Deer Hunting With The Northwest Trade Gun

So Bill asked me to post a story of hunting with my North West trade Gun. First the history lesson. I hope this doesn’t sound too lame or condescending.

What is commonly known as the North West Trade Gun (NWG) was developed around 300 years ago by, you guessed it, The Northwest Company! It was designed to be a cheap weapon to trade with native populations around the world.

The NWG was a smoothbore flintlock made by various manufacturers in calibers ranging from .45 (.410 gauge, I know .410 is a caliber not a gauge) to around .72 caliber (12 Gauge). The NWG was crudely made, wood to metal fit was poor; the stock was almost strait. The butt was strait. The butt plate was nailed on with horse shoe nails and the wood had no figure.

However, the lock was made from the same molds as the British Brown Bess musket. The NWG was (contrary to pop literature), easy to use, quite “pointable” and very reliable. It had to be. A gun in the farthest reaches of the Canadian wilderness which did not fire due to lack of maintenance etc. was not going to be of much use to a native whose livelihood and life depended on it.

The NWG can be recognized by the distinctive brass serpent on the off side from the lock. The brass serpent was a sign of quality to native populations. Old photos even show natives wearing the serpents around their neck for adornment (kind of like 1980’s rappers wore Mercedes symbols around their necks).

Well it appears I write the same way I talk (too much). So I’ll just move on to a description of my NWG and tell you about my hunt.

I bought my NWG from North Star West which makes an excellent kit. My father, Wes Lumry put it together for me and the only way it differs from an original is in the fit & finish. My dad has been building muzzleloading rifles for forty years. The fit and finish is probably the best of any NWG in history!

My NWG is .65 caliber (16 gauge). Keeping with Native American tradition we cut the barrel from 36″ to 30″ (That KILLED my dad!). Then we hammered tacks all over it. Dad mad a leather/red wool sling for it also.

The first hunting season I had my NWG was also the first season I decided to “hunt only for horns.” That’s right, this year I was holding out for a MONSTER BUCK!

The first evening of muzzleloading deer season I walked across the road from my house to a corn circle (do you like the way I casually let the reader know I live in the middle of hunting paradise!?). And settled in to a corner. I was soon surrounded by 18 (I am not kidding) does and one spike buck. I just sat there putting a bead on various deer and thinking of where I would place my shot if indeed that deer was a MONSTER! Ultimately the sun set and I returned home and reported the evening’s activities to my dad (visiting from Wichita).

The next morning me and my old man walked to the same corner of field. Soon three does appear walking from west to east. The set up is about perfect. The sun is at our backs, no wind, and deer coming strait to us.

But remember, I am only hunting horns. I’m waiting for the MONSTER! The does stop short and begin grazing about 40 yards in front of us.

The following conversation takes place over approximately the next 15 minutes (cut to hunting show TV whispers).

DAD– Hey Keith, you gonna shoot one of those deer?

KEITH– No dad they’re does. I’m holding out for a buck!

DAD– I think you should shoot one of those does.

KEITH– I told you I’m going to shoot a buck, it’s only the second day of the season!

DAD– I think you should shoot one of those does!

KEITH– No response.

DAD– Hell, I built that gun! I should at least get to see you shoot one of those does!

KEITH– No response.

DAD– Go ahead, shoot one of those does!

DAD– I can’t believe you’re not going to shoot one of those does!

DAD– After I built that gun for you…

Meanwhile those does are still THERE! By now dad is yelling at me (okay, not really, but you know what I mean).

DAD– I’m not getting any younger. I don’t know how many hunting seasons I have left….

(Okay, so he probably didn’t say that last line, but it was definitely implied!).

DAD– Go ahead, I want to see you shoot one of those does with that smoothbore flintlock.

DAD– That I built!

Damn those does! They’re still there! They’re sooo close! And Dad WILL-NOT-STOP-TALKING!!!

I break like a number 2 pencil.

I throw my Northwest Trade Gun (which DAD built! Did I mention that?) to my shoulder put a bead on the nearest doe and fire. The world is consumed by smoke, sparks and fire. I can’t see…

YOU GOT HER! Yells dad.

I pace off forty yards to a huge splash of blood.

I am on the edge of the corn circle, the scene is somewhat macabre. On both sides of the corn stalks it looks like someone has entered the standing corn with a garden hose in each hand spraying blood. The ball must have gone clean through. I am so fascinated that I almost step on the deer.

So I’m standing over the deer with mixed emotions. The NWG had performed flawlessly and was massively lethal. I had a successful hunt. My dad was fit to bust over the performance of “HIS” gun. But it’s only the second morning of muzzleloading deer season and my hunt is over. With no MONSTER BUCK!

Oh well at least that corn fed doe was delicious.

And I could always hunt for horns the next year… but that’s another story.


Five Things I’ve learned Deer Hunting


Since I’m still fairly new to this deer hunting thing, I thought I might lay out a few things I’ve picked up that no one seems to tell a new hunter about. Hopefully, this can help other greenhorns out.

