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Why Can’t I Kill Deer at 200 Yards with my .45-Caliber Seneca?

Friend Roger Kicklighter, shown above with a deer he shot yesterday with a .270 Winchester wanted his picture taken with what he has hopes of being one of his favorite muzzleloading guns. The rifle is a long-discontinued Thompson/Center Arms Seneca rifle which was designed to be a small, light-weight gun that could be used in the U.S. National Muzzleloading Rifle Association’s Seneca Match. This is a move and shoot event where contestants run from station to station and shoot at pop up targets as they appear at different ranges. Like the Olympic biathlon, the match is scored based on a combination of time and hits on the target. Hunters also purchased the gun in both .45 and .36 calibers for hunting turkeys and small game. After many had been using the much heavier and longer barreled Thompson/Center Hawken rifles for their deer hunting, (about 9 lbs. vs. 6 lbs.), they wondered, “Would not the handier Seneca Rifle do as well?”

The heavier Hawken had the advantage of a longer barrel so whatever powder charge was used, it would generate more velocity and energy. The heavier barrel is also rated for a larger maximum powder charge which was reported in the 1975 edition of the Lyman Black Powder Handbook as 110 grains of FFg with a .440 patched round ball vs. 90 grains for the Seneca. Out of the Seneca, Mowry, and other similar guns of the period, I often shot 70 grains of FFg out of the these lighter-weight guns. This charge, combined with the longer barrel, generated more velocity and energy at the muzzle than the 60-grain charge of FFFg from the Walker revolver, that many have demonstrated over the decades will also kill close-range deer. If you are interested in this aspect of muzzleloading hunting I have an e-book Hunting with Muzzleloading Revolvers that is available from Amazon.com and other e-book sources worldwide. If the Walker can do it, why can’t the Seneca?

The answer is that the Seneca can take such deer provided that the shots are at close range and you have reasonable bullet placement. While in hunt camp, Roger asked me about the Seneca’s trajectory at 200 yards, saying that if he saw a big deer at that range, he would try for it. I asked him could he estimate at least 20 inches of hold-over and windage at that range. He replied that he could. When I got back home I looked up the drop table in the Lyman Handbook and found that the drop was more like 40-inches than 20, but there was an even more significant problem – energy loss. By the time that that round ball got to 200 yards it had only 163 foot pounds of energy, assuming that it was launched at 2,000 fps. With the 80-grain charge of FFFg that he was using. this is in the energy range of the .32 ACP. A deer might be hit at 200 yards, but no rational person would recommend a .32 ACP for deer for anything else than a point-blank shot into the brain of a downed animal.

The round ball gets off to a reasonable start, but runs out of steam in a hurry. Assuming a 2,000 fps. muzzle velocity, it has 858 ft./lbs. of energy at 25-yards, 621 at 50, 448 at 75 and 333 at 100 yards. The desirable number of foot pounds usually recommended for killing deer is 500 ft./lbs. This makes the round-ball load out of the Seneca at 2,000 fps. about a 75-yard gun – a far cry from 200 yards. Can’t you load more powder? You can load another 10 grains of powder, but the recoil increases and the added velocity brings the energy figures at 75-yards to 554 ft./lbs. which drops to 397 ft./lbs. at 100 yards. The added powder does not result in a significant increase in killing power for these inefficient projectiles.

Using a patch round ball and 70 grains of FFFg, Jon LeCroy, took five shots to kill this wild hog using the flintlock Thompson/Center Hawken rifle that I lent him. I recommended that he load with 85-grains, but the combination of his shooting with a less powerful load with a flintlock rifle at a moving target resulted in a series of not particularly well-placed hits that ultimately killed the animal. In this case the animal was close enough for a stronger load (and a harder cast bullet) to have been effective had the first shot been appropriately placed.

A load of 85 grains of FFFg and a patched round ball dropped this Georgia buck with a neck shot , and it was finished off with a .54-caliber round-ball load from Young Blunderbuss. I have videos about hunting with both guns and tell of their exploits in my book X-Treme Muzzleloading. This shot was delivered on this deer at 40 yards, broke the spine, and the deer went down instantly. Had I wished, I could have finished the deer with a knife. If you own or inherit a .45-caliber muzzleloader and you wish to take deer with it, remember it is not just hitting the animal that is significant. Not only do you need to put the bullet in the right place, you also need to do it at a range where the round ball can do its magic. Shoot reasonably well and keep your shots within 75-yards and round-ball loads will effectively kill your animals. Try to stretch the range to try for that huge deer, and they will wound, but not seriously disable the animal who may die days or weeks later.

