I have learned one thing and it is the hunt which I love, not the kill. This obsession began when I was a child. The first time I went I was seven years old and I was given a stick almost as tall as me to beat the brush and play dog to chase rabbits out for my uncles, cousins, and my older brother to shoot at and they got to shoot at a lot of rabbits. It was sort of a “introduction” into the activity and I could not get enough of it. Friday nights I used to toss and turn getting almost no sleep excited at the anticipation of the next days hunt.
At eight, I was given my first shotgun, an H&R Topper 20 gauge single shot shotgun (I still have that gun) with one round. Now, the child welfare people would most likely arrest my beloved uncle and charge him with child endangerment, but back then it was accepted and it introduced me into a sport that I still actively involve myself. I owe my uncle a debt of gratitude that I can never, ever, repay.
There are various ways to hunt and most revolve around how close you are to the game (animal). You can use anything to kill an animal if you have to and your life depends on eating that animal. A snare, rock, knife, spear, bow, or gun. I think of prepping as getting back to the basics, keeping it simple. Although I have killed deer with my 75 pound pull Pro Hawk compound bow, what is more basic than a black powder percussion cap rifle?
Although black powder has been around since ancient times the current standard composition for the black powders for firearms that are manufactured was adopted as long ago as 1780. Proportions by weight are 75% potassium nitrate (saltpeter), 15% softwood charcoal, and 10% sulfur. It is possible to get the ingredients from your local hardware store and make it yourself; but I just buy Pyrodex (a synthetic black powder) by the tub, the stuff last a very long time and as long as it is kept dry it will stay stable.
The advantage of Pyrodex over black powder is that Pyrodex is easier to clean. I just use Windex and hot water to clean the barrel. At 7000 grains (a grain is a small measurement of weight) per tub (one pound), and if you use a 90 grain charge to propel a 50 caliber bullet, you will get roughly 78 shots. This comes out to be about .25 cents a shot for the powder with about .10 cents for the bullet. And about .03 cents for the cap. .38 cents to harvest a deer? Not a bad return.
The point is that if you had to you could make black powder yourself, the caps may be a problem to obtain so stock up on a few hundred caps. And for those of you who think a black powder weapon will not make a good defensive weapon there are 63,000 dead at Gettysburg that would argue against that case. A single shot weapon forces you to become a good shot. You do not have a “spray and pray” shooting technique with black powder. You concentrate; and like Mel Gibson says in the movie the “Patriot” aim small, miss small.
As for my rifle I have a side lock New Traditions .50 caliber rifle carbine. I shoot a load of 90 grains of Pyrodex that pushes a .44 caliber sabot with a number 11 percussion cap. I can take a deer up to and over 100 yards away. Using a Bow, shotgun, and black powder I can hunt up to four months a year in the great state of Ohio. On a deer, roughly 40% of the deer is edible meat. However you can eat the heart and liver (very tasty) and this would increase your percentage slightly.
You can also tan the hide. I kill, butcher, and cook the deer. Steaks, chops, jerky, sausage, you name it all mouth watering. The secret to not having “gamey” meat is to cool it quickly, pack the deer with ice and if it is under 40 degrees, hang the deer to drain the blood and to let it go through the rigor mortis phase before you butcher and freeze the deer. Avoid freezing the deer on the hanging pole. If it is a young doe or buck, you can skip hanging and butcher it right away. If it is above 40deg., you can quarter the deer and refrigerate it to “age” before butchering and freezing. Above all, do not drive around with the deer on the hood of your car cooking it. All you will do is spoil the deer and give hunters a bad name.
Hunting takes skill and patience:
- Learn to read the signs, it takes practice. The information is there in the leaves.
- Deer are creatures of habit, some places I hunt you can almost set your watch by the travels of the deer.
- On cold days they like the sunny side of the hills, just like people do.
- When you walk a ridge stay below the top so you do not silhouette your profile. Stand with a tree behind you for the same reason.
- Keep the wind in your face.
- Do not wear perfume.
- Hunt in the morning and late afternoon.
- Take a book to read, look up once in a while, keep movement to a minimum.
- When you walk, take one or two steps, and stop, look, and listen.
- Cotton kills, do not wear cotton pants or shirts if the freezes so will you. Wear wool or blends.
- Tell someone what time to expect you back, this can save your life. Keep enough food and water, and some fire making material in a backpack to keep you alive for at least three days if you get lost or hurt.
- Take a compass and learn how to use it.
- Last, but not least, find someone who hunts and ask if you can tag along. Hunting squirrel is a great way to learn the woods and to learn how to hunt deer. I hunt squirrels with a .22cal. handgun. They are tasty critters, I kid you not.