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Hunting Maryland’s Bow and Blackpowder Seasons

Editor’s Note: Mossy Oak Pro Roy Butler lives right outside of Westminster, Maryland, and has taken as many as 30 deer in a season, but now he only harvests 2 - 5. If you're a bowhunter, a blackpowder hunter or a gun hunter, Maryland offers plenty of opportunities to fill your freezer. Many areas of Maryland have a severe overpopulation of whitetails.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in the week, I probably spend more time scouting than I do hunting. Before the season starts, I like to get out and try to at least find two bucks I want to harvest during the season. There's a clean lane that runs for about 1/2-mile right behind my house. On both sides of that lane are soybean and corn fields. During the hour just before dark, most of the deer we plan to hunt will be coming out into those crop fields. So, before deer season starts, I’ll walk down that lane with my binoculars and start looking for a buck I want to take.

I like to start bowhunting the first day of bowhunting season on September 1 each year. I'm very conscious of scent control. When I'm hunting or just scouting, I wear my ScentLok suit (http://www.scentlok.com), and I spray down with some type of odor killer. Then when blackpowder deer season comes in, I’ll hunt with my blackpowder rifle. Generally, I don’t hunt the field edges, because that’s where most of the other hunters hunt. Most often, I’ll hunt from a tree stand in the woods. During the early muzzleloader season, crops are still standing in the field. Although soybeans and corn are planted in our section of the state, corn is probably the most-dominant crop. When the deer get out in the standing corn fields, they're invisible. In the late blackpowder season, I’ll hunt the field edges, because the corn already has been cut. Then the deer are moving out into the fields to feed.

I can take deer with my blackpowder rifle out to about 150 yards. I shoot an old Remington 700 inline muzzleloader (http://www.remington.com). I use a Remington saboted bullet with 80 grains of Pyrodex powder. (I put a 50 grain and 30 grain Pyrodex pellet below my bullet to give me 80 grains of Pyrodex powder). When I first started shooting this rifle, I just had changed over from a Traditions sidelock. I poured blackpowder into the sidelock and shot it. I wasn’t really big on measuring powder back then. After buying the Remington inline, I went out to the rifle range, and I was pretty disappointed with the groups I was shooting. Of course, I didn’t have much education on what size bullet to shoot or how much powder to use.

A fellow at the range watched me shoot. Finally, he came over and said, “I think you want to back down on the amount of powder you're shooting.” At that time, I was probably loading 130 to 150 grains of loose powder. That rifle would kick like a young mule. The fellow told me, “Keep backing down on the amount of powder you're loading, until you start shooting the size of groups you want to shoot.” So when I got down to 80 grains, I was shooting 3-inch groups at 100 yards, and I thought this was pretty good. Then, I changed over to the Pyrodex pellets. Before I loaded the bullet, I put a 50 grain pellet and a 30 grain pellet in the barrel, and I haven’t changed since then. I'm using a Leupold 3-9X variable scope (http://www.leupold.com) and still getting really-good groups from that old gun. So, whether you're a bowhunter or a blackpowder hunter, you shouldn’t have any problem coming to Maryland and taking deer and not see very many hunters. Of course, you can take deer in Maryland with a modern rifle, but you'll see more hunters and have to hunt deer that have had a lot of hunting pressure.

At this writing in late July, our bucks are just starting to grow their antlers. I've already seen two bucks that really have large bodies. I plan on watching them until the beginning of archery season. If I've guessed right, they should score between 120 and 140 inches. I’ll definitely be watching these two bucks as they continue to grow their antlers. However, just because I see those bucks doesn’t mean I'm the one that will get to take them. Just about every year, I’ll pick-out bucks before the season that I’d like to take during the upcoming season. I've hunted this same property for about 11 years. Then when the season comes in, I've only been able to take three of the bucks that I've seen before the season.

There's a piece of property behind the land Mike Monteleone and I hunt that’s well-managed and hunted for older-age-class bucks. If I'm not lucky enough to take a buck I really want on the property I’m hunting during archery season, the hunters on the land behind Mike and me will take that buck. That’s why I hunt the archery season, because no one on the other property hunts during archery season. Therefore, I feel I have a better chance of taking those good bucks before the other hunters start hunting.

Yesterday: Funnel Areas and Pinch Points
Tomorrow: Deer Backup Plan

Jul 30, 2015

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