Authors Note: Since this will be a rather lengthly disertaion I am going to present it in two possibly three parts over the course of the next several days. At some point after the last part has been posted I will change the post dates so that they run in order instead of the last first.
The important part
I am over 45 and I am a Muzzleloader Shooter and have been since about 1970. I am a Muzzle loader Hunter and have for years hunted during various states Muzzleloading seasons. Most members of my family, including my wife are Black Powder shooters and hunters as well.
I have addressed this before
When using a Muzzleloader I personally choose to pursue game with either a precussion or flint fired firearm. I have not held any prejudice against those that choose to use a more "modern" In-line Muzzleloader. The first patent for an In-line firing system was issued in 1822. Historically then an In-line Muzzleloader is as authentic as the precussion cap firearm.
Historical note: The precussion cap ignition system was inveted in 1807/8 by an English Preacher. It did not catch on quickly though. Flintlock shooters rightly pointed out that if a person was days from nowhere in the wilds of the new frontier and you got your gear wet including your precussion caps you were done for. When caps get wet they are forever ruined. Black powder and flints could be dried and still be usable. Flintlock firearms were still in use on through the War between the States.
Where it all Started for me
In the late 1960's early 1970's pretty much the only types of muzzleloading firearms available were originals or replicas of mostly military arms. The primary use of these arms at that time was by historical re-enactors. At that time to my knowledge there were no states that hosted any special big game seasons for "Front stuffers". If one wanted to hunt with a "Smokepole" one had to do it during the regular firearms hunting seasons.
Why it all started for everyone
At that time the essential maximum effective range of a typical Muzzleloader with either round ball or conical bullet was about 75 yards. That range is little more than double that of Archery tackle and about half that of the 30-30 deer rifle.
The people that strongly advocated the various State Fish & Game Departments for a separate hunting season for primitive firearms historians of a sort and sought to have an opportunity to take to the woods in early 1800's period clothing carrying front loading singleshot firearms that were in use at that time. These hunters have/had a keen interest in the personal re-creation of Frontier America. Accepting the challenge to harvest game the way our ancestors had to gives us a better understanding of the hardships they had to face in day to day living.
Hunting with a limited range primitive firearm in period clothing was recognized as a legitimate sporting activity and most states have since en-acted separate hunting seasons for those that opt for this endevor.
Other reasons for taking up Primitive hunting
Many other Big Game hunters, after hunting for years with high powered long range centerfire firearms, no longer felt challenged by the hunt and sought to make their trips afield more difficult and opted to use a firearm that limited the range in which they could harvest food for the family table. In the process many of them have developed a respect for what our Forefathers had to endure in the early days of this Country just to survive. Others accepted the limitations of the equipment and began hunting with a Muzzle Loader to increase the time they were able to spend in the field.
To keep it as traditional as possible, many states in enacting their special seasons mandated certain criteria for the blackpowder firearms that were authorized. Some stipulated that only patched round ball be used, others allowed lead conical bullets and most prevented the use of telescopes. States that did allow for the use of telescopic sights only allowed scopes that were of the type in very limited use during the War between the States. Nebraska madated and still does a telescopic sight of no more than 1 power and that must be visably marked on the scope by the maunufacturer.
The advent of the In-line
Sometime in the late 70's early 80's firearms manufacturers dusted off the 1822 patent and aquired some new ones. I did not see anything wrong with that then and still don't in principal. What has followed though is an unmitigated high jacking of the entire process.
Innovations in front loading firearms has reached a point where the performance of todays inline Muzzle loaders rivals that of a 30-06 or similiar high powered rifle cartridge. At least one company boasts that one of their Muzzle loading firearms has an effective range in excess of 250 yards.
Looking at a modern version of a muzzle loader from across the room with it's variable powered scope renders it almost indistinguishable from many centerfire rifles. In fact many companies have based their muzzle loaders on their existing line of centerfire rifles.
That is more than three times the range of the firearms that were in use when the special seasons were en-acted. 250 yards also exceeds the generally accepted range of many centerfire high powered rounds used for deer including the venerable old 30-30, the standard by which all other deer cartridges are measured.
No longer are most Black powder hunters using the patched round ball or conical bullet of our forefathers. Todays in line shooters are using copper jacketed projectiles nestled in a plastic cup called a Sabot (say bow). It works like this;
A 45 caliber jacketed hollow point bullet is inserted into the sabot, the sabot is then placed in the muzzle loaders 50 caliber barrel and seated on top of a measured amount of powder. These modern conceptions have improved the peformance of Muzzle loading to a point where, as mentioned before they rival or exceed many standard centerfire hunting cartridges.
What is really laughable about all of this is that there are some states that, for reasons of Human population density, do not allow centerfire rifles for big game hunting, but do allow Variable powered telescoped Muzzle loaders. What difference does it make when you have a .45 caliber Muzzle loader that has an effective range that is farther than some (30-30) and nearly as far as other (30-06) centerfire rifles?
They don't want to hunt they just want to shoot
There is no longer the challenge there once was in persuing game with a limited range firearm. People don't need to learn the skills of hunting anymore to participate in the "Primitive Firearms" seasons. Now anyone with a few bucks can buy a long range In-line ignition firearm mount a variable power scope on it and be a Muzzle Loader.
Who hunts with a Muzzle loader today
Today it seems that there are very few of us that still hunt with a Muzzle loader for the nostolgia that created the special seasons. Many of todays Muzzle loading hunters have no inkling of why the seasons were created. For them it is not to re-create a historical era or develop the skills necessary to harvest Game at short ranges in the manner of our ancestors.
For these people it is just another chance to shoot game from as far away as possible with as little effort as possible without having to learn even the most rudimentary skills of hunting.
Why do we need Primitive Firearms Seasons when no one is using primitive equipment anymore?
It really isn't that hard to sit in a tree and shoot a deer at 200 yards with a telescope mounted 30-06 or 50 caliber In-line Muzzleloader. It is quite a bit harder to get that deer to approach withing 50 yards of that same tree when armed with an open sighted 50 caliber Flintlock. It is even harder to stalk within that short distance of a wary Whitetail or Mule deer.
End Part 1 Part two can be read here and Part three can be read here