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5 Awesome Muzzleloader Tips for Ultimate Success in High Winds

Don't take a shot in the dark; employ these muzzleloader shooting tips to make a shot in the wind.

5 Awesome Muzzleloader Tips for Ultimate Success in High Winds

Muzzleloader shouldered, the author cautiously works his way to his hide, a ground blind overlooking a vast Oklahoma landscape.

Fire flashed from the tip of the muzzleloader barrel, which extended out of the small window of the steel blind I was using as my hide. However, the 10-point buck – my intended target – did not react to the shot. I had missed it!

Frantically, I reloaded the Traditions Firearms Nitrofire muzzleloader – the breech-loaded Federal Premium Firestick charge sped the process considerably. Once again, I leveled the gun and surveyed my surroundings, searching for the buck. To my amazement, the buck still stood in the same spot, unscathed…

An Oklahoma Muzzleloader Adventure

The 12-hour drive from my Arizona residence to Cheyenne, Oklahoma, provided time for me to daydream about the many possibilities of my first muzzleloader hunt in the Sooner state. Like sugar plums on Christmas eve, visions of giant whitetail bucks danced in my head. My thoughts were focused on the positive, and I neglected to assess the adverse impacts that might arise, like how the weather might affect deer movement and shot-making during the hunt.

Storm clouds brew over a western Oklahoma landscape.
A view of storm clouds building over the author’s hide, endless sage flats, plum thickets, and sparsely scattered hardwoods.

I was hunting with an outfitter, Greg Allen, owner of Bend of the River Outfitters, and top guide, Josh Keith. I arrived in camp late on the opening day of muzzleloader season. Over dinner, the three of us discussed stand locations for the morning hunt. We also checked the local weather forecast. A storm was inbound, bringing with it strong winds. Gusts over 30 mph were predicted. Collectively, we decided on a stand location based on the data and then headed to bed. Early the following day, we awoke to strong winds, as predicted, as well as periodic, substantial rain.


The Hunt Begins

In the cover of darkness, I made it to my hide overlooking an expanse of sage fields and plum thickets. There were a few clumps of hardwoods mixed in and a feeder directly to my east. When there was enough available light, I ranged the distance to the feeder. The reading was 111 yards. Through the viewfinder, I noticed movement. There was already a mature 10-point buck at the feeder. Unfortunately, it was several minutes until legal shooting light.

Shortly after that, the buck left. During the morning sit, the only other deer I saw were a couple of does running in the distance.

A hunter shoulders his muzzleloader for a shot.
Offhand shots with a muzzleloader at any distance are ill-advised. For ultimate shot-making success, stabilize the muzzleloader at two points, even if the back point is the body.

After a short lunch break back at camp, I was back in the same blind early that afternoon. Propped in the corner of the blind was the Traditions muzzleloader, topped with a Bushnell Banner 2 3-9x40. With time to kill, I decided to revisit my ballistics using the Bushnell Ballistics App. At first glance, the windage holds at longer distances were easy to see. However, the windage hold at a little over 100 yards while faced with 30 mph winds was more challenging to see and comprehend.


/Aiming points in the Bushnell ballistic app.
The author faced extreme winds, as shown by the aiming points generated by the Bushnell ballistic app.

After further investigation, I realized that at maximum gust (over 30 mph), even my chosen .50 caliber 350-grain Federal Premium B.O.R. LOCK MZ bullet might drift up to one foot at that distance. Fast-forward to the events later that day, and I realized that even though I had reviewed my ballistics, I had missed because I failed to recognize and account for the circumstances. Above all else, I hadn’t compensated my aim for the strong crosswind.

A hunter measures distance with the aid of a rangefinder.
Knowing the exact distance to the target is paramount for shot-making, especially with a muzzleloader in windy conditions.

5 Muzzleloader Shooting Tips for Extreme Winds

Although some states categorize muzzleloaders as primitive weapons, modern muzzleloaders are far from primitive. Many muzzleloaders on the market can shoot extremely long distances, especially when coupled with a quality riflescope (where legal) and a capable shooter.




/A riflescope and muzzleloader paired and leveled.
The first step to achieving accuracy is ensuring a sighting optic is firmly mounted and leveled with the muzzleloader.

Still, hunting with a muzzleloader has its challenges. Before you go afield, ensure your muzzleloader setup is ready by firmly mounting and leveling the riflescope (if one is to be used) and sighted properly. Once this step is complete, the following tips should be considered for the best results in the field, especially when winds are extreme.

  • Know the Ballistics of the Muzzleloader

Not all muzzleloaders are the same, nor are their ballistics. Several variables, including barrel length, powder charge, bullet weight and coefficient, contribute to the ballistic equation. To understand and assess bullet flight and performance downrange, use an online ballistic calculator or mobile app.

  • Know the Range

While modern muzzleloaders can propel projectiles at speeds well over 2,000 fps, a change of 50-100 yards in target distance requires a drastically different aim. Regardless of the aiming method used, holdover, ballistic reticle or manual turret adjustment, knowing the precise distance of your target is paramount. In extreme winds, limit shot distance substantially, no matter what distances you feel comfortable shooting in pristine conditions. Carry a rangefinder capable of acquiring distance readings within your set shooting parameters.

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  • Ensure Proper Aiming Holds

Knowing your bullet’s ballistics is only half the battle. Once you know and understand your muzzleloader setup’s ballistics, be sure also to understand how to aim correctly with your chosen method (i.e., holdover, ballistic reticle, or manual turret adjustment). On shot set up, pay close attention and ensure your aim accounts for elevation and windage.

  • Create a Solid Rest

Taking an offhand shot with a muzzleloader at any range is ill-advised. The more points of the muzzleloader that are supported increases your chance of success. At a minimum, ensure a solid front rest. For some, using the shoulder as a back rest will suffice. However, if you are like me, having a rock-solid back rest increases success exponentially. This is more crucial when wind speeds are severe.

  • Make the Shot Count

Missing a shot opportunity on a trophy buck is far better than missing or making a poor, non-fatal shot on the same buck. Regardless of how proficient of a shooter you are, it’s easy to panic and become flustered as buck fever sets in during the heat of the moment. The most successful hunters (and shooters) I know can overcome these obstacles following a set shot routine.

For success, take a couple of deep breaths to calm your nerves, removing the buck fever as much as possible. On the second breath, exhale slowly while aiming. Near the end of the second breath, hold the remaining breath, finalize your aim – account for any necessary elevation and windage adjustments – and squeeze the trigger.

An Oklahoma Muzzleloader Buck

Luckily, I remembered to employ all my muzzleloader shooting tips on my second attempt. The catalyst for the redeeming shot was my review of my ballistics during the midday lull. The realization that the bullet might drift as much as one foot at 111 yards – from a 30 mph, 90-degree crosswind – helped me correct the aim on the second shot. Additionally, I added my tripod under the buttstock of the muzzleloader, which provided a rock-solid rest.

An Oklahoma muzzleloader hunter with a successful harvest.
Given a second chance, the author used his tips, harvesting a mature Oklahoma whitetail with his muzzleloader.

Although legal shooting light was waning rapidly, I settled my nerves and carefully aimed the reticle to account for the severe wind by adjusting it right as the buck faced left. At 111 yards, I used the ballistic reticle’s crosshair. In concert with my breathing, I took final aim and squeezed the trigger. This time, the buck reacted, and I was confident the buck was fatally hit. After approximately 30 minutes and a 150-yard tracking job, Josh and I confirmed the hit. Using the tips above, I harvested my first Sooner state muzzleloader whitetail buck on my second chance.

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