TC Encore Muzzleloader 300 Gr. Hornady SST Accuracy

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 3 shot group

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 1 5/8" three shot group at 100 yards with a 1x scope! I was shooting 300 Gr. Hornady SST bullets, in front of 100 Grains of Triple Seven FFG powder.

Velocities for these three shots were 1842, 1870, and 1821. I also recorded a 1841 on another shot to verify the scope adjustment before taking the 200 yard shot below.

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 200 yard shot

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 200 yard shot with a 1x20 Nikon Scope, Hornady 300 Gr SST bullets and 100 grains of Triple Se7en FFG powder.

There was a left to right wind so the drift right of center would be expected.


Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter, EGW Rail, 1x20 Nikon Scope

The EGW rail, medium height Weaver four bolt tactical rings and 1x20 Nikon scope fit the Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter nicely.

There is just enough clearance to move this extra long eye relief scope forward, still clear the hammer spur and keep the scope nice and low.

After my first time out with my new TC Encore muzzleloader I wasn't super happy with the accuracy. It shot the 250 Gr. SST bullets pretty well but not as good as I would have liked. I'm betting that the bullets were not to fault but the Triple 7 pellets.

After researching more on the web going with loose powder appears to be the ticket for consistent velocities. For this time out to the range I decided to try the 300 Gr. SST with Triple 7 FFG loose powder.

I went with 100 Grains of Triple Seven FFG powder and the first three shots with this load produced a 1 5/8" group at 100 yards. Awesome! This really amazed me as it is with a 1x scope. This is the accuracy I was looking for when I upgraded to the TC Encore Pro Hunter this year. I'm happy with the accuracy now. I also noticed that the velocities are more consistent with the loose powder over the pellets.

I wonder what kind of groups this combination could do with a scope that had some magnification? Hmm...

I researched a lot of muzzleloaders this past summer. I looked at all sorts from Knights to Gunwerks' 5k muzzleloaders. After all was said and done I felt the Thompson Center Encore offered the best accuracy and quality for the price. And to be quite honest the Encore is a pretty nice looking modern muzzleloader. So many of the modern muzzleloaders have such a goofy look to them.

After shooting the three shot group I adjusted the scope to get the point of impact dead on for 100 yards. I then plugged in the conditions, velocity etc into my Android Strelok app and came up with 5.46 MOA for a 200 yard shot. I dialed up 5.5 on my Nikon 1x20 scope and took a 200 yard shot and hit a 5 inch diameter bullseye. Awesome! Just what I want to be able to do in the field like I do with my high power rifles. I love dialing up the shot and holding dead on.

One thing I found while shooting this muzzleloader is that Winchester primers which includes the shotgun and Triple Seven primers are just a hair too long for the action on this muzzloader. When you try to cock the hammer it won't cock. I have to open the action and shut it a couple times to bend the primer enough to allow the hammer to cock. I may have to pre-bend some primers before I hunt with them so I am not opening and shutting the action over and over in the field.

Less than a month to go till the Utah muzzleloader deer season. I'm feeling pretty confident with this setup.

Here's what I saw on my first mule deer scouting trip.

2014 General Archery Elk Hunt in Northern Utah

2014 Archery Spike Elk with Pack Wheel game cart

Spike Elk

Here's the spike elk I shot looking for me or at least looking for the cow elk that were calling.


Goofy looking antler bull elk

Here's the goofy looking bull with caribou like antlers that was mew-bugling 50 yards away from me. This photo from a Browning Strike Force trail camera, was taken few hours before I got into the area and started hunting.


Spike Elk on Strike Force Trail Camera

This is the spike I shot with my bow a few hours before I got into the area.


Poorwill young hiding on ground

I would think it is a little late in the year for young but I found these two cute little fuzzy Poorwills while out archery hunting.


Following the blood trail

Following the blood trail of the spike.


Finishing arrow in spike elk

The finishing arrow after I caught up with him.


Spike Elk loaded on a Pack Wheel game cart

The spike elk all boned out and on a 29" XL Pack Wheel game cart heading off the mountain. There is 142 pounds of meat and a 4 pound set of velvet antlers on the Pack Wheel for this trip off the mountain.


