When Joshua Caldwell heard the gun shot, his first thought was that his daughter had bagged the bull elk they had seen earlier. As it turned out, 12-year-old Alyssa Caldwell had actually shot a mountain lion instead, at a mere five yards away, from where it could have pounced on the young hunter.

“I already had a feeling that something was watching me or something, but I didn’t see the cat until it was close,” Alyssa told CBS 7.

Alyssa and her father were building a makeshift blind in the New Mexico wilderness just south of Colorado, where they thought was a good vantage spot to see elk. The trip was an exciting one for the 12-year-old, who has been hunting since she was nine. She had previously taken deer and small game, but an elk would be her biggest challenge yet, and that required a new gun. For the New Mexico trip, Alyssa toted a .30-06 rifle, a respectable choice for elk hunting. Turns out it is lethal against cougars as well. Alyssa recalled that the big cat dropped instantly from a single shot, but she kept the rifle trained on the mountain lion nonetheless.

Her father, who was retrieving some shooting sticks from the blind, was about a minute away from her when he heard the shot.

“I asked if she had shot a bull,” he told Lone Star Outdoor News. “She told me she had shot a cat. He was only about five yards away from her. She thought quick. When I saw how close he was, I got emotional.”

Game wardens investigated the shooting and concluded that Alyssa did indeed act in self defense. Being stalked by a mountain lion can occur occasionally while in their territory, and the cats are sneaky enough that many hunters, hikers, and campers never notice. Sometimes, however, crossing paths with one of these predators can be dangerous. In September, a mountain lion that stalked a group of picnickers in California seriously injured a young boy before his family could drag him away. Wildlife officials advise fighting back when attacked by one of these large cats, and to keep facing the animal if possible.

Alyssa and her dad did not get to keep the mountain lion, but they were able to keep hunting after the incident. Just two days later the young hunter bagged her first bull elk and concluded a memorable—and most importantly, safe—hunt.

Image courtesy National Park Service

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  • SuperDave2

    Good for her! And congratulations to the dad who taught her well!

  • Calvin D. Lego

    I was taught that if a predator approaches you in the wild, it’s either sick or hungry. Last year a coyote kept coming even though I stood up and yelled at it. No more coyote.

  • MN Steward

    Amazing job young lady. A feat that only a serious focused hunter could accomplish. That sneaky cat thought it should have been an easy kill. In most cases that would be true. It realized the adult had been separated from the young and was going to try. Stupid cat picked the wrong kid for sure. And then go ahead and bag your first elk too!? Fantastic! Keep it up girl! You are an inspiration to my daughters, as they have grown in interest to the experience.

  • Truhawk

    Great job Alyssa! On the bull as well!

  • Ronin

    I am glad the girl is alive, but I am sad that the cat is dead. If your ass was not hunting elk the cat would not have hunted you. I get it, it was self defense and better to kill the cat than to get killed. Last week a big game hunter went to Africa to hunt an elephant and got his ass trampled by the bull he was hunting. As for the father if you are dumb enough to leave your kid alone in the woods and you do not know that there are predators or could be preds in the area than your not much of a father or a hunter. Teaching your kid to shoot is fine but leaving the kid alone was ignorant. glad she got lucky not many people are so lucky.

    • Don Myers

      Some people just can’t be happy about anything can they? N it sounds like you’re one. The dad was 1 minute away. His girl had been trained to handle a weapon, and to be aware of her surroundings. More power to her. We’ll need more like her when olbullshits, minions come for the rest of our rights. I grew up in Arkansas Tenn, and Missouri. With two sisters that could out shoot most of my hunting buddies. It was always fun to pit my youngest against some loudmouth that would get schooled be a sweet little 13 year old that was not only damn good with a gun. But a heck of a good dirt bike rider as well. So u go girl. And don’t worry about the fools out there, they can’t help their low I scores

      • Don Myers

        If I didn’t know better I would swear you just described my family, and yes at 13 my little sister could out ride, and shoot most people of any gender or age. We didn’t get rich, but won plenty of bets as to who could out shoot who. Arkansas Tenn, and S.W. Mo are all home. P.s. the rifle instructors in army boot camp were in awe as well. I actually had one ask if I was in fact from Arkansas. When I said yes he said he’d figured as much, because the only people he’d ever seen pick up an m 16 for the first time ever and shoot expert were from one of the three aforementioned states. And Regina can ride the hell out of a dirt bike sometimes even beating me.

      • Don Myers

        Would u have felt differently if the young lady had been a boy? Training is everything.

      • Don Myers

        That was meant for ronin

  • mtman2

    WOW!!! Sharp youngster, she was right on it- before it was on her ~!