One of Tom Roth’s favorite December deer stands at the edge of a field with oaks galore. Tom Roth / For Lakes Region Weekly

The regular firearms season for deer came to a close the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so many are either enjoying the fruits of the hunt or have hung up their rifles for another year. For the muzzleloader crowd, hunting season is just starting. From Nov. 27 through Dec. 9, hunters using muzzleloaders can bag deer, use their antlerless deer permits and get to enjoy the solitude that the December woods provide.

I came late to the table with muzzleloader hunting. This is my first season. My decision to get into the mix was twofold. First, I love deer hunting and two more weeks is appealing. Additionally, where I hunt in Cumberland, rifles are prohibited, but shotgun and muzzleloaders are allowed. With our farm providing shots in excess of 100 yards, an accurate muzzleloader was a good choice.

I could have bought some of those cool kits and assembled an old-style flintlock gun, but the convenience of a modern muzzleloader appealed to me. I saw the new Nitrofire systems by Traditions and was intrigued. The Nitrofire looks just like a break-action, single-shot shotgun or rifle. You load the bullet down the muzzle but the ignition system is self-contained. That is, the powder and primer are contained in what looks just like a .410 shotgun shell. You crack the gun open, slide the cartridge in and close the action, ready to go. At the end of the day, simply remove the cartridge and the gun is unloaded. Safe, convenient and fast.

My Nitrofire came paired with a 3-9 power scope, perfect for extending the range and providing a few more minutes of shooting light at the end of the day. I chose a 270-grain all-copper bullet and used the higher-dosed 150-grain powder cartridges. I can consistently put the bullets in a 3-inch circle at 100 yards, so I know I am good for any shot that presents itself.

Tom Roth is a freelance outdoor writer who lives in Raymond on the shore of Sebago Lake. He has been fishing and hunting in this region for more than 30 years and is a Registered Maine Guide.

The deer still seem to be into the abundant acorn crop. Dropped apples are also still on the menu, where they are left. The deer cleaned up around all of our trees but one, so I sit close by and watch that tree for activity. Oddly the deer do not seem to be grazing in the fields until late at night. I attribute this to the abundance of food they have in the security of the woods. I have several bruiser bucks on my trail cameras, so I know they made it through the regular season, but they do not get big by making mistakes. I am just hoping that as they see fewer orange-clad hunters in the woods, they’ll drop their guard a bit.

I am concentrating on the oak patches as the woods are torn up where acorns are on the ground. I am guessing the deer will be fattening up on these morsels as long as there is no snow on the ground. It does not look like snow in the near future, but I’d sure love some tracking this month.

With only one shot, muzzleloaders have their limits, but two extra weeks of hunting make them a big hit for this hunter in December.

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