Primitive-weapons regulations have been a subject of blistering debate in almost every state in the country. The controversy revolves around the true meaning and definition of a "primitive weapon."
Because of the superior ignition systems of in-line muzzleloaders, some critics argue that they have crossed the line on what is regarded as a primitive weapon. When you add the topic of using a scope as opposed to iron sights, the debate gets even more heated.
Some of these same critics argue that the Magnolia State crossed the line in 2005 when it redefined the definition of a primitive weapon by including breechloading rifles as legal firearms for deer. Like it or not, this new law appears to be anchored with public support. Deer hunters in Mississippi were very open to the change in the law, and the sale of related weapons has progressively increased over the last few years.
The Mississippi Outdoor Digest, published by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, includes the following addition in the General Hunting Regulations and Requirements section under Primitive Weapons: "In addition to muzzleloading firearms described above, single-shot, breechloading, metallic cartridge rifles, .38 caliber or larger, of a kind and type manufactured prior to 1900, and replicas, reproductions or a re-introduction of those type rifles are legal during the special primitive weapons seasons, provided the rifle has an exposed hammer. Metallic cartridges may be loaded with either black powder or modern smokeless powder (cartridges purchased at sporting goods stores)."
Additionally, the regulations state: "Telescopic sights are allowed while hunting with any primitive firearm during the primitive weapons season. A telescopic sight is defined as an optical sighting device with any magnification."
Since Mississippi has one of the highest whitetail densities per square mile in North America, and since the number of hunters in the field has been falling nationwide in recent years, this new law was intended to increase opportunities for hunters to enjoy deer hunting during the primitive weapons season. Obviously, the real goal was to increase the number of hunters in the field during that season, which in turn would increase the total deer harvest.
Another reason Mississippi deer hunters have embraced this new addition to the primitive weapons definition of the law is the fact that several wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the state are only open to primitive weapons during the deer hunting season. These WMAs are either in populated areas or their size is not conducive to using high-velocity centerfire weapons. So the new law actually offers additional primitive weapons hunting locations to hunters.
Having long been a fanatical deer hunter with a preference for using primitive weapons, I did some research on the differences in muzzle velocity (fps) and energy (ft./lbs.) between my .50-caliber Knight Rolling Block in-line smokepole and the Knight KP1 Wurfflein in .45-70 Government. (Both of these weapons are legal during the primitive weapon season in Mississippi).
My .50-caliber muzzleloader loaded with a Barnes PBT (Polymer Boat Tailed) sabot bullet and 150 grains of Triple Seven pellets has a muzzle velocity of 1,944 fps and 2,434 ft./lbs. of energy. The Knight KP1 Wurfflein in the .45-70 Government caliber centerfire loaded with Hornady's LeverRevolution ammo has a 325-grain polymer tipped bullet that leaves the muzzle at 2,050 fps with 3,032 ft./lbs. of energy.
As you can see, very little difference exists between the two weapons, certainly not enough to make a dramatic difference in killing power. The only real difference between the two weapons that I see, but one I personally appreciate, is that the .45-70 is much easier to clean after a hunt!
During the past few years, I've hunted the primitive weapons season in Mississippi a number of times. I've always hunted with Lifetime Hunts LLC and I've always used a muzzleloader. Lifetime Hunts runs its whitetail operation on Brookson Plantation, located near Macon, Mississippi. Being one of the largest single parcels of land in the entire state, this old Southern plantation consists of over 10,000 acres, and it is strictly managed for quality whitetail hunting. I've enjoyed some great hunts and some true Southern hospitality with this outfitter over the years.
MAKING IT AN ADVENTURE
Last season I contacted plantation manager Dale Grissom and made arrangements to hunt the last week of the primitive weapons season in December 2007. I also told Dale that I planned to use my new Knight KP1 Wurfflein in .45-70 Government on this hunt instead of a muzzleloader because it was legal in the state and I thought it would be something really different. Actually, I'd never hunted whitetails with a weapon chambered in .45-70, so this would be a first.
