The Northern Zone early muzzleloading season opened yesterday. If it seems like this season is opening later than in previous years, that is precisely the case.
When the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s new white-tailed deer management plan took effect last year, it changed the opening day of the big-game rifle season from the second-to-last Saturday in October to the second Saturday after Columbus Day.
The weeklong early muzzleloading season precedes the big-game season, which opens next Saturday (Oct. 26) and runs for 44 days. It will end on Dec. 8, making this season one of the odd-ball years where deer season runs a bit further into December. Parts of the Northern Zone will also see a late muzzleloading season that runs through Dec. 15.
I love muzzleloading hunting. Like so many hunters out there, I started out with a patch-and-ball percussion rifle. I had some great success with that little gun, including a fine Adirondack six-pointer that remains one of my more memorable hunts.
Technology changed everything in the muzzleloading world. “In-line” rifles came along with better ignition systems and scopes eventually became legal to use. More than a decade ago, the state added the late season and that was eventually followed by the creation of the Super Sportsman license that put more tags in hunter’s pockets.
All of this has resulted in an increase in muzzleloading’s popularity, at least in the North Country. For many years I was the only hunter in our group who hunted with a muzzleloader (as well as archery gear). That has all changed as nearly everyone in our group now owns a smokepole or two. Overall, it seems like there are two opening days in the Northern Zone: yesterday and next Saturday.