Have been a very dedicated muzzleloader hunter since middle-70s and taken more deer-size game than I can recall. Competed all across the country in muzzleloading rifle matches up to national championship level. All my shooting and hunting has been with patched round ball and black powder, percussion and flintlock, .40 caliber to .62 caliber.
Patched round ball places very significant limitations on distance that deer-size game can be ethically and reliably taken for two reasons: round ball runs out of energy very quickly and is highly susceptible to wind drift.
I have witnessed drift up to 12 MOA at 100 yards in stiff crosswind with .58 caliber bench rifle that weighs 50 pounds (to tame recoil) and burns 250 grains FFG. This was during a test session with a scope mounted on the gun to preclude aiming error. It would likely be even greater with a smaller diameter ball and lighter powder charge. I mention this only to emphasize that in hunting conditions it is necessary to carefully gauge wind and keep shots closer in order to make clean kills. Lots of range time and practice recommended before hunting with a primitive arm.
I have no doubt erred on the conservative side much more than the opposite, limiting my shots to 100 yards maximum on deer, usually less than 75. The greatest distance I ever achieved a clean kill was on a mule deer at a measured 115. Had I known it was that far I would have attempted to stalk closer. In all my years of hunting with muzzleloaders I have lost only a few wounded deer and distance was not the problem. I blame low light aiming error with primitive sights and learned from my mistakes.
I would recommend heart-lung shot placement over any other, typically at 75 yards or less the .50 to .54 caliber round ball punches completely through leaving a good blood trail and a dead animal less than 50 yards away.
I offer no shooting or ballistics advice on sabot loads, slug ammo, Pyrodex or inline-style rifles as I have never ventured into those realms
Last edited by EJ@TSFMag; 01-10-2017 at 11:35 AM.