Sometimes even youth-size guns are too large for small children. Part of the author’s solution was to build a custom stock.
I don’t believe in pushing young children into deer hunting until they are mature enough and express a desire to go. However, sometimes a child will express a strong desire to hunt before they are very big.
Such was the case with my 9-year-old granddaughter Ivy Patterson, She made it abundantly clear that she was going deer hunting with her grandpa, and not just as a spectator. I was delighted, but finding a gun to fit her was a challenge. All of the youth guns on the market were substantially to long for Ivy. That led me to the idea of making her a custom rifle.
I had a Remington Model 700 Buckmasters youth rifle in .243 Win, but it was too long and I was concerned that even a .243 would generate an uncomfortable amount of recoil for such a little girl. We were going to be hunting in the Texas Hill Country, where the deer are small and .22-250s are routinely used to take them. I sent the rifle to renowned gunsmith Jimmy McCullough in Selma, Ala., for the fix. He fitted the action with a 19½-inch .22-250 barrel.
After a little scrounging, I bought a used Model 700 short-action walnut stock and cut the butt end of the stock to fit Ivy’s 11-inch length of pull. Next, I trimmed the fore-end from 1⅜ inches to 11½ inches.
Using a rasp, I then reshaped the stock, removing the cheekpiece, and shaped the stock to better accommodate the reduced overall length.
With a good sanding and a few coats of Tung oil, the job was done.
Topped with a Nikon Monarch UCC 3-9x40 scope, the rifle demonstrated tack-driving accuracy and gentle recoil at the range — just what I wanted.
But there was one more obstacle to overcome. We would be hunting from ground blinds, I was concerned about Ivy’s ability to hold and steady the 6.9-pound gun. No small child can shoulder this kind if weight without a good rest, so I turned to my friend and fellow Buckmasters employee Elliott Allen, who is one of those “can create anything” kind of guys.
I’d bought a little gun rest that attaches to a treestand and cradles a rifle so a hunter doesn’t have to hold it constantly. I thought the little rest could be fashioned into a portable shooting rest of some type. Elliott is a TV cameraman for Buckmasters. When I told him what I had in mind, he snatched the rest out of my hands and said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
He returned with the gun rest attached to a tripod mount, complete with vertical and horizontal movement. What a deal!
When we arrived at our hunting destination, the first order of business was putting Ivy through the paces with her new rifle and gun rest. She slipped her little folding chair in behind the rifle and fired three shots into a ragged 1-inch group! I love it when a plan comes together.
I still have the youth stock that came with the rifle, and when she outgrows the little custom stock, I will simply swap the stocks again, and she won’t miss a beat.
I will finish where I began. Don’t rush a small child into deer hunting; it can ruin their interest forever. However, if you have a little one who just can’t wait another year, maybe this will give you an idea of how to go about it.
This article was published in the September 2009 edition of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.