Legacy of the Longhunters

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The muzzleloading rifle means more than an extra hunting season—it’s a tradition that lives in those who accept a greater challenge.

by the HuntDaily staff

We hunters are a romantic lot. Our senses stir at the smell of fresh-fallen leaves warming in the brilliant October sun. Our blood boils as we slip silently through the fields and forests, answering the predatory drives vibrating in our DNA.

The need to hunt sits firmly inside us. Is it any wonder, then, that we take the difficult paths, seeking challenges that test and affirm our alpha-predator status?

Were this not so, it is possible that one of our choice hunting tools, the muzzleloading rifle, would most certainly have gone the way of the spear and the atlatl.

Hunting with a muzzleloading rifle is a challenge welcomed by those who wish to perfect their hunting skills, and who appreciate hunting with a weapon not unlike that of the early pioneers. The National Muzzle Loader Rifle Association is a fraternity of men and women who are passionate about preserving the rich heritage of muzzleloader rifle shooting and hunting, and is dedicated to helping its members preserve this uniquely American tradition.
Hunting with a muzzleloading rifle is a challenge welcomed by those who wish to perfect their hunting skills, and who appreciate hunting with a rifle not unlike that of the early pioneers. The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association is a fraternity of men and women who are passionate about preserving the rich heritage of muzzleloader rifle shooting and hunting, and are dedicated to helping its members promote this uniquely American tradition. [photo courtesy Traditions Firearms]
Fortunately, the muzzleloading rifle is with us today. For those of us who hunt with a muzzleloader, this comes as no surprise. This rifle secured our independence and fed a nation. It allowed our pioneering ancestors—the “longhunters”—to push through the Cumberland Gap, to the Mississippi, and beyond. As late as the early part of the 20th century, the muzzleloader survived as an essential hunting tool in remote pockets of the country, where legacy rifles from wars and pioneers past continued to feed and protect families—from the darkest Appalachian hollows to the Ozarks, the Rockies, and points west.

Still, the survival of the muzzleloader into the 21st century can be credited to a small group of dedicated front-loader enthusiasts who were passionate about preserving the craft of making, shooting, and hunting with these functional works of art. In short, the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA) helped ensure that the tradition and heritage of the American muzzleloading rifle would live in the hearts and hands of the generations to come.

One of the many benefits of belonging to the National Muzzle Loader Rifle Association is the opportunity to join the Longhunter Society. This is an elite group of NMLRA members who have taken record-size North American big-game animals with a muzzleloader, such as John Russell with his 172 4/8 whitetail and Jamie Smith with her 177 6/8 mule deer. [photos courtesy of NMLRA]
One of the many benefits of belonging to the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association is the opportunity to join the Longhunter Society. This is an elite group of NMLRA members who have taken record-size North American big-game animals with a muzzleloader—members like John Russell with his 172 4/8 whitetail and Jamie Smith with her 177 6/8 mule deer. [photos courtesy of NMLRA]
But the NMLRA’s 1933 founding went far beyond the organization’s goals of nurturing the muzzleloader arts or ensuring the survival of the rifle for the rifle’s sake. Recreational hunting was on the upswing and fledgling departments of natural resources were trying to carve out various hunting seasons while promoting healthy game populations. Realizing that the establishment of a special hunting season for muzzleloading rifles would be key to the sport’s long-term growth and survival, the NMLRA became a powerful advocate for helping state game commissions create muzzleloader seasons. Because of that advocacy, we enjoy many muzzleloader-hunting opportunities today, and have a robust market that produces the quality rifles, propellants, and accessories we take to the field and range.

Even now, with the pressures from special interest groups to limit and even take away our rights to hunt and to own guns, the NMLRA defends against those who would eliminate our way of life. Recently, representatives of the NMLRA testified before the United Nations to keep antique guns and their replicas (the muzzleloaders we hunt with today) out of the scope of the Arms Trade Treaty. This is just one example of how the NMLRA works every day to protect our shooting and hunting heritage.

The special muzzleloader seasons we enjoy today didn’t just happen. Through the years, members of the National Muzzle Loader Rifle Association worked with state agencies across the country to set aside special seasons for all manner of big-game species. It is the continuing advocacy of the NMLRA and organizational support of hunters like us that will ensure a muzzleloader season is available for the generations who have yet to experience the thrill of hunting with this venerable weapon. [photo courtesy of NMLRA; Thomas Hackler, 178 4/8 whitetail]
The special muzzleloader seasons we enjoy today didn’t just happen. Through the years, members of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association have worked with state agencies across the country to set aside special muzzleloader seasons for all manner of big-game species. It is the continuing advocacy of the NMLRA and organizational support of hunters like us that will guarantee a muzzleloader season is available for the generations who have yet to experience the thrill of hunting with this venerable rifle. [photo courtesy of NMLRA; Thomas Hackler, 178 4/8 whitetail]
Muzzleloading is, of course, a heritage and an opportunity worth defending. If you are a muzzleloading hunter, you already know the magic of hunting later in the season. The woods are quiet—nature pausing hesitantly before the icy clutch of winter. Whitetails are in the post-rut phase, and the game has changed considerably now that centerfire season has passed. Many of us have forsaken our stands, preferring to stalk the dark woods for our quarry. We become closer to the animals we hunt, and the true spirit of the chase comes alive as we employ technology not unlike what our pioneering ancestors used. Whether you’re using a modern in-line muzzleloader or a patch-and-ball flintlock, you’re creating the load and priming the rifle that will make the kill. It is a challenge, to be sure, but one we welcome after the intensity of archery and rifle seasons.

Yet another benefit of the muzzleloading rifle can be found in states with “slug-gun-only” regulations. Here, muzzleloaders can be used in place of slug guns. And that’s a good thing, since muzzleloaders are more accurate than conventional slug guns.

old and new
Whether you utilize modern muzzleloader rifles or prefer to take “nostalgic technology” into the field, the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association has a place for you. [Jodie Calder (left), Charlie Wallingford (right).]
As you can see, the world of the muzzleloader offers much to both hunters and shooting enthusiasts who appreciate America’s muzzleloader heritage. You can do your part to ensure that the muzzleloading tradition continues for future generations by joining the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association today.

There are many benefits to becoming a NMLRA member. You will receive the monthly Muzzle Blasts magazine, which covers all aspects of the muzzleloading shooting sports, heritage, and hunting, as well as the opportunity to attend numerous local and national NMLRA events. You may even be eligible to become a member of the exclusive Longhunter Society by registering your qualifying trophies taken with a muzzleloader.

You can go here to see all of the many benefits that come with your NMLRA membership. But as longtime NMLRA members will tell you, membership is more than great benefits—it’s about being part of a dedicated fraternity of skilled gun makers, shooters, and hunters who accept the greater challenges, and receive the greater rewards, of the muzzleloader.

So don’t wait. Join the NMLRA today and do your part in preserving the heritage and legacy that is the American muzzleloading rifle. By becoming a member, you will join an elite group of hunters and shooters, and add your personal chapter to the ongoing story of the American muzzleloader.

SOURCE

National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association

 

Article copyright 2015 by HuntDaily.com; promoted by National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association

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