In December of 2011, Alyssa took her California hunter’s safety course at the age of 11. Since she was 7, she has been coming out with me to target shoot and sit with me on coyote-calling stands as an observer. She became intrigued with the stealthy nature of the predator-calling game. During target sessions, she always wanted to shoot the calibers suited for taking coyotes. Seeing the interest, I moved her from the steadiness of a shooting bench, to the simplicity of a set of shooting sticks during practice. Over the years I’ve watched her hone her skills, perfect her technique and become a far better shooter than I was at her age. She is safe beyond words and handles every firearm with the focus of someone well beyond her years. With her California junior hunting license in hand and close to five years of practice, I felt she was ready to take on a coyote hunt.
We planned a Sunday trip in early October 2012. We had only made two trips out since she had received her license and hadn’t seen much. On the last trip, I called in a coyote that came in fast. Alyssa spotted it and moved the rifle and sticks to get into position, but the approaching animal spotted her movement and left quickly without offering a shot. I remember looking over at her and smiling. “He saw me move, didn’t he?” she asked. I just nodded and continued to smile. Lesson learned!
We arrived to the hunting area in the early afternoon. After some searching and a few blank stands, I found an amazing looking spot towards the end of the day. We set up quietly overlooking a shallow drainage that ran from our left to right. The perfect terrain stretched out in front of us for over a mile. The sun had dipped behind the hills and from our perch we could see anything that approached. I set Alyssa up on her sticks, rifle pointing out at about the 2 o’clock position. It was time to get started.
I started calling and searching. I could see Alyssa slowly moving her head looking for movement of any kind in the brush. I smiled, as I knew she had already applied what she had learned from her last coyote encounter…she was becoming a hunter.
After about 12 minutes Alyssa slowly held out her hand, extending all five fingers. This was our code for “how much longer?” This area looked just too good to leave, and with the expanse of land in front of us, I wanted to give it more time. I knew this was going to be the last stand of the day and I decided we’d just stay put and continue calling. I held up three fingers indicating three more minutes. It’s a good thing I did.
The coyote came trotting in way to our left at about the 15-minute mark and if I hadn’t been looking that way when he popped out of the drainage, I never would’ve spotted him. I whispered to Alyssa that we have a coyote coming and her head whips around fast. I tell her to calm down, be careful and to move slowly. Truth be told, I was a wreck inside. It was difficult to maintain my own composure and let Alyssa run the stand, but that’s exactly what I did. I could hear her excited breathing as she spotted the coyote. With her rifle at the 2 o’clock position, she knew she needed to move it to at least the 10 o’clock position to have a chance. I saw her wiggle in her seat slightly, preparing to make the move when the coyote wasn’t looking.
When the approaching predator dropped behind some brush, I whispered to move on him. Alyssa quickly and quietly lifted her rifle into position as he peaked out and stopped. His behavior clearly illustrated that he had no idea we were there. He looked around, tested the air, and looked over his shoulder and then right back at us. I whispered don’t move. He stared right through us for a full minute and then looked out towards the mountains. I see Alyssa move over a bit more when he’s looking away. I asked her if she’s on him. No answer. “Can you see him?” I whispered. No Answer. The shot surprises me and I hear it smack the coyote. He spins twice and then tips over in the brush about 95 yards from where we’re sitting. I hear Alyssa work the bolt on the rifle and her excited breath escapes her all at once in a very shaky tone. “DADDY, I GOT HIM, I GOT HIM!”
I was speechless. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as I hugged her. I could feel her shaking at the excitement as we both experienced an event we would never forget. I seriously couldn’t believe it. I knew that she would have many chances this season to shoot a coyote, but I had no idea she would be successful on her first real trip out as a licensed, California hunter.
We walked down to the animal and kneeled next to it. She petted the fur and I explained to her that even though I love hunting coyotes, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. We sat there in silence for a moment and I grabbed its legs to carry it to the truck. “No daddy, I want to carry him,” she said. She struggled with the 30-pound animal, but eventually made it back to the truck, carrying it by herself.
I’ve shot a lot of coyotes over the years, but I’ve never been more nervous and excited as I was on that stand. The little girl that used to sit next to me on calling stands and watch, and fall asleep on the ride home is now my little hunting partner. And she’s only going to get better from here. That day and that stand is a special memory both of us will keep for the rest of our lives. As a dad, I couldn’t be prouder. Congratulations, Alyssa!
A week after Tim sent in this original story about his daughter’s first coyote, he sent us another email (below) with her first bobcat. Keep up the good work Alyssa and Tim!
“Hi Mark, I thought I'd share this with you. I sent you a story last week of my daughter's first ever coyote she shot here in CA. I think I may have even mentioned we were headed out again this weekend.
Since bobcat season opened up here in CA on Oct. 15th, she insisted we pick up a bobcat tag before we head out. We only made four stands, but on the last stand of the day we had a coyote come in and I ended up killing it. We kept calling and after a few more minutes, this brute of a cat came in. She spotted it and once she got it in the scope, it was over. She dropped it at 60 yards. It's large for CA standards and a heck of a first cat for her.
This is only her second trip out as a licensed hunter and she already has a coyote and bobcat to her credit.”
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