KEVIN TATE: Gladly saying goodbye to the black powder blues

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Earlier this week, the state legislature and the Governor moved Mississippi’s primitive weapon season for whitetail further into the modern era, allowing anyone hunting on private or leased, hunting club land to use any shooting method they like after Nov. 30, an act I’m proud to welcome.
In my earliest days with the Mossy Oak Productions team, one of my jobs was helping keep the muzzleloaders clean, a chore everyone in the office disliked witnessing a lot more than I disliked doing.
Most of our big game hunting was done with archery gear, centerfire rifles or slug guns, depending on the laws and seasons. When our field guys did use a muzzleloader, though, my post-use protocol was a joy to behold.
The first step in the cleaning procedure was to find Popeye and feed him three or four cans of spinach so he could unscrew the breech plug with the manufacturer-provided wrench, one whose handle was sized perfectly for the fingers of a 4-year-old girl. This had to be done while overpowering spent powder gunk that had built up and petrified in the threads.
With this accomplished and my vision and blood pressure returned to normal, I’d select a garbage can, hold one end of the barrel over it, spray in a generous amount of bore solvent, then chase it with hot water to wash the gunk free. The department coffee maker was ideal for getting the water scalding hot and the pot was just right for pouring, so I always did this standing midway of the building, an ideal spot for the job if ever I saw one.
When the hot water hit the solvent and gunk, the sulphur of the ages would be released, forming a noxious cloud that fed through the return air vents of the heating system to be evenly distributed throughout the building. With cries of anguish and disgust bouncing joyfully among the walls, I’d use the bore brush to get everything clean, then run wads of patches through until my work area looked like the beginnings of a cotton module.
With both the barrel and breech plug cleaned and dry, I’d apply a big dose of a specialized lubricant to the plug’s threads as I’d been cautioned to do, forming a sheen suspiciously resembling the gunk that would later have to be again overwhelmed.
There may be a certain romance and nostalgia to black powder hunting, but cleaning up after the fact is a reminder of how far our species has progressed.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.