This year lawmakers passed a bill that makes it legal to have scopes on muzzleloaders during the primitive-weapons week of deer season, and also on primitive-weapons hunts on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).
In previous legislative sessions, bills that addressed the issue of scopes on muzzleloders were complicated when more-controversial measures like baiting and dog-hunting changes were added to the muzzleloader bills.
Despite some mild opposition this year, the controversy over scopes on muzzleloaders was mild compared to other hunting-related issues like baiting, and the legislation was passed by the House and Senate as House Bill 338. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Perdue on April 19, and it takes affect this hunting season.
In a May 2004 survey of hunters through GON’s Voice of the Educated Sportsman (VOTES), legalizing scopes on muzzleloaders was favored by 69.8 percent of those who responded, while just 29.3 percent were opposed to the idea.
The most commonly cited reason for folks who wanted scopes on muzzleloaders legalized was to aid hunters whose eyes were fading, and also to lessen the potential for wounding loss from less-than-perfect shots.
Those opposed beat one primary drum — there shouldn’t be a separate, special primitive-weapons season if scopes are allowed on modern muzzleloaders, which they say makes the weapon more like a high-powered rifle than a primitive weapon.
Biologists with the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) have said all along that if hunters wanted the law changed, they had no opposition to legalizing scopes on muzzleloaders, since the change would not have an impact on the resource.
The debate may never end, but regardless, scopes on muzzleloaders are legal in Georgia. Hunters who have muzzleloaders might be wondering whether there are differences between a scope for a muzzleloader and a scope for a regular deer rifle.
Terry Eby, national sales manager for CVA, said some manufacturers have scopes labeled as “muzzleloader” scopes, but blackpowder guns don’t require a specialized scope.
“Any good-quality scope will work,” Terry said. “In fact, buying a high-end parallax-adjustable scope is a waste of money. Since we are only talking about shots to 150 yards or so, a medium to better-quality scope in the 3x9x40 range should do for most people. Historically, optics companies build 1×6 and 2×7 scopes and label them Shotgun/Blackpowder scopes. Red-Dot scopes are popular, also.”
Chuck Williams, owner of Chuck’s Bait & Tackle Gun & Pawn in Warner Robins, said if you’re interested in mounting a scope on your blackpowder gun, make sure you fit the gun with the correct base.
“There are special bases for most guns,” he said. “Just get a base that fits the gun you have, and get after it.”
Terry also mentioned paying attention to getting the right base and also getting quality rings when mounting a scope.
“This is one of the most important and overlooked parts of adding optics to a firearm. I have seen people spend big dollars on optics and a gun and then go buy $12.95 mounts and rings for their set up,” Terry said. “For all the popular break-action and swing-action guns, there are rail bases for precision mounting and added adjustment. It is very important to let someone familiar with the type of rifle do the mounting to make sure the optics will fit with the action type.”
Chuck said so far he’s seen little interest from customers wanting to equip their muzzleloaders with scopes.
“I don’t think most people know that it passed,” Chuck said. “I had a guy call this morning to make sure I had what he needed, but that’s been about it. To be honest with you, Georgia never made it where a man would want to spend the money to go out and do the blackpowder hunting thing. It’s just not that big a deal in Georgia because (the one-week primitive-weapons season) is so short.”
Terry cautioned muzzleloaders hunters who have added a scope not to overestimate their range.
“Even though a shooter will be able to see farther and sharper, he needs to know his limitations and understand the differences in muzzleloading trajectories,” he said.
This year the Georgia primitive-weapons season is October 14-20.