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Hunting Turkeys with Muzzleloading Rifles

This Georgia tom was taken with a Navy Arms Co. .45-caliber flintlock rifle.

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  Over the years I have taken a variety of turkeys with muzzleloading rifles ranging from "traditional" turkey-calibered guns such as .32s and .36s to a .54-caliber round-ball gun. These have also ranged in type from flint to percussion to in-lines. In most of these cases I used round-ball loads, which varied in powder charges depending on the gun as well as what other game I might encounter.

  In Georgia, and other states, wild hogs and coyotes are becoming an increasing problem. Sometimes when turkey hunting I have had the chance to take a coyote or wild hog during the state's nearly two-month-long season. Using a full-power round-ball load gives me the capability to take advantage of these opportunities when they arrise.

  In the .45-caliber flintlock I use a load of 85 grains of GOEX FFg, a .45-caliber Wonder Wad, 20 grains of Cream of Wheat, and a canvas patch lubricated with T/C’s Bore Butter and a .440 round ball. This is a load that I have also used to kill deer as well as squirrels and other game.

 With fast-twist rifles in .45 and .50 calibers you can load down to 45-55 grains of FFg and use patched .440 and .490 round balls to take turkeys. The reason you reduce the load is to keep from stripping the patches.  Scopes on these rifles can be sighted in to provide accurate shot placement at 100 yards. I often use .45 and .50 caliber felt Wonder Wads in to increase velocity and accuracy. The load that will give most accurate results will vary from gun to gun. As any of these loads are sufficiently powerful to force a ball through a turkey, optimum accuracy, rather than power, is the chief objective. These are also nearly ideal for young and beginning shooters to take their first game animals and get them ready for more powerful charges shot from the same gun during their first muzzleloading deer season.

  If you have an older-pattern in-line that you have “retired” in favor of a more modern design, you can set it up for a reduced-power round-ball load and leave it sighted in for turkeys and small game.

  Except for head and neck shots which are often moving and chancy  for round-ball guns, it is best to wait for a broadside shot and place the ball to pass through the organs below the backbone. I once lost a turkey that was hit with a .50-caliber round ball because I shot it as it approached. The ball went through the breast meat, but did not get into the vitals. This bird flew deep in the swamp, and I never recovered it.

  Always check with your state regulations to see if muzzleloading rifles are legal and if there are any caliber/style/ignition-system restrictions on them. Each state makes its own regs. and these may change from season to season.

  The video below was done in conjunction with my radio show, “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures,” which will be/was broadcast on April 4, 2011. This show may be downloaded as a podcast anytime after its broadcast date. The easiest way to reach it is to go to my website, and click on the live radio link below the banner. If you have any problems viewing this video it is also available on YouTube at:

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Survival Cooking After Disasters 2. Grilling and Baking

Ribs from a small wild hog on the grill. These can provide a tasty meal, but there are more energy-efficient ways of cooking that may be used when good cooking wood is scarce.

  After the initial shock of a disaster and people are starting to put their lives back together some simple cooking techniques may be employed that use local wood for fuel and animals for meat. Direct grilling may be done, particularly with pork, that can provide a tasty meal even when made under primitive conditions.

  The meat on the small grill here is from wild hogs. Bone-in hams and ribs may be done successfully if the animals are small. The meat from mature hogs needs to be cooked more slowly and it usually takes overnight to cook a large hog using a grill. Preferably the meat is covered during cooking to help conserve heat.

Cooking in a primitive oven, Italy.

  Baking in an oven is a more efficient use of scarce wood. This may be done by radiant heat as in the Italian oven shown which is the typical one-chamber beehive oven of the Middle East, Europe and The Americas.  A two-compartment oven can be built where the wood is burned in a bottom chamber and the product cooked in an upper chamber for community use.   Such ovens may be constructed from flat pieces of broken concrete block sealed with mud,  flat flags of stone or even ancient Roman brick. It is best if provisions are made via a pipe to allow the smoke some other means of escaping rather than out the single front opening, as is often done.

