Outdoors photos

Taking a first deer with a flintlock is always special, but even more so when registering it with the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association Longhunter Society.

No matter the age or experience of the hunter, one of the most noteworthy accomplishments and desired trophies in Pennsylvania are to be had beginning this Wednesday — the opening day of the statewide flintlock deer season — and continuing through Saturday, Jan. 12.

While taking a buck during flintlock season is the stuff of which dreams are made, for those who have prepared themselves and their primitive-style rifles whose predecessors have been in the New World since the arrival of its earliest settlers taking any and all deer should be considered a trophy. As such, the hunter should consider preserving the memory of the accomplishment document the accomplishment.

That can be done by registering the successful hunt with the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association’s North American big game records program known as The Longhunter Society. Using the Boone and Crockett scoring system, the LHS has lower minimum standards for its records, but it also recognizes all hunters who take an animal by fair chase with a certificate designed for framing and a pewter pin.

Retired Whitehall High school teacher Dave Ehrig of Topton is both editor of “Muzzle Blasts” magazine, the official publication of the NMLRA, and chairman of the LHS. He has been hunting with muzzleloaders for nearly 55 years and was one of the authorities the Pennsylvania Game Commission solicited to help formulate the regulations for flintlock season.

Ehrig believes just the challenge of taking a deer – or any game animal – with a muzzleloader rifle makes it a trophy. That is especially so for those who hunt during flintlock deer season in Pennsylvania, which remains the only state with such a season.

“We believe that all game taken with a muzzleloader should be honored, and for that distinction, we have a pin/certificate program for non-trophy entries,” Ehrig said. “To participate, a photo of the hunter and game taken with the muzzleloader used should be submitted with $10 to NMLRA/LHS Pin Program, Box 67, Friendship, Ind. 47021.

“In addition to hunters including their name and address, we would like a short description of the hunt. We publish photos in the “trophy room” link of our website at www.nmlra.org, and they are inspiring, but also watch for the gallery in “Muzzle Blasts,” as we picture successful non-trophy entries four times a year.”

When the NMLRA was considering a name for its big game program, which began in 1988, “longhunter” was a natural. It was selected because the term “longhunter” was used to denote the length of time away from home early pioneers – most notably Daniel Boone and his fellow settlers at Boonesboro, Kentucky, who had migrated from Pennsylvania — spent in order to harvest game.

“While our parent organization, the NMLRA was founded in 1933 by a group of muzzleloaders who celebrated this single shot sport in all of its myriad and inspiring forms, we too accept hunting trophies taken with all forms of muzzleloading guns,” Ehrig said. “Acceptable trophies include animals harvested with rifles, smoothbores and pistols; any matchlock, wheel lock, flintlock and percussions ignition systems in all forms.

“Sights can range from open iron, through aperture, fiber optic and telescopic and illuminated LEDs and are all accepted as long as the gun is loaded from the muzzle. If a state game agency allows the use of the muzzleloader and legally sanctions its ignition and sighting apparatus, and if the game animal was taken through fair chance, then we accept the trophy as a legal entry.”

While Pennsylvania remains the only state that has a special season for flintlock muzzleloaders, approximately 3.6 million muzzleloader hunters enjoy the sport with a myriad of ignition forms. That is why the LHS accepts any record quality North American animal to honor the game animal, the state wildlife agencies conservation efforts and the skills of the hunter that put them into a shooting position to harvest the game.

In 1992, the first “Longhunter Muzzleloading Big Game Record Book” was published and updated editions of the book have followed and the latest is available. This hardcover book is comprised of thousands of entries and scores of photos for 32 types of big game animals.

Membership in the NMLRA is not a requirement for submitting a trophy for the record book or pin/certificate program, but certain other requirements must be met. By including the location where every trophy animal was taken, the book serves as a tool to identify hot spots for hunting trophy animals.

“There have been many changes to the Longhunter Society in the past few years, but thanks to the far sightedness of the NMLRA board, officers and LHS committee, we have been encouraged to rededicate our efforts to accomplish the original mission and vision of the founders,” Ehrig said. “Whitetail deer, the original game animal in the program, has been restored as our symbol, and it has approximately 2,000 entries — far more than most all of the others combined.

“It doesn’t matter if a hunter takes a big-rack buck or a “trophy” doe, if they take it with a muzzleloader, they should be proud of the accomplishment. I’m looking forward to having five more weeks of flintlock “doe” season in Wildlife Management Unit 5C.”

Information on the Longhunter Society is available by contacting Dave Ehrig at DEhrig@aol.com; information about the National Muzzle Loading Rife Association is available online at www.nmlra.org.

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