the snow on an old, old access route path. Upon closing the distance to see if it was alive, the head suddenly shot up and it started its long process for flight. Not too sure its actually healthy, but none-the-less it flew away. Hopefully it manages to get South. The second was a very large Lynx that just sat and watched us as we slowly approached. At about 50 yards it decided an exit was in order, and off it went. Both very nice experiences.

Morning comes with an alarm clock ringing. The first morning it woke before me. Seems colder with frost showing on spots inside the trailer. A quick check shows -23c. During breakfast we have a little “Mutiny of the Booty,” whereas the wife states we are not sitting in the cold this morning. Her plan is to take the truck to a spot, park and watch from our warm “blind”. No resistance from myself nor the young’un. We suit up and are off, our last morning of adventure.

We parked in an area where there were lots of tracks, even fresh ones since the snow quit. We sit quietly, patiently with high expectations. An hour passes, a second, then a third. Nothing shows. I mean nothing. Not even a Whiskey Jack, nor Raven. Absolutely nothing. We decide to call it a trip and head back to commence packing for the road home. Lots to do and wanting to travel in the daylight over questionable roads. All are in agreement that it was a good trip. The grouse action sure was fun! Plans are already in the works to do it again next year.
Hope ya’ll can get out and enjoy the outdoors as well this season.
Walk
 

Spikebuck

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I explain that it will not be wasted, just not enjoyed by us. Some lucky weasel/fox/coyote/martin or fisher will think heaven just sent him a gift, and will be very grateful.
Walking...this is what I say as well. While we can't use it as an "excuse" to be less than doing one's best on every shot or for taking unnecessary chances with shots, it is absolutely the way nature works. Your lady took an ethical shot and did her best, it just didn't work out. Every predator, human or other, sometimes wounds and doesn't collect it's prey. But nothing goes to waste in nature...something out there finds it, uses it, and benefits.

Very much enjoyed the daily stories. What a great hunt for all of you. :thumb:
 
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