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Black Powder and Prairie Runners at Cabela's

Black Powder and Prairie Runners

Author: Stan Warren

One of the fastest running game animals in the world, with eyes better than six-power binoculars and living mostly on the open plains -and you want to use a muzzle loader? Doggone right!

Black powder and pronghorns do mix, but the blend is very exausting.
Although some states in the American West -where the pronghorn lives- offer special seasons that allow a hunter more time afield, the use of black-powder arms has grown largely because some people just like to hunt with them. They certainly will not shoot as flat or as far as "modern arms", but under the right conditions, they do an excellent job. Certainly nobody will argue that they do not add to the excitement level.

Modern in-line rifles have largely taken over the field, since they are rigged for mounting a scope and generally feel like centerfire guns. The shooter does not have to develop a feel for the thing, remembering that there is a hammer to cock rather than a safety to push. For some, this is possibly an advantage. Others still favor the sidelock design. Regardless of your preferred style, some basic truths exist.

Black-powder arms are not long distance shooters. Even a saboted bullet at a velocity around 2,000 feet-per-second from a .50 caliber, if sighted to hit two inches high at 100 yards, will fall four inches below the bullseye at less than 175 yards. On the wide open plains, accurate estimation of range is tough, especially beyond the 100 yard mark. Miss your guess by 50 yards and you will very possibly miss your buck. An optical rangefinder is great if the situation allows the use of one.

Traditionalists who use lead round balls or conical bullets cannot get the speed from their projectiles that the in-lines deliver. This does not mean that their shooting irons will not do the job. Indeed, a hunter who knows exactly what his round ball rifle will do at various distances within its effective range is better off than the character who has an in-line scoped and loaded to the max but has done little actual range work with it. The only way to build real proficiency is to shoot the thing enough to know its potentials and limitations.

A good pair of binoculars are invaluable on a pronghorn hunt.
Okay, let us say that you have never hunted pronghorn, or other open country big game, with a so-called primitive weapon. First, check the area that you plan to hunt and see if they have specific regulations. Some allow scopes, some do not. Make sure that you know all the details before buying a firearm that you may not be able to use.

For general purposes, the .50 caliber is the optimum choice whether you plan to shoot lead or sabots. It provides plenty of punch without the unnecessary recoil of the .54 and larger bores, and projectiles of one sort or another can be found in just about any decent sporting goods shop.

When you begin your practice sessions, try different powder weights and bullet types. Your rifle will almost certainly prefer one combination above the others. A powder charge of 100 grains of Ffg black powder or an equivalent volume of Pyrodex will probably be close. Less than that and velocity begins to drop off, shortening the effective shooting range of your rifle.

A good way to practice is to have a buddy and take turns putting paper plates at various distances from the shooter. Get off the bench rest and shoot standing, sitting, prone and any other position that might be necessary when hunting. When you can hit plates consistently at distances from 75 to 125 yards, you are ready.

Pronghorn country is wide open range.
Once you and your well-prepared rig get to the hunting area, take some time to look it over unless you are with someone who knows the area. Watch the animals. Pronghorns prefer to stick to familiar territory and will develop movement patterns. Ambush sites can be pinpointed along their travel routes, especially as they move to and from watering areas. Creeks, stock tanks and windmills are magnets for pronghorn in dry country where they are commonly found. Throw up a blind made from local material - sage brush beside a fence post will work - and get into it early the next morning. Wait and be still. Your chance to bag a great American game animal in a truly sporting manner will come along.

Just keep in mind that when hunting the speedy pronghorn, second shots are generally not an option, especially with black powder.

To read about or purchase, a Black Powder rifle, click here.

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