I was not introduced to big game hunting until adulthood. When I moved to Colorado about 7 years ago, I opened my eyes to a world of year-round mountain recreation: skiing and snowboarding in the winter, mountaineering and rafting in the spring, camping and mountain biking in the summer. But when autumn came around, I often found myself sitting in a dimly lit sports bar watching football games--not much different than my previous life in Chicago. So what do people in Colorado do in the autumn? I quickly found the answer: we hunt.
Since then, the years have gone by and we have developed a great crew of men from all over the state to meet every autumn for both deer & elk rifle season. Along with them, I've learned how to prepare, scout, locate, stalk, field dress, and pack out wild game from the depths of the Rocky Mountains. I've done everything...except pull the trigger. I was starting to get discouraged at the thought of camping out in the cold, waking up before dawn, and hiking for endless miles with 8 pounds of useless wood & steel in my hands.
This year was different. Every spring, I expected the typical routine of emails flying around between the Elk Camp crew: what season? what area? who is bringing the pasties? etc. But what I didn't expect was a separate call from Nitro, a core group member aptly named for his intensity towards the hunt:
"Dude, I'm going to put you in for a muzzleloading tag. You've got five months to buy a muzzleloader and learn how to shoot it."
Well, what choice did I have when he put it that way? After reading many online forums and reviews of muzzleloading, I settled on a closeout special of a nickel/camo Traditions Buckstalker from Cabela's, and ordered it sight unseen.
Before long, 'Deer Camp' or 'Muzzle Camp' (we're not sure what to call it yet) came around and I still had not taken any practice shots. We were just doing a weekend trip (us working stiffs gotta save that PTO for Elk Camp), and the four of us set up a light camp up in the White River National Forest, north of Dotsero, CO.
The first day was uneventful. I had not much sleep the night before, and had to endure a very harsh ride on an old Polaris Scrambler--not exactly a passenger-friendly ATV. We bounced around on an old logging trail for a few miles before stopping at a lake to get out and hunt the area. I ended up finding a nice spot with a large overlook to sit at while the early morning sun moved into the sky. No sign of deer, though. However, I heard the many baa's and meh's of a large flock of sheep in the valley below.
Its probably a good thing I didn't find any deer because I still hadn't shot my new muzzleloader! We took another harsh ride on the four wheelers back to camp, where I set a target up on a tree and paced out about 50 yards.
I loaded the powder and a powertip bullet, and took aim. BOOM! The bullet shot out with a very short and light pull on the trigger. I loved the trigger pull so much more than the heavy one on my rifle. When the smoke cleared, I looked out at the target and saw that I had hit right in the center! I took another shot at about 60 yards and that was all I needed to know how accurate the gun was.