  1. Check the weather – religiously. I seem to constantly under-dress for the elements. And check the weather for where you’re going to hunt, not where you live as they could be different. The weather conditions can differ fairly significantly from where I live and where I hunt, and it’s only a 3 hour difference. Bring more cold weather gear than you’ll think you need, because you’ll need it. You can take stuff off if you get hot, you can’t put stuff on when you get cold if you didn’t bring it.
  2. Sorry for being a little gross, but clear all the phlegm and mucus out before you head out to your stand. Nothing is more loud than clearing your throat when the sun comes up in the morning.
  3. Learn to sit still. This is still hard for me to do. Don’t jump and look around at every little noise, most likely it’s not a deer, but the sudden movement can tip them off if they’re sitting in the margins looking around.
  4. In the area I hunt, the deer definitely have have schedules. They seem to wander through the same fields and waterholes about every 2-3 days. This last season, the buck I missed was on a 3 day schedule. Keith picked it up, predicted they’d show that Saturday night, and they did. I had suspected this, and started watching this myself. Other hunters I’ve talked to have said the same thing. But I don’t hear anyone talk about it, even in the hunting magazines. Now if I can just figure out 2 stands that have deer traffic on alternate days, that would be awesome.
  5. This one is the most important, especially to the married guys. Thank your wife for keeping the fort under control while you’re out. Thank her a lot. Really. Let me say it one more time, thank your wife for keeping the house and family under control while your out hunting. A simple thank you will go a LONG way. Believe me. I can’t say this one enough. My wife’s awesome. She let me go hunting on our wedding anniversary. Yes, I said “let.”

Those are just a few things I’ve picked up the last couple of hunts. What other tips have you picked up along the way? Leave your tips in the comments.

Image courtesy of Free Nature Pictures.

Fall Deer Camp 2009 Revisited

Sunrise on the final Saturday
Sunrise over the waterhole on the final Sunday of the season.

I was able to make it for the final weekend of Muzzleloading Deer Season in hopes that I still might be able to get a shot. But, not being able to leave until after work on Friday, I was only going to get a day and half to hunt. The weather proved to be ideal for the hunt. A cold front moved in Friday night and couple that with a full moon and a clear night, the conditions to get the deer moving.

I did see a lot of deer that morning, all whitetails. Unfortunately, they all stayed out of the field I was in and ran the fences to the north and east of me (which we don’t have permission to hunt). A couple of does started to venture in, but were startled by something and changed their mind.

I left around mid-morning to grab some lunch. I had planned on coming back out later in the afternoon as their were a pair of whitetail bucks that seemed to be coming to the water hole every 3 days in the evenings. I’ve observed this behaviour before, noticing that deer seemed to be on some type of schedule like that and would be seen every 2-3 days. Saturday would be the third day for this pair of bachelor bucks. My hunting buddy and I set back out around 5 to see if it would hold true.

I started to get apprehensive as sunset approached and we hadn’t seen anything up to then. But like clockwork, the two bucks showed about 5 minutes after sundown, rounding a ridge just to the north of our stand. We were sitting in a washout on the side of ridge about 10 feet above a couple of paths leading up to the windmill watering hole.

We watched the bucks pick the closest path to us and realized they were going to pass within 30 yards of out stand. My heart and breathing is racing at this point. My first shot at a buck! I mean, I’m really panting, like I had run a marathon. I’m getting worried they’re going to hear me. My mind is screaming at me, “Don’t move! Sit still! Why are you breathing so hard?”

I pick my shooting lane. I wait until the biggest of the 2 clears a large sunflower plant I’m sitting behind. I see his head, his shoulders. I pick my spot. Wait. Squeeze.

The buck flinched, did a 180 and put the spurs down. My partner had waited for me to take the shot. I hear his ring out and see the puff of dust in a slight ridge over the top of the buck’s back. He’s at full gallop, his white tail flying high. We had both missed!

I have no excuses, total newbie, greenhorn mistake. My buddie’s shot was a running shot. When I fired, he was barely moving. And I should’ve waited a couple more seconds to get a good broadside. Instead, in my excitement and nervousness, I took a quartered shot and probably went underneath him. How disappointing! It was like I had forgotten everything when I sighted that buck in.

We went back out Sunday morning, but nothing seemed to be moving. We left around 10 as I had to get my gear packed up to head back home. The season was over. I still had loads of fun and learned much. And I still have December to give it another try. Like I’ve said before, it’s why they call it hunting and not getting. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to redeem myself in December.

Keep your powder dry.

Hunting Info From Around The Web

Here’s several stories and articles from around the web I thought were interesting.

I think these guys do a great service, Outdoor Mentors

Why I hunt. It’s a little sappy at times, but interesting. Other good ones are here and here

I’ve always wanted to learn how to tan hides, it doesn’t look too hard, just very time consuming.

