Before we get to the meat of this week’s column, here’s a thought. Friday was, of course, Veterans Day. Sometimes, it is hard for disabled veterans to share the joys of the outdoors. There are organizations out there that provide hunting and fishing opportunities to those brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for us. Find one and support it.
There’s good news for us squirrel hunters. The leaves are finally mostly gone. In fact, by the time this comes out, the trees will probably be pretty bare. A long time ago, I read that it actually takes squirrels a little while after the leaves fall to figure out that they can be easily seen. Over the course of many years of squirrel hunting, I have concluded that there is something to this. I’ve seen it born out on many occasions.
In my opinion, the best hunting at this time of year is the day after a rain, when the leaves on the forest floor are wet. This allows you to get to your hunting spot with a minimum of noise. It also makes for good stalking, a technique that can work very well. You really do have to keep a sharp lookout, though, as the critters can be pretty hard to spot.
Several years ago, I sold off most of my muzzleloaders. I did, however, hang onto a muzzleloading shotgun. It’s a double-barreled model I built from a kit many years ago, in 12 gauge. Over the years, I have managed to get a couple of squirrels with it, although I cannot make the same statement when it comes to the little 32-caliber squirrel rifle I hunted with for a while.
One of the more frustrating things about a muzzleloading shotgun is the amount of stuff you have to take with you when you go afield. You need powder, shot, at least two different types of wads, caps, and the tools necessary for using them. While rather lengthy, the shotgun’s loading sequence is not complicated. First, you pour the desired amount of powder into the barrel. Next comes an over-powder card-type that wad. The tip of a shotgun’s ramrod is large in circumference, in order to keep the wad straight on the way down the barrel. Next comes one or more filler wads, depending on the load you choose. This is followed by the shot charge, then a thin card wad which goes over the shot, so that it will not run out if the barrel is tilted downward. At each stage of the loading process, make sure that the powder or wad is seated firmly, and not stuck partway down the barrel. This can be dangerous to both the gun and the shooter. Once the loading is completed, put a cap on the nipple (s) of the barrel (s). This step is always last, in order to prevent accidental discharge during loading. The hammer (s) should then be placed in the half-cock safety position.
The amount of powder and shot to use for each load depends upon its intended use and, of course, the shooter’s sensitivity to recoil. Naturally, you should never exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Here are two safety rules which apply only to double-barreled guns. First, if you fire only one barrel, uncap the other one while you’re reloading. Second, after you load the fired barrel, reseat the charge in the other one, just to be sure that it wasn’t jarred loose when the other barrel was fired. While they can be a bit of a nuisance, and I wouldn’t want to bother with one all the time, muzzleloading shotguns can be a lot of fun, too.
By Chris Henderson