Positively Primitive

An increase in allowable weapons makes the late-season Primitive Firearms Season too good to pass up.

If you failed to tag a deer during the regular gun season or if you need a deer or two for sausage, don’t fret. There is still opportunity during the late Primitive Firearms Season. Hopefully you read the 2008-09 Hunting Regulations Booklet and know that the Muzzleloader Season has been replaced with a Primitive Firearms Season.

For years, Louisiana hunters have wanted to do things like Mississippi and Texas. Well, now we have a Primitive Firearms Season that is almost identical to Mississippi’s. This season provides hunters with another week of hunting once the regular gun season ends in most areas of the state.

Just like Mississippi, the Louisiana Primitive Firearms Season allows hunters to use, in addition to muzzleloader rifles, the pre-1900 breech-loading metallic cartridge rifles.

An obvious advantage of this new season is that hunters no longer have to worry about hunting during inclement weather and keeping their powder dry. It is a sure bet that a cartridge rifle is going to fire during a steady downpour. Another advantage is that hunters who did not like the idea of having to measure powder and ram it and a projectile down the barrel now can simply load a cartridge into the chamber of one of these rifles, just like their modern centerfire rifle.

The muzzleloader season was initiated to provide additional deer hunting opportunity for Louisiana hunters. It started off as a Monday-Friday season (in between the still and dog seasons). Eventually a weekend was added, and later it was moved ahead of the still-hunt season and a week was added to the end of the regular gun season, making for two weeks of blackpowder hunting.

The season structure for this new Primitive Firearms Season remains the same as the old muzzleloader season.

Old school vs. new school

In the early years of the Louisiana Muzzleloader Season, most hunters used the old replica-style Hawken or Kentucky Long Rifles. Hunters either shot a patched round ball or a conical lead bullet.

If you hunted the Tensas Refuge in the mid-1980s and camped at Gumbo Acres, you probably experienced something like the old mountain man rendezvous — not much sleep, lots of shouting, Hank Williams Jr. music around campfires and muzzleloaders firing powder charges all throughout the night.

These old flintlock and percussion replicas did kill a few deer. My first muzzleloader was a Lyman Great Plains rifle in .54 caliber. I’m a holdback from the old school, and still hunt with this rifle. I have killed bucks that weighed 235, 230 and 220 pounds with a patched round ball, and have no problems with the performance of this rifle.

Of course, I am a muzzleloader hunter who hunts like a bowhunter and gets the deer in close, so I am not shooting long shots, although I have killed some deer right at 100 yards with that rifle. There is no doubt, however, that the .50-caliber rifles shooting round balls were not very efficient for killing deer.

While these replica muzzleloaders grabbed the attention of the Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone generation of hunters (boomers), most hunters wanted a better rifle — something that was easier to handle, easier to load and shoot and was a little more effective.

Consequently, gun makers began designing muzzle-loading rifles that would provide the performance similar to their centerfire rifles. Tony Knight was one of these gunsmiths who revolutionized the muzzleloader firearms industry. In fact, Revolution is the name for one of the Knight rifles on the market today.

The muzzleloader technology has advanced faster than the muzzleloader regulations of many state agencies. New powders, new primers, new ignition systems and new saboted bullets provide the fuel and loads for these new in-line rifles, and hunters are discovering just how accurate they are. The long-range performance of these rifles has pretty much replaced the old side hammers in the deer woods.

Breech-loading rifles

The new Primitive Firearms Season gives a hunter the ability to hunt with a replica single-shot breech-loading rifle, and eliminate all-together any ignition and firing problem that often happens with muzzleloaders. Rifles such as the Knight KP1 in .45-70 or .444 Marlin are legal during this season.

The regulation allows for single-shot breech-loading rifles, .38 caliber or larger, of a type manufactured prior to 1900 and replicas, reproductions or reintroductions of that type rifle having an exposed hammer that use metallic cartridges loaded either with blackpowder or modern smokeless powder.

Hunters will probably opt for the more modern-looking rifle, such as the Knight KP1 or an H&R Handi-rifle, that can be easily fitted with a scope. The replica Sharps rifles look great, but they are not designed for modern scopes, and since the average age of hunters today is 40+, scopes are a necessity due to vision problems.

Both the breech-loading and muzzleloading rifles can be fitted with magnified scopes during the primitive season.

At a recent conference of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, Mike Mattly of Born to Hunt (Outdoor Channel) gave a demonstration of the KP1 .45-70 and the Knight Rolling Block Muzzleloader. The .45-70 has a kick, but according to Mattly, the KP1 in the .444 Marlin caliber does not kick as much and the ballistics are better.

Both of these rifles look great and are well made. Of course the advantage of the KP1 is the ability to change barrels.

Best Primitive Season areas

There is no doubt that Areas 1, 4 and 6 provide the best late-season hunting. The rut is late in these areas, particularly in Area 6, and of course this offers great opportunity for a trophy buck.

The Nuttalls oak tree is common in the bottomland hardwood forests in these areas, and since these acorns fall late off the trees, there is an excellent food source to hunt.

In Area 2, the best primitive season hunting is during the first week of the season in late October. During the late season, bucks are beginning to lose their antlers in Area 2 (this can start in late December in some parishes). There are, however, a few locations within Area 2 that were stocked with the late-breeding genetics, and late hunting is good.

Last year, Michael Iman killed a 120-class buck during this late season in Webster Parish.

Private lands around Jackson-Bienville WMA also have a later rut. There is no January primitive season hunting in Southwest Louisiana (the second primitive season in this part of the state was in early December.

There is not much primitive firearms hunting available on public lands in Area 2 during January. The only tract that I am aware of is the Caney Ranger District in Webster and Claiborne parishes. The season on this tract of the Kisatchie National Forest is the same as the outside season, Jan. 12-18.

There are many wildlife management areas open for the late primitive season in Areas 1 and 6. The best would include Buckhorn (two-week season), Sherburne, Thistlethwaite, Red River and Three Rivers. The rut should be in full swing on these areas, giving hunters additional opportunity to put meat in the freezer or harvest a trophy buck. Pearl River WMA gives hunters the chance for a deer or pig.

Early season rendezvous

The old District 7 Rendezvous Crew met at Pearl River WMA for the opening round of the deer season in November, which was the first primitive season.

According to Area Supervisor Mark Bible, 168 hunters hunted that Saturday and Sunday, and killed seven hogs, but did not harvest any deer. Even the famous Pelayo of Louisiana Sportsman fame struck out with the deer.

On Monday, I set up in the Katrina Woods, and encountered a 6-point and two more deer but did not shoot. The crew enjoyed a good campfire that night, and had visions of backstrap and pork chops in their heads upon awakening, but warm weather had moved in, and the morning hunt ended quickly with only one deer sighting and one hog missed.

I did get to try out the new Knight & Hale Rack Blaster call, and look forward to using it during the rut. It is a versatile call that will work from both ends, and can be adjusted to make a variety of calls. It is easy to use and has a good sound.

One word of caution about Pearl River: It is not a cakewalk. If you plan on getting off the cleared trails, be prepared for some rough-going. Travel light, have plenty of liquids if it is a warm day and have a game plan to get the harvested game out.

About David Moreland 239 Articles
David Moreland is a retired wildlife biologist with LDWF, having served as the State Deer Biologist for 13 years and as Chief of the Wildlife Division for three years. He and his wife Prudy live in rural East Feliciana Parish.

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