PA Rifle Opener- Long post!


May 18, 2011
This is ridiculously long. I'm a proud daddy, and I'm babbling more than usual. You've been warned. :)

Today was the traditional PA rifle season opener. It is surely not the first time I've carried my buck tag through archery and into rifle season, but it was the first time I had my daughter along as not an observer, but as an full-fledged hunter. She turned 12 early last month, and passed her Hunter Safety course last August with flying colors. At 12 yrs old in PA, one can then purchase their own hunting license and hunt as a junior hunter with guidance from an adult.

I had taken Megan's great-grandfather's rifle, a Winchester Model 70 XTR Featherweight in 257 Roberts, and worked some reduced recoil loads using H4895 and some 100gr Partitions. I then nudged the speed up a bit after she got comfy with the rifle. I wound up at a chrono'ed 2650fps for the 100PT, and groups right around 3" at 100 yards. Since I didn't plan to let her shoot past 100-125 yards at most (and selected a stand accordingly), that was enough accuracy. Recoil was very manageable, and at that speed, it would be deadly whitetail medicine at her anticipated distances.

Got up at about 3:30am and set about prepping my self (gear laid out the night before) so I could cook Megan her breakfast. I woke her up at 4:00, and she was a zombie. She'd been so excited that she couldn't get to sleep until exhaustion won around midnight. I cooked her up some scrambled eggs and toast, which is one of her favorites in the morning. She perked up pretty quick, and we were out the door a few minutes past 5AM. My target was 5, so we were doing great. We had lots of time.

10-min drive to the property, and I hitched up my pack with enough gear, food, and such to outfit a platoon of least it seemed so to me. I took the walk very slow to keep Megan from overheating, and we were in our double stand on the edge of a field, seated and quiet, by 6AM. Perfect. Gave her time to snooze on my shoulder while waiting for daylight, which she did.

Temps were high-30's, so not awful, but cold for her. I had her dressed thickly enough, though, and she was comfy. I had a book she liked and her ipod as well as a battery pack to recharge it. Lots of food to top it off, and we were set. I told her we'd stay as long as she wanted, then I'd run her home for a mid-day nap and I'd return to sit till she was ready to come back out.

We didn't see a thing at daylight. Even the squirrels were MIA. There were some shots, but not a ton. There was very little traffic on the access road to public land that passed in sight of the stand we were in. It looked to be a dud of a day, but it was warming up, and Megan's spirits were up.

She dozed off and on through the early morning....and of course a pic had to be taken!


I explained to her that she needed to just hang in there, it can all change in the blink of an eye. About 9:20, I looked out in the field to see three deer heading our way, and fast! I whispered to her, "Deer! Get your rifle!" As I was raising my rifle, I already could see the rack on the last deer, and he was still 200 yards off and I hadn't gotten behind the scope yet. Yes!

The buck ran in behind the does, grunting for all he was worth! Still rutting? Unbelievable! I had told Megan several times in advance that I would have my rifle up when she shot so I could apply a finishing shot if needed. I was ready to do just that. The buck stopped, on cue, at 46 yards. Broadside. In the field. At a great angle for the lefty shooter Megan is. I boom. I said, "Do you want to shoot him?" She didn't reply. I glanced over to see her hands on her ears and her rifle still resting in the corner of the shooting rail!

About then, the buck saw we were there, and he got "the look." You know, the "oh @#@%%! What the @#@$ is in that tree????"

She was just waiting for the shot, and the buck did a quick head-bob and looked toward the brush a few feet in front of him. Ok, game over, pal. I put a 180PT from the 300WSM in his shoulders, and he simply dropped. Didn't even kick once.

The does stayed put. I whispered, "Megan, get on the does!" She got up the rifle and just as I feared, just about the time her cheek hit the stock comb, the does took off. I tried some "bleats" to no effect, although I didn't expect to get them to stop. I had to try. Then I looked to my right. Here comes another buck!

