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Alyssa Caldwell and her father had been hunting all day. The weather had been nasty; cloudy skies with snow and rain alternating. They had seen a few elk, much too far away to try a shot. They left their makeshift blind to see if they could spot another elk before the end of the day. It was the middle of the afternoon . . .

At 12, Alyssa Caldwell was already an experienced huntress. She had started shooting at five-years-old. On this day, Alyssa had a new rifle: a stainless Howa 1500.

Alyssa and her father had only gone a few hundred yards from the blind when her father remembered that he’d left the shooting sticks behind. He told Alyssa to wait while he went back to retrieve them. It sounds like the start of a horror movie. A young blond girl, left alone in the wilderness by circumstance, the weather cloudy and rainy and cold, darkness only a couple of hours away . . .

Less than a minute later, she saw it. A cat. A big cat, stalking her, only a car length away. The cat crouched, ready to spring. Alyssa shouldered her rifle and fired. Point blank. It was too close to use the scope. She worked the bolt, ready to fire again. But one shot from the 30-06 was enough. The 165 grain Accubond Nosler projectile had skinned the cheek, hitting the lion facing her at the junction of neck and shoulder, traveling the length of its body, killing it instantly. From Alyssa:

“I saw him first,” Alyssa said. “I didn’t hear him or see him until he was really close. I didn’t know exactly what it was but I knew it wasn’t a bobcat. I raised my gun when he crouched down.

The lion appears to have been in classic predatory mode, stalking the smaller prey in the opportune moment that the larger animal had left the young unprotected. The big cat did not know how deadly an armed human girl could be.

Joshua Caldwell returned to Alyssa at the shot, thinking his daughter had downed an elk. The mountain lion demanded immediate action, so they returned to their family to report it. The shooting sticks remained behind.

It took a day for New Mexico officials to reach the remote hunting spot on San Antonio Mountain. It’s a rugged area north of Albuquerque near the Colorado border. Once there, the officials investigated and ruled the shooting a case of self defense. They took the cat and left the family to continue their hunt.

Twenty-four hours were enough for Alyssa to recover from her close call with the lion and continue her elk hunt. Two days later, Alyssa shot a trophy bull elk at 375 yards, using the bipod on her rifle to steady her aim.

The whole Caldwell family, Alyssa, her mother Valerie, her father Joshua, and her younger brother Padon were all on the hunt with her. It took all of them another 24 hours to pack out the elk to the closest point that could be reached with their Jeep. Valerie shot her own elk a couple of years ago on her anniversary, but Alyssa is the first in the family to take a trophy bull.

A number of young hunters have shot elk, even trophy bulls. But only one is known to have had to shoot a mountain lion on the way to harvesting their elk. Alyssa has earned her place in hunting history.

Valerie Caldwell said that she has learned from the incident. Before this, they would explore the mountain in the summer, unarmed, looking for antlers. Now she will pack her personal defensive sidearm with her, a Springfield XD compact .45.

Since the elk hunt, Alyssa has used her rifle to harvest a whitetail buck. I suspect that this will be a rifle that she will keep. Even older rifles with ordinary steel and wooden stocks have lasted a hundred and fifty years.  Stainless steel and composite stocks will last even longer.

Alyssa’s story should give pause to the disarmists who say that no one should be allowed to own a gun before they are 18. Foreign enemies of the United States will note that in America, 12-year-old girls have the skills and equipment to kill lions at five meters and elk at nearly 400 with equal aplomb.

Photographs supplied by Valerie Caldwell
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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  1. “How horrible! Teaching kids to defend themselves! The cat was just hungry, poor animal, now it won’t be able to feed its children!”

    I overheard that while I was in Kalifornia.

    • Obviously, she should have let the cat take her. She deserved it, because of her White Privilege.

      (I suppose this is why liberals in Georgetown make better mugging victims than they do hunters.)

    • If you are attacked by a wild animal in a remote area and you shoot it to protect yourself, do not eat it, and do not harvest the skin, are you obliged to contact authorities to verify whether it was a justified shoot?… Are mountain lions endangered in New Mexico?

      • I was wondering that, too. Seems like they would have left it where it fell and continued their hunt.

    • That poor cat! It was about to turn it’s life around!

      Seriously, they should have let her keep the thing! What gives?

  2. Cue the incessant wailing and inevitable death threats from the envirofascists in 3…2…1…

  3. A young lady being taught well and practicing what she has been taught. A wonderful example of American heritage being made.

  4. Kids can’t handle guns, and women are too hysterical to be trusted with guns to defend themselves. That’s what I’ve been told by progressive men. That doesn’t make them popular with me.

