Muzzleloaders, guns of yore

  • Article by: DENNIS LIEN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 28, 2013 - 4:51 PM

Minnesota’s muzzleloader enthusiasts aim for the past. Bonus: Vintage firearms get another shot at deer season.

view larger photos

  

 

Gary DeAustin got hooked on muzzleloaders the first time he fired one of the old-time rifles more than three decades ago. So did Jim Townsend.

“I haven’t fired a modern one since,” said Townsend, referring to firearms that use technology developed in, say, the past 150 years or so.

DeAustin and Townsend are part of a niche of hunters and shooters who have embraced this older form of weaponry, one that’s loaded from the end of a barrel. After black powder is measured and poured down the barrel, a projectile is added and tapped into place with a ramrod. Then, when the muzzleloader is fired, there’s a big blast of smoke.

A 67-year-old Chanhassen resident, DeAustin started out with a replica of a traditional flintlock muzzleloader — a pre-Civil War design — in the late 1970s, and he still shoots it.

But he also uses a newer in-line version with innovations that he said lessen the likelihood of misfires at critical moments. An avid elk and deer hunter, he said that’s especially important when he’s in the field each fall.

Townsend, 60, also shot his first muzzleloader more than 30 years ago. He gave up hunting a decade ago, but still enjoys shooting his traditional rifles regularly and participating in outings where cohorts dress in 18th- or 19th-century clothing, sleep in canvas tents, cook over wood fires, and hold shooting contests with the long, graceful guns.

 

Old-fashioned appeal

While these two muzzleloader owners are in somewhat different camps, each is drawn to the sport for similar reasons.

For DeAustin, it’s a fun, throwback activity, one immersed in history, that extends the deer season by a couple of weeks, allowing him to hunt when the woods aren’t so crowded.

“A lot of people don’t like the crowds — they like the silence,” DeAustin said as he scouted some property in preparation for Minnesota’s muzzleloader deer season, which begins Saturday and runs through Dec. 15. “The fewer the people, the better. That’s why I got into it.”

Over the years, he has recruited family members and friends to join him. One of them is a cousin, Nick Sovell, of Elko New Market.

“In the excitement of an actual hunt, there are a lot of variables in loading and reloading a muzzleloader, and a lot of things can go wrong if you are not focused,’’ Sovell said. “I guess that’s what makes it exciting.”

It’s a family and social affair for Townsend, too, but one tied to regular target shoots and the old-style gatherings. A member of the Twin Cities Muzzle Loading Club and a field representative for the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, Townsend said a sense of camaraderie is woven into group activities.

“You go to a shoot or a rendezvous, and if somebody has a problem with a gun, or somebody new has never shot one before, most everyone will put aside their own shooting and work with the people who have the problem,’’ he said. “You don’t see that with other disciplines.”

He said he likes most everything about the activity — the attire, the smell of burning powder, the more intricate loading process, the emphasis on a single shot — and hopes some day to build his own muzzleloader.

“You’ve got to think about what you’re doing because you don’t get a second chance,’’ he said.

  • related content

  • Cabin Country: The dream of shack ownership

    Friday November 29, 2013

    I grew up hunting in southwest Minnesota near the town of Minneota, where my grandparents lived and my dad was...

  • Shopping for the perfect snowshoe

    Wednesday November 27, 2013

    Armed with advice from an expert, a first-time buyer hunts for a stable, beginner-friendly fit.

  • How to … mine the outdoors for giftable treasures and seasonal decor

    Wednesday November 27, 2013

    BRAINERD, MINN. – Now that the days are shorter and darkness envelopes the landscape before supper, we Minnesotans suddenly find...

  • Jim Townsend of Andover creates a cloud of smoke when firing his muzzleloader. The gun is a model of a southern mountain rifle from the early 1800s.

  • Townsend demonstrated the intricate process of loading his weapon. Black powder is added before a ramrod helps tap the projectile into place.

  • Like many muzzleloader enthusiasts, Jim Townsend embraces the fashions as well as the weaponry of an earlier era.

  • Muzzleloader enthusiast Jim Townsend of Andover firing a model of early 1800's southern mountain rifle. (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE(mlevison@startribune.com)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago Cubs - WP: B. Parker 6 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: J. Hoover 4
Philadelphia - WP: D. Buchanan 9 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Garza 1
Oakland - WP: S. Kazmir 6 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 1
Chicago WSox 3 Top 10th Inning
Boston 3
Washington 0 Top 1st Inning
Baltimore 0
NY Yankees 0 Top 1st Inning
Cleveland 0
Atlanta - A. Harang 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez 6:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
LA Angels - H. Santiago 7:05 PM
Texas - C. Lewis
Detroit - D. Smyly 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
San Diego - O. Despaigne 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw
Minnesota - Y. Pino 9:10 PM
Seattle - T. Wilhelmsen
Winnipeg 7/11/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 7/11/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 7/12/14 5:30 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 7/12/14 8:30 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 7/17/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Toronto 7/18/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Hamilton 7/18/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Montreal 7/19/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connecticut 68 FINAL
Indiana 72
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close