Women—And Girls— Are Great Shooters
It seems that in hunting, women are sharpshooters, and my daughter is no exception. She grew up learn- ing to shoot accurately. I’d like to think it was my good mentoring that was responsible, but for some reason, I believe it was more than that.
I introduced her early in her life to shooting a bow when she was 4 years old. That progressed to small- rim fire rifles, then finally into high-powered rifles for big game hunting. She enjoyed all different types of shooting and was phenomenal at it right from the start. (Perhaps it’s because women are produced from two X chromosomes, doubling up on the close resemblance to crosshairs of a rifle scope?)
Today, my daughter Makynna is only 14 years old, but she’s always asking me to go shooting and hunting. A friend recently told me that I’m very lucky to have a daughter who is so keen on shooting and hunting, just like me. It’s even better that she’s asking and urging me to go with her. Below are some of the stories and memo- ries we’ve had to date.
Gophers are small targets and although they like to perk their heads up and stand there for a short while, they are quick to spot movement nearby and flee from danger. Hunting gophers is great practice for someone getting into shooting, whether you use a gun or bow. Years ago, when she was around the age of 7, I took her gopher hunting with her brother. Her brother was up first and had a heck of a time getting a gopher, so he took a break. He let Makynna shoot. She got one on her third arrow. She was very excited, as any youth would be when they finally connect with something living. This was the first thing she had harvested with her bow. Until then, she had only shot paper and foam targets.
During the winter months I trap coyotes, and Makyn- na comes along as well. It was on one of those occa- sions that I introduced her to rimfire .22 caliber rifles and mentored her while dispatching coyotes. As the years progressed, she became a little emotional when doing it. Nevertheless, she always managed a good, clean, quick kill shot. She listened well and was always safe with the firearm.
After passing her hunter safety programs at the age of 12, she was now allowed to hunt big game. That year I drew an antelope tag for Southern Alberta. Life was still busy, but we did manage to get her to the range a week prior to the hunt so she could shoot my 30-06.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. That’s a big gun for a 12-year-old and for her to feel comfortable shooting within a week to go hunting big game was quite the challenge, but she was up for it. She was able to get an excellent group at 100 yards with a 30-06 and fired off nearly 20 rounds that first day. I asked her if her shoulder was sore and she said yes.
A CLEAN MISS
The following week, we headed south to antelope country and were able to find antelope the first day. How- ever, they’d always be just out of her comfort range. She preferred shooting while sitting with her bum on the ground and knees up, rather than the prone position. We also had some bipods for her to use. She eventu- ally got a shot on her first day of antelope hunting, but it was a little farther away than we had hoped. It was a clean miss, but I later found out that the bullet probably dropped too much at that distance. My mistake for not telling her to aim higher.
This could have been a huge blow to her confidence, but she shrugged it off, had a good night’s sleep and we were back at it again in the morning. Antelope country is very flat, and you can drive for miles using your bin- oculars to scan for animals at different vantage points. We elected to do a walk that morning over some rolling topography but did not find any antelope.
As we returned to where we first looked that morn- ing, we caught a glimpse of a herd cresting the hill. It was the perfect opportunity to close the distance on foot without being seen. We hiked up and as we peeked over the edge little by little, we couldn’t see any antelope.
We wondered how they could have eluded us, but as we look closer, we could see just their heads laying in the tall golden grass. I told Makynna that we’d just have to wait it out and wait for one animal to stand up.
This was an ideal situation for someone trying to take their first big-game animal. She now had time to calm her nerves and excitement and focus, get the gun ready and get comfortable so that when the animals stood, she could take the shot. And that’s exactly what happened.
She made a perfect shot right at the back of the heart through the lungs.
Needless to say, we were both ecstatic. Her Grandpa was also there to share in the experience. Since he was a former high-school biology teacher, that made gutting and processing the animal that much more educational for her. Makynna remembers it like this: “The first time
I shot an antelope was one of the most thrilling experi- ences of my life. Not only was it a huge personal accom- plishment for a 12-year-old, it was also a very special moment I shared with my Dad. The look in his eye was unmatchable pureness of being so proud of me.”