  Charcoal can be made by burning ricks of hardwoods and cooling the fire before the wood as been burned completely to ash. Obviously, this waste much of the available heat output from the wood. Charcoal from wood fires should be recovered as this is free fuel. Caution must always be exercised when burning anything in an enclosed space to allow carbon monoxide to safely vent outside. In a tight structure charcoal can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

This small wild hog is stuffed with a sausage-cabbage-tomato mix, but any combination of vegetables with or without fruit and nuts might have been used.

  Stuffing animal carcases is a good option to more efficiently utilize heat. In the case shown this is a small wild pig and was stuffed with a mix of sausage, cabbage and tomatoes. Any root vegetable, leafy vegetable, fruit product, dried fruit or nuts could have been added to this stuffing to make a nutritious product. The cooked bones of the animal were provided for my dogs.

  Wild animals may carry diseases. The meat should be handled with rubber gloves if possible or by someone with no nicks or cuts on their hands. As much as is possible wash implements. Cook all wild meat products done. Once completely cooked the meat may be consumed with the same precautions observed for any food. In the absence of refrigeration, anything cooked needs to be consumed fairly quickly.   

Even squirrels can provide good meals with either vegetables or dumplings.

 More nutrition is extracted from an animal if the entire carcass is boiled, the bones separated and simple dumplings made from water, flour and salt. Flour and grain meals can be made from a variety of seed products, besides just wheat and corn. Some roots can yield flour-like products although not all are safe to consume. Avoid grinding flour from bagged seeds as some have been treated with toxic chemicals to help prevent fungus and insect attack.

  I have a YouTube video on squirrel cooking that shows dumpling making that may be seen by clicking on the following link:

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Survival Cooking After Disasters

A simple sheet of iron can provide a community cooking resource.

  Recent events in Japan, war in Libia and the fact that an earthquake can happen anytime in places like Los Angeles, Charleston or Paducah emphasise the need to be able to cook food using whatever resources might be available. However, some things that might appear convenient to use in an emergency can be toxic as can some potential fuels.

  Refrigerators are survivors. They are one of the bulkiest items around and their racks might appear to make ideal grills. Some are coated with cadmium which is fine for use in a cold environment, but gives heavy-metal poisoning if exposed to flames. Similarly zinc-galvanized metal should also  not be placed into contact with heated food.

  Grilling a steak is fine in a meat-rich country, but in a survival situation this meat needs to be extended by cooking with vegetables, in soups or as stews. It is also somewhat unlikely if much is the way of cut meats and ground beef burger would be available for very long if there was no electricity.  

  Although the surface may be rusted, cold-rolled steel plates that are about 1/4-inch thick cut about 3 feet (1 meter long) and 2 feet (60 cm.) wide can provide an excellent cooking surface when supported on concrete blocks and fueled with wood. Caution should be taken that this wood is free from paint (also may contain heavy metals) and galvanized nails. Such an iron sheet, once greased with vegetable oil and brought up to frying temperatures of 400 degrees F. and hotter,  can cook meat and vegetables. In the U.S. this form of cooking is so common as to typify  American Japanese restaurants. This piece of sheet iron can serve as a stove top that can be set up anywhere.  

A one-pot meal cooked over coals taking advantage of available meat, vegetables and fruit.

  Entire meals, meats and vegetables, can be cooked in one pot by filling the pot and adding about 12-ounces of  liquid, putting a lid on it and placing it over low coals to allow to boil and self-steam for a couple of hours. Even if the ration is just a cup of rice a day, extending this with whatever meat might be available and local vegetables can really help either cooked as a stew or on sheet iron.

  Caution world-wide also needs to be exercised on the type of wood that is used for cooking. There are some woods, a South African tree in particular, that gives off poisonous fumes when burned. In the Americas, poison ivy can give off  lung-irritating fumes if inhaled. If one can be selective, the best cooking woods are hardwoods, such as oaks. Others like pine, may be used if unpainted and free of zinc-nails. Strongly aromatic woods like cedar should be avoided. Do not attempt to use Styrofoam, plastics or rubber as fuel. Not only do they smell bad, their fumes can be toxic.

