Above - Traditions .50 Caliber VORTEK Ultra Light LDR With 3-9x Hi-Lux Optics TB-ML Muzzleloader Hunting Scope

               Discrimination Still Haunts Modern Muzzleloading 

     That buck above was taken on a cold late afternoon hunt back in November of 2014.  I was hunting the edge of a large river bottom hayfield in the Missouri River Breaks of central Montana.  The deer had eased to the edge of a large stand of cottonwood trees, to check out a half dozen does feeding a hundred or so yards out into the open field.  The buck was partially hidden behind the huge trunk of one of those trees, which I quickly took a laser rangefinder reading on - 138 yards. 

     The Traditions .50 caliber VORTEK Ultra Light LDR rifle and 3-9x40mm Hi-Lux Optics scope riding on top had been sighted in with a 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 and Harvester Muzleloading saboted 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullet ... to print right at 1 1/2-inches high at 100 yards.  And ... at the distance of the buck ... I knew the rifle and load would be right at "Dead On"!  The rifle was resting on one of the great Bog-Pod folding tripod rests, allowing me to keep the crosshairs on the forward edge of the facing shoulder for a full five minutes ... then the deer stepped forward into the tall, but sparse, grass - exposing the full forward half of the whitetail.  The crosshairs settled right along the rear edge of the shoulder ... and I gently applied pressure on the trigger.  The rifle bellowed loudly ... and my buck went down on the spot. 

     All through the previous summer, this rifle had served as one of my primary test rifles, and through the warmer months, I had easily put close to 1,000 rounds through this VORTEK Ultra Light LDR.  Thanks to the great optics of the 3-9x Hi-Lux scope, the rifle and load kept most three-shot hundred yard groups right at an inch across when the holes were measured "center-to-center".  At the muzzle of the modern in-line rifle's 30-inch barrel, that sleek polymer tipped 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullet was exiting at an average of 2,014 f.p.s. - with right at 2,700 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.  Out at about 140-yards, where the buck was standing ... that bullet was still flying at around 1,700 f.p.s. and drove home with just over 1,900 foot-pounds of retained energy.  With perfect shot placement ... it's understandable why the buck dropped where it stood.

                                        Cooper .50 Caliber Model 22ML With Hi-Lux Optics 3-9x Copy Of the USMC Vietnam Era M40 Sniper Scope

     The buck in the photo directly above was taken with a Cooper Firearms of Montana .50 caliber Model 22ML ... at 223 yards. To make up a little for the shorter 26-inch .50 caliber barrel, the load consisted of 120-grains of Blackhorn 209, and the saboted 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold.  At the muzzle, the load is good for 2,009 f.p.s. - and 2,685 f.p.e.  Out at 200 yards, the rifle and load is still good for 1,452 f.p.s. and right at 1,410 f.p.e.  Standing at 228 yards, this 6x6 whitetail buck was hit by a bullet still flying at nearly 1,400 f.p.s. and with just over 1,300 foot-pounds of knockdown power.  Using a hold at the top of the back, my shot drove home just above center shoulder ... and, again, the deer dropped on the spot.

     This is exactly the kind of performance which has made the modern in-line ignition in-line rifles so popular with muzzleloading hunters across the country.  In fact, today close to 90-percent of all muzzleloading hunters in the United States now hunt with a muzzle-loaded rifle of ultra modern design ... shooting an equally modern projectile ... and a hot new black powder substitute.  Instead of relying on the 200+ year old percussion cap for providing fire for ignition, today's modern-minded muzzleloading hunter has turned to much hotter modern shotgun and rifle primers.  And where legal, you can rest assured that an extremely high percentage of those rifles are topped with a precision rifle scope for positive and more precise shot placement.

     Unfortunately, we continue to have a small number of state game departments which are, sadly, "Muzzleloader Ignorant!"  Yet, they maintain a choke hold on regulations which PREVENT the muzzleloading hunters in those states from actually hunting with the most efficient, most effective muzzleloading rifles ... sights ... and loads which can and will put larger game down quicker and more cleanly ... with noticeably less wound loss.  The new NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING pages at this new web address will spotlight the states which enforce such regulations.

     Following is our challenge to those state game agencies which openly discriminate against the muzzleloading hunter who cannot see open sights well enough to use them.  Any "No Scopes" regulation during the muzzleloader seasons violates the rights of those hunters - preventing them from being able to participate in those hunts.

                                             Pedersoli Copy Of An 1850's Long Range Bullet Rifle With Hi-Lux Copy Of An 1850's Telescopic Rifle Sight 

            Revisiting The Illegal Prohibition Of Scopes During A Muzzleloading Big Game Season

     Can you imagine the uproar among "modern center-fire rifle" big game hunters if suddenly one segment, one faction, of all big game hunters suddenly demanded that telescopic rifle sights (a.k.a. "SCOPES") be made illegal for ANYONE to use during the "general" big game hunting seasons?

     As ludicrous as that may sound, such "legislation" by the lawmakers of any state would be no different than the same laws, or "regulations", which still prohibit ANYONE from using a scope (a.k.a. "TELESCOPIC RIFLE SIGHT") during the muzzleloader big game seasons or hunts held in a handful of states.

     Back in 2006, there were 15 states which still totally banned the use of a rifle scope during the muzzleloader seasons. NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING contacted the game departments in those states to inquire "WHY" those states denied the muzzleloading hunter the opportunity to use a sighting system which insured better shot placement, which in turn would insure a quicker and cleaner kill. We also pointed out that for many older hunters with some slight sight impairment, a rifle scope allowed quite a few of those hunters one last opportunity to positively identify the "target" as the game being hunted ... and not another hunter or person out enjoying the outdoors ... before pulling the trigger.

