Muzzleloading season arrives in the North Country

PHOTO PROVIDEDOnce the rifle season opens next week, Dan Ladd's group of friends will be pounding the woods quite regularly.

By the time you read this, the early muzzleloading hunting season will be well under way.

Muzzleloading season for deer and bear began yesterday, Oct. 13.

In New York’s Northern Zone, a week-long muzzleloading, or black powder season, takes place the week prior to the rifle season, which begins Saturday, Oct. 20.


The rifle season, commonly referred to as the regular, or big game season, begins two Saturdays after Columbus Day.

With the holiday coming as early as possible this year, that means the hunting seasons, too, begin as early as they possibly can.

Next year, it will be just the opposite.

A week can make quite a difference in hunting conditions, but in the end it all comes down to Mother Nature.

Most areas in the North Country have yet to experience a hard freeze.

Although the fall scenery is kicking in, the underbrush in the woods is still very green.

This certainly hinders visibility and these conditions will likely remain through much of October.


Black powder rifle hunting is very popular, especially in the Adirondacks, but that wasn’t always the case.

Muzzleloading rifles used be the typical “musket” or percussion style gun.

Sportsman’s groups asked for, and eventually got, a short muzzleloading season, but the deer hunter still only had one tag.

Popularity grew in the 1990s with the advent of the in-line muzzleloader used by so many hunters today.

Along with improvements in powders and projectiles, muzzleloading became more attractive to the average deer hunter.


New York responded and gave both muzzleloading hunters and bow hunters an additional deer tag to fill during those early seasons.

Eventually the Super Sportsman license was created, which gave those who used both primitive hunting implements two additional tags: one being an “either-or” tag to be used on a buck or doe while the other must be used on an antlerless deer.

When I started using a muzzleloader in the mid-1990s, only one other member of my family hunting party had a muzzleloader.

For years, I hunted alone, and with success.

I have come to enjoy this type of hunting and look forward to it every year.


Today, I know few Northern Zone hunters who don’t take advantage of the opportunity to hunt with a muzzleloader.

Deer camps across the Adirondacks now have two opening days; one for the muzzleloading weekend, and another a week later when the rifle season opens.

Muzzleloading hunting has become a viable management tool in areas where deer are overpopulated.

To the contrary, a debate has surfaced over the taking of antlerless deer in areas less populated by whitetails, such as the Adirondacks.


I will be out there this weekend with my muzzleloader and actually have a few days off later this week.

As stated, I really enjoy this style of hunting. It’s a challenge to take a deer with one shot, but overall I just like being in the woods this time of year.

If our group gets together, we’ll sit for a bit in the morning, then make a few slow drives.

When hunting alone, I tend to spend the mornings and evenings on stand, but will still-hunt the rest of the time I’m in the woods. I take advantage of the time to do a little scouting.

Once the rifle season opens next week, our group will be pounding the woods quite regularly.


We’re weekend warriors for the most part, tending to save ourvacation time for November when the whitetail rut is on.

During the early season, we try to hit as many of our hunting areas as possible and get a handle on food sources and doe populations in these areas.

We’ll take a buck if the opportunity comes along, but we don’t get too worried if we don’t see bucks, as long as we’re seeing does.

That’s because where the girls are, the boys will eventually be and, later in the season, we’ll come back to those areas that held does with the expectation of finding bucks.

Sign, like rubs and scrapes, will tell us if they’re around.

These strategies have worked for us for years. Most hunters I know have a plan, which, along with boots on the ground, translates to luck in the deer woods.

Happy hunting season!

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at


Do you have photos from a hunt or fishing trip you would like to share? If you are the parent or legal guardian of a junior hunter, or if you are an adult who would like to share your successful trip, send photos with names, locations and size details to or drop it off at the Press-Republican, 170 Margaret St., Plattsburgh.

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