By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
Tony Knight hailed as the Father of Modern Muzzleloading and the Founder of Knight Rifles died Monday in Iowa. Though many hunters may not have known him, Knight probably had a bigger impact on the sport of muzzleloading and primitive weapons hunting than any other person in our lifetime. As a teenager I tried hunting with the old smoke poles during some of the first primitive weapons seasons. And I can tell you right now it didn’t take me long to become frustrated with those rifles.
I did kill a couple deer with the primitive weapons but they were so poorly designed and manufactured you never knew if the rifle was going to fire when you pulled the trigger. Hunting in the rain, even a light drizzle, was a big no no. Even a little bit of moisture would cause a misfire. Eventually I gave away my muzzleloader and reserved the mid December muzzleloader season for duck hunting and striper or crappie fishing at Ross Barnett spillway.
Yes, I actually quit hunting with the muzzleloader. I think my record for misses on one deer stood at three shots on one buck. Each time I shot at the deer at point blank range the rifle belched sulfuric smoke that filled the air and obscured my sight. As the smoke cleared there stood the deer still feeding on white oak acorns.
After my third shot the deer continued to feed in a semi-circle around me, seemingly unfazed by the sound of the rifle’s report and smoke filled air. As I tried to re-load the old .45 caliber rifle I broke my ramrod as the barrel was so fouled up by the black powder. With the deer still standing there looking puzzled I picked up my stuff and walked the half mile back to the truck, left the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge and promptly gave that gun and much misery away.
And then Tony Knight came onto the scene. What an astounding black powder rifle he developed. His inline muzzleloader revolutionized modern muzzleloading and brought me back into the fold of black powder hunters. Yes, it was that good. The BK-85 was first manufactured in 1985 and quickly became a favorite among diehard hunters. I bought his “Black Knight” rifle and started hunting during the primitive weapons season again.
With the woods virtually free of hunters during the December smoke pole season I had the run of the camps and private land. Only a select few hunters had a Knight rifle or even attempted to hunt during those first few years after the introduction of the Knight rifle in these parts.
At first I used the special primitive weapons season to harvest my antlerless venison with such tender succulent meat. Later, I realized just how vulnerable the bucks were with the silence of the woods and I turned to buck hunting. And stack them up I did.
What a special time in my life. We hunted for bone and I tried to harvest a buck on every trip, and more often than not I did, and it was all because of one man and his love for his black powder rifles. Knight almost singlehandedly led the “inline revolution” by lobbying for their inclusion in the black powder seasons in states all around the country.
Tony Knight invented and manufactured a modern in-line black powder rifle that was accurate up to 150 to 200 yards, dependable in all weather conditions and durable. For many years I hunted in the woods alone, or with my brother Joe and enjoyed many successful trips to the deer woods as a result of Tony Knight’s inline muzzleloader.
Though I never met Tony Knight I am forever grateful for his positive impact on the hunting and shooting industry and the impact he had on my life and hunting memories. Words can’t describe my feelings for this exceptional outdoorsman and brother in arms. We’re going to miss you Tony, but the memories you provided us will forever remain!