How To Sight-In Your Compound Bow

Archery is a hobby that requires a great deal of accuracy and skill, a steady hand and an even steadier aim. Yet, even the sharpest of eyes and the most deft of hands cannot truly compensate for improperly-handled equipment, especially in regards to shooting with a compound bow. Perhaps the most important part of assembling a compound bow is in properly mounting, or “sighting-in,” a bow, so as to ensure accuracy when using a bow’s scope, no matter the shooting conditions. Properly sighting-in a compound bow is not a difficult task, but it is a time-consuming one, and one that requires patience and care.

Before going ahead with any actual sighting-in, it would be wise to set aside a few days to work on your bow. Sighting-in can be completed in about 30 minutes to an hour, but that doesn’t mean it ought to be a “one-and-done” sort of thing. Making adjustments over the course of a few days is especially important if you plan on sighting-in a new or unused bow, so that you’ll have more time to break in the strings and other mechanical parts of the bow. These parts wear down with use, which affects how well a bow can aim and fire. Working with a bow for an extended period of time, making adjustments all the while, can really help with improving its performance in the long run.

Another thing one should look into when planning to sight-in a compound bow is setting up good targets for target-practice. It should be no surprise that one needs something to aim for and shoot at when practice-firing a bow, so investing in some quality bow targets will also be something to consider. Ideally, you will want your bow targets to be large and identifiable, something that can catch your arrows even if your aim is off (which it will be at first). Make sure it stands out from the environment you wish to shoot in, something you can easily spot from at least 40 feet. Also make sure you can easily remove your arrows from the target, as you won’t want to clutter them with previously shot arrows or their remnants. These targets will need to be set up at 10-foot, 20-foot, 30-foot, and 40-foot intervals before sighting-in a compound bow, as these often correspond to the pins on most bows. If your bow has different distance intervals for its pins, adjust the distance of your targets accordingly. With good quality targets set up properly, you’ll be ready to get into sighting-in proper.
How-To-Sight-In-Your-Compound-Bow
The actual sighting-in process involves making adjustments to the different pins on your bow, which control where and how the scope on your bow sits. Before sighting-in your bow, make sure your scope has been mounted on your bow for at least a few hours, as the scope will often need that amount of time to settle into the bow. With the scope properly settled and stationary, you will be able to make more accurate adjustments to it. Now, when first sighting-in your bow, have the scope pins set at their middlemost setting at first. This will make identifying whether to adjust them up or down easier. After this, you will need to position yourself in front of the target properly. Make sure your body is perpendicular to the intended target, your side to its face. Assuming the proper stance, you’ll be ready to fire off your bow.

Focus on hitting the closest target first, with the uppermost pin for aim. Your arrow will more than likely not hit exactly where the pin was indicating, probably hitting a little too high or low, a little too far left or right. Adjust the sight accordingly, first horizontally then vertically. In other words, if your first shot was a little too far to the left, and a little too high, tweak your sight towards the left until your shot at least lines up with the pin before moving on to vertical adjustments. For the Up and Down adjustments, you will need to move down to your next highest pin. Once this is done, and once you’re hitting the first target accurately, repeat these steps for the next targets. Your adjustments should be gradually getting more minute as you progress. By the end, you should only need to make very fine adjustments by moving the pins a bit, preferably with an Allen wrench.

It is important that you start off with the close-range adjustments first. Though these will more than likely change as you move downwards with your adjustments, these first tweaks will make those later ones much easier and more accurate.

As stated before, this process is best done repeatedly, over the course of a few days. The gradual wear and tear on the bow will also make it more accustomed to your shooting style, and soon the bow will be sufficiently aligned with your body and strength. Taking the time and effort to properly sight-in a bow is important to maintaining a properly-functioning bow, an act that even natural talent cannot make up for. If you take the time to align your sight and pins properly, you’ll be able to make most any compound bow the best compound bow for your needs.

Additional Resources :
Hunting website
Compound Bow – Wikipedia
Compound Bows Recalled by BowTech Archery; Bow Can Unexpectedly Break Apart

CVA muzzleloaders – History of having Elk to hunt

If you’re interested in hunting elk with your CVA muzzleloader rifle this fall, now’s the time to learn all you can about states that offer elk hunting. First we have to understand some of the history of America’s elk herds. In the early 1900s, hunters recognized the trends of disappearing wildlife and stepped forward to reverse them. Hunters pushed for hunting regulations and established conservation groups to protect wildlife habitat. Once the new laws protected the elk, the elk began to build-up respectable-sized herds, approaching 100,000 animals each, with Colorado’s elk population being perhaps the largest.

