Roy Stroh Custom Muzzleloaders
Chapter One
Flintlock Buffalo On The Kansas Prairie
                                   David P. “Hillbilly” Corrigan
                                Registered Maine Master Guide

I got an email from Roy sometime back telling me that he was figuring
on building him a big bore flintlock rifle.  Something of a showpiece
that could make the rounds of the country, just to see what critters
she might be able to account for.  Roy knew that I was planning a trip
to Kansas to shoot a buffalo and he thought that maybe that would be
a good way to break in this little toy of his.  I was only too happy to
oblige; so I was ready and waiting when one day in the middle of
October, my Mail Man showed up with this big package in the back of
his truck.

After I got through the tape and the cardboard, I had to dig out the
sheetrock gun to open up the wooden crate that held the prize.  And
what a prize it was; a beautiful .62 caliber rifle, with double patch box,
nice carving, and just the perfect amount of drop in the stock.  The
first time I put her to my shoulder and looked down the barrel, I knew
we were going to have a good time together!

I didn’t have much time before my brother Bill and I had to hit the
road for Kansas, but I did get one afternoon in the back yard to dial
her in.  It didn’t take much.  I found that she liked the .600 round balls
that Roy had sent along, wrapped in a 17 thousandths patch, and lubed
with my own bear oil and bee’s wax mix, in front of 100 grains of
double F Goex.  With this load, I was dropping them in about 2 inches
high at fifty yards, and recoil was almost nonexistent.  I also changed
out the rifle flint that Roy had sent with her for an original 19th
century British Musket flint.  Lock time was very fast.  When I got
back in the house, I found that she was one of the easiest cleaning
rifles that I had ever shot.  

Bill and I packed up and made the thirty nine and a half hour drive to
Dodge City Kansas at the end of October.  We spent a couple of days
touring around the historic cow town and seeing all the sights; from
Boot Hill, to the worlds largest stock yards, to the Coronado Cross
and the remnants of the Santa Fe Trail just outside of town.  On the
Day before we were to head to Ford, to meet up with Lee Hawes and
his boy Cody, of Hawes Ranch Outfitters, we were in the local
western store having a look around.  Bill was contemplating a new pair
of boots when the store owner said; “There’s one of your Guides
now.”  Cody Hawes and Joe Ford were in the store to pick up a few
things between camps, so we got ourselves introduced.  Nice guys, and
though both of them were on the green side of thirty, it was obvious
that they were the real thing, and they knew their business.

The next morning we met Cody [complete with six gun on his hip] and
the other hunters at the little store/restaurant/gas station in Ford.  We
convoyed out to the Ranch where we loaded our gear into ‘old brown’
the ranch truck, and headed for camp.
“Camp” consisted of three dugouts [two for sleeping, and one cook
shack], two tipis, and a couple of canvas wall tents for the Guides.  
There was also a small corral for the horses, and the obligatory white
washed privy.  All of these were located in what I would call a wash or
a draw.  It kind of looked like an old riverbed, sunk below the
surrounding prairie.  All in all, a cozy place.  At camp we met Old
Karl; Joe’s Grandfather, Camp Cook, and all around great guy.  Lee
had to Guide some bird hunters that morning [Hawes’ Ranch also
offers Pheasant and Boar hunting, on different properties], but he
joined us before supper time.

Thursday consisted of getting settled into camp and checking the
sights on the rifles.  Bill and I had the only muzzleloaders in camp, so
the guys all wanted to see us shoot.  They couldn’t believe that we
were going to hunt buffalo ‘with them things!’  Roy’s big .62 was
admired by all.  The sighting in session went well, and we all enjoyed
an evening around the cook shack and the outdoor fire.

There were five hunters, and one tag along guest in camp.  The
general procedure is for a Guide and two hunters to ride out on
horseback until they spot the herd.  Then they sneak up as close as
possible, and try to set up for the shots.  Bill and I were in no hurry, so
we let the other two parties go out, and we hung around camp, just
enjoying the experience, and soaking up the stories that Karl and Lee
had to tell.  When the hunters would get their buffalo down, they
would come back to camp and we would all ride out in the truck for
pictures and the skinning/quartering.