  The symptoms of heavy metal and low-dose radiation poisoning are similar. Without analysis of tissue samples, it is difficult to tell the difference. Both are also similar in that the effects are accumulative, but most symptoms can attenuate over time once the source of continuous poisoning is removed and the body clears these materials if this is done before organs are damaged.

  If the need arises to kill and butcher animals for food, my book “Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound” provides instructions, recipes as well as a description of sheet-iron cooking along with many one-pot recipes. There is sufficient “survival content” in this book to even help someone who has never hunted get their family through a crisis.  If you don’t think you need it, purchase a copy for your local community library. One in five Americans is likely to be touched by a major natural disaster during their lifetimes.

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Turkey Madness in the “A’Fixing to Go Turkey Hunting” Stage

Turkey on the kitchen table. The successful end to a muzzleloading turkey hunt.

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  Excessive-complusive behaviour is nothing new to turkey hunters and may extend for months prior to opening day as turkey hunters go through the "A'Fixing to Go Turkey Hunting" stage. During this period the hunter gets himself ready for turkey season by practicing his calling, gathering even more gear than he already has, looking at turkey videos and very often driving his/her spouse and kids to distraction while he exercises his quaint arts.

  I take a humorous look at this during an hour-long episode of "Hovey's Outdoor Adventures" where I describe my own preparations including getting a flintlock rifle ready using a 1-3,000-year-old broken arrowhead for a flint. This gun was one of those featured in another show, "Gun Talk 101," a few weeks ago. To listen to the new show you can go to the show at: The show will be live March 29, 2011 and may be accessed after that by clicking on the “Archived Shows” tab on the WebTalk page.

  A companion video on “A’Fixing” in regards to turkey hunting appears below. If you have trouble viewing it here it is also accessible on YouTube at:

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The Traveling Hunter: Car, Boat, Plane and Train

Author with Bondo Boat and Weldo Trailer before starting off on a cross-country bowfishing trip.

  Although I strongly advocate hunting close to home in my book Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound as one a way to put low-cost wild-game meat in the freezer, travel has always been an interest of mine. I may go on trips in the U.S. and elsewhere using any available mode. Very commonly I do this by myself and this often requires long distance driving that may take several days.

  I am inclined to follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice to, “Be not the first to leave the old behind, nor yet the last to take up the new.” I just purchased a Garmin in-car navigation device and helped me enormously in finding my hunting spots even in the dark in a unfamilure area and back to my motel which was deep within a strange city. It also aided safety in not having to fool with maps while driving and saved money because I did not have to drive out-of-my-way because I took the wrong exit. These are now easy to operate using touch-screen technology.  I happened to purchase a dash-mounted Garmin, but there are other makers such as Tom-Tom. Almost all of the modern ones have auto-loaded maps and talk to you,  but not so much as a wife-navigator –   “Just the directions honey, nothing else.”

  The amount of gear that I take often controls if I go using my truck or fly. Some hunts, such as waterfowling may require thousands of individual items if you are going to do it by yourself and must provide boat, decoys, clothes, dog stuff, gun-related items, food, cooking and camping gear, etc. This requirement is considerably reduced if you are working through a guide who has this material on site. My particular case is complicated because I mostly use black-powder guns and each requires its own set of components and support equipment. I cannot fly with black powder or percussion caps, so this further restricts travel options.

The MV Spirit on a Nov. hunt off Kodiak Island.

  On a radio show to be aired starting March 22 on, I discuss some North American hunts where I used my truck, Bondo Boat and Weldo Trailer to make a cross-country bowfishing trip. This is followed by a plane trip to Canada for a crossbow hunt for black bear, a boat hunt for blacktail deer on Kodiak Island and a train trip into Mexico for a duck hunt. All of this is in contrast to my usual hunting where I grab a gun and walk out from my house.