Roger’s adventures with the Seneca go back over a decade. He bought the gun with a rusted barrel, had a Green Mountain barrel installed, but due to a low front sight, could never get it sighted in. At Hunt Camp he shot the gun, now equipped with a taller front sight, with both .45-caliber MaxiBalls and patched round balls. Within a few shots he had the gun zeroed at 25 yards with a load of 80 grains of GEOX FFFg and round ball. Now satisfied that this is a 75-yard gun, he is ready to hunt with it and showed his Seneca what sort of results he expects from in. My gun, Bon Richard, a .69-calliber Model 1777 French flintlock musket that I built from a kit, and the Seneca are in competition on who can score on a deer first. Bon Richard has been out more than 10 times and not shot at a deer yet. As Roger did, I am showing what I expect of him.

You can see a video of our hunt camp restoration process at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA2Uos8yr54. You will need to cut and paste this into your browser to bring up the video.

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First Draft of Novel, Father of the Grooms, Published on Amazon.com

Wm. Hovey Smith’s first novel which has the working title of Father of the Grooms was published as a First Draft Edition on the first day of Spring on Amazon.com as an e-book. This novel has the subtitle: Murder, Marriage, and Mafia: An American Family Meets Their Sicilian Cousins which will be the title of the softcover edition. The next stage of this project will be the production of a screenplay, which will be followed by the softcover edition and perhaps ultimately a movie that might be started in 2024.

Writing the novel was a nine-month process following a five-year gestation period and a fact-finding trip to Sicily. Inspiration for the novel followed a chance meeting with a family of Sicilian origin who lived in Louisiana and another family who lived in Mississippi whose sons were having difficulties in getting or staying married. In the novel the fictional family makes a trip to Sicily to reconnect with their heritage after being absent for three generations. Going on the trip are a mother and father, their two sons, sister, and gay uncle.

Over the years the family has kept up a correspondence with the Sicilian side of the family and has been invited to return for a visit many times, but now, it seems, this is the opportune time to go. One of the sons, a Marine Captain, has two months leave, and the other son has returned home after being kicked out of a San Francisco apartment by his girlfriend, and the uncle and sister can leave their hairdressing shop for a week. The father makes a joke that perhaps his sons would do better if they married “the old-fashioned way” with an arranged marriage.

In order to safeguard the lives of two young women, the Sicilian side of the family elects to take this suggestion more seriously. When the Americans arrive on Monday, they are informed that the weddings will take place on Friday. Should they refuse, the entire family might have “an unfortunate accident” while on their tour of the island. A plot is hatched between the uncle and a transplanted Irish priest to create a circumstance where the would-be-brides would call off the wedding. Additional complications arise when another Mafia family makes several attempts to kill one or more members of the family, and members of the Italian Anti-Mafia police and FBI become involved.

The First Draft Edition of the novel has all of the plot elements, settings, and characters needed to craft the screenplay. Writing the screenplay, which is much more dialog driven, will enable the author to refine the dialog, perhaps add segments that are not presently in the novel, and ultimately complete the book at some future date. In the meantime, the First Draft Edition can draw attention to the project.

The book may be ordered from Amazon.com and other e-book retailers worldwide for $4.99. If you do not have an e-book reader, apps will allow you to read the book on any computer or tablet and on many smart phones.

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First Draft of Father of the Grooms Completed!

After months of thrashing through my Father of the Grooms book project, it gave me an immense degree of satisfaction when I wrote the words “The End” finally, at long last, on the page. My novel has grown from one word to 325,000 words, which is well and good, but the book is still a long way from being completed to publication standards.

Yet to be done is the sometimes maddening job of going through the entire manuscript word by word and punctuation mark by mark along with items like making sure the characters are consistently referred to throughout the novel and that the elements of the plot and subplots are properly resolved. I do not want a reader who may have self-identified with one of my characters to suddenly discover that his character has somehow disappeared between the pages and is never heard from again.