The Kansas Upland hunting season outlook is shaping up to be a pretty good season and here is another regional report.

Deer population efforts and how hunting and hunters help: and

An awesome sounding turkey and wild rice soup recipe.

This guy has some great black powder and muzzleloading information.

And then some that’s obviously a concern of mine, gun control: The Downside of Gun Control and The Media Bias Against Guns

And this both amuses and horrifies me, The Deer Hunter.

That’s all for now, keep your powder dry.

Fall Deer Camp 2009

Well, the opening of muzzleloading deer season didn’t turn out as I had hoped. The weather hadn’t been as cooperative as I had wanted, which kept the farmers out of their corn fields. Which in turn, kept the deer in the corn fields. So, unfortunately for me (but not for the deer), I didn’t see any through the last few days of the hunt.

I was a bit apprehensive on the first day since none of the corn fields were being worked on when I got there. But that first morning, I saw 5 mule deer does running about 200 yards out from where I was sitting. They never did come into my area that day, but I had hopes for the remaining 4 days.

The second day was different though. I had a doe come running by me right after sunset. She was about 40-50 yards out. I decided to let her go since I still had 3 days left. Bad decision. She was the last deer I saw during the day for the rest of the week.

I sat on a different stand the next day, came up empty. Went back to my original stand on the 4th day. Nothing. I saw more deer at night driving back to camp then I did during the day. It was certainly disappointing. But hey, that’s why it’s called hunting and not getting, right?

I would love to go back this weekend, as I’ve heard that a few farmers are cutting the corn. Not sure if I have the time or not. Most likely, I’ll be back out there in December during rifle season, braving the cold again. Believe me, I’d rather fight the mosquitoes than the frigid cold temperatures like last year.

There’s always next time. Keep your powder dry.

Tools of My Trade, part 1

Since I’m due to leave in a couple of days for the beginning deer season, felt like I’d write a short article on the guns I use for deer hunting. I’m not a very experienced deer hunter, this is only my third season out. I did go out with a few friends several years back, but don’t really count it since I was borrowing a rifle and didn’t even take a shot.

enfieldOne of the things I like about the group of guys I hunt with is that they like and enjoy shooting historic firearms. Most of them hunt traditional black powder or cowboy era rifles, but they also collect antique guns. Keith got me hooked on British firearms, so 3 years ago I picked up an old WWII era Enfield (303 British) made by Savage for the lend lease program during the war.

I shot my first deer with it 3 seasons ago during the winter rifle season. It was a doe, but I’m more of a meat hunter anyway. I scared a group of does out of some brush walking back to my vehicle for lunch and one of stopped and gave me a 30 yard side shot. Season over.

It’s a great gun to shoot, a little heavy, but there’s no kick to it and it holds a great pattern at 100 yards. I’d love to find a place to do some 200+ yard shots to see how I do, but haven’t found a place to do that yet.

woodsmanI recently picked up an Ardesa Spain, Hawken Woodsman in 50 caliber for an amazing price (too good to pass up). I’ve been shooting it steady for the past couple of months and am taking it out for muzzleloading season this year. I can hold a 6 inch group at 100 yards with it fairly consistently. I was never real taken with the Hawken style rifle until I picked this on up. It’s shorter than the traditional Hawken style, so it swings well and has a good feel to it.

I plan to make some changes to it after the season when I have some more time, didn’t want to try to get that done before the season. I’m going to put more traditional sites on it, let the brass tarnish a bit and refinish the stock to look original. But I’ll do that after the season is over.

musketMy last rifle is a Civil War era musket reproduction that I picked up last summer. I really wanted to use this rifle, but I’ve had difficulty getting it sited in at 100 yards. I like the looks of the muskets of that era. This one is closer to a Springfield rather than the Enfield. But it’s still fun to shoot. It’s in 58 caliber.

As you can see, I don’t really have any of the modern rifles that most use when hunting. I’m more drawn to historic firearms. There’s just something about shooting a gun that has some history behind it. I have it as a goal to someday have all my hunting rifles be British firearms. I really love the British military rifles and would love to add a Baker flintlock, an Enfield musket and a Martini Henry to my collection. Someday. Hopefully.

So those are my tools. I’m hoping Keith will give a write up on some of his. He’s a lot more knowledgeable about the history of some of these than I am and he has some great firearms and stories about them.

So what are some of you taking out into the field? Tell us about them.

We’re Not The Only Ones Out Early In The Season

It seems the guys over at Addicted To Hunting had a big Muley in their sites. There are Mule Deer running around in our area as well and I’m hoping to see some when I get out next week. Doubt we have the snow that those guys did though!

Talked to my partner and he’s stoked about the upcoming hunt. The first part of the week will just be the two of us and another couple of friends will be coming out for the weekend.

I hope they got to see the big Muley, nothing is more exciting than seeing a huge buck in front of you. I can’t wait to see the follow up to their storey.