    Great story, but scary. Just imagine that moment of turning around and seeing that cat crouching ready to go. That little girl is cool in combat, thanks probably in part to her hunting training.

    • Progressive “men” can’t figure out that trying to appease the goddess, by acting like a chick, while simultaneously talking and acting bad about them behind their backs makes them look like wormy little scrums. Or the gay BFF. Chicks. They don’t dig that.

      I’m an old fashioned sexist pig. But you know what you’re getting up front. Chicks dig dependability. Except when they don’t. So I mix it up a bit by unexpectedly doing something sweet, and then ruining it a couple minutes later. 🙂

    • There are no progressive men. There are only “don’t mark my answer wrong with a red pen it can hurt my feelings” and “don’t throw a dodgeball at me it can hurt my self confidence” neutered men in fashion jeans.

    • Arnie had the best phrase – he called these confused individuals “Girlie Men”. Males competing to show how “enlightened’ and “Feminised” they are. A candidate for Prime Minister of New Zealand apologised to a women’s group “for being a man”. He needed to apologise for being an asshole.

      These men try to insinuate themselves into “progressive” society by denying their basic manhood, and only end up being bitchier than the meanest girl. They lack the empathy and nurturing nature of actual women, while resiling from their intended role as provider and protector. This makes them only useful as buzzard bait or lion scat, should they escape the confines of their urban habitat.

  5. Most people including experienced hunters do not realize that virtually the whole of the Rockies again holds healthy populations of lions. These lions are now following rivers like the Platte, Arkansas, and Missouri into the plains. Give it a little more time and these big cats are going to re-establish themselves across much of the country. Best to keep your head on a swivel when heading to your favorite haunt. Good job and keep hunting!

      • Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources has been telling us that cougars are just big housecats, move along, nothing to see here, for at least 30 years now. Unless, of course, somebody actually shoots it, then they take the carcass for further study and seem to never say anything about that particular 100lb housecat again.

    • True. They pass through the San Antonio city limits regularly. Texas cats are mostly scared of people because we hunt them here, no limit. Also, they have plenty of other food here, with the overpopulation of whitetails and hogs. I’m still scared of them though.

      • We have a population what are called ‘Florida Panthers’ here in Central Florida.

        I’ve seen a few of them as roadkill over the years.

    • If our current President had claimed her, she would have just let the lion take her. The shame would have been too much to bear.

  6. And this is why I always have at least a .44 Mag revolver when I go out in the woods. The 7+ inch barrel and 240 grain semi-jacketed soft-point bullets will promptly stop any cougar, black bear, wolf, coyote, or feral hog that aims to harm you.

    Note: the .44 Magum may not be enough gun to promptly stop a determined mustang, elk, moose, brown bear, or sasquatch. Plan accordingly if your threat profile includes those critters.

    • You are good, Ralph! You can almost equate “Mountain Lion” and furtive….

      One jump from a mauling. The cat likely was not quite sure what kind of critter she was…

      Then it found out… the deadly kind.

      Humans. The deadliest hunters on earth.

  7. It’s a good thing she doesn’t live in California – the CA DFG would have arrested her for murder of a sacred animal.

    • Agreed. I believe the law in my state is that you have to report it, but you get to keep it.

      I feel bad for her that she doesn’t get to keep the mount to sit in front of while telling the story to her grandkids years from now.

      • Yeah, that’s actually a crying shame. She’ll tell her grandkids that story. Or she had ought to, anyway.

      • “I feel bad for her that she doesn’t get to keep the mount to sit in front of while telling the story to her grandkids years from now.”

        I read another write-up someplace else where she said they let her get a pic of her with the cat.

        She also said she got a feeling she was being stalked, turned around, and there it was.

        She’ll listen to her instinct on that for the rest of her life…

    • “Too bad the cougar meat was taken away.
      Very tasty stuff. Mmmmm”


      Even when ‘catch-and-release’ 🙂

  8. Love the quote at the end

    Might change it to “foreign and domestic malcontents will note that…… “

  9. That’s impressive. I hope I can raise my son that well. Perhaps I’ll introduce him to shooting at age 5 instead of 8.

  10. Those of you who are hunters. Is it customary to leave your 12 year-old duaghter in the woods while you go back several hundred yards to get an item you forgot instead of taking her with you? That’s the problem I have with the story (yes, I’ve been accused of being over protective). But if it’s done a lot, then I’ll get over it and learn to live with it.What rules or advice do you give your kids in that situation?

    Meanwhile, I want to give Girlie my highest praise for handling that mountain lion like a pro – Fist Bump.

