Many big game hunters have a lot of money invested in modern muzzleloaders. Hours are spent at the range working out which powders and bullets or sabots work the best for a particular rifle. Some of these are built for long-range hunting and most are very accurate, some are even as accurate as modern center fire rifles.
For those not familiar with this style of hunting, the muzzleloader season for elk is timely with the rut, making this an extremely enjoyable and memorable hunt. The muzzleloader has always filled the gap between bow hunting and rifle hunting. It’s a challenging hunt, but probably not as challenging as harvesting big game with a bow while still being more challenging than hunting with a centerfire rifle. Hunting deer with a muzzleloader allows for the early-season pursuit of mule deer while still in velvet. Both species offer a challenging pursuit, even with scoped modern muzzleloaders and equipment.
Advancements in bullets and powders over the years as well as refinements made in manufacture of these rifles have allowed the distance that a muzzleloader is effective to be increased exponentially. Quality optics add to the precision and also help ensure a clean and ethical harvest in a hunting scenario.
There are several units (9, 13, 15, 17) in New Mexico that are primitive weapon-only units, meaning that modern centerfire rifle hunting is prohibited. These units offer only bow and muzzleloader hunting for deer and elk and tags are highly sought after.
The NM Game Commission was presented with harvest data suggesting that too many animals were being harvested with modern muzzleloaders. The choices presented were to cut hunting opportunities (reduce the number of available tags) or change the rule of manner and method to ban scopes on these weapons. The first choice presents major financial implications for the department. Cutting opportunity results in a lot less funds coming into the department budget. Clearly cutting department dollars was not going to happen. As such, a lot of high-dollar muzzleloaders will be sitting in the back of gun safes in NM and across the nation. However, the rules do allow for these bad-ass muzzleloaders to be used in the centerfire hunts as a lessor weapon can be selected.
Questions arise as to how the change will impact draw odds and whether real property values in these areas may be impacted negatively. Hunters and buyers of recreation ranch real estate will have some tough choices to make. Further reading on the change can be found at the link below.