I best do such reviews by printing out a copy of the manuscript and going through it by reading it line by line while running a straight-edge down the page. This is a slow way to read, but that is exactly the point. This method makes me look at every word, and not only that discover the missing words that should have, but did not, appear in the sentence. Such careful reading also allows a more careful look at the many English homonyms to make sure words like “sense vs. since ” appear in their proper context.

This stage is also typically when footnotes are added which are first positioned where they need to be at the ends of chapters or at the bottom of the pages. Having them at the end is certainly the easiest way to handle them from a mechanical point of view, and these days are the more common way that footnotes are published. Although footnotes loose something of their immediacy of having them at the bottom of a page, as it makes readers turn to the end of the chapter to discover more details about a topic that may have provoked their interest. Increasingly, these are on-line references or perhaps one of my own books or videos.

Once the First Draft corrections are made in the manuscript, I plan to take the unusual step of publishing a First Draft edition of the book as an e-book title. Such a publication will provide several advantages: 1. The draft edition will provide a platform from which to derive a screenplay. 2. This unusual publication will put an inexpensive first-draft novel on the market that can be used as a teaching aid in a novel-writing course, without having the students write their own books, and during editing them during the following semester as is commonly done. Using my First Draft book allow instructors the much easier task of everyone working on one book, rather than on a entire class’ creative compositions. 3. Feedback from readers will allow corrections to scenes and episodes in the book to more nearly reflect real-life places and events.

In approximately two months I expect to have the First Draft Edition of Father of the Grooms available on Amazon.com as an inexpensive e-book. Anyone who makes a significant contribution in upgrading the book to publication-ready status will receive a credit in the book.

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Alligator Assists Completion of “Hunting with Muzzloading Revolvers” Book

 

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In my new e-book, “Hunting with Muzzleloading Revolvers,” I explore the possibilities of using muzzleloading revolvers to take small and large game in guns that range from .22 to .45-caliber. One adaptation that these guns underwent was the conversion of the cap-and-ball operating system to cartridges which mostly occurred in the 1860s and 1870s. The cartridge conversions allowed more rapid reloading, better weatherproofing of the arm, and were generally less expensive that buying the new cartridge-shooting Single Action Army Peacemaker revolver from Colt or the top-breaking Remington revolvers.

Because I was more interested in improving the hunting characteristics of this class of arms than in historic authenticity, I had no reservations about modifying the guns to make them more effective. These sometimes included a black non-reflective nitride finish, optical sights, and using the longest-barreled versions of the guns, whether they were authentic or not. I had the good fortune to have purchased a Ruger Old Army stainless revolver years ago. During the writing of the book I learned that Master Gunsmith Dykes Reber  in North Little Rock Arkansas could install a 14-inch barrel on my gun and fit it with rails so that I could mount it with a scope sight. To me these were obvious improvements, and I had them done to my  Old Army. In the meantime I developed improved loads for the gun using Hodgdon’s Triple7even powder and Kaido Ojamaa’s Keith-style elongate bullets. I successfully used this modified gun to take deer which supplied an appropriate chapter for the book.

It seemed logical to conclude the book with a hunt using a conversion cylinder in .45 Long Colt. Although I had reloaded the .45 ACP since the late 1960s, I had never reloaded the rimmed Colt cartridge. I shortly after also started reloading for the .44 Remington Magnum, and since guns in that cartridge were readily available in both single shot and revolver versions, I saw no need to own any  .45 Colt revolvers. Yes, they were authentic, moderately powerful, etc. etc., but as I already was working with more powerful cartridges such as the .44 Magnum and lessor ones like the .44 Special and Russian, I had no need for guns chambered for the .45 revolver cartridges (the Colt .45 was not, and is not, the only one).

Among Kaido Ojamaa’s new bullets was a 255-grain version that was sized properly  for the Ruger Old Army’s percussion cylinder which could also be used in .45 L.C.  Since I now had access to new powders and more effective bullets, that made my purchase of a conversion cylinder almost inevitable. The heavy, strong components of the Old Army also supplied the best available platform for testing these cylinders, and my improved pistol with its better sights and longer barrel  was obviously an appropriate platform.  I already knew that the Ruger Old Army with its 7 1/2-inch barrel would hunt, because I had already taken alligators and deer with it, so there was no reason to suspect that the gun with a .45 L.C. conversion cylinder would not do as well.  Consequently an old Hurter’s single-stage reloading press and dies were purchased along with some new brass, to reload for the cartridge.