    • I can’t speak for others but I used to walk out the kitchen door to our house with a single shot shotgun, cross the field, enter the woods and hunt when I was 10. It was common place in my youth.

      I bought guns at garage sales when I was 13 and rode them home on my bike.

      An experienced 12 yo with a .30-06 and only seperated by a couple hundred yards sounds good to me. It was the lion that got got, after all.

      • Yea, by age 9 my son, Boy, could and did teach firearms handling and safety course. This young woman acquitted herself well under stress. Can’t see how anyone who is pro-RKBA would have any problem with this.

    • Having grown up in a rural area I can report that yes, I went outside alone by the time I was 3, and yes I frequently went >100 yards from the door, which in just about any direction constituted hiking in the woods. It’s not nearly as remarkable a thing as one might imagine.

      …and though I never saw any kitties bigger than a bobcat (more like a big furry blurry ball of snarling snorting and spitting as he ran off through the snow), I didn’t even have to leave the porch to see griz on quite a few occasions. At least this girl was armed.


  11. Was going to jump in with a long and intricate snarky post about how she was being blahblahblahed and you guys beat me to it! Thank you.

    Alyssa? If you happen to see this thread, good on you! Never let anyone, ANYONE, ever, strip you of your ability to defend yourself. No matter if it is an animal or a human, you have the God given right of self defense, never allow anybody to tell you otherwise.

  12. She’s learned a lesson that no tutor or professor could provide. That there are vicious, hungry predators lurking where least suspected, and a quick shot can save your life. But most of academia would seize her rifle and pillory her as an example of the primitive thinking which blights the modern world. They are, of course stupid asswipes.

    In the real world, this girl is ready for anything, she has been raised right and taught well.

  13. I love the home state. Great looking bull!

    San Antonio mountain isn’t exactly rugged though…lol.

  14. Awesome kid. She has the kind of warrior spirit that western men (and women) need to reclaim. If I have a daughter, I hope I can raise her to be this capable.

  15. In CA, the lion would eat the law abiding girl and the father , then Californians will be extremely satisfied that two white nasty animal killers were revenged by the force of nature.

    3 days later, A protest will break out and the hunting ground will be closed to protect the sacred lion, food be distributed around the parameter for the sacred creature.

    Californians hate white Americans, you know.

    Yes, I am a Californian, and I’m dead serious.

    • You forgot the part where pelosi and di fi pen a bill replacing, on the flag, the CA griz with a mt lion.

    • And…3 days after THAT, the lion kills some pacifist nature lover that went there to commune with all the peace-loving, soulful creatures.

      2 days later, lion is dead at the hand of government agents sent to avenge the human loss of life.

      And all the pants-wetters would be fine with that, for some reason.

      • I’m cool with pacifist nature-loving granola-eating scum being eaten by the nature they so badly wanted to be near…

  16. Alyssa’s story should give pause to the disarmists who say that no one should be allowed to own a gun before they are 18. Nah, MDA ignores any and all facts and relies on mass hysteria at all times. If you could just feel the emotion, you would see the need for Reasonable and Sensible” “Common Sense” gun laws concerning children.

  17. “The lion appears to have been in classic predatory mode, stalking the smaller prey in the opportune moment that the larger animal had left the young unprotected. The big cat did not know how deadly an armed human girl could be.”

    This could be interpreted in many, many useful ways.

  18. Yes children are more capable than you think, right to defend yourself blah blah blah.

    How about that sick noscope? That needs some dubstep!

  19. Well done, DAd,Mom, and daughter.

    Next time Dad will take her along to watch HIS back, while running camp errands.

    Dys, Tom, A81…you are experienced western predator hunters, what are the odds that cougar was just bebopping alonh, vs on both of their backtrails for some time prior?

    I know I’m turning around all the way more often on my stalks…ad simple hikes, too.

  20. If you remember to shout “it’s coming right for us!” first, you can pretty much shoot anything in self defence, a park warden from the South told me, if my memory serves.

  21. Too bad, though, that the authorities have to be called in to be exonerated. She should have been allowed to keep it, if she wanted to. What if they had decided that she had not done enough to avoid the confrontation or that she had provoked it? I’m always leery.

  22. It’s not that easy to spontaneously go from training/firing using your scope to just sighting down the barrel for a close up shot under duress. Impressive, that young girl can go forward in confidence of her survival skills.

    • As a rule, females have better hand and eye coordination than males do. Their fine moter skills tend to be better than ours, also. There are exceptions to that rule, but it holds up pretty well across the population.

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