-by Kate Dugger- American freedom was proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence. It was protected and preserved by black powder weapons. Flintlock rifles and pistols defended our homes from the British and put food on the plates of the colonial troops.
The flintlock was not the first of its kind but it was the most widely used during the formation of our country and onward. These days wars are fought with much more sophisticated, faster, and destructive weapons. The likes of which George Washington could not have imagined.
Despite the advancement of rifles there are still people who prefer the challenge of more “primitive” weapons. Not on the battle field but during hunting season. Ken Asher is one of these sportsman. Asher started hunting when he was 10 years old. With several decades of hunting experience under his belt, Asher teaches the hunter safety course in Troy, Tennessee three times a year sponsored by the TWRA, and has done so for thirty years.
These days Asher hunts when deer season opens for bow and continues through muzzle loader season to the end of rifle season. “The opportunities are better.” The deer are more plentiful at the beginning and the competition thinner during bow and muzzleloader season vs. rifle season alone.
Last season Asher attempted to hunt in manner new to him, although the theory was familiar. Asher went hunting using a flintlock rifle. He even mixed his own powder. These days you can get muzzle loading rifles and load them with readymade pellets. You can even mount them with precision scopes. To Asher though this takes a lot of the challenge out of hunting with black powder.
With a traditional flintlock there are many variables to be considered. Whether you can hold the brace for your shot. If the delay is going to be too great to make the shot. Even if the weather will stay clear. When flintlock weapons were the weapon of choice in times of war, entire armies had to cease the fighting if it was raining because if the rifle charges couldn’t be ignited, what you had was a big poking stick.
On the morning of his first hunt, it was only about an hour before Asher caught sight of a herd of deer in a clearing some yards away. He watched and waited.
Patience paid off as a doe approached. She walked by and turned broadside to him. He took a moment to steady his weapon, making sure the shot would be a clean one. The shot rang out after a second’s delay between dropping the hammer and the ignition of the black powder charge. His target ran off.
Thinking he missed, Asher waited another thirty minutes. Using his rattle bag, he coaxed in a buck. Six points and 70-80 yards out. Switching to a grunt call, he lured the buck even closer. Again he pulled the trigger and waited for the shot. The buck flew in the direction of the other deer. Another miss.
During the last reload, the wooden ram rod to Asher’s rifle snapped. Tragic because that would be the end of his flintlock hunting adventure for the day. As he was getting ready to go home he noticed a good blood trail in the direction the buck had gone. At the end of it he found his buck. As luck would have it, less than thirty yards away lay his doe.
“It was kind of a unique morning, and it has me hooked,” he said.
Attempt number one with a black powder rifle had yielded better than expected results. Even with the degree of difficulty involved, Asher made two clean kills in one day with a weapon of subpar accuracy.
He will be hunting with his flintlock again this season, hoping for results as good as last year. Of course he is already making preparations to improve his method such as getting a good pair of safety glasses to shield his eyes when the flash goes off. Because there is always room to get better, practice is on the list before the opening day as well.
“It’s a rush like nothing else,” Asher said.