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The appeal of hunting with primitive weapons (also known as traditional weapons) has skyrocketed in recent years. Unquestionably much of this upsurge in popularity can be traced to one of the great wildlife conservation stories of the 20th century, the comeback of the whitetailed deer. In most parts of the country, and this is certainly true in the Carolinas, whitetail numbers are at all-time highs.

As a result, increasing numbers of sportsmen, finding deer too easy a quarry using modern weapons, have turned to archery or muzzleloading hunting. Also, responding to the demands of sportsmen along with taking steps which make good sense from a conservation standpoint, special primitive weapons seasons have been established for bow hunting and muzzleloading. With those seasons at hand in the Carolinas as well as in many other Southern states, a closer look at the nature of deer hunting with traditional weapons seems appropriate.Bow hunting, whether for deer or some other game, actually has many faces. Thanks to ongoing technological breakthroughs, the sport has advanced remarkably in the last generation. While a select group of hunters still shoot recurve bows, the compound bow is the weapon of choice for most of today's archery hunters. With finely tuned sighting systems, let-offs which do not require exceptional strength to draw and hold, trigger releases, string silencers, and an incredible array of accessories, modern archery has definitely gone high-tech.

On the other hand, there is no denying the fact that fine equipment notwithstanding, the bow hunter has to exhibit outstanding woodsmanship. He needs to come to grips with his quarry at distances of 20 to 25 yards, exhibit pinpoint accuracy, have Job-like patience, and understand just how critical stand placement can be. No matter how much the archer practices, drawing back on a nice buck is a far cry from target shooting in the back yard or making the rounds of a 3D course.

MUZZLELOADING In a fashion quite similar to archery, muzzleloading guns have made remarkable strides forward. Many of today's muzzleloaders, with features such as rifled barrels, scope mounts, inline ignition systems, and the ability to shoot Pyrodex pellets are a far cry from the frontier flintlock. One man, a true genius among gunmakers, deserves a giant's share of the credit for these breakthroughs. Tony Knight of Modem Muzzeloading has given hunters in-line ignition, the new T-Bolt rifle, guns which are easily disassembled for cleaning purposes, and much more.

As a result, the hunter using a top-grade muzzleloader can achieve remarkable accuracy. This means clean kills, the ability to execute telling shots at distances which were once unthinkable, and realistic expectations of success afield. Indeed, some traditionalists scoff at many of today's muzzleloaders, suggesting that about the only difference in them and modern guns is the manner in which they are loaded and the fact that they offer but a single shot.

In truth though, those differences, along with a number of others which are conveniently overlooked, require a number of extra skills on the part of the muzzleloading hunter. He must keep his powder and primer dry. Rather than having his bullets made for him, he must carefully measure the proper charge, seat it properly in the gun, and make sure everything is in readiness. Likewise, the fact that only one shot is available obviously places a premium on shot selection. With a bolt-action or semi-automatic rifle, the hunter will sometimes take a shot which is a bit ``iffy' because he knows that another will be available should he miss. With a muzzleloader, that final squeeze of the trigger is an all-or-nothing move.

Nor should the fact that muzzleloaders require particular care be overlooked. Full and careful cleaning after every use is a must, and careful attention to the various accessories in the muzzeloader's ``possibles' bag likewise necessitates special attention.

Unquestionably traditional hunting is more difficult and has lower expectations of success. However, it cultivates a closer acquaintance with and understanding of one's quarry, fosters better woodsmanship, and brings a special sense of reward when one takes a deer (or other game). Those are considerations to keep in mind as you go afield this fall or if you are considering joining the mushrooming ranks of primitive hunters.

N.C. INFORMATION Most sportsmen living in the Greensboro area focus their deer hunting in either the Northwestern or Central zones. The bow and arrow season in both began on September 7. It continues through November 7 in the Central zone and through November 14 in the Northwestern one. Muzzleloading season is November 9-14 in the Central zone and November 16-21 for the Northwestern area. For those who hunt in other parts of the state, details on seasons, along with maps showing the counties in each area, can be found in the 1998-99 Regulations Digest. Hunters also need to remember tagging and reporting regulations for deer, and careful study of the regulations in general is highly recommended. They assure full understanding of and compliance with game laws along with offering information which may direct sportsmen to new hunting areas or allow them to enjoy special hunting opportunities.


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