Pack Wheel Panniers (meat bags) on spike elk

Getting ready to bone out the spike and place the meat into Pack Wheel Panniers. These panniers are really just specially designed meat bags that secure to the Pack Wheel making hauling the heavy load easy.


Galaxy Tab S 10.5 previewing trail cameras in the field

Galaxy Tab S 10.5 previewing trail cameras in the field. Using the same USB adapter I use on my Galaxy S4 phone I can preview photos and video in the field from my trail cameras.


After going through two seasons of watching the patterns of the elk, with my Browning trail cameras, in the area I like to hunt,  I have a pretty good idea where and when the elk will be in the area.

Using the trail cameras has greatly helped me know when and where the elk will most likely be. I had narrowed down where I felt the highest probability to get close to elk would be last year when I shot a spike during the bow season. Again this year this was the "hot" spot for the area so a couple of weeks before the hunt I used a Pack Wheel to haul in a tree stand to hunt from.

The day of the opener I was tied up with other commitments. However, I wasn't too concerned about missing the opener because of the lack of elk in the area on my trail cameras. From July 23 or so to August 8th when I checked the cameras last there had only been two cow elk show up on any of the cameras. This was much the same pattern last year. The cattle get into the area really thick during the end of July and the first of August. I'm pretty sure this just pushes the elk out of the area until the cattle leave.

On Wednesday I could see a small window in the unseasonable rain we have been having and decided to take off work early for an evening hunt on Thursday. Surprisingly we have had a lot of rain storms moving through during the month of August this year. Anyhow, midday Thursday I took off up the mountain. Right at the beginning of my hike into my hunting area I slipped and fell into a creek. What a klutz I am! I will admit my week knees seem to make be a lot more clumsy. In the process I soaked my Galaxy S4 phone and it was dead... at least for the evening.

On the way in I decided to follow my trail camera route and pull the cards to see what was in the area. unfortunately I wasn't able to see what was on them right then because my phone was dead.

After I swapped out SD cards in all but one camera I was near my tree stand. I decided to pull the last card on my way out that evening.

After being in the tree for an hour or so I decided to give some cow calls and see if anything was in the area and might come in to investigate.

Not long after a spike came out and looked down into the area for the "cows" he could hear. Soon after that I heard something on the other side of me and noticed a goofy looking four point bull desperately trying to locate the cows that he was hearing.

I continued from time to time to throw out some cow calls attempting to get him to come in closer. He was pretty much hung up at 50 yards. After a while the bull couldn't stand it and he started making 2 second mew like bugles, he would just start to bugle kind of like a really, really deep sounding mew. I'm not sure what you would call the sound.

For well over a half hour I messed with this bull and somewhere during this time the spike noticed this other bull and decided. "Hey there's really some other elk down there. I better go down and check them out." So down off the hill the spike came trotting. After crossing around 100 yards above me to meet up with the other bull the spike then turned and wanted to visit with the cows (aka me with my Primos cow calls) and he started working his way towards me coming through the trees.

I could see on his current path that he would pass through an opening at around 20 yards so I waited until he was close to the opening then I carefully drew back and as he paused in the opening I anchored on a shot low and just behind the heart/shoulder.

I let the arrow fly... and it zipped through the elk. Unfortunately it was a little further back than where I was aiming and would have liked but still a solid liver shot. I watched the bull run off and stop about 50 yards away. I could see his head sticking up above some oak brush. I figured it wouldn't take him to long to tip over. After several minutes I heard a noise behind me so I turned to look. When I turned back the spike was gone. I figured that he must have laid down so I slowing started sneaking over to find him. When I got to where the elk had been he was gone and there was a pretty substantial amount of real dark red blood.

It was getting dark so I started following the blood and soon found the bull walking about 100 yards in front of me. I tried to close the gap to get another arrow in him but I ended up bumping him.

Thinking that he would die in the night had me a little worried about the meat spoiling but there wasn't much else I could do so I packed it up and wheeled my gear out on a Pack Wheel.