  This show can be accessed by using the following link:

To go directly to the show page  click on the following URL :  This show is now available. If it is not the current show it may be found under the “Archived Shows” tab at the top of the page. Listen now at:

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Hunting Small Town America, Seward, Nebraska


Historic 1880s Courthouse, Seward County, Nebraska.


  As part of an occasional Hunting Small Town America Series on my radio show, Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures, I went on a Spring snow goose hunt in Seward County, Nebraska, working out of the town of Seward. Quaintly, but logically, Nebraskans feel that the county and its county seat ought to have the same name. This is not true in my home state of Georgia where few, if any, of the state’s 159 counties and their courthouse towns share the same name. For example, Washington, Georgia, is not located in Washington County; as most people might suppose.

  I grew up and live in Sandersville, Georgia, and Seward shares a lot of features typical of American small towns. It has a courthouse square with businesses around it, The Corner Cafe, the usual public buildings, a new library and a surviving movie theater. Unusual for a town of 6,000, it also has a college, Concordia University, which started as a teachers college in the 1880, but has expanded its offerings into the fine arts and sciences. If you are a rock and mineral person,  they have an excellent exhibit on the ground floor of the library as well as a planetarium.

Cut Runza sandwich to show filling.

  A stranger thinking about hunting in a new area needs some local contacts, and among the best places to start are with the local Chamber of  Commerce. Pat  Coldiron, the Executive Director, can tell you about the county, its facilities and where to find things like the local Wal-Mart, the motels (Hill Crest and Super Eight) as well as where you would likely meet local hunters at the local feed and seed store. She can also tell you about a local sandwich, the Runza, that is an interesting baked-in-bread ground beef-cabbage mix that originated in Russia and Central Europe and came to the U.S. with early settlers.

  If you are interested in wines, the James Arthur Vineyards is located in the small town of Raymond about 10 miles north of Lincoln in adjoining Lancaster County. They make a complete selection of white and red wines from hybrid grapes that are cold-weather resistant and offer tastings in a very nice setting.

Kellen Meyer and Jordan Owens jointly killed this nice buck.

  Seward County is unusual in that it is flat prairie corn fields to the south and west, but has the end of the Nebraskan moraines to the east and north. These two topographic areas offer varied habitats for deer, pheasants, quail, dove, turkeys, waterfowl and rabbits. A 220-class whitetail which is the state’s 8th largest deer was killed in 2010 just outside of Seward. An even larger one was bagged in an adjacent county. The pheasant population took something of a hit last year, but is reasonable, the turkey population is very good, snow goose hunting in the Spring (what I am doing now in the second week in March) is good, waterfowl potential is good on the many small ponds and rabbits are common where there is sufficient cover.

Wild pheasants and quail are best hunted in the hilly parts of the county.

  Shelter belts, conservation reserve lands, wooded creek valleys, small fields in the glacial hills and the county’s nine state and federal public hunting areas are among the best places to hunt deer, pheasants, turkeys and small game. The flat open corn fields are favored places for Spring snow geese, feeding flocks of migrating waterfowl and dove.

  The Nebraska Game and Parks regulations may be accessed at The state has both short-term and seasonal non-resident licenses. The cost for an annual non-resident small game license is $81 (2011), and there is also a state waterfowl stamp and game lands stamp if you wish to hunt waterfowl or access public lands.

  An hour-long radio show featuring Seward County’s hunting potential will be available on

Turkey populations have increased in recent years. NWTF photo.

March 15, 2011, at the Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures show page: If this is not the current show,  the Seward County show  may be accessed by looking under the archived shows’ tab at the top of the page. If you think your community would benefit from having me doing a radio show from your community, you can contact me at

  To access my books, blogs, products and services go to There is a live radio show link at the top of the page just under the banner and at the very bottom a list of my blogs that will provide a full-page view. I also have videos on hunting-related topics (including one on hunting North Carolina snow geese) on YouTube. These may be googled or found on the wmhoveysmith YouTube channel.

  If you have any problems viewing “Hunt Destination: Seward County, Nebraska” it is up on YouTube at: