Frye: Flintlock deer season all about connectivity
I've never met a deer hunter who didn't think he was part Daniel Boone.
That's not a criticism.
We might or might not be as skilled as that pioneer woodsman. But we love the woods. We enjoy exploring wildlife and nature, and we thrill to the sight of deer over a flintlock rifle's open sights, just the same as he did.
That's good and worth preserving. And this is the time of year when that connection can seem most tangible.
Thanks for that goes to the tool.
Pennsylvania's flintlock deer season — the one where hunters carry guns with which Boone would have been familiar — opened Dec. 26. It continues through Jan. 13 statewide and through Jan. 27 in wildlife management units 2B, 5C and 5D.
It's special for a lot of reasons.
For starters, if you like to hunt in snow, this is the one season when that is fairly likely somewhere along the way if not throughout.
Flintlock season suits all styles, too.
If you prefer to hunt in groups, it's a great social opportunity. With the crowds gone — you won't find an orange hat and vest behind every tree — it's possible to put on drives and push deer to the people you intended.
And if you prefer solitude, the late season offers that, too.
Sitting in or under a tree, with a soft snow falling and seemingly no one else in the woods? Those are pretty special times.
Then there are the deer.
With the crush of the firearms deer season over, whitetails go back to their more normal routines. If you can find a food source now — when deer are trying to pack on calories before the worst of winter — the hunting can be surprisingly good.
A standing corn field with some good thermal cover nearby is hard to beat, for example.
But it's the flintlock itself that really sets the season apart. As firearms go, it's pretty romantic, isn't it?
That's not to say they're always easy (as if any romances are, totally).
This isn't a season when you just chamber a round in a rifle that no one's touched since last year and away you go.
There are some basics to understand, at a minimum.
When it comes to loading your rifle, you've got to load your powder — and know how much to get best results in your particular rifle — and then follow that with a lubricated patch and a ball.
“Powder, patch and ball and every deer will fall” is the phrase one friend uses to remind himself of the sequence every time afield.
Barrel powder should be 2F, which is larger and coarser. Pan powder should be 4F, which is smaller and finer.
Don't go crazy with the pan powder, though. Pile too much into the pan and it has to burn a bit — almost like a slow fuse — before it sets he barrel powder off.
A wider, shallower pile in the pan is better than a heaping one.
No matter what, all that powder has to stay dry.
Some hunters — especially in rain or snow — cover the end of their barrel with a balloon. They might also cover the frizzen and pan with a patch of rubber or at least tuck it under an arm.
Others don't even load their pan until a deer is in sight.
Whatever way you go, you've got to get a good spark. That means having a good flint and a frizzen that's free of rust.
It's not the flint but hot metal chips sliced from the frizzen by the flint, that ignites the powder. A sharp flint and smooth frizzen produces the most.
Even then, there's no guarantee the rifle will fire. That's just the nature of the game.
But, boy, what fun this late season is.
So enjoy it. And go get 'em. Boone would.