The next morning I crept in below where I last saw him the night before. I then circled the area looking to see if I could find tracks and or blood leaving the area. With nothing found I then swung back around and picked up the blood trail where I had last saw him. It wasn't long before I found where he was bedded for the night but no elk. I then heard limbs breaking in front of me and knew I had just bumped him out.

With him sitting all night there wasn't anymore blood trail to follow so I had to follow his tracks. After three hours or so of doubling back and around to find the elk, I finally came around a bend and there he was bedded down with his head up looking away from me. I quickly launched another arrow into his back angling up into the lung area and down went his head.

What a relief. I was getting a little worried that I might not get this bull. After looking over the entrance and exit wound I can see why he lived so long. Even though I was shooting down at him from a tree stand the arrow kicked real hard and angled back and upward. The exit wound was a good eight inches higher than the entrance and it was about a foot further back. so the shot just barely clipped the edge of the liver and went through the stomach. If it had been a solid liver shot like it appeared to be I just couldn't figure out why he didn't go down.

The more I think about it there must have been a small branch or something I hadn't noticed right in front of the bull. I'm betting that the arrow deflected off this branch thus hitting him further back than I was aiming and also angling the arrow upward.

On this hunt I carried in a 29er Pack Wheel. The plan was to have it with me at the tree stand ready to haul something out. As it worked out I also carried the Pack Wheel collapsed and on my pack as I followed the wounded elk. It was nice to have everything I needed to just bone out the elk and head down the mountain.

After boning out the elk and loading it on the Pack Wheel it started to rain off and on. In between some showers I sat my camera out on the ground and in a tree to get a little video of me hauling the elk with the 29er Pack Wheel.

The pack out was a breeze. I had to spend a little time slowing working my way up and out of a creek bottom and up to a ridge line. Once I got to the ridge line it was all downhill and I set it on auto-pilot and flew off the mountain.

Just after the hunt I acquired a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 with a cool bluetooth keyboard and case. One of the cool things about this setup is that I can take it with me in the field and view my trail camera videos using the same USB adapter that I use on my Samsung S4 phone. Also the Play Store is allowing VLC Beta to be downloaded and installed. This is the best software I have found to be able to play the AVI format that the Browning trail cameras produce.  I can now check my cameras with either my phone or tablet and use the tablet to write content for my blogs from up on the mountain. Combine these with my Goal Zero 41022 Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharging Kit and I can stay on the mountain with plenty of battery life to keep using my electronics for as long as I want, that is if the sun comes out to charge them.

Next up is my muzzleloader mule deer hunt. I'll now have more time (vacation time from work) to scout and hunt for muleys. :)

Scouting for Mule Deer - Preparing For the Utah Muzzleloader Season

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail and 1x20 Nikon Scope

My new Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter is shooting great ready for the Utah muzzleloader mule deer season.


Pack Wheel Hiking Cart

Pausing for a break and looking back at my Pack Wheel on the skyline.


3x4 Mule Deer in velvet

This little buck would have made an easy shot for me with my new TC Encore muzzleloader.


A-Bolt 243 WSSM with Vortex PST and Primos Alpha Dog Caller

Trying to locate a coyote with a Promos Alpha Dog caller for my A-Bolt 243 WSSM to send a 105 A-Max to greet. Unfortunately I didn't see any coyotes this time out.


With my location for archery elk scouted fairly well from using my Browning trail cameras I decided before the archery elk season started and I got wrapped up in it that I needed to hike into the area I wanted to muzzleloader mule deer hunt. The area is really a two day trip to go in and back out, however being crazy as I am I started hiking at 9 am and didn't get back until almost 11 pm. It was a long day but I learned a few things about the area.

I watched one decent four point that would probably tempt me if the opportunity arose during the season. He wasn't huge just a nice four point. I might keep an eye on him for Dallen and the rifle season if the buck makes it tell then and stays in that same area.

To help make the trip in more than just a hike I took my A-Bolt Stainless Varmint 243 WSSM rifle and a Primos electronic caller to see if I could find some coyotes. I setup a couple of times but wasn't able to find any coyotes.