As the black-powder editor for Gun Digest for the previous ten years, I had gotten out of practice for reloading pistol cartridges, and many of my  powders were decades old. My Unique and 700X still worked, as did the newer black powder substitutes like Hodgdon’s Triple7even. I quickly found that I could not exactly replicate my Triple7even load in the percussion cylinder which propelled the 255-grain bullet at about 900 fps. in the cartridge cases, because the cases would not hold sufficient powder. However, I did approximately match those ballistics with 700X which meant that I did not have to re-zero my gun for the cartridge loads. Both loads shot close enough to the  point of aim to be ethically used on game.

Shooting to the point of aim is a significant factor, because I find that in the rush of making a shot on a moving piece of game, it is difficult to remember that you must hold seven inches low and four-inches to the right as might be necessary on the fixed-sight Colt percussion revolvers. Some percussion revolvers, although they functioned, were given up on in the past because I could never get them to shoot close enough to my target to be useful on small animals like squirrels. If I could not reliably squirrel hunt with the guns, I saw no need to own them.

If I write about something, I believe in “proof of concept.” Rather than present as an absolute fact ballistic and drop figures and say that this load can do thus and such, I prefer to actually test the loads on game animals. The hunt on Ossabaw Island, Georgia, provided a suitable opportunity, which with the unexpected assistance of an alligator, led to me successfully taking a wild hog with the .45 L.C. cartridge load shot from the conversion cylinder in the Old Army. This even provided an appropriate ending chapter for the book and enabled me to wrap-up a project that was started in 2013 in January of 2020. You can see a video of this hunt at: https://youtu.be/rDfiTYgrCSM.

This book will only be available as an e-book and advanced orders may now be placed on Amazon.com. for delivery on January 15. It will also shortly be available on other e-publication platforms worldwide including B&N, Gardner’s, Apple, etc. The price of the e-book is $4.99. Although perhaps not immediately, this book will also be available as an e-book check-out from your local libraries. No softcover or hardcover versions of this title is likely because of the small numbers of black-powder revolver hunting enthusiasts. If you wish a paper copy, print  out the e-book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Father of the Grooms: A Collaborative Novel, Screenplay and Movie Project

You can receive chapters of Father of the Grooms as it is written and a chance to collaborate in the four-year project of writing the screenplay and producing the movie. This is an opportunity for you to help make the next Godfather-type movie at all levels of participation. I will need help in writing an authentic book, and you can be a part of it by supplying your experiences, stories, and knowledge about the places and events that I describe.

The novel relates how a Louisiana father whose sons have yet to have grandchildren makes them agree to go to Sicily where they will meet their new brides. They will be hosted by their Mafia relatives and married off to two beautiful, and for their own reasons, willing ladies. The week before they leave, two major members of the Mafia family in Sicily are arrested. They are told to come anyway. The father his wife, the two sons, their sister and gay uncle make the trip and are shown the family’s vineyards, estates and the sights of their never-before-seen native land. Their activities are shadowed by the FBI and Italian authorities. They arrive on Monday, and the wedding is on Thursday. The brothers get cold feet and want out, and ask their uncle to help. He hatches a plot with the transplanted Irish priest who is to perform the ceremony to have the girls call off the wedding. The plot fails, and the wedding is still on. If they do not go through with it, none of them will leave Sicily alive. The day arrives, they are brought to the church, but in the final resolution of the novel they manage to escape in a manner that does not put them under a death threat.

This will be a panoramic novel that will mainly feature Sicily, but will have significant segments in Louisiana, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Rome and Iraq. I will be making a trip to Sicily in May to gather materials and shortly after will began the book. Participants will receive the first publication copies of the book when it is printed in addition to the chapters as they are written. Depending on your level of skill and interest, there may be opportunities to assist in the movie’s production or appear in the film.

Credits will be given in the book and movie for those who participated. Provided that the script is funded and produced, there may be a small cash payment to those who participate in the movie’s production.