Using a rifle steeped in tradition following the grand traditions of gun makers T.M. Wallis and W. Wurfflein of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, really intrigued me. While the original patent is over 100 years old, it is still timeless in its simplicity and function. This original "tip-up" rifle, when coupled with modern technology, would make for a shooting experience I wouldn't soon forget.
Upon arriving at the plantation, I unpacked my gear and immediately headed out to the rifle range to shoot my .45-70. After changing airplanes several times, I wasn't about to take a chance. Needless to say, I was extremely pleased when my rifle shot a 1-inch group (three shots) at 100 yards. I was more than ready to get out for an afternoon hunt.
Unfortunately, the temperature had hovered in the 70s for the last few days and buck movement was not good. However, it was supposed to get much colder. Mid-December was the time for the rut to kick into full swing, and Dale said that the dip in temperatures should get the bucks moving and that hopefully we'd see them out chasing the does.
Over the next few days, I hunted out of several different shooting houses. Because of the warm temperatures, however, I saw only does, smaller bucks and a lot of turkeys. One afternoon I did see a few wild hogs on the way to my stand, and I was able to anchor one of them with a shot through both shoulders.
HUNTIN' WEATHER AT LAST
Cold weather finally arrived on the last morning of my hunt. I decided to hunt over a green field in hopes that the bucks would be on the prowl looking for does, as that is where the does would be feeding. It was at least a half an hour before shooting light when I settled into a shooting house and a smaller buck promptly came into the field and checked out several of the does that were out feeding.
I really liked my setup. The shooting house overlooked a green field to the right, and there was thick cover just in front of my position. Deer walking into the field from the deeper cover were making trails in the frost that had settled on the vegetation. To the left lay a small pond with thick cover behind it. The pond's edge was literally covered in deer tracks. The area had been experiencing drought conditions, so this watering hole was being heavily used. It seemed like a perfect setup for seeing a good buck.
When the sun peeked over the horizon, 15 deer were in the field, mostly does. As the sun climbed higher, the deer started moving back into the cover to bed down. Half an hour later the field was empty. Time was ticking away, and I started to feel that the hunt was over and that I would not see a decent buck on this trip.
LAST MINUTE ACTION
At about 10 a.m., however, just 30 minutes before Dale was supposed to pick me up from the morning sit, I suddenly caught movement in the corner of my eye on the far side of the pond to my left. I turned my head and saw that it was a very good buck! He was moving slowly along the edge of the pond close to the thick cover. I quickly ranged him at 147 yards with my rangefinder. I moved into position, poked my rifle out of the window of the shooting house and put the cross hairs behind his shoulder.
I followed him with my rifle, waiting for him to stop moving. I sensed that at any moment he might step back into the thick cover and disappear from my sight. Just two steps from the cover he stopped. He was turned quartering away, and I instantly squeezed the trigger. My KP1 roared, and I could hear the crack of the hard hit from the bullet. He lunged into the air, kicked his back feet out and jumped into the cover out of sight. My heart was pounding, and I was literally shaking with excitement. I knew he was hit very hard.
Immediately I climbed out of the shooting house, loaded another round in my KP1, put both safeties back on and walked around the pond to where he had entered the cover. There I found a good blood trail where he had entered the cover. He had run less than 25 yards and expired. What a beautiful mature animal with a heavy, wide 9-point rack! I was extremely proud of this animal and thanked the dear Lord for watching over me on this hunt. He was at least a 140-inch buck, and that is a good buck anywhere, but especially in Mississippi!
The next time you want to try something different, head to the Magnolia State and go primitive with one of these pre-1900 calibers in a legal breechloading rifle. It's a hoot!
(Editor's Note: For more information on Mississippi's primitive weapons season, contact the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks at 601-432-2400 or go online to www.mdwfp.com. For information about Lifetime Hunts call 662-726-9223 or go online to www.lifetimehuntsllc.com.)