Westmoreland County teen bags Pennsylvania Triple Trophy
Fourteen-year-old Mallory McRae, of Manor Borough, Westmoreland County, is no stranger to success. She’s an honor roll student, lettering on the Penn Trafford High School Rifle Team, which posted a 10-0 section-winning season this year.
But she never could’ve predicted the hunting season she would experience — specifically taking a bear, buck and gobbler all in the 2019-20 license year, earning her the coveted Pennsylvania Triple Trophy.
McRae started shooting with her father, Knox, at age 6 and began hunting through the Pennsylvania Mentored Youth program at age 8. That year she shot her first doe, during the special firearms season.
Two years ago, she wanted to try bear hunting, so Knox upgraded Mallory to a 6.5 Creedmore in preparation for it. She shot a lot over the summer and didn’t see any bears, but was eager to try again in 2019. During the special firearms season, her dad took her to the Allegheny National Forest, knowing she could harvest either a doe or bear with the rifle.
On the morning of Oct. 24, the wind wouldn’t cooperate, so they called a friend and gained permission to hunt from a box blind on private property. About an hour into the hunt, two bears walked into view and Mallory downed the largest, a 271-pound male with one shot.
“It was such an incredible experience for us both,” Knox said. “I felt almost as if I’d have gotten the bear myself.”
Since Mallory had already planned to take the next day off school as well, they decided to switch things up and carry a crossbow on Oct. 25. That way, she had the option to take either a buck or doe with archery tackle, instead of just a doe with the rifle, as per regulations.
They returned to the same stand on public land where they hunted the morning before.
“Right before dark, a spike buck came out at 50 yards,” Knox explained. “He glanced around and came right to Mallory. As soon as he got to the corner of the field, Mallory gave him a doe bleat to make him stop. He stopped for the bleat and Mallory snapped a perfect shot on him. He only went a short distance. We wheeled him out on the deer cart 1.5 miles to the truck.”
Now the father and daughter team could see the Triple Trophy on the horizon. Mallory had taken a few turkeys before, but knew they weren’t automatic. Still, they had to try.
On the youth day, they didn’t hear a gobble, which was very discouraging. Knox had to work opening day, but he took the entire next week off to help his daughter get her turkey. With schools closed due to COVID-19, they’d be able to hunt every morning, and they did, but came up short after lots of miles and several hours of lost sleep.
Knox headed back to work but managed to take off Friday May 15. After a slow morning, they finally, struck up some jakes around 10:30, but Mallory missed. Both father and daughter were crushed as it was the most action they had in seven days of hunting.
Regardless, they regrouped and were back at it early the next morning, trying again in a field on a friend’s property. At 8 o’clock, a hen entered the field and cautiously worked her way toward their decoys. Twenty minutes later, two jakes appear and beeline right toward their jake decoy.
“Mallory was locked into position, waiting for them to step out in front,” Knox said. “When one did, she hit him hard, screaming ‘He’s down!’ I was trying to record the event on my cellphone, so excited, so relieved.”
“Then Mallory started yelling for me to shoot the other one. So I dropped my cellphone and grabbed her shotgun. I was trying to find the bird, half bent over, and missed the first shot, but found it with the final shell in the gun.”
The hunt completed daddy-daughter double, and a triple for Mallory.
“I’m just so happy and can’t believe it all happened,” Mallory said of her accomplishment. “We were so surprised to get my bear but then I began to worry I wouldn’t get the turkey to finish. I’m grateful for my dad taking me out hunting ever since I was little.”
Indeed, it was a heck of a year for the teen, and her parents couldn’t be prouder.