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Prepping a Girl for Her First Elk Hunt: FAIL

by Conrad Evarts   |  August 11th, 2011 2

I may be an idiot, but at least I’m dumb enough to keep trying. Alyssa and I spent last Sunday at the range trying to zero her new CZ USA 550 American in .308. The trouble is, the poor girl’s father is a moron. She and I mounted a Redfield scope on it a week earlier. We bore sighted it together. At least I thought we had. $90 in Fusion Ammo later, instead of savoring our father daughter time at the range I’m frustrated that nobody taught me how to do this right.


I’m not whining here. I’m just stating a fact. Clearly from the video, we had all the right equipment and tools. Alyssa only lacked a mechanically competent father. If there is one in the Helena, Mont., area that would like to step in please call me. I’ll continue to feed and care for her, you just teach her how to zero a rifle.

If you had someone around who really taught you to hunt correctly, I mean the whole process; send that person a thank you card immediately. When I decided to take Alyssa elk hunting I wanted to do it right. I thought I grew up hunting. What I discovered through this process is I grew up walking around in the woods of Eastern Washington aimlessly with a thunderstick in my frozen paw. Nobody took me to the range, helped me zero a rifle or talked to me about shot placement. Looking back, I have no idea why they even bothered to give me a rifle, much less ammo. I couldn’t have put it to use. This effort greatly increases my respect for guys who are self-taught and accomplished like Craig Boddington and Mike Carney.

So there I was last Sunday going through ammo like I’m an Afghani warlord trying to suppress an uprising. The Dutchman in me is watching cash fly out the barrel of Alyssa’s rifle at an alarming rate and the worst thing is, I don’t want her to catch on to the fact that as a miniature huntress, she failed at father shopping. I’ve seen the world’s top hunters zero rifles many times. But this doesn’t compensate for how my brain is wired. I’m an artist so even managing a calendar is nearly impossible, much less any basic geometry or math beyond calculating a tip. If you possess an analytical mind you will never understand the trials of the creative mind.

Up, down, side to side, $45 worth of ammo into the morning I have it on at 50 yards and we move to the 100-yard target. It finally occurs to me that my daughter is a far better shot than me. We take a snack break and raid grandma’s nearby kitchen. Fueled up on Doritos and soda, I finally have the sense to put the real hunter on the rifle. She of course starts drilling the targets at 100 yards expediting the process greatly. Now if I were a more enlightened father I would simply be pleased that my kid is an ace. But I’m shallow and petty, so 60% of me is fired up that she’s an ace and 40% of me is pissed that a 13-year-old girl is a far better shot than me.

When we emptied our three boxes of ammo, I’m pretty sure she was hitting  close to our objective at a hundred yards. We’ll be going back to be positive. I’ll be borrowing a competent father for Alyssa that morning, Dave Hopper, the man who owns the range. I’ll once again have to swallow my pride in this process and have my friend be there with me so we get it right. Ugh.

Again, clearly we’re blessed to have all the right gear. I’m lucky enough to make enough money to buy more ammo. I’m writing honestly about my failure to say this; if you’re an experienced hunter who can mentor others please do. This is a complicated and expensive sport. I can’t imagine trying to get my child involved if I had to start from zero (so to speak).  If you’re a senior and your kids or grandkids aren’t interested, leave your name on the bulletin board at your local outdoor gear store or gun shop. My daughter and I could have really used a hand this last Sunday and I know there are many moms and dads who would value your assistance greatly.

Note: Upon review of the video, I was able to note some of my errors. Having no pride left, I chose to share them with you. Additionally, I attribute none of these problems to the equipment. As my old Uncle Smitty would have said, “It was a loose screw in the operating handle.”

  • skip knowles

    you're way to hard on yourself, conan, you are a great dad and i commend your efforts….that is a lot of shooting ! a .30 cal is a lot of gun for a little girl though, i'd have gone .260 rem or 6.5 creed with a well made bullet, or 7mm-08 at the largest…don't hesitate to call payton miller w/any q's, either he's forgotten more about guns than, well, you know…

  • Jessie

    As frustrating as things may seem going through that is bonding time atleast with your daughter, an later on she can say ” it wasnt always smooth sailing with dad but we have been thru it all!”
    A 308 dose sound like a hand full for a young girl, but if shes willing to give it a go good on her! I myself use a 223 howa with sinthetic stock an in buffalo camp(so it looks flash lol) an its light weight, feels soft easy to grip an ive had a crack at targets 400mtrs away- not acully hitting mind you but verry close.
    Dont be too concerned if you start out rough, your local gun shop/ smith can help you or recomend things to help you along, we alll start some where. :)

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