On the way out climbing over a boulder field I almost put my hand next to two rattle snakes. Eeks! That will get the heart pumping. The one snake was pretty good sized for a Utah rattler.

I took in three Browning Recon Force Trail cameras to watch for big muleys. I'm excited to see what they find in the area.

I used a Pack Wheel to carry in my gear and explore some new areas. It worked great. Although I learned not to follow the horse trail around the cliffs. That was a mistake as in cost me 400 or so feet in elevation and I then had to scale a boulder field to get back to the trail I wanted to travel. It wasn't that big of deal as I had a frame pack with me so I loaded my gear on the pack and pushed and carried the empty Pack Wheel over the boulders until I made it back to the trail. Once back at the trail I put my gear back on the Pack Wheel and rolled out.

All in all it was a pretty good day. I learned a few things about the area and am getting excited to hunt the area. I also have a new TC Encore muzzleloader that is shooting great so I'm hoping I can find a big one. Big for me would be 26 inches or wider and I would like it to score 160 plus. I haven't seen very many bucks that meet this criteria in my life so your average 140 inch four point can be a real temptation for me. :)

Browning Recon Force Trail Camera Scouting for Mule Deer

Two Mule Deer Bucks

A Browning Recon Force Trail Camera setup ready to find a good buck for me.


This was the best buck I found while hiking in this day to setup the trail cameras. You can get a better look at him in the video player above.


Large Two Point buck

Two Rattle Snakes in rocks

This large two point might tempt me also. I would like him a little wider though.


Here's the two rattle snake that scared the crap out of me.



TC Encore Pro Hunter - First Time Out With My New Muzzleloader


Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail and 1x20 Nikon Scope

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail, one inch medium height Weaver 4 screw tactical bases and 1x20 Nikon scope.


Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 100 yard group

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 100 yard group with a 1x20 Nikon Scope, Hornady 250 Gr SST bullets and two Triple Se7en pellets.


200 yard shots with a 1x20 Nikon Scope, Hornady 250 Gr SST bullets and two Triple Se7en pellets

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 200 yard shots with a 1x20 Nikon Scope, Hornady 250 Gr SST bullets and two Triple Se7en pellets.


I always loved the muzzleloader season in Utah back in the day when you could hunt in November. Since they moved the season to the end of September I haven't been as fond of it.

This year I didn't draw my first choice of hunting with a rifle for mule deer here in Utah. So hunting with a muzzleloader was my second option. Knowing how hard I work to get into areas to hunt I decided it was time to step up from my CVA muzzleloader to something better. After mulling over all the different muzzleloaders on the market I finally decided the Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter was what I felt would best fit my needs, within the price range I could come up with the funds for.

Sportsman's Warehouse had both a camo and black stainless version in the rack and I walked out with the black one for $680.

Trying to decide on what powder, the charge, and bullets has been a challenge. There are a lot of options... To start with I tried going with two Triple Seven pellets of powder behind a 250 Gr Hornady SST sabot bullet. This had pretty decent accuracy considering I am restricted to a one power scope in Utah.

Deciding optics has been a interesting challenge. There are very few options in the one power range, especially when it comes to a turret that you can dial in the shot. Yes, I would like to range the deer at 185 yards, dial in the scope and take the shot.

I ultimately chose the Nikon 1x20 scope but the other two options were a Vortex 1x scope and a Night Force 1x scope that is custom built for Gun Werks. The Night Force would be the best but not for $1700. Not a chance for me to get.

I went back and forth between the Vortex and Nikon. Ultimately I went with the Nikon because I already had one from my old CVA and I felt the optics were a little clearer. Neither scope is exactly what I would like. I feel that both scopes have way to heavy of cross hairs. The cross hairs cover up a six inch circle at 100 yards. I wish they would make the cross hairs ultra fine with an illumination option for low light conditions like on the Vortex Viper PST scopes.

After getting an EGW rail and Weaver four screw tactical rings for my X-Bolt last year and loving them I decided to get some from for my new muzzleloader.

After doing some more research I am going to try Triple Seven FFG loose powder with these bullets. I think I will start with this powder in a 100 grain charge on my next trip to the range.

Final Preperation for the 2014 Utah Archery Elk Season

26XL Pack Wheel hauling Tree Stands

Hauling up the mountain a metal Tree Stand, Tree Saddle and other gear with a 26" XL Pack Wheel.


Strap covering trail camera lens

This is how I found my bear and elk attacking camera this time out with the strap covering the lens. The bears and elk have really raised havoc on this camera location moving it out of position and tearing it down, so a few weeks prior I moved the trail camera off the Tree Mount and ran an extra loop of the strap around the front of the camera. I did this to the camera to really secure it to the brush. It was secure but an elk bumped the camera and the strap slid up over the lens.


Strap around Recon Force Trail Camera

This time I placed the extra strap around the camera but did it with the strap angling lower in the back of the brush so that it wouldn't slide up and over the lens if a critter messed with the camera.


View of Pack Wheel from Tree Stand

With the tree stand in place here is the view of my Pack Wheel and other gear below on the ground.


With a week before the archery elk opener I needed to take another trip up the mountain for some final preparation.

After studying the trail cameras from this year and last I have found that the elk can be in the area but they aren't there all the time. I have learned some general areas that would have a higher probability of finding elk.

One area that I like, I have found a tree that I would like to put a tree stand in. I think my chances will be much greater at getting an elk if I can get up in a tree.

On this trip in I hauled in a metal tree stand and a Tree Saddle. I wasn't sure which would be the best to use out of the tree I wanted to hunt out of. With a Tree Saddle I can hunt from just about any tree. With my metal stand I need a good straight tree to strap it to. The tree I wanted to place a tree stand in is more of cluster of trees so I wasn't sure if a traditional tree stand would work.

I also like using the Tree saddle as a harness system when hanging my tree stand to free up my hands to hang the tree stand.

The last time I went in to check my trail cameras the camera watching the spring had been messed up again. This time I decided to take the camera off the Browning Tree Mount and strap the camera directly to the bundled brush. I like the Browning Tree Mounts because to can easily point the camera in the direction you need but  it also makes the camera a lot more vulnerable to having critters (bears and elk in my case) bump and pull the camera off or out of position. This appeared like it would work except the strap I placed around the camera angled up in the back and an elk bumped the camera and the strap slipped up and over the lens. Dang it! Well and least the camera wasn't on the ground this time. :)

I like wrapping the camera with the strap so this time I placed the strap around the tree with the strap angling downward so if it does gets bumped the strap would likely slide downward in the front and not over the lens. We'll see how this goes.

Being about a week away from the opener and reviewing the trail camera footage it is showing that the elk have pretty much vacated the area by the end of August. They did the same thing last year.

Through July the two largest bulls (4x5 and 5x5) I have seen have been pretty regulars to the area. Incidentally both of these bulls have matching down turned G1 brow tines. for the past few week they have been gone. Hopefully they return during the archery season. I would love to get one of them but I'm not picky when it comes to elk. I like the meat so if I do get a chance at any bull I'm going to take it.

The two 5x6 bulls that were in the area last year have never showed up this year. I wonder if they made it through the hunting seasons last year.

There is a good amount of elk activity during the first of July in the area. Hopefully they start coming back in the end of August and into September. The video on the page shows some of the elk in the area.


  • Big Game Hunting

    Journal entries from hunting mule deer, elk and whitetail deer.  You'll find hunts with 243 WSSM and 270 WSM rifles to muzzleloader and archery hunts.

  • General Hunting and Shooting

    Journal entries covering general information related to hunting and shooting. Many of these journal entries are from shooting on the rifle or archery range. There are also entries related to my experiences with the 243 WSSM, rifles, optics and other equipment and products I use.

  • Varmint Hunting

    Journal entries from hunting coyotes, rock chucks, prairie dogs and the like with 243 WSSM and 223 Rem. rifles.

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    Backpacking, Pack Wheel camping and other camping adventures.

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