It was the fourth day of the regular Black Hills South Dakota deer season. I had already filled my stick-and-string tag by way of a TenPoint crossbow, but now I was interested in extending my buck season with tag number two. And I was using a muzzleloader fresh off the design bench to do just that.
In the dull first light of the day I could faintly make out movement below me on a narrow deer trail that ran almost under my 18-foot ladder stand. Now sitting high in my pine tree, I was just about impervious to being scented, free to move about with a relative degree of ease at that altitude. In the world of whitetail hunting, elevation is the recipe for success. Seeing as how the main limb of the stand had 11 notches cut into it, it was pretty clear that this old pine had been paying off for some time.
If the planets were aligned correctly and everything went off without a hitch, it could make for a pretty good “maiden voyage” for the rifle I was carrying.
As it became a bit lighter, I could see an early-season whitetail bachelor group of sorts moving in. The first three were spikes and forkhorns being pushed ahead by two larger deer. As the line of deer passed just below me, I noticed that the last buck was a good deal larger than his buddy.
I was using the new Traditions Express Double .50-caliber O/U muzzleloader. It was a handful, with a loaded weight around 12 pounds, but once it was locked down on a rest or shooting sticks I knew it could produce solid accuracy with the 300-grain sabot bullet I’d loaded it with.
Now I’d decided that last buck in the string was a good choice. I slid the tang safety forward, then dropped off several pounds from the first of two triggers, thereby sending the big Hornady Low Drag projectile through both lungs of the trailing buck.
At 25 yards it was no great example of shooting prowess, but within seconds the whitetail went down hard. He never knew what hit him, and that’s exactly the way I like to see it all come together in the field.
Before I took the Express Double afield, I got acquainted with it at the range. With any twin-pipe rifle, the first thing required is a system that allows the 24-inch, 1:28-twist barrels to be regulated. Traditions has solved this problem with the installment of a small adjustment screw in the upper barrel called a barrel jack. With the lower barrel zeroed at 100 yards, the adjustment screw allows the upper barrel to be aligned so as to put its bullet directly onto the impact point of the lower barrel.
I’d mounted a Traditions 1.5-6×40 variable on the rifle to zero the gun. Shooting from a portable benchrest on the Buffalo Gap range near Rapid City, South Dakota, I was able to place three 250-grain Hornady SST ML Low Drag sabot bullets into 1 1⁄ 2 inches with either barrel at 100 yards. I was using two 100-grain Hodgdon Pyrodex 50/50 pellets in front of Federal 209A shotgun primers.