Since man first invented gun powder, the muzzleloader rifle has been an effective hunting weapon. The early flintlock muzzleloaders threw a hunk of lead or metal only a short distance. The accuracy of these early muzzleloaders was hindered by several factors.
The amount of powder charge, the unevenness of the ball and the muzzleloader itself made the first smoke poles a challenge for hunting. As time went by, all the factors which made the early muzzleloaders fickle were improved upon.
Not withstanding in the changes that were made in the accuracy of the first flintlocks, the smoke pole itself was in for several more changes over the next couple of hundred years. Not long after the accuracy of the first flintlocks started to improve, the cap-and-ball muzzleloader landed into the hands of shooters. With all the improvements made over the years, we now have the smoke poles of today.
Some would argue that todays' muzzleloaders are not true muzzleloaders. To those I ask a couple of things: Are they loaded from barrel end and is the powder and projectile loaded separately? Heck, yes. For all the traditionalist, the smoke poles we use today are a bit different then our grandfathers,' but they are still muzzleloaders. From bows of today to rifled slugs, technology has improved the way we spend time in the outdoors. Late-season hunters in Chautauqua County can use their smoke poles for everything from small game to whitetails. When speaking of the one-shot theory, the muzzleloader offers as close to archery hunting with a firearm as one can get. With a special muzzleloader-archery permit, a hunter is able to take part in the late-deer season, which is offered following the regular deer season.
The new special late season this year starts on Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 18. During this second season, the Southern Tier offers some excellent second-rut hunting. The opportunity to hunt deer right up until Christmas is exciting and at times can be challenging. While the weather so far hasn't been difficult, no doubt it will change and we'll have to adjust our hunting style.
I really enjoy getting out during the later season. The deer are more relaxed and have had a chance to start to get back to their normal travel patterns. Depending on the weather and amount of snow on the ground, there also will be food sources. While most of the hard mast crop is long gone from the woods, there can be still other types of food available for deer. It's all about using your scouting, and understanding how to use that knowledge.
Legally, antlered whitetails may be harvested, except when an unfilled deer management permit has not been used. The unfilled deer management permit may be used to harvest an antlerless whitetail only in the management unit for which the permit has been issued.