"Megan, another buck! See him?" She answered she did. "Get on him!" He stopped at about 125 yards just as I said that, for only a brief moment, and was on the trot again. She said she had him in the scope. I bleated, whistled, yelled, he didn't even bat an eye. Just kept up his trot till he was gone. Damn!

I asked Megan why she hadn't brought up her rifle. She replied that in the moment, she forgot that I told her that I would be ready to shoot, too.... "just in case". She thought I was going to shoot and she wasn't supposed to! She could have made that shot, easy peasy (to use one of her favorite sayings).

Ugh. Had she dumped that buck, I'm pretty confident I could have killed the 2nd one and brought us home with a "double." More importantly, she'd have gotten her first deer.

But....she's new to hunting and she has a lot to learn. To her credit, she was super excited about it all, and wanted to get down and see the deer. I told her to sit tight and wait in case the others circled below us on the hillside. They didn't. After a half-hour, with the sun warm and temps topping 50F, it was time to gut that deer. We got down and we checked him out. He's a decent buck....but there are several much bigger ones around yet.

Here we are with him...not the best pic, but I was working fast with a tripod and self-timer so we could get back in the stand. She didn't want to go home after that! That's my girl!


Back up in the stand:


We sat till 11:30, and she would have stayed longer, but my dad was leaving to go get lunch, and offered to help load the deer, which was a welcome assist. We left and went to his house, where we got lunch and Megan caught a nap while we skinned out the deer.

"Post-mortem" shots:

Exit in the hide-

Exit in the shoulder-

That was a 180PT doing a chrono'ed MV of 2975fps and a shot distance of 46 yards.

We went back out a little before 3pm. I had neglected to pack my tree umbrella, as the forecast showed no rain till well past dark. Wrong. The rain started almost immediately and didn't relent. I resolved to stay until she was ready to go. She kept whispering, "please stop raining, please stop raining!" A check of the radar on my phone showed she wasn't going to get her wish, unfortunately. When the yellows and oranges on the radar drew close, I decided it was time to call it. She was bummed, to say the least.

And here's the best part of the whole day, found at the end in the rain....

Me: Megan, did you have a good time today?

Megan: Yeah. Dad, this was my best day ever. I got to spend the whole day with you, and I got to get away from the craziness of the house for a bit. I loved it.

Me: You did awesome today, Megan. Really great for a first trip out. We'll get after it again soon.

That brought big smiles, even under the deteriorating weather falling on our heads.

Our last view of the day....


So...sorry for the long, long post, but there's our story. I'm a proud daddy today, and while I'm bummed she didn't get to shoot, she learned a lot, and is raring to go again, which is all I wanted from the day anyway.


Nov 8, 2006
What a great post! Congratulations to Megan for sticking it out with dad. She sounds like a real trooper. Her time will come soon enough.


Ammo Smith
Nov 6, 2009
I was wondering about the anemic loads for the .257 Roberts and it did not occur to me that you were loading for Megan. I should have figured it out but I did not say anything and now I know. Too bad her first time out did not click but it will and she will become an accomplished hunter in time.

She looks pretty happy about your deer anyhow. The best of luck to her and hopes that she will get a shot this season.

sask boy

Ammo Smith
Nov 4, 2007
Thank you for the post and photos. It looks like Megan is going to be a great huntress and that day you just shared with her is only for you two!!!



Range Officer
Staff member
Nov 4, 2004
That was a great day Tom. Way to go buddy.



Sep 17, 2013
What a great story. Congratulations on bagging a nice buck and spending a great day with your daughter.


Dec 13, 2013
Love good hunting stories, thanks for sharing. I think it's terrific you have your daughter out hunting with you, IMHO every woman who joins in the ranks of hunters does more to secure our future than 20 men. You are not only a proud Papa, but a very lucky one. I have every confidence she'll be hanging bucks from the meat pole soon.


Nov 8, 2006
salmonchaser":3k96w4jb said:
IMHO every woman who joins in the ranks of hunters does more to secure our future than 20 men.

Truer words were never spoken. (y)