( MS )
Snap ! It sounded thunderous in his ears !
There was no large billowing cloud of smoke hanging in the air, or recoil from the old muzzle loader.
Hopeing for a “hang fire” he kept the sights steadily on the shoulder of the buck deer.
It didn’t happen, no hang fire. Seconds passed as he wondered, should I try another cap ? Can I manage to put on another cap without being detected by the buck ?
The snap had made the buck nervous, looking about almost casually, his nervousness only told by a slight twitching of his tail.
Hopeing the buck would return to browsing, he waited.
As he stood very still, he thought over the events that had led up to this moment.
A light rain had fallen overnight, so he had decided to walk down the ridge on the “old Settlers” trail, knowing that the leaves would be damp and silent.
Walking with his face into the gentle breeze, he moved slowly and cautiously.
For lack of a better expression the old timers had called it “still” hunting.
He wondered why. The slow and carefully measured steps certainly wern’t being still.
The large white oaks were dropping their acorns and he knew that after the rain there would be a fresh supply on the ground for the deer.
As first light faded into full dawn, he could see that the trail was full of deer tracks and “sign”.
Sunshine beamed over his right shoulder, deep into the woods ahead of him. He could see down the ridge into the forest for quite a ways.
His steady movement had kept him warm during the early morning chill. As he was considering shedding a layer of clothing for comfort, he saw movement ahead.
He froze, watching down the trail intently.
Gradually they came into focus for him. There were four bucks, apparently still in a loose bachelor group. They were grazing from his left to his right, scattered out over forty yards, in single file. Like him, they were moving into the wind as they fed on the acorns.
A slight change in their direction of travel gave him an opportunity to move silently into position.
Soon he was waiting for them to feed into range.
Closer they fed. He had to consciously work on controlling his breathing, his heart rate was way up.
The first deer had fed by at about fifty yards, a shot he could make, yet he waited.
The buck that had caught his attention was the second in the line, and was nearing a opening in the trees where he could be seen clearly.
When the buck entered the opening he was facing him. Not a good angle, wait, wait. Then as the buck turned slightly to pick up an acorn, the shot he wanted presented it’s self.
Placing the front sight bead carefully on the bucks shoulder he gently squeezed the trigger.
That’s when it happened.
As the waiting game drug out, muscles began to cramp, the old muzzle loader was heavy when extended from his shoulder.
The buck dropped his head to continue feeding.
Now, he thought, now is my chance to put on another cap.
Lowering the black powder rifle he reached into his “possibles” bag for another primer cap.
The dreaded sound he was hopeing he could avoid, happened. A loud alarm wheeze !
The first buck that had fed past him was looking right at him and as soon as he moved, he snorted the alarm.
Leaves scattered, twigs snapped and rocks rattled as the deer fled away.
Stepping from his hiding place, rifle in one hand and primer cap in the other, he thought, “man, there were way more deer there than I had seen, the whole world came alive when that snort happened”.
Replacing the primer cap with a new unfired cap, he considered each step he had taken when loading the muzzle loader.
He had done it many times over the years, with very few misfires. What had gone wrong this time ?
Those new muzzle loaders he had been reading about seemed very tempting to him. Using a inline firing method and shotgun primers, they reportedly had longer range and more power, as well as being more dependable.
Yet there was something pleasing about continuing with the traditional black powder methods.
“Nah”, he thought,” there will be another day, and another buck. I will build a buckskin cover for the primer cap and hammer to keep moisture out.”
“I have carried this old charcoal burner for so many miles I would hate to give up on her now.”