Thirteen-year-old Meadow McNeal developed an interest in hunting when she hit the woods in pursuit of squirrels with her grandfather.

Then, once her dad Kevin became a member of a hunting club in Winn Parish, her interest ratcheted up even more — and deer became her target species. 

So Kevin, who drives a log truck in the timber industry, got busy and milled some pine lumber at a sawmill his father owns, and constructed a deer stand big enough to accommodate the family.

“I built it 6 by 6 and 8 feet tall so we would have room for Meadow, her mom Shannon and me to hunt comfortably,” he said. “Some friends and I set up the stand on the spot I’d been assigned. It was in a clear cut on a pine plantation.”

On Saturday, Oct. 14, the three left their camper they had moved to the club, parked and walked to the stand.

“We hunted that morning and didn’t see anything. Meadow had an activity at her school we had to attend, so we left for the school and afterwards drove back to our camp,” McNeal said. “We live in Effie in Avoyelles Parish, so we didn’t get back to camp until around midnight.”

But early the next morning, Kevin, Shannon and Meadow — an 8th-grader who attends school in Bunkie — headed back to the stand for another try. 

“Two young deer stepped out, and Meadow took a shot and missed,” he said. “She was really down about having a chance at a deer, taking a shot and missing.”

After lunch and nap, the trio headed back out in hopes of better luck.

“It was starting to get late and we had about decided the hunt was over, and we began talking about where we’d go for supper. While we were trying to decide, I noticed a cold front that had been promised moved in and the wind began whipping pretty hard,” McNeal said. “I looked out a window on the stand and was shocked to see this big buck standing there about 65 yards away, and he was looking the other way, probably because the wind was masking our voices. 

“I pointed the buck out to Meadow, told her to get her rifle —  a .243 bolt-action Mossberg —get a good rest on the window sill, put the crosshairs behind the shoulder and squeeze the trigger. She did, and the deer bucked like he was hit and took off,” he said. “Her first comment was, ‘Daddy I missed him!’

“But I assured her she hadn’t missed.”

It was almost dark, but McNeal was able to find the spot where the deer was standing and located some good lung blood.

“I told my wife and Meadow to go get our friend hunting nearby while I stayed where the deer was shot,” he said. “They returned with the friend, and he and I followed the blood trail 45 yards or so and found the buck piled up.”

For a young lady going on her first weekend of deer hunting, she had plenty to be proud of: The big buck green-scored 139 5/8, sported 8 points with two small kickers, had an inside spread of 19 5/8 inches and weighed around 200 pounds.