The last day of flintlock hunting and I’m empty handed. Not from lack of effort, mind you, but more from the weather. There’s a reason they didn’t fight battles in the civil war when it was the middle of a snowstorm.
My brother and I had been hunting the farm all day. I was using the flintlock but having serious doubts about this being a good idea. The problem was a constant wind (I’ve never winded the flintlock, I had no idea what the drift was) and when they called for six inches of snow, they were talking about “over the course of the day”. It was snowing when we got there, there were periods of hail, and it was snowing at sunset.
I had followed a deer trail from one side of the farm to the other end, the deer was there but having seen no deer beds and nothing but tracks, I doubted the deer was stopping. Given the weather I figured it might have gone to the pines on the far side but it went straight through. I knew the tracks were recent because they were on top of the snow but since the deer didn’t bed down, it wasn’t waiting for me or anything else. I took this as an opportunity to hike around the other areas to check for tracks or beds. Even in the places you would expect to find deer (acorn mast), there were no tracks and no beds. I checked mostly point to point, there’s no sense in line hunting alone. My brother doesn’t own a flintlock and has no interest in it so he was out with a shotgun for small game.
I had resigned myself to sitting on top of a hill in some light cover waiting to see if the deer would circle around. I had about 1h30m until sunset, so I figured it would be cold and boring. It managed to be both. With single digit temperatures in the valley and windchill on top of that, taking off my gloves to type on my phone quickly turned into OH GOD MY FINGERS ARE SO COLD THEY HURT. I was never so pleased with shoving my hands down my pants in public as I was Saturday on that hill.
Suddenly, a deer! Hunting goes from slowly poking around to sheer excitement with nothing in between when game is found. My brother was up the next hill over chasing a snowshoe hare when a deer came crashing through the bushes trying to avoid him. The deer was as suprised he was there as he was suprised he nearly got run down by the deer. I had heard the whole thing and suddenly my well placed stand with brush behind me became a liability as I tried to bring the gun around. I finally brushed the snow off the sights and found a lane to shoot through. I pulled the trigger and…
I actually watched the spark blow sideways off the frizzen and fall into the snow. George Washington’s ghost was laughing at me.
I reset the lock rested the gun again, and once again pulling the trigger lost the spark in the wind. I was trying to fire between gusts but deer rarely sit still and my firing lane was crowded anyway. There was a very real chance the deer would spook, especially since the lock isn’t exactly quiet and the delay between sparking and firing is enough to let the deer “jump the string” over enough distance. Given this was about a 50 yard shot, I was worried. One more spark in the snow.
Ripping my hat off, I supported the front of the gun on a thorn bush, aimed, then put my hat over the pan. This time the spark landed in the pan, but didn’t catch. By now the flint and frizzen were getting polished, where the face of the flint matches the frizzen so well it can no longer scrape the surface. Figuring I needed fresh powder I took down the gun and opened the lock to see that my pan had collected a layer of snow with all this false firing. I dumped out the pan and cleaned the rest with my fingers, which were now hurting again since I had discarded my gloves to help with the aiming and priming.
I pulled the powder tube over the pan and pressed the button. Nothing came out. Looking down the tube, it was also filled with snow, and to make matters worse the button to dispense powder bound in the down position. If George Washington were laughing before, his entire regiment was laughing now. I started to look for a place to lay the flintlock before realizing that six inches of snow is more than enough to lose a rifle in. I resigned to holding it across my chest in my elbows while I unscrewed the powder horn’s lid. I managed to dump powder into the pan wholesale (and all over me and the ground with the wind) and shove the horn in the snow upright with the lid laid on top.
Bringing the sites back onto the deer I see… Nothing. The deer probably winded me because she took of running away from my stand and onto the neighbors property, far and away from the longing sights of my gun.
The woods win again.
But all wasn’t lost, my brother shot a squirrel at about 25 yards, I was suprised he connected with it. We took it home as our only prize that day.
Dad always lightly fried up squirrels in butter, but Dad also really sucked at the whole preparing the