     Fewer than half of the state game departments contacted even bothered to answer back.  Some admitted that the "open sights only" rule during their state's muzzleloader big game season (or seasons) was intended to limit the "range" a hunter would attempt a shot. Most alluded to the "state's" desire to keep their muzzleloading season purely a "traditional muzzleloader hunting opportunity".  Several of those responding (usually a division chief) showed their real ignorance of both muzzleloading and rifle scope development ... by claiming, in one way or another, that "rifle scopes were not used on original muzzleloading rifles."   Which is false ... magnifying optical rifle sights were in use during the late 1830's ... saw considerable refinement during the 1840's ... and were in widespread use on long-range muzzle-loaded bullet rifles during the 1850's.

                                     Above - Circa 1840's Edwin Wesson Muzzleloading Rifle With Same Period Morgan James Telescopic Rifle Sight

     Immediately, I realized that getting scopes legalized during the muzzleloader seasons in those states which had "outlawed" them was going to be a tough battle. It's hard to rationalize with those who are regulating something they are totally ignorant of ... and are too damned bull headed to accept the truth. I knew taking on each and every one of those state game departments would be an impossible task. I had to find a way to get the federal government involved.

     Every state game department in the United States partakes in the imbursement of the federal excise taxes collected on firearms, ammo, and fishing & hunting equipment ... known as the Pittman-Robertson Funds. Depending on the size of the state ... the number of sportsmen in the state ... the amount of Pittman-Robertson taxes collected ... wildlife habitat work being conducted ... the amount of public lands in a state ... and a few other factors ... each state game and fish agency ANNUALLY receives from about $10-million to as much as $30-million FEDERALLY COLLECTED TAX DOLLARS.

     All of this is coordinated through the parent agency of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ... the U.S. Department of the Interior.

                                                               Above - CVA .50 Caliber Accura V2 LR With Hi-Lux Optics 2-10x Pentalux TAC-V Scope

      Back in late summer of 2006, after spending a couple of weeks going through all of the Department of the Interior requirements for a state to receive ANY federal funding, I found exactly what I needed. So, I sat down and spent most of a day drafting a detailed letter to, then, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne ... who had previously been the governor of one of the states listed in my "Letter of Complaint" ... before being appointed Secretary of the Interior. That state was Idaho.

     The letter simply pointed out that the manner in which state game departments denied muzzleloading hunters with even a slight sight impairment the ability to participate in the muzzleloader seasons was a clear and intentional act of discrimination ... wholly orchestrated to keep them from hunting those special "muzzleloader seasons". It then shared with the Secretary of the Interior that the agency's discrimination policy clearly states that ANY form of discrimination by any agency ... organization ... or individual DISQUALIFIED such from receiving any federal funding.

     In the letter, I accused the state game departments which prohibited hunters from using a rifle scope during the "muzzleloader seasons" of enforcing a discriminatory regulation ... and asked for the DOI to withhold the disbursement of Pittman-Robertson money to those state agencies until they amended those regulations ... to allow ALL muzzleloading hunters to participate in those muzzleloader seasons.

     My neighbor at that time was a former Missouri State Senator, and I took the letter over for him to read ... just to insure I had properly addressed the issue, and presented the course of action needed. He read it, smiled and handed it back, stating ... "That's one fine letter ... but you'll probably never hear back from them. That's how they tend to operate ... how to ignore real issues."

     A copy of the letter was also sent to the directors of each of those 15 state game departments - and all were listed in the "CC:" field at the bottom of the letter.  Just a week later, much to my surprise, I received an answer from the Department of the Interior. They had accepted my "Letter of Complaint"... and instructed each of the state game departments listed to answer the complaint within 30 days - to the Interior Department and to me.

                                                         Above - Thompson Center Arms .50 Strike With Hi-Lux Optics 1.5-6x Buck Country Scope

    Within two years, four of the states adopted the use of rifle scopes during their muzzleloader seasons ... and to maintain the receipt of Pittman-Robertson funds, the other 11 were mandated to provide a "special permit" exemption for any hunter with a the vision or impairment that prevented them to shoot and hunt with open sights.

     My contention is, that to "require" the sight impaired hunter to undergo physical examination by an ophthalmologist, at that shooter's own expense, then have to apply for a "special permit" to use a scope during a muzzleloader season ... IS STILL DISCRIMINATION! The Department of the Interior's discrimination policy has specifically stated that any agency, organization, business or individual requiring ANYONE to qualify for anything "IN A DIFFERENT MANNER" ... is discrimination.

     For the Department of the Interior to continue disbursing federal funds, Pittman Robertson or otherwise, to states making sight impaired muzzleloading hunters to jump through this "hoop" means that the DOI is in violation of its own discrimination policy. It's time to put an end to such stupid restrictions.  What are your thoughts? - Toby Bridges, NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING

If You Live In One Of The States With "No Scope" Muzzleloader Hunting Regulations ... And You Have Less Than Perfect Eyesight ... And You Require The Use Of A Scope In Order to Hunt The Muzzleloader Season In That State ... Drop Us An E-mail At The Following Address ... And Share With Us How That Regulation Has Affected Your Participation In That Hunting Season - 


Note ... The scopes shown on each of the rifles in each of the above photos DO NOT make those rifles shoot any faster ... harder ... or farther.  Those scopes just allow the shooter to do a better job of precisely placing his or her shot, for a cleaner ... quicker ... more humane harvest of the game being hunted.  That should always be a primary goal for every ethical hunter.  One has to question the ethics ... the real agenda ... of any game department which would make it mandatory for hunters to use anything that is far less than optimal for making such shots. 

                                                                                                                            Published 3-1-19   

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