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Smoke and the Smell of Sulfur: Giving Black Powder a Try

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Smoke and the Smell of Sulfur: Giving Black Powder a Try

Last fall I set out on a clear, brisk Sunday morning with a hawken-style black powder rifle on my shoulder. After trying for 9 years to get a blacktail buck with my longbow I decided to try a black powder hunt because I was captivated with tradition, and it allowed me to hunt during the late fall rut—a rare opportunity here in northwest Oregon.

As I made my way down the logging road I found my first set of tracks near some reprod and a good game trail heading down the hillside. I picked a large fir tree nearby, sat down, and began a rattling sequence. Everything fell quiet and I waited for 15 minutes. Nothing. I repeated this sequence again and again as I moved from spot to spot. After two hours I had only seen one small yearling deer.

During those times of silence I would look down at the heavy octagonal barrel of my rifle and the sweeping curve of the hammer half-cocked over the percussion cap. I wondered about the significance of the invention of black powder, the mountain men of the early American frontier, and whether my gun would go “bang” when the time came to pull the trigger.

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