Having never meddled with a muzzleloader, I was moderately intimidated when I arrived in northwestern Oklahoma to help kick off the muzzleloader whitetail season 2 weeks ago. However, after 10 minutes at the shooting range, my concerns disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
The hunt was hosted by some of my friends from Thompson/Center and EOTech. Our six-man crew donned T/C Impact muzzleloaders topped with EOTech 512 holographic sights and G33 3X Magnifiers. We were stuffing our front-end loaders with two 50-grain Hodgdon Triple Seven pellets followed by a 300-grain T/C Shock Wave Super Glide sabot. It was an “old-meets-new” shooting combination—an intriguing setup, no doubt. But let’s get down to brass tacks: How did it perform?
Across the board, we were shooting 1- to 2-inch three-shot groups at 100 yards from the bench. Some of us shot from a Lead Sled, while myself and others simply rested our smoke-poles on sandbags. I found the Lead Sled to be unnecessary; I’d say the recoil was comparative to a 20-gauge slug sun—totally manageable. And as a muzzleloading rookie, it became immediately obvious that running one of these “primitive” firearms wasn’t so primitive after all. I was confident enough to head to a deer stand after just four reloads and practice shots from the Impact. Overall, it was a smooth-operating tack driver.
The action on the Chain Ranch was nonstop. During the nine sits and 30-plus collective hours I spent in box blinds, I saw deer every time. During the second evening of our 4 1/2-day hunt, a bachelor group of four fine bucks strutted single-file toward the wide-open killing field in front of me. After a couple tense minutes of deliberation, I set my sights on a heavy-racked 10-pointer.
As the smoke cleared, “my” buck ran one way while his cronies blazed a path into the opposite direction. I glassed my handsome buck as he stood in the timber 30 yards from where I had painted his vitals with the EOTech. Wobble and fall! Come on! Then, in what seemed like an instant, darkness settled in and I lost sight of him. A careful comb of the area that evening and a long search the next day revealed nothing. Plain and simple, I had missed. How? I’ll never know. The shot felt solid, but the buck survived without a scratch—an unsettling theory that turned into a sigh of confirming relief when my guide, Clint, sent me a text message the other day: “He’s alive and well, my friend.” A Cuddeback game cam image put my stomach-curdling uncertainty to rest.
On a redeeming note, among the great bucks in the sunset bachelor group was a tall-tined beast with a killer 6-inch drop tine. My friend, Jeff Puckett, tied his tag on this unique buck 2 evenings later from the same stand where I had failed to connect.
At a going rate of just over $200, I’ll be adding the ultra-accurate T/C Impact to my gun collection. And next time I shoulder it for a whitetail, I’ll make it count.