For nine days, Montana hunters will have to turn to older firearm technology.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks tells us that starting tomorrow, (Saturday, December 10), Muzzleloader Heritage Season begins and runs through December 18. And it is not just some token tribute to the ways of the past, where an anticipated small handful of participants have to share the season with other hunters. Nope, it is a passed-into-law Montana kind of thing.

When FWP says the season is for muzzleloaders only, they pretty much mean muzzleloaders only.  No other means of taking game, including archery, is allowed. Now, there are some areas that have elk shoulder seasons running through February 15, where firearms and archery equipment may be allowed. Beyond that, it's mostly plain lead projectiles and black powder.

The nine-day season was established in 2021 when Montana House Bill 242 was signed into law by Governor Greg Gianforte. The bill states, "hunters must use plain lead projectiles shot from a flintlock, wheel lock, matchlock or percussion muzzleloading rifle charged with loose black power, loose pyrodex, or an equivalent loose black powder substitute. Muzzleloaders must be at least .45 caliber, and cannot have a scope."

For those hunters concerned that they don't have a rifle hundreds of years old laying around, modern-day manufacturing continues. That is part of the reason that interest is increasing. Another reason? As an acquaintance of ours who manages the gun department at a large sporting goods store put it, "It puts the hunting back into hunting.”

The rifles for the upcoming Muzzleloader Heritage Season are designed like ones used back in the 1700s and 1800s.

The restrictions even extend to many of Montana’s Block Management Areas. While they are open for upland bird or waterfowl through January 1, the harvest of deer or elk during the Muzzleloader Heritage Season is not allowed. If you are concerned that the hunting trip you have planned in the next 9 days is not in compliance, a helpful place to start checking is this page of the Montana FWP website.

Good luck to all ya "old school" Montana hunters out there! Keep your powder dry and all that.

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