By Saturday October 30, 2010, morning, the other three hunters had
all connected, so after breakfast, Bill and I climbed into the saddle and
followed Cody out onto the prairie.  We rode for the better part of an
hour before we spotted the herd grazing along.
When we spotted the big shaggies, Cody led us down into a little low
spot, out of sight of the buffalo.  Here we removed the saddles from the
three horses, and turned one of them loose.  The other two we would use
for cover ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ style, to sneak up on the critters.  Now a
herd of 200 buffalo should not really be all that difficult to sneak up on,
but this herd is hunted hard all fall, and they know what it means when
men get close.  And we wanted to be close; preferably inside of 50 yards,
so this was going to take a little sneaking.

We walked in behind the horses to within perhaps 60 or 70 yards, and
then hunched over, or down on our knees, we injuned along until we
were about 50 yards from the herd.  During this sneak, the horse that I
was leading caught the muzzle of Bill’s rifle with his hoof during a turn.  
Didn’t appear to damage the gun, except, as we would find out, it did put
a slight bend in the front sight……..

We got set up, and we waited.  Cody had turned the second horse loose,
and it grazed nearby, while he kept our last horse close at hand.  Bill was
in position, but still, we had to wait.  We were there to shoot a ‘spike,’ or
a year and a half old animal.  It would take some time and maneuvering
to get a clear shot at one of these, without the risk of hitting another
animal.  

That time we spent waiting was really something.  Here we were, sitting
on the ground, perhaps 50 yards from some 200 buffalo, including a few
really large adult males.  Those bulls were some impressive!

Finally, Cody pointed out a young animal near the rear of the herd, and
Bill got ready.  After a couple of tense minutes of animals walking in
front of and behind the one we had picked out, Bill finally got his shot.  
And it was a good shot, except for that bent sight!  The elevation was
perfect, but the ball traveled a bit too far left, and caught her in the leg,
instead of in the heart.  Bill quickly reloaded, and in the process, broke a
ramrod, with a ball stuck halfway down the barrel.  This just wasn’t his
day!  So, with his .54 out of commission, I handed Bill the .62.  He had
never fired it before, but when the injured buffalo got in the clear, he
made a pretty good shot.  If it had been a deer, this would have been the
end, but buffalo are tough.  A second shot from the big flintlock caught
her low in the lungs, and passed about two thirds of the length of the
body before lodging just under the hide on the off side.  [I still have both
of these balls, which we recovered when we skun her out.]

By this time the herd was quite spooked, and had moved away.  We
broke for a quick lunch, and after the obligatory pictures, we left Bill
and Joe to process Bill’s buffalo, and Lee, Cody and I went off in search
of the herd.  

As I said, the herd was spooked, but Lee and Cody are real pro’s and
they know every trick in the book.  Eventually, I found myself on my
belly, Cody right next to me, and 200 buffalo surrounding us on three
sides, some at as little as 40 yards…….

Talk about exciting!  I’ll wager not many old time buffalo hunters ever
got a shot from almost in the center of the herd!  There were several
tense moments as the herd milled about and I tried to line up a clear shot
at first one, and then another.  Finally, Cody pointed and whispered;
“take her.”

The spike cow, about a 600 pounder, was standing for one brief moment
totally in the clear.  I was on my belly and she was about 55 yards away,
just very slightly uphill.  I brought the hammer to full cock, squinted
down the barrel, and pulled the trigger.  Immediately Cody and I were
on our feet, and the herd, all except the animal I had fired at, was
moving away at a trot.  I started to reload, but there was no need.  We
could see that I had hit her high in the lungs, the big ball passing
completely through.  She made two circles, blew about a quart of blood
out the holes in her sides, and fell dead, all in less than 30 seconds.  I had
gotten as far as dumping a fresh charge of powder, but I never even got
a ball out of my shooting bag before it was all over.
The American Bison is a magnificent animal; and to get a chance to
hunt them on their native ground, with traditional gun and garb, in the
company of my brother and excellent Guides—that is an experience
that I will never forget. [ I'll add a picture of Bill, and our Guides as
well too. After all, the big 62 had a hand in that harvest too.]
I was sorry to part with that big buffalo thumper, but I hear she has
been making other men happy, and then moving down the road.  Maybe
one day she will make it back to Maine, and I’ll get another chance to
squint down that barrel……