Elk mating call
Elk mating call

Pushed back from the plains by ranchers and farmers, the elk has become a mountain animal in the West. During the winter season, the elk come down for food to the foothills, where they find grass overgrazed by domestic sheep and trees over-browsed by deer. Food shortages during the winter have caused many thousands of elk to starve. Finally, local ranchers began hauling hay to feed the elk through the worst months, thereby setting the winter-feeding precedent. Soon the people of Jackson Hole asked the State of Wyoming to send emergency rations of hay for the elk, and the State raised money for the hay. But the elk still needed more feed. As the story of the starving elk spread across the country, the federal government began contributing to the elk rations. Then, in 1912, the government established the National Elk Refuge on the broad meadows where the elk traditionally had wintered on the north edge of Jackson Hole.
In 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) was founded by four hunters, to, “guarantee a wild future for America’s grandest game animal.” The organization has helped restore elk populations to Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia and has conserved or enhanced habitat over 5.8-million acres. Today there are 1-million elk in North America – roughly 10% of the elk population that existed before the European settlement of North America. Elk are found in the U.S. in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Yukon Territory.
Today, hunters continue to sustain wildlife conservation, and hunting-license fees and special taxes on hunting equipment fund state game and non-game management programs of elk. Most states have short blackpowder seasons in September or October for elk or permit muzzleloader hunting during rifle season. Be sure to check the local regulations for the region you will be hunting, and apply for a permit before you go..
For more information about elk and elk ranges, visit http://www.rmef.org/AllAboutElk/ElkRange/.
The State of Kentucky’s Restored Elk Populations After Only 17 Years of Growth Now Being Shared with Other States
Now that Kentucky’s elk population has been successfully restored, the state is sharing its wealth. While Wisconsin is still rewriting its elk-management plan and hoping to receive elk from Kentucky soon, elk restoration is already underway in southwestern Virginia with support from Kentucky. On Friday, May 18, 2012, 11 elk from Kentucky were transferred to a 5-acre holding pen in Buchanan County, Virginia. The elk will acclimate to their surroundings in the pen before being released into the wild. These elk were just the first of 75 that will be brought to the county during the next 3 years. The RMEF paid for nearly all of the $300,000 that was needed for materials and supplies to make the project possible. Just 17-years ago, Kentucky received 1,500 elk from six western states and began its successful restoration program. In addition to “planted” elk, Kentucky’s herds are expanding to neighboring Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri.
Too, Kentucky is willing to participate and capture and put elk in holding and testing corrals paid for by RMEF to be used by Wisconsin. The elk-management plan currently being rewritten has to be reviewed by sportsmen and approved by Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board. If approved, Wisconsin could begin receiving elk from Kentucky by 2014 to replenish its herd at Clam Lake and establish a new herd in Jackson County. Kentucky’s counterpart to Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board already has approved the plan. If approved, Wisconsin could get as many as 50 Kentucky elk per year over the next several years.

Electra Elk Muzzleloading with CVA Pro Staffer Terry Oertwig

Editor’s Note: Terry Oertwig of Purdin, Missouri, a CVA Pro Staff member, hunts big game nationwide and worldwide with his CVA Electra. We’ve asked Oertwig why he has so much confidence in the CVA Electra and to give us some first-hand reports on how the Electra has performed for him when he’s hunting elk.

Question: Terry, why do you have so much confidence in the CVA Electra?
Oertwig: I’ve found it to be the most-accurate muzzleloader I’ve ever shot. It’s easy to clean, it’s lightweight, and with the ambidextrous composite stock, hunters can shoot this muzzleloader right- or left-handed. I was really pleased with the trigger and the light trigger pull. The Electra has everything I’ve wanted in a high-quality muzzleloading rifle.

Colorado Elk Hunt
Colorado Elk Hunt

Question: Are you ever concerned about the ignition system on the Electra?
Oertwig: No, because the safeguards on the Electra show when the battery is working properly, and when the battery gets low. The battery life in the Electra lasts 600 hours, if it’s not turned-off, or for 500 shots. That’s more shots than most people will shoot in a lifetime.

