Muzzle-loading guns were an important tool for survival for early Vermonters. Today, the allure of the ball-firing muzzleloader has caught on with a whole new generation of hunters and shooting enthusiasts. These guns present special challenges for hunters in that you only have one shot to hit your quarry. You have to get relatively close to the target to make a successful shot. And even when the conditions are right, the gun may misfire. It's a sport of few second chances. Every January in Jeffersonville at the Primitive Biathlon, period-costumed participants traverse the course, wearing wooden snowshoes, and shooting at the targets with muzzleloaders. It's a day where the woods are filled with mountain men and the smell of black powder. Host Lawrence Pyne competes at this year's event.
The Atlatl and dart, is an ancient weapon used for centuries by native cultures around the globe prior to the use of the bow and arrow. While bow hunting became more widespread, the atlatl still maintained a distinct advantage in certain circumstances. For example, once loaded, the atlatl became a one handed weapon, allowing the other hand free to guide the boat. This made it extremely useful in hunting waterfowl. In fact, the name atlatl is derived from the Aztec word meaning “water thrower”. Today, there is a growing interest in atlatls for both sport and hunting. Some local enthusiasts are keeping the tradition of both crafting these unique weapons, and perfecting their unique throwing technique alive.