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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