Elk Hunting w/ CVA Muzzleloader

Question: Tell me about your elk hunt with the CVA Electra.
Oertwig: I was hunting out West, and the weather was really windy. Although we’d seen several elk, I hadn’t spotted one I wanted to take. Finally, we saw a really-nice bull down in a bowl. I liked this bull because he had whale-tail-shaped antlers. Instead of his antlers going straight-up, they grew backwards. When we first saw the bull, he was scratching his rear end with the tips of his antlers, which really impressed me. As I was getting into a shooting position, the bull winded us and went down into a valley where a river flowed. The guide followed the elk. The elk came out of the river bottom and moved out behind some brush. We followed that bull for about 1/2-mile before he looked back to try and see us. When the elk couldn’t spot us, he turned sideways. I took the shot when he was at about 70 yards. I could tell the bullet hit the bull hard. He ran 30 to 40 yards to a lone cedar tree and fought that tree with his rack until he thought he’d whipped it. Then, he took one step back and fell over dead.

Question: Where did the bullet enter the bull?
Oertwig: It entered the chest cavity and went right through both lungs.

Question: Were you ever concerned about the Electra igniting the powder?
Oertwig: No. I knew I could depend on the CVA Electra and its patent-pending ARC Electronic Ignition. I’ve shot close to 1500 rounds through the CVA Electra and have never had a problem. I do clean my Electra after the shot. The CVA Electra is far better than any blackpowder rifle I’ve ever shot.

Check back soon for more information on CVA Muzzleloaders & elk hunting.

What to Do Before You Hunt Elk with your CVA Rifle

With elk season starting soon, for instance muzzleloading season for elk in Washington begins August 1, you need to learn all you can about hunting elk. CVA has talked with elk hunters to get these tips to help you be successful.

Do Your Homework:

Many hunters can’t afford to buy outfitting elk hunts, because they can cost from $3,000 to $20,000 each. The average hunter has to do his homework to find a place to take an elk. If a hunter in Alabama or Texas wants to go elk hunting, he needs to first learn where the biggest herds of elk can be found in the states he’s considering hunting.

Call the Division of Wildlife in the state you want to hunt to learn where the most elk live in that state. Decide then whether you’ll hunt from your vehicle and spot or stalk hunt, or if you’ll pack-in and hike to the places where you want to hunt. Next, talk to the land manager – either the USDA Forest Service office or the Bureau of Land Management in charge of that region. Ask him or her to tell you about the elk herd on the land he manages and the best way to take an elk on that property.
Purchase maps of that section of the land. Study the land where you’ll hunt before you actually travel to the property to locate steep ridges, watering holes, benches and all the sites where elk like to hold. If you’re going to pack-in, you can choose a camp site. You also can send maps to a land manager and say, “These areas are the places I’m considering hunting. Can you mark the regions where you think I should hunt?” The land manager may put an X on the map where he’s killed an elk or mark places to avoid that are too steep or don’t have any habitat that hold elk. An intensive map search will save you days of scouting time.
deer-hunting
Visit websites like www.bowsite.com, www.huntingnet.com, www.muleymadness.com, www.muleycrazy.com and other chat rooms dedicated to western hunting, once you’ve chosen the area, studied your topo maps and talked to the landowner, to learn even more about the region you intend to hunt. You’ll be surprised at how much information you’ll learn, if you’ll just ask. Tell other hunters what and where you’re planning to hunt, and ask if they’ve hunted there and what information they can give you any about the region. Be sure to leave your email address. Oftentimes hunters will respond and tell you they’ve hunted a specific place, information about the area, and where they think you may have a good chance of locating a bull. You’ll also get quality information on where to put a camp site, what type of terrain you can expect to hunt, and possibly where other hunters have heard elk bugle before there.
Decide how long you’ll hunt. If you know numbers of hunters are concentrating on a section of land, hunt all day. However, if you pinpoint a remote section that doesn’t have much hunting pressure, and you’re the only hunter there, you can leave the elk alone in the midday and still be successful. If a cow elk has the opportunity to lie down in the middle of the day, nurse her calves and take a nap, she’ll remain there afterwards. But if the cow’s harassed all day, she’ll change zip codes.

CVA rifles & muzzleloaders for this upcoming Elk Season

We are getting close to the opening of elk season, which is August 1 for muzzleloading in some states. What CVA rifles do we suggest for this upcoming Elk season?
First let’s look at the muzzleloaders. Any of CVA’s muzzleloaders are perfectly suited for elk, in either the .45 or .50 calibers. Now, some of the western states have restrictions on what type of muzzleloader rifle you can use. For those states, there are the Buckhorn and Elkhorn Pro rifles, which are not break-open guns. They are a conventional in-line and bolt-action muzzleloaders, but all of the CVA line of muzzleloaders like the Accura, Optima and Wolf are perfectly suitable for any of the states that offer primitive weapon seasons for elk.

Elk-Season

Let’s say a hunter is going to hunt elk during the firearm season and wants to take his muzzleloader, but he also wants to take a center-fire barrel for his CVA Apex rifle. I would recommend carrying the .300 Winchester, if I couldn’t decide whether to hunt with muzzleloader or a center-fire rifle. But, you have to remember your muzzleloading barrels are the most effective if you spend some time on the rifle range at 200-yards plus. If you think you’ll be shooting at elk over 200 yards, you’ll need the brute strength of the big Magnum rifle like the .300 Winchester. With the proper practice of the CVA APEX muzzleloader you can be effective out to 200 or even 300 yards. You’ll also want a center fire rifle that can reach out to 200 to 300 yards. That’s where that .300 Winchester really shines. The real secret to success for a two gun elk hunt is to mount your riflescope on the .50 caliber rifle and sight it in and then mount a scope on your .300 Winchester and sight it in, and take both barrels with the scopes mounted on them. Then you can change barrels back and forth on the CVA Apex without any loss of accuracy. Both of these barrels fit on your Apex rifle frame the same way. With the Apex you will have the repeat ability of switching barrels on and off the frame without any concern of losing accuracy if and when you decide to change barrels.
CVA rifles & muzzleloaders for this upcoming Elk Season
We are getting close to the opening of elk season, which is August 1 for muzzleloading in some states. What CVA rifles do we suggest for this upcoming Elk season?
First let’s look at the muzzleloaders. Any of CVA’s muzzleloaders are perfectly suited for elk, in either the .45 or .50 calibers. Now, some of the western states have restrictions on what type of muzzleloader rifle you can use. For those states, there are the Buckhorn and Elkhorn Pro rifles, which are not break-open guns. They are a conventional in-line and bolt-action muzzleloaders, but all of the CVA line of muzzleloaders like the Accura, Optima and Wolf are perfectly suitable for any of the states that offer primitive weapon seasons for elk.
Let’s say a hunter is going to hunt elk during the firearm season and wants to take his muzzleloader, but he also wants to take a center-fire barrel for his CVA Apex rifle. I would recommend carrying the .300 Winchester, if I couldn’t decide whether to hunt with muzzleloader or a center-fire rifle. But, you have to remember your muzzleloading barrels are the most effective if you spend some time on the rifle range at 200-yards plus. If you think you’ll be shooting at elk over 200 yards, you’ll need the brute strength of the big Magnum rifle like the .300 Winchester. With the proper practice of the CVA APEX muzzleloader you can be effective out to 200 or even 300 yards. You’ll also want a center fire rifle that can reach out to 200 to 300 yards. That’s where that .300 Winchester really shines. The real secret to success for a two gun elk hunt is to mount your riflescope on the .50 caliber rifle and sight it in and then mount a scope on your .300 Winchester and sight it in, and take both barrels with the scopes mounted on them. Then you can change barrels back and forth on the CVA Apex without any loss of accuracy. Both of these barrels fit on your Apex rifle frame the same way. With the Apex you will have the repeat ability of switching barrels on and off the frame without any concern of losing accuracy if and when you decide to change barrels.

Muzzleloader Elk Hunting – How, When, Where and Why to Use a Rattling Bag– August 1- September 5

Few elk hunters even know how deadly rattling can be for calling-in elk. Many hunters recommend that when usinga rattling bag, try to make the bag sound like two young bulls are sparring over a cow in estrus. When the big bull hears the sound, he thinks to himself, “Who in the world is that fighting? Is there a cow in heat down there? I better go check it out.” When you use a rattling bag, you’re simulating a fight in the schoolyard that everybody will come running to see. Using a rattling bag for elk hunting is much like using a bag for whitetail hunting. You can’t go out and expect a bull to come running to you as soon as you rattle the bag. For the bag to work, you have to know there’s a bull elk in the area, and that a bull can hear you rattling. Although this call will work anytime, it’s most effective during the pre-rut.When you start using that rattling bagduring the pre-rut, the elk will come to it, just like whitetails will.The rattling bag is the most effective from August 1 through the first few days of September. Muzzleloader Elk hunters will be amazed at how many elk they can rattle-in, if they’ll use a rattling bag.

Elk-Hunting

How to Call Elk During the Pre-Rut

During this time of year, the elk haven’t been harassed or chased by hunters. They’re not yet loaded with testosterone, nor have they gone to war with the trees. However, their necks are swelling. All year they’ve been looking forward to breeding season, and now that the time of year has arrived, they can’t get any dates. This month-long period is the best time of year to take an elk, even though the elk aren’t as vocal as they are during the rut or the second rut. Elk don’t tell you they’re coming to you by bugling or posturing during the pre-rut, like they do while the rut is taking place to let you know they’re ready to whip you. But they’ll come in to take a good look at you, if they hear you calling. However, this hunt also can be very frustrating, because you can call and call and not see or hear anything. Then when you stand up to leave, you may spook a bull that’s only 30-yards away.

Call Elk During
Call Elk During

Most muzzleloader hunters are amazed that a 1,000-pound animal can sneak-up to within 30 yards of you without you ever knowing he’s there. But this scenario happens many times when you’re hunting the pre-rut. To take a bull before he sees or smells you, set-up on his trail. The bull has to come from a certain direction to take a look at you, so by setting-up on his trail, you’ll dramatically increase your odds for success.

Elk Hunting in the Pre-Rut with Your Muzzleloader

Some states have muzzleloading season for elk separately and in other states, the blackpowder season runs concurrently with the gun/elk season. So, be sure to check the regulations where you plan to hunt, since some muzzleloading/elk seasons start as early as August. The pre-rut starts about August 15th, whether the elk are in Canada, Mexico or the United States. Once the elk drop their antlers in February, they start growing a new set of velvet antlers. Many hunters agree that with the decrease in sunlight that occurs in August, the elk’s body knows to release testosterone. When that testosterone gets into the blood stream, it causes the blood flow to be cut-off to the antlers, and the velvet will begin to die. During the early summer months, there’s quite a bit of nerve activity in those velvet antlers. When you see an elk hit a tree or a limb with those antlers, you can tell from his reaction that the collision hurts. However, when the testosterone causes the blood flow to be cut off, the antlers must feel very irritated. The elk then start trying to rub the velvet off their antlers.
Elk-Hunting-in-the-Pre-Rut-with-Your-Muzzleloader
At this time of year, the bulls are ready to breed, but the cows haven’t come into estrus yet. In a herd of 100 cow elk, only 1% to 2% of the cows usually will come into estrus the first week of September. That means only one or two cows in a herd of 100 will be ready to breed – not enough cows for a bull to spend much energy chasing a cow to breed. Often big, mature bulls will save their energy and not come into the herd until around September 15, when more of the cows are in estrus. But from August 25 to September 15 still is a great time to elk hunt.

Tony Smotherman Says Accuracy is More Important than Knockdown Power When Taking an Elk with your CVA Muzzleloader

Question: Tony, we know you only hunt with a muzzleloader. When we’re talking about bullet drop, what’s the difference between bullet drop from your range in Tennessee to the ranges in the mountains of Colorado or Wyoming?

Smotherman: That’s a good question. Your bullet drop will be less the higher up you go, because the higher the elevation at which you’re hunting, the less the bullet drop you’ll have. Remember, the air is thicker in the East, so you’ll have more bullet drop in most places in the East than you will in the West. Also, bullet drop will vary depending on the altitude at which you’re hunting. However, the difference when you sight-in your rifle in the East and when you sight-in your rifle in the West won’t be significant. You more than likely won’t see a 12-inch difference between these two regions. You may see a 2- or a 3-inch difference. But if you’re shooting a target, that bullet drop may be the difference between hitting in that 10 ring or hitting in the 12 ring. Again, accuracy is more important than knockdown power.

Question: Let’s talk about hunting elk. What makes taking elk so tough on a muzzleloader rifle hunt?

Smotherman: For me, it’s climbing those mountains. Too, when hunting in big, open country, you have to shoot at long distances. The hide and the hair of an elk are much thicker than the hide and the hair on a white-tailed deer. An elk has 1,000 pounds of body mass, while the white-tailed deer has only 150 to 250 pounds of body mass. That’s the reason I prefer to shoot larger bullets when I’m hunting elk. As a muzzleloading hunter, I harvest the animal with kinetic energy delivered, not velocity. Our bullets fly at about 1,800 feet per second, whereas a centerfire rifle bullet flies at about 3,000 or 3,500 feet per second. Although a muzzleloader bullet hits the animal much slower than a centerfire rifle bullet, it hits much harder due to of its weight. Therefore, muzzleloading hunters have to rely more on kinetic energy, and you need a lot of kinetic energy to knock a big elk off its feet.

Taking an Elk
Taking an Elk

Question: What bullet do you shoot, and why?

Smotherman: I shoot the 300-grain PowerBelt Platinum AeroTip Bullet, which is easy to load. Elk are such large animals that they can soak up 300-grain bullets. So being able to load quickly and getting that second shot will be extremely important to the success of my hunt. Also, I like having a 300 bullet, because it creates a lot of kinetic energy. Too, a heavier bullet at longer ranges will shoot flatter than a smaller bullet at that same distance. A lighter bullet will fly faster, but the mass and the kinetic energy of the 300 grain bullet allow it to hold its velocity longer, because it has more mass moving forward than a smaller bullet does. For example, if a Volkswagen Bug and a 1962 Cadillac are both running at 60-miles per hour, and you slam-on the brakes in both vehicles, the Volkswagen will stop much quicker, because it has less forward-moving mass than the Cadillac does. You can use this same comparison for heavy versus lighter bullets. If you’re shooting a 250- or a 300-grain bullet, the 300-grain bullet will go further and drop less energy than the 250-grain bullet will. So, for long-range shooting out West on elk or mule deer, the 300-grain bullet will have more kinetic energy and shoot flatter at those longer distances than the 250-grain bullet will.

Question: What powder do you use, and why?

Smotherman: I prefer Blackhorn 209 loose powder. This powder shoots unbelievably clean. Too, I can get better accuracy with this powder than I can with other powders in my CVA rifle.

Question: How much powder do you use?

Smotherman: I’m using the equivalent of 150 grains of powder for elk. Remember that most blackpowder guns are magnum guns designed to be able to take magnum charges and shoot 150 grains of powder. However, because of the formulation of Blackhorn 209, this powder is somewhat hotter than other versions of loose powder, and it’s harder than powder substitutes. Therefore, even though my gun will shoot 150 grains of powder, when I’m shooting Blackhorn powder, I have to reduce the charge to 110 -115 grains of powder, because the Blackhorn 209 powder is extremely hot. Blackhorn powder gives you more bang for the bucks you spend. Remember that although most magnum guns can shoot 150 grains of powder, each blackpowder gun works better at different loads and powder charges. Although my truck’s speedometer is set at 125 mph, my truck doesn’t perform its best at that speed; likewise, even though a muzzleloader can shoot 150 grains of powder, this may not be where the gun will perform at its best. So, determine at what powder charge your gun will shoot the most accurately. I can shoot the most accurately in my gun with 110 to 115 grains of Blackhorn 209 powder. I can shoot more powder, but that additional powder pushes the bullet harder and faster, thereby making the bullet not as stable as it can be and opens-up my groups (space between each shot). I get better accuracy shooting a magnum charge of 115 grains of Blackhorn 209 than I do shooting 150 grains of Blackhorn 209. Remember, it’s not how hard the bullet hits the animal that ensures a lethal hit; it’s where the bullet is placed. So, accuracy is far-more important than knockdown power. I want to shoot the maximum velocity I can with the greatest accuracy. Every one of my CVA rifles – whether I’m shooting the Apex or the Accura – all prefer a powder charge of 110 to 115 grains of powde

What Blackpowder Loads You Need for taking Elk with Russell Lynch

Editor’s Note: A former sniper in the U.S. Marine Corps and shooter in matches and trainer of personnel in shooting for the Armed Services, Russell Lynch of South Carolina, the owner of M.A.X. (Muzzleloader Accuracy Xperts, LLC), has learned to shoot accurately with muzzleloader guns from 300 yards out to 1,000 yards. Russell has recently been working closely with CVA Muzzleloaders to help its customers improve there shooting experience.

Question: Russell, you’ve said one of the questions you’re often asked is, “If you’re hunting for elk, are you going to shoot a magnum charge, or will you shoot a powder charge? You won’t know at what range you’ll be shooting. So, do you go with a magnum load that’s 150 grains of pellets, or do you prefer an accuracy load – 110 grains of loose powder?”
Lynch: My answer is if you’ve ever hunted elk or ever read about hunting elk, then you know that you may get a closer-range shot like bowhunters, or you may get a long-range shot like the centerfire rifle hunters have at elk. But generally most of your shots will be at extended ranges. Given the choice between knockdown power with a magnum charge of pellets or an accuracy charge with loose powder, I’ll take the loose powder over the pellets every time. If I’m shooting in the West, I don’t want my groups to be 2-1/2- inches or more at 100 yards, when I know I can have the same group at 2-1/2- or 3 inches at 200 yards. If I choose loose powder instead of pellets, I even can reach out to 250 yards if I must.

50-grain pellets aren’t exactly 50 grains. They’re less than 50 grains. So, when you’re shooting loose powder, you’ll get more bang for your buck and be shooting less powder. That powder will pack more uniformly and ignite more evenly, and you’ll shoot more accurately than you will with the pellets. At 250 yards, I know that I can shoot a 2- or a 3-inch group with my CVA rifle, and that bullet will have enough energy to take a bull elk down at that range. So, I’ll always pick the option that will give me the best accuracy at the longest ranges. The answer to your question, how will I hunt elk with loose powder, well, I can tell you for sure that I won’t be loading my rifle with three 50-grain pellets.

Blackpowder Loads
Blackpowder Loads

One of the reasons some people think they need magnum charges is because they think that if their shot placement is off a little bit when shooting the magnum charges, they’ll have a better chance of taking the animal down. However, if I can put a bullet in an elk at 250 yards and know almost exactly where the bullet will land because of good marksmanship and an accurate rifle, I know I can successfully take more elk, than if I have a 150-grain charge and aren’t as confident in my bullet placement. What I’ve learned is that at 250 yards with three 50-grain pellets, I’ll have terrible patterns. I think you’ll be shooting really well if you can maintain 10-inch groups shooting those magnum charges out to 250 yards. Now when you compare those groups to the 4- and 5-inch groups, I can shoot using loose powder and less powder than shooting a magnum charge.

Something else you have to consider when you’re talking about magnum charges versus loose powder of about 110 grains is when you’re shooting on a bench you’ll shoot far-more accurately than when you’re propped-up against a tree with the rifle on your pack and/or when you’re shooting from a standing or a kneeling position. When the stress and the excitement involved in an elk hunt in the wild is put on a sportsman, his accuracy will suffer somewhat more than when he’s shooting-off a bench, especially when he has to trot up a hill to cut-off a big bull before the bull reaches the black timber, and the hunter sees those giant antlers and knows that he only has a few seconds to stop the elk before the bull vanishes into the black timber. That hunter’s marksmanship may suffer because he’s not only under emotional pressure, but he’s also under physical pressure and breathing heavily. If you’re not breathing properly, you won’t have as smooth of a trigger pull as you will when shooting off a bench. Plus, when you add the physical, mental and emotional aspects of trying to take a bull elk at 150 yards with a magnum charge of three 50-grain pellets, and the hunter knows that on the bench he’s shooting 10-inch groups at that range with that powder charge, more than likely the hunter may completely miss the animal.

Although I like to think that my blood runs cold as ice water when I’m about to take a shot at 50 yards or 250 yards on a big-game animal with a muzzleloader rifle, you have to remember that I’ve been hunting big-game animals for more than 30 years. I’m going to have myself under better control than those who only have been hunting for a few years, plus I have the advantage of all the marksmanship skills I learned in the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School. Based on my training, my experience and my skill level, I know I can make that 250-yard shot with a muzzleloader rifle on an elk, but that’s really a questionable shot for most hunters. What makes it even more questionable is when you know the best you can shoot with that rifle under controlled conditions is only a 10-inch group. I just don’t know whether you should take that shot or not. My gut feeling is probably not.

What I really enjoy about hunting elk with a muzzleloader is my ability to control my emotions, so that I can see and remember every step that the elk takes, until I finally pull the trigger. If you really want to shoot a magnum charge with three 50-grain pellets, I strongly recommend that you don’t take a shot of more than 125 yards. Even at that range, you’ll still be shooting 3-inch groups. I’ve tested a lot of rifles from all the manufacturers of muzzleloading rifles, and I feel I have some of the most-accurate muzzleloader rifles on the planet. Even with the best rifles and my marksmanship skills, I’m still not sure I can shoot a 3-inch group with 150 grains of pellets at 125 yards. When you put that much powder in pellet form in a muzzleloader rifle, you’re always going to have accuracy issues.