Book Chapters as written and completed book when finished.

The book chapters will be produced at a rate of about one a month and the book will be sent to your mailing address when completed.

$20.00

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Recommendations for Reducing Depression While Recovering from Potentially Deadly Accidents and Diseases

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Interesting, exciting and productive intellectual work can help reduce feelings of depression and lessen the need for drugs while undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.

A former U.S. Marine and fellow outdoor writer who always prided himself with being a self-sufficient individual, let a foot infection go untreated for too long. The result was a life-threatening infection that will result in amputation of the foot and a recovery process that will take months.

I have had several near death experiences, some of which I describe in my book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. I also had a serious accident where my wife and I had significant injuries. Although not directly caused by the accident, I also looked after my wife, Thresa, for a year while she suffered and ultimately died of pancreatic cancer.

My involvement with health-related issues had begun years before when as an independent journalist, I covered the first four International Conferences on AIDS and met hundreds of people who would later die from the disease. I wrote four editions of Plain Words About Aids, which were among the first books published on the subject.

My writer friend did a Facebook post where he took responsibility for his unwarranted pigheadedness which kept him for seeking treatment. Part of the reason for not having his foot treated was because, he thought, those who knew him would belittle him for not being manly enough to take a little pain and get through it. This post stuck a cord with me when I thought about all those who, “had a little chest pain,” or “had been feeling a little strange” and did not seek help for what turned out to be a heart attack or stroke. This was a soul-searching examination of his life, which is always a difficult thing to do. I replied to him as follows:

We who are now of “a certain age,” to borrow a term from the French, have earned the right to live our lives as we damn well please; and you have too. Yea, something sometimes is going to get us all. Hang in there, and do what you can when you can. This recovery business is not easy, but we writers have an advantage. We can, and should, express ourselves as you did so eloquently in your post. That is good writing guy, you still got it. Do your writing, do your hunts and adapt your methods as needed; but get things out there.  

You are not alone, and you do not have to be; however macho that might seem to be. Learn to accept help with grace, and thank people for it. Ask strangers if you need to, and that is going to be particularly tough for you. Don’t give a hoot about what other people might think. Life is not a graded exercise. It is about you giving help to others when they need it, and accepting help when you need it without being shy about it. You are going to go through a painful hard time, but hang in there. Keep fighting and tell others about it. That is what we writers do after all. We write about our lives to help people get through their own typically far worse problems. At any stage you will not have to look far to see people who are in far worse shape that you are. We live, we strive and we die. That is common to all of is.

The trick in getting through this is to somehow satisfy ourselves in the process. Do that and you can make it through pain, therapy and recovery to get back into the woods and fields where you belong.

I have a specific writing-related suggestion that might help. This surgery-rehab period is the time to start on a long writing project that is interesting enough that you will look forward to working on it. For example, have you written a novel? If not, now is the time to start one. Your recovery might even be in it through one of your fictional characters. How about song writing? Ever done that? Poetry? Plays? A screenplay? It makes no difference what in particular, but take on something that is new, exciting and has you looking forward to working on it every day. The more different it is from what you regularly do the better.

My recommendations for him to use this period to stretch his intellectual horizons were for someone who was already an established writer. What I suggest for others is to consider starting their own businesses, regardless of their age or wherever they might be. With the Web anyone with access can investigate and actually start an on-line business and sell products and services worldwide.

This activity provokes intellectual excitement, research, perhaps restarts interests in something that fascinated the person decades ago, but he never got around to doing more than, “Someday I would like to do that.” Now is that “Someday.” When laid up for some time and needing something productive to do, take on some challenging intellectual work. Do something other than watching depressing news stories on TV and worrying about the potential consequences of an illness.

My most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife,” shows how to select a business that can be done from hospital bed. This business can provide income, entertainment for you and in various ways help others with their lives. All of us have something of value to offer to others. This may be our childhood toy collections, our ideas or our life experiences. Or, perhaps you can conceive of a new product, process or invention while in bed. Anything is possible and will keep you mentally stimulated and less prone to the physical and mental downsides of depression.

My book is available in softcover from Amazon.com or your local bookstore and as an e-book from electronic booksellers worldwide or by using the PayPal box below.

Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife

Special introductory price.

$10.99