DONE WITH BOWS
Makynna showed a great interest in hunting and told me that she no longer wanted to bow hunt because it took too much time. How she figured this out at age 13 was beyond me, but she was indeed correct.
That year, my wife and I decided to give her a brand- new Tikka .270 caliber rifle for Christmas, and Grandpa and Grandma bought her a nice Vortex 3-9 powered scope, both from Cabela’s. She was one happy girl on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, she was going to have to wait until spring to try the new gear out. Makyn- na thoughts that year were this: “I wanted to rifle hunt. I liked the way the target seemed closer when you looked through the scope, and how you have to pace your breathing and calm your nerves before squeezing the trigger.”
After the snow melted, we went to the rifle range, and she again sighted in her gun flawlessly. She took great pride in owning that magnificent weapon. I told her this gun was far nicer than anything I had shot to date, and that she’d have it for her entire life, so she needed to take care of it. She followed the break-in process exactly and attained a nice tight 100-yard group.
Makynna and her new rifle were ready for spring bear hunting. Teenagers live busy lives, and Makynna only had one night to bear hunt, so it all came down to a few hours just before dusk. I had been hunting there the week prior and there were two bears that commonly visited the area. One was a black-colored bear with a missing front paw, lost through some type of injury, and that we nicknamed “Limpy.” The other one was a gor- geous chocolate bear that we nicknamed “Sniker,” that had an absolutely gorgeous hide.
When Limpy first appeared, my daughter’s heart went out to him, but he never gave her a clean standing still shot, so she decided to shoot for Sniker. Once again, she made a perfect shot, and the bear went down within 10 yards. It was the first shot with her rifle, her first-time bear hunting and her first harvested bear, all in the same night. This girl is a sharpshooter, and she proves it each time she shoots!
As the leaves fell and deer season approached, it was strange for me to head out for the later season. Being a bowhunter myself, I’m usually hunting in the earlier season, but nevertheless, Makynna was eager to get out and kept asking me how many animals she could shoot. I told her to read the regulations and figure it out for her- self, and she did just that.
We went deer hunting with a friend of mine and his son, and I introduced Makynna to the techniques of rattling and calling deer and waiting for them to come into range. The deer didn’t cooperate, but she learned some other helpful skills in the bush, such as how to pay attention.
On the second to last night of our first trip, we were waiting in a hay field when out came two does an hour before sunset. As she was already set to shoot, my daughter again made no mistake and dropped the doe within sight. It was another perfect shot right through the lungs. It was a good four days of hunting, but we didn’t see that many deer. I reminded her that’s why it’s called hunting and not shopping.
A few weeks later we went out again when there was more snow on the ground and the rut was winding down. We brought the blind and the heater to stay warm in, as we waited along the field edge. Our plan was to wait for deer to enter. While getting there and trying to set up the blind, we spotted a deer off to the south. It was a single doe.
With Makynna out front and me whispering and coaching her from behind, we stalked into the lethal shooting range. The doe was still unaware of our presence but was moving off to the west. My daughter was going to have to shoot now or miss the opportunity. She took a shot, and as she later said, she rushed it a little bit. It showed in the shot because she hit the doe a little farther back than she wanted to.
We waited 10 minutes after the deer dashed out of sight, since I was going to teach her how to track. Again, with her out front and us moving together slowly, we quickly realized the hitting power of her .270 rifle and found that deer a mere 20 yards away piled up in the bush where we had lost sight of it. Makynna profoundly remembers a lesson I taught her: “Do your very best to not let animals suffer.” She was glad the deer expired quickly.
As hunting season is approaching again this fall, Makynna is once again asking me where and when are we going hunting. Life is busy raising teenagers, but I am thankful that she wants to go hunting and that she is ea- ger to shoot her rifle, because she’s darn good at it—like most women I have met in the field.
Next up: wing shooting with the 12-gauge.