Congrats to our Abby who took her first ever deer this past weekend during the KY youth firearms hunt. She is 11yrs old and the buck was a 2-1/2yr old 195# main frame 7pt with about a 2” drop tine - that he broke off the evening before (on trailcam video) in a sparring incident. The other deer he was sparring with, another 2-1/2yr old 8pt, was taken by close friends (father / son team) about 200yds away from and 30min earlier than Abby’s deer. What an awesome youth hunt!!

So our story actually starts in mid-summer. We wanted to handle this a little differently than most of us who were given a rifle (usually of adult caliber) and a target and told to make it happen. We of course all developed that “flinch” as we pulled the trigger, that took years or even decades to shake off. We wanted to bring Abby in “flinch” free if possible. Understanding recoil and sound are the factors that develop “flinch” we wanted to work our way in slowly with lite recoil and good ear protection. So faced with this challenge did prove to be a bit of a process. Since the Safe Hearing Act hasn’t passed yet, we opted for hearing protection with a trip to the Bargain Barn, but the steps to mitigate recoil are outlined below.

The way we start out was with a Ruger 10/22 (after the BB gun @ age 7 to teach responsibility and safety of course). Being “old school” we wanted her to master open sights firsts and the 10/22 gave her time to get used to the “pop” and a very lite recoil. Once she was accurate with the 10/22 and open sights, we moved on to a 22mag with a scope. We wanted to let her get used to the scope and not have to worry with recoil (while slightly heavier, still not a factor) and that is why we took this baby step.

The next challenge became working into heavier rounds without going too far and developing that “flinch” we greatly wanted to avoid. So we took a quick inventory of the gun safe and narrowed our selection to what we considered “youth friendly” rifles at our disposal: one of our (ST&D) carbine AR’s chambered in 5.56Nato / .223Rem, a Rem 770 youth bolt gun, a ST&D mid-length AR chambered in 6.8SPC, or a ST&D carbine AR chambered in 300BLK. After shooting them all, she liked the .223 and .300blk’s recoil best (very lite). She found the .243 to be a bit much for her liking and the 6.8SPC to be heavier but manageable. As a side note, the AR style rifle is actually perfect for developing hunters because of the buffer system that greatly absorbs recoil over a bolt style gun.

With the recoil feedback in mind and still no “flinch” thus far, we moved on to finding that perfect combination between recoil, accuracy and KE. Many hunters absolutely will not hunt deer with any gun / round not capable of 1000lbs of KE at 100yds. So using that as a general guidelines, we needed to pick the caliber / ammo to achieve that goal. We have learned that generally our rifles like the Hornady ammo and their “Full Boar” in particular and if available as being accurate and feeds well. So a quick visit to their site reveals that the .223Rem is below the low end of this KE range, .243Win easily achieves that goal, 6.8SPC is just in there (and has taken a KY sized deer last year), & .300BLK is below the low end of this range. So with this info in mind, we eliminated the .223Rem and .300BLK. Although these are capable and proven rounds as shot placement is key, we really wanted to avoid a first deer opportunity and the possibility of a less than perfect shot placement resulting in an unrecovered animal. We also eliminated the .243Win although one of my favorites, since the recoil has the possibility of developing a “flinch” it had to go.

Thru process of elimination, that leaves us with the 6.8SPC. We ended up using the Hornady Full Boar 100gr GMX ammo. Hornady specs show this ammo 100yds @ 2276FPS and 1150ft/lbs of energy. This is with a 24” test barrel, but ours’ was a mid-length 18” barrel. While we did not chronograph it, we know the average loss is about 50fps per inch of barrel so should drop in at about 2000fps and actually puts us right around the 900ft/lbs range. A touch low, but has now worked twice on KY sized deer. So as they say, the “proof is in the puddin”.

So we focused our practice seasons on the 6.8SPC using the Full Boar ammo. Shot groups became tighter every session until she placed a 2” shot group at 100yds with two holes touching. We knew she was now ready.

Fast forward to 10/14/17 at about 20mins till end of shooting light, the deer came in at around 200yds and worked its way down to about the 120yd mark where he turned broadside and presented the opportunity. Abby slowly squeezed the trigger as we had practiced so many times, the hammer dropped, the firing pin punched the primer and the 100gr GMX bullet left the 18” barrel at around 2250fps and found its mark with perfect windage, but just a touch lower than optimum, the 900ft/lbs of energy managed to completely destroyed the sternum sending shards of bone and bullet into the heart thereby cleanly dispatching the animal. Best of all, the practice paid off with a heck of a first deer taken at a range greater than all of our practiced distances and we completely avoided that dreaded “flinch”.

We would be honored to help you with a rifle selection so you too can build that forever lasting memory with your youngster taking that very first deer.

© 2023 by SMITH TACTICAL & DEFENSE.

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